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Schumer Blasts Bush in First DSCC Mailing

Newly installed Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) called on donors to “put the brakes on the worst impulses of the Bush Administration” in his first e-mail fundraising solicitation of the cycle.

“We need to move the debate away from the right wing fringe and back toward the middle where most Americans can agree,” Schumer wrote in the mailing, which went out last week.

Schumer, who has developed a reputation as one of the strongest fundraisers in the Senate since being elected in 1998, vowed to bring his full-throttle approach to the DSCC.

“I have been blessed with an enormous reservoir of energy, and I would like nothing better than to channel that energy toward electing more Democrats to the Senate,” Schumer wrote.

Schumer has already announced that thanks to $1 million contributions from Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee, the DSCC has erased the $3.6 million debt remaining from the 2004 cycle.

Schumer has big fundraising shoes to fill as New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine (N.J.) helped the DSCC outraise the National Republican Senatorial Committee last cycle.

But Democrats start this cycle at a disadvantage. They must defend 17 Senate seats, two more than Republicans.

— Chris Cillizza

Political Ads Were Gold to TV Stations in 2004

Political candidates, committees and independent groups spent a record $1.6 billion on TV ads in the country’s 100 largest media markets in 2004, according to a study by the Alliance for Better Campaigns. That’s twice as much as TV spending during the 2000 campaign.

Cable ads accounted for an additional $64.5 million in campaign expenditures.

More than 1.9 million political spots were aired on 615 stations in the nation’s top markets, the survey found. That figure doesn’t include the Sioux Falls, S.D., market, where thousands of ads were aired in the heated Senate race between now-Sen. John Thune (R) and the man he defeated, then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D).

But while viewers were bombarded with TV ads, news coverage of political campaigns was spotty at best. According to the alliance, the presidential campaign accounted for 92 percent of the political coverage aired on national networks. Two percent of the stories tracked controversial ballot initiatives, with less than 2 percent devoted to House and Senate races.

Even on local news shows, the presidential campaign accounted for about 80 percent of the political coverage.
— Josh Kurtz

Green’s Eye on State Run Has Turned Local Heads

Rep. Mark Green (R) dipped his whole foot into the 2006 gubernatorial waters last week, circulating an e-mail to Badger State Republicans about his interest in the race.

Wasting no time, several state lawmakers and local officials made it known they would be happy to assume the 8th district seat from Green, should he decide to run for governor.

State Reps. Terri McCormick, Steve Wieckert and Frank Lasee told the Appleton Post-Crescent they would all be interested in pursuing the Republican nomination, as did former Green Bay Mayor Paul Jadin.

Though that position was nonpartisan, Jadin confirmed in an interview that he is a Republican and that he’s “pretty certain that I will be running” for Congress, just as he is quite confident that Green will make the leap into the governor’s race.

Most often mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate is state Sen. Dave Hansen, while Green’s 2004 Democratic challenger, Dottie LeClair, has told local party officials that she will run again. LeClair, chairwoman of the Outagamie County Democratic Party, took just 30 percent of the vote against Green last November.
— Nicole Duran

Secretary of State Hopes to End Family Dynasty

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) says he will not officially make a decision about whether to seek the governorship of the Silver State in 2006 until June, but the maneuvering for his 2nd district House seat has begun in earnest.

It was touched off at the beginning of the year, shortly after he announced the formation of an exploratory committee and his wife, former Nevada Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, immediately said she was contemplating a Congressional bid to succeed him.

But other Republican officials are not going to let Gibbons pass the seat to his wife so easily — which is what happened during the Gulf War when Gibbons was plucked from the state Assembly to fulfill his Nevada Air National Guard duties.

Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller announced last week that he too would seek the GOP nomination for the sprawling 2nd district seat.

“I would not have announced my candidacy until [Gibbons] made his announcement,” Heller, who is barred by term limits from seeking another turn in his current position, told the Reno Gazette-Journal last week. “Then Dawn [Gibbons] jumped into this thing and made the announcement for him.”

State Treasurer Brian Krolicki, who half-heartedly flirted with challenging Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) last year, may also jump into the race to succeed Jim Gibbons, should Gibbons make a gubernatorial run.

Krolicki has said he would make a decision by March and is also weighing running for lieutenant governor because current Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt (R) is expected to seek the open governorship.

Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) is also barred from seeking another term.

Meanwhile, the Fallon Eagle Standard, a Nevada newspaper, editorialized that Dawn Gibbons should not run for Congress.

“Though Mrs. Gibbons brings some impressive qualifications to the table, including three terms in the Nevada State Assembly, there is no escaping the fact that she would be taking advantage of her husband’s good name and political success for her own benefit,” the paper opined.

All of this angling would have been for naught, Congressman Gibbons admitted to the Reno newspaper, had he been named chairman of the House Intelligence Committee last year. If that had happened, he would have looked to stay in Congress long term.

“It would have put an enormously different perspective on what we would be doing today,” he told the paper. “I would have loved to have been the committee chairman and when the choice was made to go with Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), of course that disappointed me.”
— N.D.

GOP Poll: Cantwell May Be Vulnerable

A Republican firm has issued a new poll that will bolster GOP claims that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) is vulnerable in her 2006 re-election bid.

The poll of 800 Evergreen State voters conducted Jan. 9-11 by Strategic Vision showed Cantwell’s approval rating at 46 percent, with 40 percent disapproving of the way the freshman Senator has handled her job.

It had a 3 percent margin of error.

Sen. Patty Murray (D), who was just re-elected, had a 55 percent approval rating.

The firm did not release any results of matchups between Cantwell and hypothetical Republican challengers.

Washington GOP Chairman Chris Vance and former Rep. Rick White (R) — who defeated Cantwell in a 1994 House election — are mentioned most frequently as possible challengers to Cantwell.

Republican leaders might also try to persuade former Rep. Jennifer Dunn and 2004 gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi, if his challenge of the election results falls short, into the race. A few wealthy businessmen have also been mentioned.
— N.D.

Democrats Try to Revive Redistricting Proposal

Florida Democrats are reviving a long-shot proposal that would relieve partisan state legislators of the task of redrawing Congressional boundaries and give the responsibility instead to an independent, bipartisan commission, The Miami Herald recently reported.

Democrats say the independently drawn districts would more accurately reflect the state’s political makeup. While Democrats have an edge in voter registration, Republicans hold 18 of the state’s 25 Congressional seats and also control two-thirds of the state legislative seats.

Democrats hope to put the proposal in front of voters in November 2006. But to get the initiative on the ballot they would need to gather a minimum of 500,000 signatures from registered voters, and possibly more.

The party has tried to push the initiative before, but it died when the Democrats failed to garner enough signatures.

The Committee for Fair Representation, headed by state Rep. Tim Ryan (D), says it has gathered about 20,000 signatures since 2003, and the group plans to present them to the secretary of state to launch the ballot initiative process.

But signatures aren’t the party’s only hurdle.

Democrats would also need to raise an estimated $2.5 million to hire signature gatherers and perhaps double that amount to combat Republican opposition to the effort.

Some Democrats question whether the party can afford to push for the change in 2006, when it will also be defending Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and competing in the open-seat governor’s race. However, the effort could be financed by a wealthy individual or group.
— Lauren W. Whittington

Poll: Sarbanes in Good Shape If He Runs Again

Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D) is “very well-positioned” for re-election should he choose to seek a record-shattering sixth term in 2006, an independent poll has found.

Fifty-six percent of the 402 Democrats surveyed by an independent polling firm said they would vote to re-elect him. Only 10 percent said they would vote to replace Sarbanes, while 34 percent said they would consider someone else.

The poll was conducted Jan. 3-8 by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies of Annapolis and had a 5 percent margin of error.

Sarbanes, who is already Maryland’s longest-serving Senator, has not said whether he will run again in 2006, when he will be 73 years old. But the poll predicted a spirited Democratic race to replace him in the event that he retires.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume were running neck and neck in a hypothetical open-seat Senate primary, with Rep. Benjamin Cardin close behind.

O’Malley was preferred by 26 percent of the Democrats surveyed, Mfume was favored by 24 percent, and Cardin was the choice of 20 percent. The remainder of those questioned were undecided.

Several other Democratic officials who were not included in the survey could also run. Rep. Albert Wynn has signaled his interest in a Senate race if Sarbanes retires. And Democratic Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings are also thought to harbor Senate ambitions.

The Democratic Senate nomination may be tantamount to election in 2006, as Republicans have no obvious strong contender. Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is the first choice of the GOP, but he is almost certain to seek re-election in 2006 with an eye toward running for governor four years later.

In a separate poll released last week by The Baltimore Sun, O’Malley and Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) were tied in a hypothetical gubernatorial matchup for 2006.
— J.K.

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