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THE NATION: Social Security Ad Aims at 3 House Members, the liberal advocacy group that helped raise millions for Democratic campaign efforts last cycle, is launching a new television ad campaign today aimed at battling President Bush’s proposal to reform Social Security.

In the first wave of ads, the group is targeting three swing district House Members: Reps. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Chris Chocola (R-Ind.). The new ad will air in those Members’ districts and a generic version will run in other local markets and on cable television in New York and Washington, D.C.

Gerlach had a close race for re-election in 2004, and Boyd and Chocola had relatively competitive challengers.

The group plans to expand the ad campaign to other districts as the debate over Social Security reform heats up.

“We are committed to this effort for the long haul,” Executive Director Eli Pariser said in a statement. “We will make sure that Members of Congress who consider supporting a plan that reduces benefits for future retirees know that their constituents will hear from us — and they will hear from their constituents.”

In the ad, an announcer encourages viewers to call their local Congressman and advocate against cuts in Social Security.

“First, someone thought up the working lunch. Then, we discovered the working vacation,” the announcer says. “And now, thanks to George Bush’s planned Social Security benefit cuts of up to 46 percent to pay for private accounts, it won’t be long before America introduces the world to … the working retirement.”

MoveOn is also planning to run a full-page print ad in The New York Times on Wednesday, the same day that Bush will give his State of the Union address to the nation.

— Lauren W. Whittington


Bryant Releases Poll to Slow Corker Senate Fizz

Seeking to buck conventional wisdom that Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker is the odds-on favorite for the Republican Senate nomination in 2006, former Rep. Ed Bryant released a survey last week that showed him with a comfortable primary lead.

In a three-way GOP primary with Bryant, Corker and state Rep. Beth Harwell, the former 7th district Congressman took 28 percent. Corker and Harwell took 12 percent each.

A head-to-head matchup shows Bryant with a sizeable 32 percent to 13 percent edge over Corker.

Bryant’s lead is likely due to residual name identification built up during his unsuccessful primary race against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) in 2002.

Etheridge & Associates conducted the poll in early January for Bryant’s campaign. It tested 646 likely Republican primary voters with a 4 percent margin of error.

The release of Bryant’s poll is likely aimed at stealing the spotlight from Corker, who is expected to show more than $2 million raised in his year-end report with the Federal Election Commission.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) is vacating the seat in 2006 in keeping with a two-term-limit pledge. He is widely expected to run for president in 2008.

Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is the likely Democratic nominee, although he will face a primary challenge from state Sen. Rosalind Kurita. Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell is also considering the race but his candidacy is seen as a long shot.

— Chris Cillizza


Senators’ Popularity Has Taken a Hit in Past Year

Both Sens. Mark Dayton (D) and Norm Coleman (R) have job approval ratings below 50 percent, according to the latest Minnesota Poll.

Dayton, who is up for re-election in 2006, suffered the biggest drop in popularity and faces the more immediate problem.

His approval rating fell 15 points in the past year, down to 43 percent in the poll commissioned by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The poll of 832 Minnesotans conducted Jan. 23-26 had a 3-point error margin.

Coleman’s positive rating is 47 percent, down from 54 percent in the same poll taken last year, the paper reported.

Former Sen. Rod Grams (R), whom Dayton defeated in 2000, was also at 43 percent approval in January of that year, the paper noted.

Dayton lost 10 points with fellow Democrats and liberals, while Coleman lost the most ground with younger and urban voters.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Bill Luther (D), who has been mentioned as a possible primary challenger to Dayton in 2006, took in and spent money in 2003 and 2004, though he has not officially been a candidate since losing his seat to Rep. John Kline (R) in 2002.

The Star Tribune reported that Gopher State Republicans think they smell something fishy and plan to challenge Luther’s roughly $63,000 in campaign expenses and $12,500 in donations over the past two years.

Luther filed federal candidate papers in 2003 but never actually sought an office last year.

— Nicole Duran

New York

Tommy John Pitching In For Boehlert Re-election

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R), whose central New York district includes Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, continues to use baseball as a theme in his fundraising endeavors.

Boehlert has scheduled a March 16 fundraiser on Capitol Hill headlined by Tommy John, the former left-handed pitcher who starred with the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, among other teams. Billed as “spring training” for Boehlert benefactors, the event costs $1,000 a ticket — not quite as high as some modern-day Major League Baseball stadium prices.

The 12-term Congressman, who must frequently ward off challengers from the right, could face another Republican primary challenge in 2006 from former Seneca Falls Mayor Brad Jones, who plans to decide in June or July whether to make the race.

Boehlert spent more than $1.4 million on his 2004 re-election.

— Josh Kurtz

Ex-Councilman Forgoes Race to Replace Owens

Former New York City Councilman Steve DiBrienza (D) told the Courier-Life Newspapers of Brooklyn last week that he would not seek to replace retiring Rep. Major Owens (D) in 2006.

DiBrienza, who was term limited in 2001 and ran unsuccessfully for New York City public advocate that year, is known to be eager to get back into politics, and some political analysts have argued that if he were the lone white candidate in a crowded open-seat primary, he could do well.

The 11th district, which Owens has represented since 1983, is 21 percent white. So far, all the candidates running or considering the race in the Democratic stronghold are black.

Owens’ son, HMO administrator and former school board official Chris Owens, is already running, and state Sen. Carl Andrews has set up a fundraising committee with the Federal Election Commission. City Councilwomen Tracy Boyland and Yvette Clarke and state Assemblyman Nick Perry are also considering the race.

— J.K.


Gibbons Insists He’s No Air Force Recruit

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) insists that he is interested in running for governor and only governor in 2006, despite his name being floated as a possible Air Force secretary.

“I’m sure there are a lot of good-intentioned people who may have wanted to see that, but I’m focused on this statewide race,” Gibbons said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

He also said that President Bush had selected a new secretary, even though no public announcement has been made yet.

Gibbons, a former combat pilot who was called up for active duty during the Persian Gulf War, has yet to officially declare his gubernatorial candidacy but has formed a steering committee to prepare for the race.

He also told the paper that he intends to complete the House term he won in November — his fifth — and would not resign early to campaign for the statewide post.

“My intention is to fill out the two years I was elected to serve as a U.S. Congressman and to work for the constituents of the 2nd district,” he said.

— N.D.

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