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Nation: Ensign Ratcheting Up Pressure on Colleagues

After months of unsuccessfully twisting arms in private, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) is now resorting to public peer pressure tactics to shame his colleagues into opening up their checkbooks to fund GOP election efforts.

Ensign put out a statement Wednesday reiterating his intent to match the Democrats’ television advertising spending across the country this cycle. But in a thinly veiled jab at his fellow GOP Senators, Ensign said he would do so only with the help of his colleagues.

“While I am aware we do not currently have the funds to match the DSCC, I am giving our [independent expenditure unit] this budget on faith — faith that my Republican colleagues will step up to the challenge and transfer the funds necessary to remain competitive with the Democrats,” Ensign said. “I have informed my colleagues that it is now up to them.”

Ensign’s public message mirrors a similar directive he personally issued to Senators during their Tuesday policy luncheon, which was held at the NRSC. Ensign told his colleagues that without their generosity, he could not compete against the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s massive national advertising buy.

The Nevada Republican said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he believes his colleagues are starting to get the message that they have to participate in the party’s fundraising efforts, especially as they watch the DSCC reserve costly television time. He said he’s following up on his public statement by holding face-to-face meetings with Senators to ask them to contribute, adding, “all will be asked.”

“So far, I’ve had some good meetings and good commitments from folks,” Ensign said. “If they come through, I will feel very good about it.”

Asked why he believes his latest appeal will be more effective than earlier efforts, Ensign said: “I laid out the reality to them. … When we are this close to the election, the reality starts hitting home. Before, it was more theoretical.”

NARAL Issues First Round of Endorsements

The political action committee of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the national abortion rights group, announced its first wave of Congressional endorsements on Wednesday. The endorsements will yield the candidates money, ads and ground troops, but the actual allocation of the group’s resources will be determined at a later date.

“We have another outstanding slate of pro-choice candidates across the country in 2008,” said Nancy Keenan, the group’s president. “Despite our advancements in the last election cycle, anti-choice Members of Congress still outnumber pro-choice Members.”

In Senate races, the PAC has endorsed Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D), who is challenging Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska); comedian Al Franken (D), who is running against Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.); Oregon state Speaker Jeff Merkley (D), who is challenging Sen. Gordon Smith (R); Texas state Rep. Rick Noriega (D), who is running against Sen. John Cornyn (R); former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D), who is challenging Sen. John Sununu (R); and two open-seat Senate candidates, Rep. Mark Udall (D) in Colorado and Rep. Tom Udall (D) in New Mexico.

The PAC has also endorsed three Senate incumbents seeking re-election: Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

In open-seat Houses races, the PAC endorsed New Jersey state Sen. John Adler (D) in the Garden State’s 3rd district, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) in Virginia’s 11th district, former Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich (D) in New Mexico’s 1st district and Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D) in Ohio’s 15th district.

The PAC also endorsed House challengers Darcy Burner (D) in Washington’s 8th district, Christine Jennings in Florida’s 13th district, Bob Lord in Arizona’s 3rd district, Gary Peters in Michigan’s 9th district, Mark Schauer in Michigan’s 7th district and Dennis Shulman in New Jersey’s 5th district.

The PAC also endorsed 23 House incumbents, including a few who are potentially vulnerable, such as Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Rep. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.).

NRCC on Attack After Pro Forma Session Vote

No sooner did the House kill — by one vote on Wednesday — a measure to keep the chamber in a pro forma session throughout the upcoming recess than the National Republican Congressional Committee issued harsh news releases targeting potentially vulnerable Democrats for voting against the proposal.

The Republicans orchestrated the vote to protest Democratic leaders not bringing a Republican energy package to the floor before lawmakers launch their five-week recess this weekend.

In the releases, NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said that Democrats apparently believe “voters are willing to sit around and wait while their Congressman goes on vacation as the cost of gasoline continues to soar.”

Targeted in the NRCC releases: Reps. Brian Baird (Wash.), Melissa Bean (Ill.), Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Don Cazayoux (La.), Joe Courtney (Conn.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Bill Foster (Ill.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), John Hall (N.Y.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Paul Hodes (N.H.), Steve Kagen (Wis.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Tim Mahoney (Fla.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Dennis Moore (Kan.), Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Ciro Rodriguez (Texas), Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Zack Space (Ohio), Bart Stupak (Mich.), Tim Walz (Minn.) and John Yarmuth (Ky.).

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