The Note: Surrogate-in-Chief Hits The Trail

Oct 7, 2010 8:59am


SURROGATE-IN-CHIEF. President Obama takes to the campaign trail once again on Thursday, making stops in Maryland to campaign for Gov. Martin O’Malley followed by a trip to Chicago to lend his support to Senate contender Alexi Giannoulias. Why the Chicago trip? It’s Obama’s second in two months to campaign for Giannoulias, who is vying for Obama’s old Senate seat, and First Lady Michelle Obama plans to give the Democrat a boost when she visits next week. Months ago it looked like Republican Rep. Mark Kirk was in a comfortable spot, particularly after the bank Giannoulias’ family owned was shut down this spring. But Kirk had his own stumbles and failed to take full advantage of the summer months to campaign. Recent polls show the race to be a virtual dead heat. As Bloomberg’s John McCormick and Roger Runningen report: “The first family’s efforts illustrate the struggle polls show Democrats face in keeping control of all statewide offices in Illinois. Their visits could rekindle local interest in the Senate race that has faded amid an unexpected mayoral race that may feature Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. … Mark Kirk, the Republican nominee, and Giannoulias have spent much of their campaign debating who is the more scandalized.”

Why Maryland? To begin with the state is still Obama territory, at least much more so than much of the rest of the country. ABC’s Sunlen Miller notes that Obama is heading to Prince George’s Country to appear at historically black Bowie State University President where the president's goal is to turn out Maryland’s African-American vote, a key demographic that O’Malley has been working hard to energize in his bid against former GOP governor Robert Ehrlich. The Washington Post's Aaron C. Davis and John Wagner write that Obama's rally “underscores how O'Malley has aligned himself with a man who wasn't always his first choice for president, and how safe that strategy has remained in a state where Obama is far more popular than he is nationally. ‘The president is going there because Maryland is one place where he should be able to fire up the base and get them engaged,’ said Jennifer Duffy, senior analyst with the Cook Political Report. Maryland is such a blue state that Democrats don't need much, ‘but they do need the base to show up.’” Recent polls give O’Malley an edge over Ehrlich. Senator Barbara Mikulski, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congressman Chris Van Hollen are also expected to attend the rally.

FEISTY IN FLORIDA. One place where the president is unlikely to be able to move the needle much is in the Sunshine State where Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek is trailing both of his rivals — Republican Marco Rubio and independent Charlie Crist. An ABC News debate moderated by George Stephanopoulos between the three contenders on Wednesday night likely did little to change the state of play there. ABC’s Amy Walter reports that neither Crist nor Meek seemed able to “knock frontrunner Marco Rubio off his game.”

In case you missed it, here’s Walter’s debate cheat sheet: “Rubio’s message — which he diligently stuck to throughout the one-hour debate was pretty simple: I’m the anti-Washington, DC candidate. Calling the health care bill and the stimulus 'disaster[s],' Rubio said, “'f you like Obama care, if you like the stimulus' then vote for Crist or Meek. … Meek, who represents a heavily Democratic district in South Florida, embraced his support of the Obama agenda, including his votes for the stimulus and health care reform. He also worked to lump Crist and Rubio together as conservative Republicans, saying that both support 'trickle-down economics' and would take the country back to Bush-era politics. …Crist, meanwhile, tried to thread the needle. Calling himself a 'live and let live kind of guy,' Crist labeled himself a 'fiscal conservative and a social moderate,' while tagging Rubio as 'far right' and Meek as 'far left.' Even so, he saved his strongest attacks for Rubio, calling him out as captive of the Tea Party.”

NOTED: More debates to come: On Friday Oct. 15 ABC’s Jake Tapper will moderate a Colorado Senate debate between Michael Bennet and Ken Buck as well as a gubernatorial debate between John Hickenlooper, Dan Maes and Tom Tancredo. On Tuesday, Oct. 19 Stephanopoulos moderates a Senate debate between Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk. And on Wednesday, Oct. 20 he heads to Pennsylvania for a match-up between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey. Stay tuned.

CAMPAIGNING LIKE IT’S 2012. The Tea Party, which has scored upset victories against establishment candidates across the country this election season and is poised to send a number of the movement’s favorite candidates to Washington in November, has set its sight’s on an even bigger goal: 2012. Tea Party activists are already putting more incumbent Republican lawmakers in their cross hairs as the Wall Street Journal’s Janet hook reports: “Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress, already has a conservative GOP primary opponent. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Indiana) have all drawn fire from the right wing of their party. … The threat of a primary challenge may put more pressure on Republicans to steer clear of compromise with Democrats when Congress reconvenes. When the Senate recently voted on small-business tax breaks, the bill drew support from only two Republicans—both of whom are leaving office at the end of this term. Centrist efforts to compromise on an extension of expiring Bush-era tax cuts fizzled. Even Ms. Snowe, a perennial swing vote on taxes, resisted agreement with Democrats on the issue.”

FORGET 2012, TRY 2016. The speculation, first stoked by Bob Woodward, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would trade places with Vice President Joe Biden in 2012 — Clinton stepping in as Obama’s running mate and Biden becoming Secretary of State — was dismissed by multiple White House sources as well as Clinton, herself, on Wednesday. (That, of course, didn’t stop everyone from talking about it.) But Politico’s Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman write today that it’s not 2012 Clinton may be thinking about, it’s 2016: “Clinton doesn’t want to be vice president. But, her old advisers say, she may still want to be president. … Clinton’s political team, many of them still in exile from the Obama White House, whether in the private sector or in other government posts, remains on standby. They are also the most invested in her prospects: Their relevance depends, to a degree, on hers. One, Ann Lewis, maintains an organization based on Clinton’s massive email list. It’s called Another, pollster Mark Penn, conducted a public survey for The Hill this week that included a pot-stirring match-up of Clinton and Obama in 2012.”


DON’T MISS Jake Tapper’s report on outside groups who are spending big on ads this election cycle. In a “World News” report, Tapper takes a closer look at the campaign being waged against South Carolina Democratic Congressman John Spratt. “Money that’s coming in from unidentified, non-disclosed groups dwarfs anything that I’ve ever seen before,” Spratt told Tapper. And that’s just one state. Across the country money spent by Republican-leaning groups exceeds the expenditures of Democratic-leaning groups by a five to one margin.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter speak with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Listen for her take on last night’s Florida Senate matchup. They’ll also sit down with Reid Wilson from The National Journal. Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



CROSSING THE DELAWARE? Sarah Palin, who gave Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell a boost in the GOP primary with a last-minute endorsement, indicated on Wednesday that she is planning to campaign for O’Donnell before Election Day. Palin told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that she would “absolutely” go to Delaware on O’Donnell’s behalf. “You’re going to go campaign for her, I recently heard,” Hannity said in the interview. “Yeah, absolutely,” Palin replied. “I’m honored to, I’m excited about it.” Palin offered no specifics about the timing of the potential visit or what form it would take. But a poll out on Wednesday indicated that O’Donnell could use the help. A recent Fairleigh Dickinson University survey showed O’Donnell trailing her Democratic opponent Chris Coons by 17 points — 53 percent to 36 percent.

NO SHOWS. Though Sarah Palin might be heading to Delaware to stump for Christine O’Donnell, some Republicans are wary of appearing with her. Two of California’s marquee Republican candidates — Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina and gubernatorial contender Meg Whitman – will not be sharing a stage with Palin when she rallies voters in Anaheim, Calif. later this month. The event is also expected to include Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. But the two California GOP candidates won’t be there, The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney files this dispatch from the Golden State: “The fact that these two Republican candidates would find someplace else to be on a Saturday afternoon less than a month before Election Day is not exactly a surprise, considering the political dynamics of this state. There are not enough Republican base voters out there to carry anyone to victory anymore in California. And independent voters — who have been the main target of Ms. Whitman in recent days — have a decidedly unfriendly view of Ms. Palin, here and across the country.”

NANCY VS. NEWT. At a press conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s contention that Democrats have become the “party of food stamps” while Republicans are the “party of paychecks.” It’s a framing strategy Gingrich has been encouraging fellow Republicans to use this fall. CNN’s Evan Glass reports: “For every dollar a person receives in food stamps, Pelosi said that $1.79 is put back into the economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture cites an even higher figure of $1.84. ‘It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance. The biggest bang for the buck.’”

BRUISING BUCK. Campaign Money Watch, a campaign finance reform watchdog group, is going up on the air with a television ad campaign hitting Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck for what the ad calls Buck's "misconduct" while working in the state's U.S. Attorney's office. “Ken Buck’s misconduct let an illegal gun dealer facing 37 criminal charges off the hook,” an announcer says in the spot. “Now the same illegal gun dealer contributed money to Buck’s campaign.” Campaign Money Watch is spending $750,000 on the ad buy. The 30-second commercial will go on the air today in the Denver market. In a statement the nonprofit group notes that Buck's opponent Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., co-sponsored legislation that would cut the ties between campaign contributors and members of Congress.


The lead that Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle holds over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid according to a new CNN/Time poll. Angle leads Reid 42 percent to 40 percent with Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian coming in third with 7 percent. The survey of likely voters had a 3.5 percent margin of error. More from the survey: “The poll indicates that Angle enjoys a ten point advantage among independent voters and a 14 point advantage among men, with Reid leading by 12 points among women.”



@jaketapper: Yee-haw! Fun story by @mikeallen about Republicans searching for "hicky" looking actors for ad to air in WV >

@nydailynews: Tea Party-backed Carl Paladino set to make 'major' announcement on TV See more at

@pwire: He's serious about 2012: Santorum forms Iowa PAC…

@brianstelter: An investigation by The Nation finds that Lou Dobbs employed five undocumented immigrants.

@TonyFratto: Pisco sours all around…RT @CBSNews Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa awarded 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature:



UNITY, PA. For the first time, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will campaign for Joe Sestak, the congressman who ended his hopes for a sixth term in the U.S. Senate after hard-fought primary campaign. Specter will appear with Sestak at fundraiser in Philadelphia on Monday that will also feature Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. Just a few weeks ago, the most that Specter would say about his former rival’s campaign when asked by a reporter was, “I’m late for the squash court." (Presumably Sestak will receive a more forceful endorsement from his erstwhile opponent on Monday).

TROUBLE IN RALEIGH. ABC 11 Eyewitness News in North Carolina “has learned federal prosecutors in Raleigh have issued a new round of subpoenas in their investigation of former NC Senator John Edwards…. [About] 20 new subpoenas have been issued ordering people to testify about the arrangement to conceal the affair and the baby John Edwards had with his mistress, Rielle Hunter. A federal grand jury in Raleigh has been investigating Edwards for more than a year. They've been focused on the possible mis-use of campaign contributions.”



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