POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 4/16

Cantor Tops All in Fundraising

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) raised close to $1 million in this year’s first quarter, CQ Politics reports. 

That made Cantor — the second-ranking member of the House Republican leadership — the most prolific early fundraiser among all House members as the 2010 election cycle got under way.

Big Early Money for Frontline Democrats

“Raise money early” is probably the most oft-repeated advice given to the 40 House Democrats singled out by party officials to receive special assistance, as they prepare to defend against potentially serious challenges in the 2010 elections.

CQ Politics analysis of the latest campaign finance reports shows that these members are fast learners — they gathered an average of $266,000 in campaign receipts for the first three months of this year.

Most of the Frontline Democrats are either first-term members or those who represent politically tenuous turf.

Murphy’s Lead Widens in NY-20

The latest count from the NY-20 special election shows Scott Murphy (D) widening his lead to 167 votes over Jim Tedisco (R).

NBC News: “Tedisco’s biggest potential arrow was Saratoga County, which he won by almost 5,000 votes. But Saratoga is completely done counting absentees as well as those overseas and military ballots. All that’s left are challenged ballots. As has been reported, Tedisco has challenged far more ballots than Murphy. Translation: Plainly, there are likely more Murphy ballots out there than Tedisco ones.”

Democrats Hold Big Lead in Generic Ballot Test

The latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll finds Democrats with an 11-point lead over Republicans, 49% to 38%, in a generic congressional ballot test.

However, when given the choice of choosing between the statements “we need to have a Democratic Congress in order to help President Obama enact his legislative program,” and the other “We need to elect a Republican Congress to act as a check and balance, to keep Democrats from going too far,” 48% chose the Republican ‘check and balance’ option, 41% indicated a preference for Democratic Congress to work with Obama.

The poll also shows “remarkable stability” in President Obama’s job approval ratings with 60% approving and 30% disapproving.

In a hypothetical 2012 presidential matchup, 50% said that they would definitely or probably vote for Obama again while 39% indicated that they would definitely or probably vote against him.

Secret Interrogation Memos to be Released

“After a tense internal debate, the Obama administration this afternoon will make public a number of detailed memos describing the harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency against al Qaeda suspects in secret overseas prisons,” the New York Times reports.

“The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and today’s release will be the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the interrogation program that some senior Obama administration officials have said used illegal torture.”

The Wall Street Journal says that while “some operational details” of the interrogation program will be revealed, the administration will “keep secret the names of detainees and the way techniques were applied to particular prisoners.”

Will Coburn Retire?

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told Tulsa World that he is still definitely undecided about whether he will seek another term in 2010.

Said Coburn: “I’m not playing games. I really haven’t decided.”

However, his fundraising suggest he’s leaning towards retirement. Politico reports Coburn “raised only $17,000 in the first three months of the year and banked just $57,000 in his campaign account, totals that will raise speculation that he won’t run for re-election.”

First Lady Gets High Marks

Marist Poll: “Nearly three months after her husband assumed the highest office in the land, a plurality of Americans — 44% — thinks Michelle Obama represents change for the better as First Lady of the United States. Just 4% have a negative impression of Mrs. Obama in her new role, and 31% feel Michelle Obama has yet to make her mark.”

Floridians Want Crist to Remain as Governor

Florida voters prefer by a 42% to 26% margin that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) seek another term in Tallahassee rather than the U.S. Senate, according to a newQuinnipiac poll

Crist’s favorability ratings are a healthy 64%.

Said pollster Peter Brown: “Given the Governor’s popularity, he is likely to be a strong candidate for whichever office he seeks. The other potential candidates for the Senate are not nearly as well-known or as well-liked as is Crist.”

Bunning Raises Paltry Amount

Earlier this month, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) described his fundraising as “lousy” for his expected re-election race. 

Now we know what that means: Bunning raised just $263,000 during the first quarter and has less than $400,000 in the bank.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that one of his potential challengers, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo (D) has raised $429,552 since entering the race in February.

Democrats Get Top Tier Challenger in FL-10

The St. Petersburg Times reports state Sen. Charlie Justice (D) will challenge Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) in 2010 in Florida’s 10th congressional district. 

“Young is a popular political institution who has funneled many millions of dollars into the region and has never had a close re-election contest.”

However, a CQ Politics analysis found that FL-10 backed President Obama by 51.5% to 47.4%, making Young one of 34 House Republicans from districts that voted Democratic for president in 2008.

Furthermore, The Hotline notes Young raised just $7,000 in Q1, which will likely increase speculation that the 78 year old congressman is considering retirement.

Perry Raises Secession at Tax Protest

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said that his state could secede from the United States because “the federal government has strayed somewhat from what our founders wanted and is choking Americans with excessive spending and taxation,” reports theFort Worth Star-Telegram

Said Perry: “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot, to boot.”

First Read: “Perry is definitely ambitious — is he prepping himself for more than a GOP primary against Kay Bailey Hutchison? — but this secession talk is pretty amazing coming from the governor of the country’s second-largest state.”

Palin Family Feud Continues

The Palin family’s continued public fight with Levi Johnston can’t help Gov. Sarah Palin’s political ambitions.

Now Palin’s father is stepping into it. Chuck Heath told US Weekly that the father of his great grandson “has not contributed anything” for the infant son he fathered with Palin’s daughter, Bristol.

Said Heath: I don’t agree with what he’s doing right now. It’s not right. He’s broke, so he’s trying to capitalize on this. I wish he’d take some of this money he’s making and buy some diapers with it.”

Nonetheless, Politico notes that Palin — who hasn’t even stepped into the fundraising circuit yet — “has emerged as an almost unparalleled fundraising force, with both foes and fans minting money off the mere mention of her name.”

Sestak War Chest Shines Spotlight on Senate Bid

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who has been seriously considering a U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania, “raised $550,000 in the first three months of the year — nearly as much as Joe Torsella, who already announced his Senate candidacy — and has an eye-popping $3.3 million in his campaign account — a significant sum for a second-term member of Congress,” Politico reports.

“Earlier in the year, Sestak was not inclined to run against Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), but the possibility that Specter could lose a Republican primary to Pat Toomey and the lack of announced Democratic candidates prompted him to reconsider.”

Sestak is a retired Rear Admiral and the highest ranking military officer ever to serve in Congress.

Dodd’s Troubles Don’t Stop Donors

Sen. Christopher Dodd’s (D-CT) shaky status in Connecticut hasn’t scared away too many donors, CQ Politics reports. The five-term incumbent reported just over $1 million in total receipts in the first three months of 2009 and has $1.4 million in the bank. 

Though Dodd trails his GOP rivals in recent polls, his cash is likely to give him an edge.

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