Tag Archives: mark pryor

Bible Belt Republicans to rule Congress, push far-right agenda

With the walloping Republicans gave Democrats in the midterm elections, the GOP stands one Louisiana Senate runoff away from completely controlling Southern politics from the Carolinas to Texas. Only a handful of Democrats hold statewide office in the rest of the Old Confederacy.

The results put Southern Republicans at the forefront in Washington — from Senate Majority Leader-in-waiting Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to a host of new committee chairmen. Those leaders and the rank-and-file behind them will set the Capitol Hill agenda and continue molding the GOP’s identity heading into 2016.

In statehouses, consolidated Republican power affords the opportunity to advance conservative causes from charter schools and private school vouchers to expanding the tax breaks and incentive programs that define Republican economic policy. The outcome also assures that much of the South, at least for now, will remain steadfast in its refusal to participate in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

“I think these new leaders can help drive the conservative movement” at all levels, said Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, echoing the celebrations of Republican leaders and activists across the region.

Republicans widely have acknowledged that the party now has to prove it can govern. But one-party rule invariably means internal squabbles. Republican White House hopefuls in particular must court Southern Republicans who are more strident than the wider electorate on issues ranging from immigration to abortion and the broader debate over the government’s role — and how to pay for it.

“The Republican presidential nomination will run through the South,” said Ferrell Guillory, a Southern politics expert based at the University of North Carolina. “As Mitt Romney found (in 2012), that … makes it harder to build a national coalition once you are the nominee.”

Even with the South’s established Republican bent, the midterm vote yielded a stark outcome. Besides McConnell’s wide margin, Republicans knocked off North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. In Louisiana, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy is the heavy favorite to defeat Sen. Mary Landrieu in a Dec. 6 runoff.

Republicans reclaimed the governor’s mansion in Arkansas and held an open Senate seat in Georgia that Democrats targeted aggressively.

In January, the GOP will control every governor’s office, the majority of U.S. Senate seats, nearly every majority-white congressional district and both state legislative chambers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. Landrieu and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson are the only officials keeping their states from the list.

At the northern periphery of the South, Kentucky’s Legislature remains divided, and Democratic governors in Kentucky and West Virginia are in their final terms.

In Washington, Senate Republicans haven’t parceled out leadership assignments, but Southerners figure prominently among would-be major committee chairmen: Mississippi’s Thad Cochran (Appropriations); Alabama’s Jeff Sessions (Budget) and Richard Shelby of Alabama (Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs); Bob Corker of Tennessee (Foreign Relations); Richard Burr of North Carolina (Intelligence); Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions); Johnny Isakson of Georgia (Veterans Affairs).

In the House, Georgia Rep. Tom Price could end up chairing the Budget Committee. Louisiana’s Steve Scalise already won a promotion to majority whip, Republicans’ No. 3 post in the chamber. Georgia’s Rob Woodall chairs the Republican Study Committee, the GOP’s ultra-conservative arm.

The regional differences in the GOP could make it more difficult for McConnell to deliver on his declaration that “just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict.”

McConnell and Obama have both said they’ll make attempts to find common ground on a range of issues. But elsewhere on election night, Sessions declared in Alabama, “Tonight the American people dramatically repudiated the policies of President Obama. … It was also a dramatic affirmation of the policies our GOP candidates.”

Sen.-elect David Perdue of Georgia struck a similar chord: “Georgia made it loud and clear … that we are going to stop the failed policies of President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid.”

The region also is home to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both presidential hopefuls and tea party favorites who have strengthened their absolute approaches, particularly on budget deals.

In Louisiana, Villere rejected the notion that Southerners could complicate Republican policies and electoral fortunes in the long-term. “Whether it was the old Southern Democrats or Republicans now, we’ve pushed the liberal wings of the parties for a long time,” Villere said. “I think it’s good for the party and for the country.”

It’s a jungle out there for animals in campaign ads

It’s a jungle out there in political television advertising, what with parrots, chicks, dogs and pigs taking turns in commercials that bite and scratch in a way no nonpartisan pet ever would.

“You can keep it,” squawked a parrot in a Club for Growth Action ad that ran earlier in the year in Arkansas. It was meant to ridicule President Barack Obama and Sen. Mark Pryor’s now-abandoned claims that state residents could keep their health insurance if they liked it.

In Georgia, Democratic Rep. John Barrow unleashed a golden retriever in the first television ad of his campaign for a new term. “Somebody once said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” he says.

“Well, I wouldn’t wish Washington on a dog,” Barrow adds, throwing a tennis ball to be fetched. By the time he has finished touting his own record and criticizing other lawmakers, the dog and ball are back. “She works harder than most of them do,” he says, comparing the pet favorably to the men and women he has known in Congress for a decade.

Whether peddling candidates or commercial products, the goal of commercials is to gain as wide and attentive a viewership as possible. Anything that gets a longer look is prized.

“Animals can be a great way to get the viewer to stop skipping through the commercials on their DVR or delay a trip to the fridge during a commercial break,” said Ali Lapp, executive director of the House Majority PAC, a group that backs Democrats in House campaigns.

Not only can animals be cute or cuddly, but they often trigger predictable emotions among humans. Pork, tasty when eaten, produces indigestion in the form of government spending.

Nor are animals new to political advertising.

Three decades ago, in his re-election campaign, President Ronald Reagan aired a commercial about a bear, a readily recognizable symbol for the Soviet Union.

“There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all,” the announcer said as a grizzly lumbered across the landscape. The commercial’s strong suggestion was that Reagan’s Democratic opponent Walter Mondale was among those unable to see the danger posed by a rival superpower.

No bears, grizzly or teddy, have wandered from the woods onto television screens yet this campaign season.

But Joni Ernst won the Republican Senate nomination in Iowa after airing a commercial in which she said she grew up on a farm and can castrate hogs. “So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” she says as a pig squeals in the background.

Making sure the point isn’t missed, she says of the big spenders, “Let’s make ’em squeal,” a command the pigs are heard to obey promptly.

Rival Bruce Braley, a Democratic congressman, looked around the political barnyard and figured chicks could handle his rival’s pigs.

“When Joni Ernst had a chance to do something in Iowa, we didn’t hear a peep,” the announcer says as a small, brown-eyed chick appears on screen, chirping at first, then growing more animated as the political accusations escalate.

Fortunately for the Club for Growth, parrots are able to do more than chirp or squeal.

Enter a blue parrot with yellow and green markings that goes by the name of Harley and is intent on mocking Obama and Pryor.

“We will keep this promise. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period,” Obama says in remarks made as he was seeking passage of his health care legislation.

Squawks the parrot: “Keep your doctor.”

Obama, again: “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.”

Parrot: “You can keep it.”

Pryor says: “What’s the bottom line. Are we going to be able to stick with our plan? The answer is yes.”

Parrot: “Keep your plan.”

“Tell Sen. Pryor to stop parroting President Obama,” says the announcer.

News Guide: Races that will decide U.S. Senate control

While Democrats now hold control of the U.S. Senate, this fall’s election has the potential to shift that leadership to the GOP.

Republicans will take control if they manage a net gain of six Senate seats.

Among the 36 seats on the ballot, seven are held by Democrats in states won by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

A look at what’s happening in six competitive Senate races where a change in party is possible, and where that change could help decide which party ends up leading the Senate during the next Congress.

NORTH CAROLINA

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, an incumbent elected to her first term in 2008; Republican Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker in his first run for statewide office.

In the Bank: Hagan may be one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats but had raised roughly $11 million and was sitting on $8.6 million as of mid-April. Tillis has raised almost $3.3 million, including a $250,000 personal loan, and has just over $1 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Hagan recently has accused Tillis of denying the existence of climate change, and she calls the regulation of greenhouse gases key to protecting the environment. Tillis says the question is whether humans are causing global warming and suggested Hagan and President Barack Obama are using “false science” to promote a “war on coal” that would damage the economy.

On the Air: Hagan ran a radio ad before the GOP primary May 6 reminding voters that Tillis approved severance pay for two former legislative aides who had inappropriate relationships with lobbyists. “Our tax dollars, bailing out the indiscretions of Thom Tillis’ staff. Those may be values, but they’re not North Carolina’s,” the ad said. Tillis responded by accusing Hagan and a political action committee supporting Senate Democrats of trying to interfere in the primary. “Don’t be fooled by Harry Reid,” the ad said. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is the Senate majority leader.

ARKANSAS

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, an two-term incumbent first elected in 2002; U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, a freshman congressman from south Arkansas.

In the Bank: Pryor, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, had raised nearly $6.9 million in his re-election bid and had more than $4.1 million in cash through April 30. Cotton, who launched his Senate bid last August, had raised nearly $5.4 million and had almost $2.4 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Last month, Pryor and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., toured an Arkansas community hit by a deadly tornado and criticized Cotton’s vote against disaster aid for the Northeast following Superstorm Sandy. Cotton has focused on trying to tie Pryor to Obama, who is deeply unpopular in Arkansas.

On the Air: Pryor has spent the spring focusing on Medicare and Social Security, airing television spots that criticize Cotton for supporting changes to the programs that he argues would hurt older people. Cotton has aired ads aimed at introducing himself to the state, with his most recent spot featuring the newlywed congressman’s wife in his hometown of Dardanelle.

ALASKA

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a former Anchorage mayor seeking his second term; Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell are running in the state’s August primary.

In the Bank: Begich had raised more than $4.6 million and had $2.8 million on hand at the end of March. Sullivan, who most recently served as Alaska’s natural resources commissioner and is the best funded of the potential GOP challengers, had raised more than $2.6 million and held close to $2 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Sullivan and Treadwell spoken out last week against Obama’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations, with Treadwell saying it was an attempt to impose a change on Alaskans without a full debate in Congress. Begich has recently opened field offices in the small towns of Bethel, Ketchikan and Dillingham, something he says shows an unprecedented commitment to the state’s rural areas.

On the Air: Begich and Sullivan are talking to each other in their TV ads about each other’s ads. In one, Begich says a steel plant featured in a Sullivan spot has more business because of his work as a senator; Begich then suggests other such places where Sullivan could shoot an ad. In a response, Sullivan replied “I’m not a career politician like Mark, but I thought I’d return the favor” and asks him to explain votes he says mostly line up with Obama’s policies.

KENTUCKY

On the Ballot: Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, elected to his first term in 1984; Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, who is making her second run for statewide office.

In the Bank: McConnell, the longest-serving senator in Kentucky history and a prime target for Democrats this year, had raised close to $12 million through the end of April and was sitting on $10.1 million. Grimes had raised more than $8 million and had close to $4.9 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Obama’s recent announcement of stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions has given McConnell more ammunition in Kentucky, one of the nation’s top coal producers. Grimes has also attacked the new rules and again tried to portray herself as independent of Obama, who has lost by a wide margin every time he has appeared on the ballot in Kentucky.

On the air: Grimes is running a TV ad aimed at military voters, an influential bloc of the electorate in a state that’s home to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. The ad promotes a Kentucky law, championed by Grimes, that allows military and other overseas citizens to register to vote online. McConnell’s most recent ad featured U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., praising his credentials as a conservative.  

GEORGIA

On the Ballot: Democrat Michelle Nunn, an Atlanta nonprofit executive and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn; Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, from Savannah, and David Perdue, a former corporate CEO in his first bid for office, meet in a July 22 runoff.

In the bank: Nunn had hauled in $6.6 million through April 30 and had almost $3.7 million on hand, an impressive total for a first-time candidate and a reflection of the hopes of national Democrats that she can pull an upset. Going into the primary, Kingston had raised more than $5.6 million and had almost $1.3 million saved, while Perdue had taken in about $4.3 million, a figure that includes about $2.6 million of his personal fortune through loans and contributions.

On the Stump: Kingston has assembled a litany of endorsements from tea party figures and vanquished rivals Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, arguing he is uniting the state’s conservatives. Perdue tells voters at every stop the federal debt is the nation’s biggest problem and any sitting member of Congress helped create it. Nunn, meanwhile, quietly continues a campaign built around community events and is treading lightly when asked about Obama’s health care overhaul and the new greenhouse gas rules.

On the Air: After a busy primary on television, all three candidates are currently off the air.

IOWA

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman elected in 2006; Republican Joni Ernst, an Iowa state senator and Iraq war veteran making her first run for statewide office.

In the Bank: Braley was viewed as an early favorite to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and had raised almost $5.9 million, with $2.3 million in the bank, as of mid-May. Ernst has raised almost $1.2 million, but was left with roughly $100,000 in her accounts after sailing through a five-way primary on June 3.

On the Stump: With no primary competition, Braley has been reaching out to general election voters for more than a year, promoting support for minimum wage increase and recommending fixes to the Affordable Care Act. Ernst has been short on specific proposals, focusing her rhetoric on attacking Obama and Braley. She has taken to referring to the health care bill as “Bruce Braley’s Obamacare.”

On the Air: Ernst has already run the campaign ad of the year, in which she talked about her background castrating hogs on the farm as proof she would cut federal spending. In his first ad after the primary, Braley attacked Ernst for failing to write any legislation to cut spending in Iowa following her election to the state Senate in 2010.