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Midterm Roundup: Shaheen Pulls Away

Here are some interesting stories on the midterm campaigns that you may have missed on Tuesday, September 30:

• Republican hopes that New Hampshire’s Senate seat could be in play appear to be on life support. According to a new American Research Group poll, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) leads Republican challenger Scott Brown by 10 percent. Shaheen is now up by 5.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics poll average, and has led in all but one public poll of the race.

• In another state where the GOP hoped to expand the Senate map, their candidate has literally disappeared from public view. Michigan Republican Terri Lynn Land has not made a public appearance since a fundraising event last Tuesday. She currently trails the Democratic nominee, Rep. Gary Peters, by 4.7 percent in the poll average.

• Iowa holds better news for the GOP. A Public Policy Polling poll released Tuesday shows Republican Joni Ernst leading Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the Hawkeye State’s Senate race, 45 to 43 percent. Ernst is ahead by 2.2 percent in the poll average. If Ernst can hold on for the win, it could be fatal to Democrats’ hopes of holding the Senate.

• In New York, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has released one of the strangest ads of the cycle in his longshot attempt to unseat Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo is expected to win re-election in a landslide.

• And apparently it still is possible to go too far in a heated campaign: Yesterday’s attempt to fraudulently portray Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) as a 9/11 truther is backfiring on GOP opposition research PAC America Rising.

Photo: Roger H. Goun via Flickr

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Christie’s Refusal To Campaign For Fellow Republican Gives Rivals More Ammunition

By Melissa Hayes, The Record

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s dispute with a Republican candidate for governor of New York is allowing potential presidential rivals to try to drive a wedge between him and conservative voters, especially in early voting states like Iowa.

Analysts say that fellow Republicans can now argue that Christie is not conservative enough to win the party’s nomination and that he is too close to Democrats. In this case, he came to the aid of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat seeking re-election this year in New York, just as he hugged President Barack Obama when Obama was running for a second term against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

Texas Governor Rick Perry appears to be the most vocal in his push to seize an advantage over Christie. And it is Perry who may have the most to gain.

A recent Des Moines Register poll found that Perry has a higher favorability rating among Iowa Republican voters, though

Christie was viewed as the best shot among the potential GOP candidates to beat a Democrat in the general election.

Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, said on Friday that the disagreement between Christie and Robert Astorino, the Republican opposing Cuomo, has turned into a “mini-battle” between New Jersey’s governor and Perry.

“It feeds into the claim that I think we’ll hear repeated often among these GOP presidential contenders that Christie is a liberal, that he’s backing Democrats, that kind of thing,” she said. “I think people are trying to make this more about his relationship with Cuomo than the fact that Astorino is so far behind in the polls.”

Christie and Perry were in Iowa this month, captivating crowds at fundraisers and courting potential voters in the state whose party nominating caucuses are the first contest of the 2016 presidential election. Both have said they won’t decide whether to enter the presidential race until 2015.

Perry has been questioning Christie’s conservative credentials since the New Jersey governor won a second term last year. And Perry came to the defense of Astorino this week.

Christie’s spat with Astorino, the Westchester County executive, began on Monday when Christie said he would not campaign in New York unless the race tightened. That prompted Astorino to call on Christie to resign as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and question whether the lack of support is because of the governor’s relationship with Cuomo.

Christie and Cuomo jointly oversee the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and worked together to secure federal aid after Superstorm Sandy.

It was in the days after Sandy devastated New Jersey in late October 2012 that Christie put his campaigning for Romney on hold and embraced Obama as he gave the president a tour of the wreckage.

A Republican Governors Association aide reportedly told Astorino not to bother attending an RGA event in Colorado this week, but Perry invited the New York Republican as his guest, according to a CNN report. The dispute has drawn continuing media attention, with Astorino appearing on All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC on Thursday night to discuss his encounter with Christie in Aspen. Astorino called the meeting with Christie “quick” and said he still thinks Christie should resign as head of the governor’s group.

On Wednesday, Astorino tweeted out a picture of himself with Perry, the Texas governor’s arm around his shoulder and the words “Appreciate his support.” Perry shared a picture of the two on his Twitter feed. “Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” he wrote.

“I think if it had been any other candidate and Christie hadn’t had such a close relationship with the person he was competing with, I don’t know that Perry would have jumped on that bandwagon,” said Harrison, the Montclair State professor. “It plays into that perception that I think some people in the Republican Party are trying to create that Christie is too liberal.”

Perry is one of five Republican governors publicly supporting Astorino. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker headlined a fundraiser for Astorino in New York last month. Astorino said on the Fred Dicker Live from the State Capitol radio show in Albany on Thursday that Perry, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have all offered to support his candidacy.

Jindal, who also has presidential aspirations and is a former chairman of the Republican governor’s group, lost an internal battle with Christie to lead the RGA this year, when there are 36 gubernatorial races across the country.

Amid media reports last November that Christie had pledged to vigorously support Astorino after meeting with him at an RGA event in Arizona, Cuomo said he had spoken to Christie and was assured that was not the case. Christie said at the time that he hadn’t offered to support Astorino because he wasn’t yet a declared candidate and that was all he told Cuomo during one of their many conversations.

Astorino, who called in to the radio show from Aspen, said other governors believe he has a shot at winning after The New York Times reported this week that Cuomo’s office compromised the work of an independent commission it created to investigate political corruption in state government. But he said his race against Cuomo also presents Republicans interested in running for president a way to build connections.

“They see that there is a big opportunity, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for Republicans to actively get involved in New York. Because nationally, if they’re going to compete, they’re going to have to compete in all 50 states,” Astorino said on the radio show. “They’re going to have to make inroads everywhere so they all see that as an opportunity and what they should be doing.”

But Harrison said Christie doesn’t have to worry about building relationships with New York voters and donors. It’s more important for him to network in states where he’s less known, which could be why he campaigned for Neel Kashkari, the California Republican gubernatorial candidate, who’s trailing in the polls.

“I think the reality is it’s easier for him to get his name out linked to candidates, whether unsuccessful or not, in states like Iowa and New Hampshire,” she said. “He doesn’t have to worry about getting his name out in New York. Everyone in New York is familiar with him.”

Harrison added, “I would think he’s less inclined to attach his name to someone who is likely to lose an election in New York.”

AFP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky

N.Y. Gubernatorial Candidate Demands Christie Quit GOP Duty

By Melissa Hayes, The Record

TRENTON, N.J. — A GOP candidate for governor in New York said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie should resign as chairman of the Republican Governors Association after Christie said he wouldn’t campaign across the Hudson River unless the race tightens.

Christie was asked directly if he would campaign for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is running against Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, but Christie wouldn’t commit his support.

“I will spend time in places where we have a chance to win; I said that right from the beginning,” Christie said Monday at a campaign stop in Connecticut. “I said all around the start to candidates all around the country: We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.”

Astorino noted Tuesday that Christie has traveled as far as California to support a GOP gubernatorial candidate who is 20 points behind in polls, and he questioned whether Christie’s lack of support for him was linked to the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal and Christie’s relationship with Cuomo.

“Clearly he can come across the bridge and not just to raise money for himself but raise money for the Republican candidate here unless he is unable or unwilling because of an issue we don’t know about with Andrew Cuomo and the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal,” Astorino said on Fred Dicker Live from the State Capitol.

Christie’s office declined to respond. The Republican Governors Association and Cuomo’s campaign also did not respond to requests for comment.

Former New York governor David Paterson, chairman of his state’s Democratic committee, said Astorino is not being taken seriously because of comments like those.

“That is a reckless, irresponsible accusation to make with no basis whatsoever and not fitting for a qualified gubernatorial candidate,” Paterson said.

Astorino’s remarks mirror those of Barbara Buono, the Democratic state senator from Middlesex County who tried to unseat Christie but trailed him in the polls and had little success raising money.

The Democratic Governors Association spent a few thousand dollars on Buono while it poured $6 million into the Virginia race, winning that state, which had been under GOP control.

The RGA spent millions in the 2009 race against former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, helping level the playing field for Christie against a wealthy Democrat who was self-financing his reelection bid.

Although Christie is a Republican and Cuomo is a Democrat, they have a working relationship that includes overseeing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The unlikely pair met for dinner a week before the Port Authority released its toll hike proposal in 2011. The Record, citing sources, reported in March that the governors’ top aides were involved in orchestrating a scheme to float a higher toll hike so Christie and Cuomo could propose a smaller increase, which they did in a joint statement.

Bill O’Reilly, a spokesman for Astorino, said the campaign doesn’t have any evidence that Christie has stayed out of the race at the behest of Cuomo, but he added that Christie’s relationship with Astorino changed after the bridge scandal broke this year.

Astorino first met with Christie at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Arizona last November, where Christie was named chairman of the RGA going into an election cycle with 36 gubernatorial races, O’Reilly said.

“We’ve just been perplexed,” O’Reilly said. “At the meeting in Arizona, Governor Christie seemed very welcoming of Rob Astorino as a candidate for governor of New York, and then following the Bridgegate scandal he just can’t be found, and that culminated with his remarks yesterday.”

When he was asked about it at a news conference in December, Christie noted that Astorino wasn’t yet a declared candidate.

“Our meeting was essentially me and Mary Pat with Rob and his wife asking us about what it was like to run for governor with young children and to serve as governor with young children,” Christie said in December, adding he didn’t pledge to support Astorino.

On Monday Christie didn’t entirely rule out campaigning in New York but said he’s focusing his energy on closer races for now.

Photo: Peter Stevens via Flickr

Espaillat Concedes In New York House Race

State Senator Adriano Espaillat has officially conceded his challenge to 22-term U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), two days after Rangel declared victory in the Democratic primary in New York’s 13th congressional district.

“I want to express my deepest appreciation for all of the efforts of my supporters and volunteers on my campaign for Congress,” Senator Espaillat said in a statement. “My sincerest thanks goes out to the unwavering endorsements provided to me from all of the labor unions, newspapers, advocacy groups, elected officials, and community leaders. Even though I will not be representing the 13th District in Congress, I will continue to fight for Opportunity for All. While much has been written about the politics of race and ethnicity within this District, there is no question that our campaign focused on bringing the community together around our shared needs and struggles.”

Espaillat went on to announce that he will seek re-election in the state Senate.

With all 471 precincts reporting on election night, Rangel led Espaillat 47 to 43 percent, causing NY1 to call the race for the incumbent. Espaillat refused to concede, however, citing uncounted absentee ballots. The Associated Press also called the race on Wednesday evening, apparently leading to Espaillat’s change of heart.

Rangel is now virtually assured a 23rd term in the House; there is no Republican on the ballot in November.

Photo: PresidenciaRD via Flickr