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Senator Menendez Speaks Out On Iraq; Kean Addresses Black Seniors October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP)–Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez on Tuesday accused his GOP challenger of not having a vision of how to handle Iraq, returning to a theme that Democrats across the country see as a key in their hopes to take control of Congress.

Republican Tom Kean Jr., meanwhile, spoke to about 250 senior citizens at a Newark church, where he pledged to work to make the state more affordable, especially for those on fixed incomes, and to “root out corruption at all levels of government.”

With one week to go before Election Day, the candidates were racing around the state, trying to sway undecided voters and to remind their core supporters – such as those in Camden County, where Menendez appeared for the second consecutive day – to vote. Money and high-profile political allies are expected to continue rolling into the state where both parties believe they can win.

A pair of polls released Tuesday showed Menendez ahead. In a Quinnipiac University survey, he held a 49-44 edge; a CNN poll found he held a 51-44 margin – the first time an independent poll has shown the incumbent with support from a majority of voters. Menendez’ leads in both polls were wider than their sampling error margins.

Menendez appeared at a Camden County government-sponsored breakfast for veterans – an event held almost two weeks in advance of Veterans Day.

Alongside former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Georgia, a Vietnam War hero, he called for better health benefits for veterans and for the U.S. to remove all but a few counterterrorism-oriented troops from Iraq within one year.

“I have a clear vision and a plan to get out of Iraq and transition over a period of time,” said Menendez, 52, appointed to the Senate in January after 13 years in the House to finish the term of Gov. Jon S. Corzine. “My opponent does not.”

Asked later to respond, Kean said Menendez’s “approach is one that is supported by the very fringe of his party.”

After Donald H. Rumsfeld is replaced as secretary of defense, Kean said the nation needs a bipartisan solution “that will get our troops out of harm’s way as quickly as humanly possible. But we need to do it in a way that ensures that region does not dissolve into sectarian violence.”

The solution would include securing Baghdad, said Kean, 38, a state senator from Union County.

Kean elicited applause from the black audience at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic in a state where about 80% of black voters supported John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004.

One supporter, O. Henry McKenzie, 77, of Newark, a Republican and semiretired developer, said the candidate will get support in part because of his family. Kean is the son of former Gov. Tom Kean; his grandfather was a congressman.

“Many of us will vote for him because we hope he’ll be as good as his grandfather and father,” McKenzie said.

A Democrat, Mildred Chillis of Montclair, said she preferred not to reveal how she would vote, but said Kean “made a nice impact, because he addressed all the issues.”

The final days of the campaign are likely to be frenzied, with the national GOP last week pouring $3.5 million into Kean’s coffers. That cash infusion is expected to help add to the barrage of campaign advertising.

Seton Hall University political scientist Joseph R. Marbach said he expects both candidates to spend much of their remaining time campaigning in places where their parties tend to do well, and in key areas such as Bergen County, which is seen as a bellwether in statewide elections.

The campaign so far has been notable for its nastiness and for its procession of big names.

Cleland joined a list of Menendez backers that has included Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. On Wednesday, Menendez was scheduled to appear with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Kean has had campaign help from former President George H.W. Bush, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

US Rep. Rangel Doesn’t Back Off From Comments About Cheney October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Rep. Charles Rangel feels bad about directing a curse word at Vice President Dick Cheney – but not too bad.

Rangel, a Harlem Democrat who regularly exchanges verbal volleys with his one-time House colleague Cheney, called the vice president a “son of a bitch” Monday when asked by the New York Post about comments Cheney made about him in a television interview.

“He is a son of a bitch, but I shouldn’t have said it,” Rangel told The Associated Press Tuesday.

“I thought that he should be flattered, there’s certainly no animosity in it,” said Rangel, saying that he had been making an observation about Cheney. “Some people just have that as part of their personality.”

Rangel’s name is invoked daily by Republicans seeking to hold onto control of the House of Representatives. Democrats must gain 15 seats to become the majority party, and if they do, Rangel would become the chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways & Means Committee.

GOP leaders argue a Rangel-led committee would immediately start working to undo the Bush administration tax cuts now set to expire in 2010.

Rangel said the charge is ridiculous, and he has not made any decisions about it.

“They can’t get me to say I’m going to extend it. I say that just makes good economic sense to see what the status is of our economy before we start projecting what tax cuts we’ll have in the future,” said Rangel, the dean of New York’s congressional delegation.

Rangel reacted to Cheney’s comments in TV interviews Monday in which he told CNBC that Rangel wouldn’t keep “a single one” of Bush’s tax cuts, and later told Fox News Channel: “Charlie doesn’t understand how the economy works.”

As much as the two men dislike each other, they clearly love feuding.

More than a year ago, Rangel said he would like to think Cheney is “sick rather than just mean and evil,” prompting Cheney to answer: “Charlie is losing it, I guess.”

Senator Kerry Lashes Out At White House Over His Iraq Comment October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Tuesday lashed back at criticism from the White House over his earlier comments concerning military service in Iraq, saying the comments were directed at the president, not soldiers.

The White House earlier Tuesday accused Kerry of troop-bashing, seizing on a comment the Democrat made to California students that those unable to navigate the country’s education system may “get stuck in Iraq.”

Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran and President Bush’s 2004 rival, fired back.

He said he had been criticizing Bush, not the “heroes serving in Iraq,” and said the president and his administration are the ones who owe U.S. troops an apology because they “misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it.”

“This is the classic GOP playbook,” Kerry said in a harshly worded statement. “I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did. I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium.”

White House press secretary earlier Tuesday said Kerry “not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who’ve given their lives in this.”

Snow was asked about the comment which Kerry made during a campaign rally Monday for California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides. The White House spokesman was clearly ready, consulting his notes to read a fuller account of Kerry’s statement and unleashing a sharp attack.

In his remarks to students, Kerry said: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Snow said the quote “fits a pattern” of negative remarks from Kerry about U.S. soldiers and suggested that whether Democratic candidates – particularly those running on their military service backgrounds – agree with their 2004 standard-bearer should be a campaign litmus test.

Unsubstantiated allegations about Kerry’s Vietnam War heroism from a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth figured prominently in the 2004 Kerry-Bush race. Even Kerry has blamed his slow and uncertain response to the group’s claims for helping doom his White House chances.

Poll Shows Dead Heat In Missouri Senate Race October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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JOPLIN, Mo. (AP)–Republican Sen. Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill are tied in a dead heat in a race that could determine whether Democrats retake control of the Senate, according to a CNN poll released Tuesday.

According to the survey of 565 likely voters conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corp., 49% would vote for McCaskill and 49% would vote for Talent.

The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

US Republicans Reduce TV Ad Spending In Some House Races October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Signaling retreat, U.S. House Republicans are scaling back television advertising in three highly contested races, officials said Tuesday, including Rep. Curt Weldon’s bid for an 11th term in Pennsylvania and open seats in Colorado and Ohio.

Some of the funds will be spent to help other Republicans in races that remain competitive.

In contrast to the Republican strategic retreat, House Democrats are expanding the number of districts where they are advertising, an indication of confidence that the election is moving their way. In recent days, they have moved into districts in Kansas and Nebraska that have long been in GOP hands.

Democrats must gain 15 seats to win control of the House and six to win control of the Senate on Nov. 7.

Of the two, the Senate appears a more difficult challenge, and Republicans moved during the day to fortify their position.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee reported it would spend an additional $1 million in the campaign’s final days to help Sen. George Allen, R-Va., in a re-election race that has become far tougher than originally expected.

At the same time, Senate Republicans decided to advertise on behalf of embattled Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., for the first time since August. Additionally, the party will begin advertising in Michigan for the first time this year, hoping to prevent Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., from winning a new term.

The information about the various moves came from public records at the Federal Election Commission as well as experts in both parties who track television advertising and campaign strategy. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they weren’t authorized to discuss confidential matters in public.

Weldon, a 10-term lawmaker, has become ensnared in a federal corruption investigation. It appeared that much of the advertising money the National Republican Congressional Committee had intended for his seat in the campaign’s final days would be redirected to help Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania.

The two other races where Republicans are scaling back advertising include the Ohio district that convicted Rep. Bob Ney has represented, and the one Rep. Bob Beauprez vacated to run for governor of Colorado.

House Republicans have reported spending more than $3 million to hold Ney’s seat so far, and it appeared that at least a portion of the money intended for that race will now be spent to help Rep. Deborah Pryce, who is locked in a difficult campaign elsewhere in the state.

The Colorado race pits Democrat Ed Perlmutter against Republican Rick O’Donnell. Perlmutter has led comfortably in recent polls, and Republican strategists apparently concluded the money ticketed for that race could be better spent trying to help re-elect Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, seeking a new term in a different part of Colorado.

In Ohio, Democrat Zack Space is running against State Sen. Joy Padgett. Her campaign has been hindered by Ney’s refusal to resign from Congress, even though he pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges earlier in the month.