Ballot Box

Lt. Gov. Fisher continues to lead in Ohio Senate Democratic primary

Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher continues to carry a lead down the stretch in his Democratic Senate primary with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, but he has hardly closed the door yet.

Fisher leads Brunner 33-26 in a new Quinnipiac poll, which finds the two of them still unknown to large percentages of voters. Fisher would appear to have more power to build his name ID, by virtue of his vastly superior war chest ($1.8 million to $60,000, at year's end).

Fisher leads among both men and women, and women voters say Brunner's gender, which is generally seen as an asset, has basically no impact on their vote.

It's becoming about time for Fisher to make his move, with just five weeks until their May 4 primary. Expectations are high, and observers will be looking at his performance for tips about how he might do in a general election with former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Voting begins today.

Ohio voters have the option of submitting absentee ballots in person or through the mail without submitting a reason for the absentee request, and they can do this up to 35 days prior to the election.

The Ohio voting laws were the topic of discussion in the 2008 presidential election, when the then-battleground state of Ohio adopted laws also allowing for same-day registration for voters, praised by the Obama campaign and contested by the GOP. 

Jennifer Switft contributed to this report.

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Top of the ballot: RNC fires staffer, tries to put incident behind it

RNC fires staffer over Voyeur visit; Cornyn says healthcare is still the GOP's issue; Palin and Romney roll out more endorsements.

Case closed, sort of, for RNC

The Republican National Committee’s (RNC) sex club mystery has been solved, but the case is hardly closed for the committee.
 
Members of the committee will continue to ask how it happened that a $2,000 meal at a risqué Los Angeles club featuring nudity and simulated sex scenes was charged to their account.
 
Late Monday, the RNC announced that a staffer who approved the expense has been fired. The money is also being returned by a non-committee staffer who was reimbursed for the expense. RNC spokesman Doug Heye said the committee is taking steps to ensure that nothing similar ever happens again.
 
But for the committee, what happened Monday fits into an easy narrative of over-spending that has long dogged Chairman Michael Steele's tenure. Until the committee convinces supporters and members that it is being a better steward of their cash, this one is going to haunt them.
 
Cornyn assures members on healthcare
 
In a memo to fellow GOP senators Tuesday, National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) sought to assure them that healthcare would indeed be an albatross for Democrats in November.
 
That narrative has gotten away from Republicans in recent days.
 
“As Members of Congress travel around their home states for recess this week, congressional Democrats may consider this a victory for their personal agendas, however, the majority of Americans clearly disagree,” Cornyn writes.
 
Cornyn also points to unemployment figures (though generally considered a lagging indicator) and bleak economic headlines that he attributes to the healthcare bill.
 
A Democratic source points out that the release only peripherally mentions repeal and, while instructing members in other ways about how to approach the issue going forward, provides no instructions on repeal.
 
Romney, Palin endorse more
 
The endorsement war between Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin continues.
 
The former Alaska governor is now backing a trio of Iraq veterans: Vaughn Ward, who is challenging Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho); Adam Kinzinger, who is challenging Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.); and Allen West, who is challenging Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.). All three are top GOP hopes.
 
Romney, meanwhile, threw his support behind former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley in the Connecticut GOP governor’s primary. Foley faces a primary with Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele.
 
Other updates:
 
-A new SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Jerry Moran leading Rep. Todd Tiahrt in the Kansas GOP Senate primary, 42-32. The Aug. 3 race between the two is seen as the de facto general election.
 
-Former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), who recently resigned to run for governor, is under an ethics cloud. The Office of Congressional Ethics released a report Monday saying Deal may have used his official staff to affect legislation that benefitted his auto salvage company. Read The Hill's report on Deal here.
 
-Democrats caught a big break Monday when Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) filed for reelection. There had been plenty of concern that the Budget Committee chairman might retire, thereby opening up a tough open seat for Democrats to hold.

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Dan Quayle’s son will run for Ariz. House seat

Attorney Ben Quayle (R) will formally enter the race for Rep. John Shadegg's (R-Ariz.) seat on Wednesday.

"I want to go to Washington to stop the expansion of Government into our everyday lives," Quayle said in a statement. "It's time for the next generation to start cleaning up the mess created by the establishment in Washington."

Quayle, who billed himself as a "fourth generation Arizonan," is the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. He'll join an already crowded GOP primary field.

The primary is August 24.

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California Senate candidate severes "all ties" with Erik Brown

Former clients are distancing themselves from Erik Brown, the California-based consultant in the spotlight for billing the Republican National Committee for a trip to a risqué Los Angeles nightclub.

California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R), who's running for Senate, announced Monday he "has severed all ties" with Brown's consulting firm, Dynamic Marketing, Inc (DMI).

The DeVore camp had been using DMI to print some campaign letterhead, signs and stickers, it said in a release. Their business dealings "ended some weeks ago when we contracted with a different printer, and will not resume."

"There is no present relationship with DMI," DeVore's camp said.

Meanwhile, others are speculating that Brown has become the RNC's fall guy for the public relations debacle.

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Joe the Plumber won't endorse Hayworth

Declining to endorse in the Arizona Senate GOP primary, Joe the Plumber said he doesn't want to "create a lot of drama."

Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher was in Phoenix last weekend for a pair of anti-tax rallies at the state Capitol. He overlapped on both occasions with J.D. Hayworth, McCain's primary opponent, but he didn't endorse the former congressman.

Still, the conservative activist was willing to criticize the Arizona senator's stance on immigration and border security.

"It's supposed to be a closed border. Why don't you uphold the law instead of trying to change it?" he told FoxNews.com. "McCain's been a senator for a long time and he's failed in his duties."

But Wurzelbacher insisted he won't back Hayworth in the primary. "I don't want to cloud the issue and create a lot of drama," he said.


Updated at 7:26 p.m.


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DNC ad means Rep. Holt is vulnerable, says GOP

New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt isn't high on anyone's list of this cycle's vulnerable Democrats but that didn't preclude him from the Democratic National Committee's recent healthcare ad blitz.

The DNC's seven figure national TV ad buy was meant to bolster vulnerable members who voted for the healthcare reform bill. But the spot is also playing in Holt's district and Republicans are calling it a sign of weakness on the part of the six-term incumbent.

"If the Democrats truly felt Holt was safe, they wouldn't be spending this kind of money before the calendar even hits April defending Holt's vote on this awful legislation," said Chris Russell, a spokesman for Republican Scott Sipprelle, who's vying to challenge Holt.

Russell said the DNC spent $73,803 to run the 30-second ad on cable in Monmouth, Middlesex and Mercer counties. A DNC spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the ad buy.

Sipprelle recently released his own TV ad attacking the healthcare bill. "In November, let's hold Rush Holt accountable," he said in the 30-second spot.

Holt's campaign said the bill will "strengthen healthcare."

"FactCheck.org has already cited Wall Street dealmaker Scott Sipprelle's ad as full of distortions.," Sarah Steward, Holt's campaign manager, said in a statement. "Unlike Mr. Sipprelle, Representative Holt takes neither the people he serves, nor the facts, for granted."

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Pawlenty to hold Facebook town hall

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will become the first major political leader on Wednesday to hold a town hall meeting via Facebook.

The event will begin at 7:15 p.m. eastern time and last half an hour. The format allows the potential 2012 GOP presidential hopeful to appear live on camera, with attendees sending questions for him to respond to in real time.

A source close to Pawlenty also said the governor will make a major announcement about his political action committee's activities.

Pawlenty has made strides to be at the front of the 2012 pack when it comes to new media.

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California consultant to return $2K to RNC for trip to risque club

UPDATE 3:55 p.m.: An RNC spokesperson confirms that Brown will reimburse the committee for the expenses. The committee says he wasn't working for it in any capacity, which raises questions about how he had access to the account.

The person who expensed a nearly $2,000 meal on the Republican National Committee's (RNC) dime at a risque Los Angeles club has been identified as Erik Brown.

The RNC's Federal Election Commission (FEC) report from February shows an expense for $1,946.25 at Voyeur West Hollywood, a popular club featuring simulated bondage and nudity. Brown's is the name listed alongside the expense.

Brown is a consultant at Dynamic Marketing, Inc., in Orange County, Calif. The firm also has a Washington, D.C. office. It's website is currently under construction.

Reports on Monday pointed to a Twitter page on which Brown mentioned attending a sporting event with RNC Chairman Michael Steele. The Twitter page appears to have been taken down.

A profile of Brown on another website describes him as Chief Executive Officer at DMI. He is actively involved in a number of conservative groups and his church's ministry.

Brown did not immediately comment.

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Pelosi to GOPers using her for fundraising: 'I couldn't care less'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed on Monday some Republicans' use of her likeness to fundraise, saying, "I couldn't care less."

Pelosi shot back at Republican political committees, which have used her name and picture to raise money over the past week, since the House passed healthcare legislation to send to President Barack Obama's desk for signature.

"I couldn't care less," Pelosi said following a speech at a San Francisco Senior Center, where she touted the benefits of the health bill.

"Actually, I should thank them," she quickly added. "It really helps me with my fundraising."

The Republican National Committee (RNC) launched a "Fire Pelosi" campaign on its website since the health bill's passage, which features the speaker in front of a fiery background. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) had also launched a similar campaign in October, and used her name on a series of parody fundraising emails this cycle.

The speaker struck a dismissive pose toward the GOP fundraisers on Monday before returning to Washington to attend Obama's signing of a bill making final fixes to the healthcare bill.

"It's so unimportant to me that I don't have time to think of it," she said. "They tried it in 2006, they tried it in 2008, and it shows their intellectual bankruptcy."

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