Gresham Barrett tries to build a runoff case against Nikki Haley in S.C.
1. Even as South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley was being touted as a new Republican star, Rep. Gresham Barrett launched a new ad aimed at trying to make the June 22 gubernatorial runoff in the Palmetto State competitive.
The ad, which was produced by Scott Howell Associates, takes an off-kilter approach to re-introducing Barrett to runoff voters -- featuring a supposed drill sergeant rattling off the Congressman's reform credentials; "a military man who makes tough decision, a Christian family man who won't embarrass us," says the sergeant in describing Barrett.
The new commercial suggests that despite the fact that he ran 27 points (and nearly 114,000 votes) behind Haley, Barrett is making good on his primary day promise to fight out the two-week runoff.
"Too much of this election has been focused on things that don't matter," said Barrett adviser Todd Harris, pledging that the runoff would be focused on serious matters like Haley's support for the Obama stimulus plan. "Voters looking to turn the page on what's been happening in South Carolina politics over the last few years will have no better candidate than Gresham Barrett," said Harris.
It remains to be seen how that sort of aggressive stance from Barrett will play with voters who clearly recoiled against the personal attacks launched against Haley in the primary.
Barrett's biggest challenge is to try to convince state Republicans (and national observers) that the runoff is not simply a walk-over for Haley but a real race. To do that, he'll need to find a way to raise money even as the Republican Governors Association has made clear that they want Haley to be the party's nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney heads back to the state for Haley next week.
It's hard to see Barrett overcoming Haley's massive primary advantage barring -- dare we say it -- some sort of major revelation. But, a rough and tumble campaign, even if it is conducted on the issues, has the potential to step on the Haley-as-new-Republican-hero narrative that began building after her performance Tuesday night.
2. Former President Bill Clinton will hold a campaign rally at the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy(!) in Las Vegas tonight to benefit Harry Reid (Nev.), part of a serious push by the Senate Majority Leader to seize the momentum in the wake of former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle's primary win on Tuesday night.
Prior to the Clinton event, Reid's campaign will roll out its first two ads of the general election -- positive commercials, according to Fix friend and king of Nevada political reporting Jon Ralston.
While Reid's initial commercials may well focus on telling his story, it's a near-certainty that he (or his allies) will turn their attention to defining Angle as outside of the mainstream in short order.
What's less clear is whether Reid -- and his $9 million bank account -- will carry the negative message or whether it will be farmed out to an allied group; in the Republican primary, Patriot Majority, a Democratic-tilting independent organization, spent nearly $500,000 on ads that hammered former state party chairwoman Sue Lowden in a (successful) attempt to keep her from the GOP nod.
Polling conducted just prior to Tuesday's primary showed Angle at 44 percent to Reid's 41 percent but the Reid forces are confident that Angle was the weakest of the three serious Republicans in the race. (Make sure to read the Post's Paul Kane on why they might be wrong.)
To that end, Reid's campaign pointed to Ralston's analysis late Wednesday that suggested the race now leans in the Majority Leader's favor. Ralston's take on the race? "It's Reid trying to marginalize Angle -- already begun -- vs. Angle trying to keep the focus on Reid, with a little help from her new DC friends." Well said.
3. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) continuing to lead in the three-way race to become Florida's next senator.
Crist took 37 percent in the poll while former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) received 33 percent, and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) placed a distant third with 17 percent.
Crist's margin is built on his winning 51 percent of independents -- up 13 points from last month's Q poll. Crist is also running close with Meek among Democrats; Meek takes 44 percent to 37 percent for Crist.
Should billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene win the Democratic nod, Crist would still win -- taking 40 percent to 33 percent for Rubio and 14 percent for Greene.
Crist has made a series of overtures to Democrats since changing party affiliation - he vetoed a teacher accountability measure in April and looks likely to veto a controversial abortion measure too. Crist has also hired Knickerbocker SKD, a Democratic media consulting firm, to handle his advertising in the fall.
Despite his continued polling strength, Crist must be careful not to move too far, too fast in his ideological leanings. He stoked controversy earlier this week when he removed his opposition to abortion from the "Issues" section of his website.
4. Alabama state Rep. Robert Bentley, who finished second in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary, has released a poll showing him up 16 points over former state Sen. Bradley Byrne who finished first last week, according to a new internal poll conducted for his campaign.
Bentley led Byrne 45 percent to 29 percent in a two-way match-up, according to the Dresner Wicker poll; 26 percent of voters remain undecided.
The wide margin should be taken cum grano salis since it was conducted for Bentley's campaign and shows a significant reversal of fortune from the primary results. Bentley, Byrne and businessman Tim James closed the race in a virtual dead heat as Byrne finished with 28 percent while Bentley and James each received 25 percent.
It's not even yet clear that Bentley will be Byrne's opponent in the July 13 runoff. James officially submitted a petition yesterday for a recount in all 67 counties after the final tally showed him trailing Bentley by only 167 votes; it could be a week or more until the recount is completed.
State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks will be the Democratic nominee in the race to replace term limited Gov. Bob Riley (R).
5. Virginia state Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is consolidating support after winning Tuesday's primary to face Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.). But he still has some work to do.
Former Rep. Virgil Goode (R) said Wednesday that he will support Hurt and the leader of the Danville Tea Party had kind words for Hurt as well. But second-place finisher Jim McKelvey is still holding out.
McKelvey, who took 26 percent of the vote to Hurt's 49 percent in Tuesday's primary, has publicly entertained the idea of backing a third party candidate if Hurt won the nomination. McKelvey congratulated Hurt for his win Tuesday but also announced he is opening a political action committee and hasn't said whether he might support third-party candidate Jeff Clark.
"In the coming days, I will be forming a political action committee to bring together all those who share the same ideals as me," McKelvey said on his website, adding: "We, as conservatives, must be unified to defeat Tom Perriello this November. And, we must do this now."
Hurt drew heat from McKelvey and others in the Republican primary over his vote in favor of then-Gov. Mark Warner's (D) budget in 2004. But at least some appear ready to forgive him.
"Yes, I plan to support the nominee," Goode told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. "I think he has a very good chance of beating Tom Perriello."
"We really feel it's not good to split the vote and let Perriello have another two years," Danville Tea Party leader Nigel Coleman told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The central Virginia district went narrowly for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 but has conservative roots and is regarded as a top 20 pickup opportunity for Republicans this fall.
With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake
June 10, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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