POLITICAL INSIDER: Michelle Obama asks supporters to open wallets for Democrats

By Philip Elliott, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

POLITICAL INSIDER: Michelle Obama asks for cash

First lady Michelle Obama is asking her husband’s supporters to pitch in with cash to help Democrats recreate the get-out-the-vote machine that helped deliver Barack Obama the White House two years ago.

In an e-mail sent Monday from the president’s political arm, Mrs. Obama asked for donations as small as $3. She wrote that each dollar donated would be matched by another supporter as Democrats hope to fend off emboldened Republicans who could take the majority of the House and possibly the Senate.

“The plan for this election is based on the lessons we learned two years ago,” Mrs. Obama said. “Our organizers and volunteers are knocking on doors every weekend, making calls every night. Your support will help to fund this work.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on reports from around the nation.

Mrs. Obama, who enjoys high popularity and is an in-demand guest on the campaign trail, also plans a call with activists Wednesday, hoping to re-ignite the enthusiasm that elevated a freshman senator to the presidency.

“Now, Barack and I need you to help show that energy again,” Mrs. Obama wrote.

“Barack can’t keep making progress without strong allies in Congress,” she wrote. “And now the same people who’ve opposed us at every turn are targeting the folks who voted to make change real. They think we can’t do it again. But they’re wrong.”

A leading tea party activist broke ranks Monday to endorse Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, expressing concern about a Republican challenger who was once charged with murder in connection with his military service in Iraq.

Deborah Johns said it appears that voters are ignoring Republican candidate Ilario Pantano’s past.

Pantano, a Marine Corps officer during the Iraq war, was charged with premeditated murder in 2005, and prosecutors accused him of shooting two Iraqis in the back. An investigating officer later said Pantano made “serious errors” in judgment but should not be brought to trial for murder.

“That is not a war hero,” said Johns, adding that she read all the details of Pantano’s case in a 700-page transcript of his investigative hearing. “It is people like that that give all our military a bad name.”

Johns is the former vice chair of the California-based Tea Party Express, and she still speaks at tea party events. She’s also the mother of a Marine. Johns said it was difficult for her, as an advocate for both the tea party and military families, to oppose Pantano and said McIntyre is the first Democrat she’s endorsed. Pantano has drawn support from many activists in the tea party movement.

Johns has been involved in the 7th District race since the primary season, when she backed Republican candidate Will Breazeale. She had praise Monday for McIntyre’s voting record, saying he’s clearly not just following the policies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He voted against the health bill and is widely considered a Blue Dog Democrat concerned about government sending.

“I don’t see in his voting record that it’s so egregious that he should be voted out of office,” she said.

A spokesman for Pantano did not immediately return a call seeking comment. McIntyre has represented the district covering southeastern North Carolina for seven terms.

A GOP House candidate is using unusual messengers — her kids — to take a dig at her opponent and national Democrats for their support of government spending.

South Dakota Republican congressional candidate Kristi Noem, a state legislator, is trying to unseat three-term Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in the state’s single House district.

Noem’s latest ad features her three children, Kassidy, Kennedy and Booker. The three are playing Monopoly in the kitchen when Kassidy, 16, tells the other two that they all owe $42,000. “It’s part of the national debt,” Kassidy says before Kennedy, 13, shouts, “Mom!”

Noem then joins the children at the kitchen table, lambasting the growing federal deficit and reassuring them that she will take care of it when she gets to Washington. Noem’s campaign says the ad is airing statewide on local and cable TV channels.

Noem and Sandlin are locked in a close race. Both candidates have tried to emphasize their fiscal discipline, and government spending has been a top issue in the race.

Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon is hitting her Democratic rival with an ad that reminds Connecticut voters that Richard Blumenthal incorrectly claimed he served in Vietnam.

McMahon’s 30-second ad features videos of the state attorney general saying he served “in” Vietnam. Blumenthal, a veteran of state politics, served stateside during the war; his critics have savaged him over the false claim.

“Dick Blumenthal lied again and again,” the announcer says. “If he lied about Vietnam, what else is he lying about?”

McMahon, a former wrestling executive, has been closing in on Blumenthal in their contest for the open U.S. Senate seat, according to polls. She has spent heavily from her personal fortune, forcing national Democrats to plan an advertising blitz of their own.

While voters in Connecticut are familiar with Blumenthal after four decades in politics, his campaign has failed to build energy and has led some Democrats to worry that the seat occupied by Sen. Chris Dodd since 1981 could fall into Republican hands.

Republican Senate hopeful Kelly Ayotte says her Democratic rival’s claims of being a fiscal conservative are “baloney.”

The former New Hampshire attorney general launched a 30-second ad on Monday linking Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The ad cites Hodes’ votes for Obama’s health care overhaul, the economic stimulus plan and aid for automakers.

“I don’t support political pork or baloney,” Ayotte says in a lighthearted ad that shows a clip of Hodes and then makes fun of his ad claiming to be a fiscal conservative.

“Paul became a fiscal conservative about 20 minutes ago,” Ayotte says, using her fingers to make air quotes as she says “fiscal conservative.”

A poll last week from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed Ayotte leading Hodes 50 percent to 35 percent. The poll found 12 percent of New Hampshire adults were undecided.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has backed a Republican candidate in a U.S. Senate race in Kansas, but he’s declined to make endorsements in federal races in his own state.

Jindal’s office issued a statement saying he was supporting GOP Rep. Jerry Moran in the Kansas Senate race. Jindal called Moran an advocate for taxpayers and fiscally responsible.

Though the primaries are over, Jindal hasn’t made any endorsements in Louisiana’s elections, including the U.S. Senate race where Republican incumbent David Vitter faces Democrat Charlie Melancon in the Nov. 2 election.

Jindal’s spokesman, Kyle Plotkin, ignored repeated questions Monday about why the governor has chosen to endorse a candidate elsewhere but won’t offer recommendations to voters at home.

Quick hits:

—Senate candidate Rand Paul has made a joint appearance with the Republican he defeated in Kentucky’s spring primary, a fresh sign of GOP unity heading into next month’s election. Secretary of State Trey Grayson said Monday that Paul is the best choice for moderate Republicans because of the nominee’s stands on the budget, health care and energy policy. Paul is running against Democrat Jack Conway for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican.

—Pennsylvania’s candidates for U.S. Senate will meet for two debates later this month. Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey will face each other Oct. 20 in Philadelphia and Oct. 22 in Pittsburgh.

—Jindal made a quick trip Monday to Atlanta for a fundraiser for the Georgia Republican Party. The governor has picked up his out-of-state travel schedule in recent weeks after months of staying home to deal with the Gulf oil spill.

Associated Press writers Mike Baker in Raleigh, N.C., Henry C. Jackson in Washington and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.

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