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GOP operative Ed Gillespie announces bid for Virginia U.S. Senate seat

Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee, takes aim at U.S. Mark Warner’s vote for Obamacare

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

virginia mugRICHMOND (CFP) — High-powered Republican political operative Ed Gillespie is off and running for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia with a direct swipe at Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s vote in favor of Obamacare.

Virginia Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie

Virginia Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie

Announcing his Senate run January 16 with a YouTube video, Gillespie, a top aide in the Bush White House and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, notes that Warner “cast the deciding vote” for Obamacare, adding, “If I were a Virginia senator, it would not be law today.”

However, adding a bit of nuance to his argument, Gillespie says he would replace Obamacare, rather than saying he would repeal it.

In his announcement video, Gillespie highlights his first job in Washington — working as a parking lot attendant in the Senate while working his way through Catholic University of America.

“I’m running for the Senate because the American dream is being undermined by policies that move us away from constitutional principles of limited government and personal liberty,” says Gillespie, who also hits Warner for voting for “nearly $1 trillion in new taxes and $7 trillion in new federal debt.”

The president’s signature healthcare bill passed in 2009 with 60 votes, the minimum required to get around a GOP fililbuster.  Republicans running in 2014 against Democratic senators who voted for the bill are all being tagged with casting the deciding vote.

Though he has never held elected office, Gillespie, 52, is a consummate Washington insider. He was a communications strategist for President George W. Bush’s winning campaign in 2000 and went on to serve as head of the RNC and a White House counselor.

In April 2012, after Mitt Romney was finally able to claim the Republican presidential nomination, he signed on as a senior adviser to the Romney campaign.

Gillespie also has a long association with Karl Rove, the Bush political consigliere who has frequently drawn the ire of the party’s Tea Party wing. He held Rove create Crossroads GPS, the super-PAC that has backed establishment candidates facing Tea Party insurgencies.

Gillespie’s entry into the Senate race sets up a class establishment-versus-Tea Party struggle within Republican ranks in the Old Dominion. Two former military officers, Howie Lind of McClean and Shak Hill of Centreville, are already in the race, running as outsiders and seeking Tea Party support.

Unlike in most states, Republicans in Virginia select their nominees with a party convention, rather than a primary. That could level the playing field for an outsider candidate who can develop a strong cadre of supporters to turn out at the convention, which will be held in June in Roanoke.

Lind’s campaign is touting the results of a “grassroots voter contact program” which it says shows Lind with substantially more support than either Gillespie or Hill. The campaign also says it has already raised $300,000 for the race.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

U.S. Senator Mark Warner

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will face the formidable Warner, 59, a former governor and self-made millionaire who already has more than $7 million in cash on hand for the 2104 race — a huge head start over any of the Republicans in the field.

Both The Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report classify Warner’s seat as safely in Democratic hands. Obama carried Virginia twice, and Democrats swept all three of the state’s top offices in the 2013 elections for the first time since 1969,

In a curious parallel to Gillespie, Warner also worked his way through The George Washington University at the Senate, although as an aide rather than as a parking lot attendant.

View Gillespie’s YouTube announcement:

Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu hit with new anti-Obamacare ad

Also, State Rep. Paul Hollis joins the race against Landrieu

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — An anti-Obamacare group is launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign criticizing U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and two other Democratic senators over President Obama’s claim that everyone who had health insurance would be able to keep it.

Obama’s assertion was characterized as the “lie of the year” by Politifact, a nonpartisan group that monitors political claims.

The anti-Landrieu ad, funded by Americans for Prosperity, shows footage of her on the floor of the Senate stating that people can “keep their current plan.” It also shows an exchange between Landrieu and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in which she says she has no regrets about her vote in favor of Obamacare.

“We’re putting pressure on senators who repeated that lie and doubled down on Obamacare, even as it became obvious that the law was hurting millions of Americans,” said AFP President Tim Phillips in a statement

AFP is also targeting Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina with a  separate ad featuring a small businesswoman from her state talking about the negative impacts of Obamacare. The group’s third target is Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

While the Landrieu campaign hasn’t reponded directly to the latest ad, her Web site does feature a fundraising pitch noting that “right win groups tied to the Koch brothers have already spent millions to attach her.”

David and Charles Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, helped found and fund Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile, Landrieu, who is running for her fourth term in the Senate, has drawn a third GOP challenger, State Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington, who has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission and plans to make a formal announcement in January.

Two other Republicans are also running, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy from Baton Rouge and Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel from Madisonville.

Cassidy is the favored candidate of much of the Republican leadership, both in Washington and Louisiana. Maness is aiming for Tea Party support by positioning himself as the only “constitutional conservative” in the race.

To drive home his criticism of Cassidy as being too much like the incumbent, Maness’s Web site shows pictures of Landrieu, Cassidy and himself, with the captions “Mary,” “Mary,” and “Quite Contrary.”

In Louisiana, all of the candidates, regardless of party, run against each other in a single primary. If no candidate gets a majority, then the top two candidates face each other in a runoff.

In 2008, when she faced a single Republican, Landrieu won without a runoff. But she was forced into runoffs in both 1996 and 2002, when there were multiple Republicans and other Democrats in the race.

Here is the Americans for Prosperity ad against Landrieu:

GOP challenger Tom Cotton fires first salvo against Mark Pryor in Arkansas Senate race

Cotton puts up attack ad going after Pryor over Obamacare’s special exemptions for congressional staffers

(See ad below)

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

arkansas mugLITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CFP) — The first attack ad of the 2014 Arkansas Senate race features an goose frolicking around the Capitol, coupled with a very prominent coupling of President Obama with incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, who is seeking Pryor’s seat, began airing an ad this week entitled “What’s Good for the Goose” that links Senator Pryor’s 2009 vote in favor of Obamacare to the administration’s decision to exempt congressional staffers from getting coverage under the new health care law.

The ad features text saying that Pryor “voted to make you live under Obamacare,” then mentions the exemption, which it terms “special subsidies for Mark Pryor.” It ends with the tagline, “Pryor with Obama, voting against Arkansans,” under side-by-side pictures of the senator and president.

In a statement, Pryor’s campaign dismissed Cotton’s broadside as “frivolous and false.” But the senator has so far not aired a rebuttal ad.

Pryor did vote for Obamacare. However, the exemption that keeps congressional staffers from being forced into the new health care exchanges was initiated by the Obama administration, not Congress, although lawmakers lobbied for the change.

Republicans in the House, including Cotton, have been trying to overturn the administration’s decision with legislation. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has refused to bring up the measure for a vote.

Cotton’s new ad comes amid the government shutdown. House Republicans, with his support, have tied a funding measure to repeal or delay of Obamacare. But over in the Senate, Pryor and the rest of the Democratic caucus have refused to go along.

Pryor’s campaign has blasted Cotton for what it called his “irresponsible cheerleading” for the shutdown.

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