January 29, 2020

Snapshot: An Election Year Farm Bill- Campaign Impacts

Categories: Farm Bill

NOTE: This post is continually updated, the most recent additions are in CAPITAL RED.


General Background: Farm Bill -Politics -Elections

Reuters news reported on October 13 that, “Democrats fighting an uphill battle to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to use rural angst over the failure of congressional Republicans to pass a farm bill to win some Midwestern seats in the November 6 election.”

Alexandra Jaffe reported on Sep. 28 at The Hill’s Ballot Box Blog that, “Democrats are using the stalled farm bill to hammer their GOP opponents in congressional races across the country.”

Chris Clayton reported yesterday (Sep. 12) at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Republicans are facing more criticism over the lack of action on the farm bill. It’s becoming a bigger issue in a few key races.

“Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., used the farm bill inaction to bash his opponent, Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a Republican.

“The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald wrote an editorial Sunday [Sep. 16] on the state’s U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Rep. Rick Berg against former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat. The newspaper writes the stalled farm bill reflects a problem with the Republican-led House — the unwillingness to compromise with Democrats on just about anything.”

Mr. Clayton added that, “The Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald had an article as well on Sunday looking at division among Nebraska and Iowa congressmen over the farm bill and the petition filed by Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., has signed the petition, but Reps. Adrian Smith and Lee Terry of Nebraska have declined. Terry makes the argument, ‘I’d like to see more reforms on the nutrition welfare side. They got a heck of a boost in the stimulus package, and I think we need to really look at some reasonable reforms on who’s eligible, how to prevent fraud, and see if we can’t bring the numbers down.’”

From Bloomberg News- Sep. 17– Bloomberg’s Alan Bjerga talks with Mark Crumpton about the prospects for passage of a farm bill. They speak on Bloomberg Television’s “Bottom Line.” (Source: Bloomberg)

In the video, Mr. Bjerga also highlights the impact the Farm Bill impasse is having on the North Dakota Senate race, which is an open seat featuring former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp (D) v. current GOP Rep. Rick Berg. The New York Times calls this contest “leaning Republican.”

Also, in an article from Monday (Sep. 17), Mr. Bjerga reported that, “‘If you had asked Republicans a year ago, they would have told you North Dakota would be over by Labor Day, and it’s not,’ Jennifer Duffy, who monitors Senate races for Cook Political Report, said in an interview. Democrats ‘are still in it, and they’re still fighting.’

“The failure of the House to pass a farm bill is not the only reason, she said. It has contributed to a narrative of Washington’s failure, something Heitkamp is using to her advantage in her campaign against a House member, Duffy said.

“Other Senate campaigns where farm issues could become a factor include in Indiana [leans GOP], where Democratic Representative Joe Donnelly is running against Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party favorite who knocked off incumbent Richard Lugar in a Republican primary, and in Wisconsin [tossup], where former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson is running against Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin for the seat vacated by Herb Kohl.”

Mr. Bjerga added that, “Inaction on the farm bill may weaken the GOP Senate effort in rural, conservative states such as North Dakota and Montana [tossup] that are out of reach for Democrats at the presidential level yet still attainable in congressional races, said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames.”

Mr. Bjerga also pointed out that, “Lack of a farm bill has ‘become a very salient issue in a lot of key battleground races, and it’s highlighted the intransigence and ineffectiveness of House Republicans like Denny Rehberg and Rick Berg and put their misplaced priorities front and center,’ said Matt Canter, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.”

The AP reported today (Sep. 19)  that, “Heitkamp and other Democratic challengers are using the farm bill as an example of how they say the Republican-run House is ineffective. Current farm law, which extends subsidy payments to farmers and pays for food stamps, is scheduled to expire Sept. 30, with no new law in place for the first time in recent memory.

“In addition to the effect on the North Dakota race, the failure to get a farm bill is affecting the Senate race in Montana and House races in Iowa, South Dakota, Colorado and Illinois.

The article added that, “It is unclear how angry rural voters will be about the lack of a farm bill. The farm economy has been strong in recent years, and expiration won’t mean an immediate loss of benefits for most farmers. But farm-state members argue that the certainty of federal policy is necessary for farmers making their annual business plans this fall and approaching bankers for loans.

Punting the bill may also mean less money overall. While both chambers’ versions of the bill would save tens of billions of dollars from current spending, the agriculture committees may be asked to save even more as budgets tighten further next year.”



U.S. House of Representatives

Roll Call reported on October 30 that, “It looks increasingly possible that control of Congress will be split for another two years.  With one week to go before Election Day, Republicans are primed to retain a majority in the House, even as their margin will almost surely be cut.”

Bloomberg writers James Rowley and Roxana Tiron reported on October 24 that, “Republicans are in a strong position to keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year as political analysts predict that Democrats will fall more than a dozen seats short of a majority in the Nov. 6 election.”

On October 22, C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program featured an in-depth look at some of the contested House and Senate races in this election cycle.

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 19 that, “The 87 Republican House freshmen arrived in 2010 and promised to change Washington. Not all of them will be coming back…About 20 of the 87 GOP freshmen—who, along with nine Democrats, made up the biggest House class since 1992—face competitive races. One of the newcomers, Rep. Ben Quayle (R., Ariz.), has already lost a primary.”

The Journal noted that, “GOP leaders predict the great majority of freshmen will prevail. They note that Republican-led legislatures have protected some vulnerable freshmen through redistricting, and that voters still like their message of fiscal frugality…Democrats counter that the freshmen have accomplished little, paralyzed Congress by refusing to compromise, and damaged the economy by threatening a government default.”

The Wall Street Journal noted on October 17 that, “Unlike the past three congressional elections, the 2012 campaign isn’t shaping up as a landslide for either party. The fight for the House is really about battles in slightly more than 50 competitive districts.”

The New York Times reported on October 9 that, “While the occupant of the White House and the composition of the next Congress are still to be decided, one thing is clear: there will be many fewer moderate politicians here next year….A group of Democrats who are centrists, known as Blue Dogs, have been all but eviscerated from the House over the last few elections, and now three who have been in the Republicans’ cross hairs for years are fighting uphill battles for re-election…Representatives Larry Kissell of North Carolina, John Barrow of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah, all Blue Dogs, appear to be losing ground in their races for re-election. Because of redistricting, their constituencies have become less familiar with them, making them easier targets for outside groups that have been spending heavily on ads to unseat them. Their poll numbers have been dropping throughout this cycle.”

Roll Call reported on October 9 that, “The House Blue Dog Coalition, still reeling from 2010 elections that cut its ranks in half, looks likely to sustain additional losses this year that would cast doubt on the group’s influence in the 113th Congress…The farm bill, for instance, would not have gotten out of the House Agriculture Committee without ranking member Collin Peterson (Minn.) and a cast of Blue Dogs on the panel… If House Republicans remain in the majority but their margin slims, they say, it will be Blue Dogs who help Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) push compromise legislation out of the House.”

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) House Ratings were updated on October 25 and noted the following changes from its October 4 House Ratings (see next item below for reference and greater details).  The October 25 update indicated that:

* Rep. Mike McIntyre (D., N.C.) moves from tossup to Leans Democrat.

The update added that, “The Crystal Ball can now project that the Republicans will retain their House majority, although we suspect it will be at least a bit smaller than their current 25-seat edge.”

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) House Ratings were updated on October 4 and noted the following changes from its September 20 House Ratings (see next item below for reference and greater details).  The October update indicated that:

* Rep. Jim Costa (D., Calif.) moves from likely Democrat to safe Democrat.

* Rep. Larry Kissell (D., N.C.) moves from leaning GOP to likely GOP.

In an update on September 20, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) provided the following information in its House Ratings:

* Rep. Mike McIntyre (D., N.C. -7, Ag. Comm. Member, signed discharge petition) is in a toss up race against his GOP challenger David Rouzer.

* Rep. Bobby Schilling (R., Il.-17, Ag Comm. Member) is an a contest that leans Democrat, his opponent is Cheri Bustos.  (The Chicago Tribune endorsed Rep. Schilling on Oct. 8.).

* Rep. Bill Owens (D. N.Y. -21) an incumbent Ag Comm. Member (signed discharge petition), is in a race that leans Democrat, while Rep. Jim Costa (D., Calif. -16, signed discharge petition), also an Ag. Comm. Member, is in a contest that is likely Democrat.

* Rep. Chris Gibson (R., N.Y. -19, Ag. Comm. Member, signed discharge petition) is current in a contest with Julian Schreibman that is rated as tossup.

* Rep. Leonard Boswell (D- Ag. Comm. Member), and Rep. Tom Latham (R) are in a contest for Iowa’s Third District that is rated leaning GOP; both have signed the discharge petition.

* Rep. Larry Kissell (D., N.C. -8, Ag. Comm. Member, signed discharge petition) is up against Richard Hudson (R); the contest is rated leaning GOP.

* Rep. Steve King (R, Iowa -4, Ag. Comm. Member), who is running against Democrat Christie Vilsack, Tom Vilsack’s spouse; the contest is rated leaning GOP.

* Rep. Reid Ribble (R., Wis. -8, Ag. Comm. Member) is currently in a race that is leaning GOP.

* Both incumbent Ag. Comm. Members Rep. Bob Gibbs (R., Ohio -7) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D., At-Large, signed discharge petition) are in contests that are described as likely GOP.


*** Iowa, District Four, Congress: Steve King (R) Incumbent (Ag Comm. Member) v. Christie Vilsack (D- Wife of Sec. of Ag. Tom Vilsack)- New York Times says leans GOP.

Article from Sep. 7: “There was little discussion of that or any of the [Farm] bill’s proposals [in a debate between the two candidates], such as the elimination of direct payments to farmers or increasing crop insurance subsidies, but the candidates clashed over the political process. Vilsack said King hadn’t done enough to pass the bill while King noted that as one of 435 members of Congress he can’t be held responsible for not pushing a bill through.”

Article from Sep. 11: “On the topic of the farm bill, Vilsack defended the estimated 75 percent of funding that goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, saying 14 cents of every dollar spent in the program goes to a farmer. She also called on King to sign fellow Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley’s discharge petition to force a vote on the bill.

King advocated for cutting SNAP, arguing the program has been abused to pay for tattoos and bail bonds.

“When Vilsack contended that 93 percent of SNAP recipients are seniors citizens, children and the working poor, King disputed that percentage to a mixed crowd reaction.”

O. Kay Henderson reported on September 17 at Radio Iowa Online that, “A deep disagreement over voting and lack of progress on the Farm Bill were the hallmarks of tonight’s debate between Republican Congressman Steve King and Christie Vilsack, his Democratic challenger.”

Ms. Henderson added that, “Late in the hour-long event the subject of the Farm Bill was raised by the debate’s moderator.

“Vilsack began: ‘I think Steve King should have shown more leadership on this and should have pounded on the door of Speaker Boehner…in making sure we have a Farm Bill.’

“King replied: ‘I’m not really sure if Mrs. Vilsack wants me to be a leader or a follower. I’ve gotten advice to be both a leader and a follower and it depends on the issue.'”

Radio Iowa Online reported on Sep. 27 that, “The fourth face-to-face debate between Republican Congressman Steve King and Christie Vilsack, his Democratic challenger, was held tonight and King opened with a subtle attack on Vilsack, who moved to Ames to run in the new fourth congressional district.”

The update added that, “‘I’m sitting in a position where I expect to be on the conference committee and we’ll have a voice of Iowa there when we hammer the last bill out,’ King said.

“Vilsack replied: ‘I don’t think that you’re going to be on a conference committee. You haven’t shown leadership in other situations either and I don’t think you’re going to show leadership here.’

“Vilsack suggested there was a reason King was the only member of Iowa’s congressional delegation who did not sign a petition calling for a vote in the House on the Farm Bill.”

The New York Times reported on October 5th that, “Representative Steve King tapped his fingers impatiently against the lectern as his Democratic debate opponent, Christie Vilsack, lit into him about the House’s failure to take up a farm bill. ‘I have just one question for Congressman King,’ Mrs. Vilsack said, as the Republican looked on with irritation. ‘Where is the farm bill?’

“It was an uncommon moment for Mr. King, the Tea Party firebrand who for the last decade has threshed his opponents like a combine through corn. This time around, he is in the unfamiliar and highly uncomfortable position of defending his House seat against an aggressive, well-known Democrat with a lot of outside money supporting her bid.”

Kevin Bogardus reported on October 6th at The Hill Online that, “The Humane Society Legislative Fund has spent more than half of its political action budget so far this election cycle opposing a single lawmaker: Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

“The group — the 501(c)(4) lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States — says King has turned himself into the chief foe of animal protection in Congress.

“King’s campaign calls the group extreme and says the congressman is being targeted for championing states’ rights and standing up against over-regulation.”

RadioIowa Online reported on October 10 that, “Republican Congressman Steve King was a bit more aggressive last night in the fifth face-to-face debate with Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack. In their first debate, King said he was ‘surprised’ by Vilsack, who had opened that meeting by saying King was guilty of ‘a lot of talk and no action‘ in congress.

“King closed last night’s session with this rap against Vilsack. ‘I looked at one of the ads of Mrs. Vilsack’s on the way here, through the text of it, and when I drew a line through everything that was a question, or everything that was untrue, the only thing left was: ‘I’m Christie Vilsack and I approved this message,’’ King said. ‘You deserve better than that.'”

“The two covered some of the same ground they’ve debated in their four previous meetings, discussing the Farm Bill, immigration and gun rights.”

Bloomberg news reported on October 12 that, ” Vilsack’s political pedigree comes with full campaign coffers and on-the-ground support from former President Bill Clinton, who is headlining a rally for her in Sioux City today.

“‘The race is winnable for Christie Vilsack. That is huge all by itself,’ said Ann Selzer, a pollster and president of Des Moines-based Selzer & Company. ‘Bill Clinton wouldn’t waste his time. They think that it’s contested.'”

Outside groups and congressional campaign committees have spent at least $2.5 million on the race, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington- based group that tracks political money,” the article said.

The AP reported on October 18 that, “Rep. Steve King of Iowa has little use for the Humane Society, particularly when it comes to laws designed to give calves, pregnant sows and hens a little more freedom on the farm.  The organization’s political arm is devoting the vast majority of its campaign budget this year — nearly $500,000 so far — to ensuring King doesn’t return for a sixth term.”

The article noted that, “King’s campaign says the Humane Society is going after him because he’s an effective advocate for the state’s farmers…King successfully included in the House farm bill a measure that would bar California and other states from essentially exporting their cage standards to agricultural producers in Iowa. King says that California’s law violates the clause in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states.”

On October 20, The Des Moines Register endorsed Christie Vilsack for Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District seat.

Politico reported on October 23 that, “With all the national forces colliding in this northwestern Iowa congressional district this fall, it’s hard to remember the prize on Nov. 6 is a single House seat…Republican Steve King and Democrat Christie Vilsack are as much symbols of what partisans on each side despise as they are candidates for the 4th District. A flame-throwing conservative with a history of incendiary rhetoric, King is a proxy for the tea party and Republican Congress. Vilsack, who’s married to Barack Obama’s Agriculture secretary, is a stand-in for a president whom Iowa Republicans hope to send packing next month.”

“Seizing on the president’s unpopularity in the rural district, Republicans are portraying Christie Vilsack as an agent of ObamaKing has tread more carefully when it comes to Tom Vilsack, who is respected by both parties from his time as governor. King’s advisers say he has been careful to invoke Tom Vilsack only in his role as a White House official.

“Christie Vilsack is distancing herself from the administration, taking pains on the campaign trail to criticize some of its policies. And while Obama has visited the district several times in recent months to campaign, Vilsack has stayed away, leaving it to her husband to join Obama.”

RadioIowa reported on October 25 that, “Republican Congressman Steve King and Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack debated for the sixth time tonight, both portraying themselves as in step with Iowa values, but taking one another to task on a host of issues…The two addressed a host of issues raised at previous debates, from inaction on the Farm Bill to U.S. tax policy.”

The Omaha World-Herald reported on October 26 that, “The candidates waging a bitter fight to represent northwest Iowa in the U.S. House agreed Thursday that family, work, education and faith are what matter most to the voters who live there…Vilsack blamed King for failing to produce a farm bill. King has said he wanted the GOP leadership to put the new farm bill to a floor vote, but leaders worried that it would fall short.

“‘I’ve been working on this farm bill for about a year and a half,‘ King said.

“Regardless, Vilsack said, ‘there is no farm bill. Congressman King has not led on this issue. As a result, we don’t have a farm bill, the most important piece of legislation to this district.'”

RadioIowa Online reported on October 31 that during a debate on Tuesday night, “Republican Congressman Steve King says he will not give the Federal Emergency Management Agency a blank check to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy…[K]ing said he was willing to ‘take some lumps’ over refusing to support disaster relief for Katrina damage since some of the money was ultimately misspent.

“‘Congressman King, your positions are extreme,’ Vilsack replied. ‘In Iowa, we take care of people.'”


*** Iowa, District Three, Congress: Rep. Leonard Boswell (D., Ag. Comm. Member, Incumbent) v. Rep. Tom Latham (R).  New York Times says tossupCameron Joseph reported on Sep. 24 at The Hill’s Ballot Box Blog that, “Boswell has a history of poor fundraising but strong campaigning and has eked out victories time and again: He’s won all eight of his elections to Congress, but in seven of them was held to 57 percent of the vote or less.

Latham has long represented a more conservative district, but is a strong campaigner and has raised a ton of money for the race, helped in part by his close friendship with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).”

The update added that, “Republicans have already attacked Boswell for his support of the stimulus package and Democrats’ healthcare overhaul, while Democrats have sought to tie Latham to House Republican leadership. One sleeper issue: While Latham has been fighting hard to get the House to vote on a farm-bill extension, Democrats plan to tie him to Boehner, who has blocked a vote on the bill. This could have big ramifications in the agriculture-heavy district.”  (For more on this issue, click here, and listen to this portion (MP3) of a radio interview w Rep. Latham from Tues., Sep. 18 on WHO (Iowa) Radio.

Jennifer Jacobs reported on Sep. 25 at The Des Moines Register Online that, “A new poll shows that the two incumbent Iowa congressmen pitted against each other – U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell and U.S. Rep. Tom Latham – are tied at 45 percent.”

On Sep. 25, Rep. Latham spoke with The Des Moines Register editorial board, to listen to the discussion of that meeting regarding the Farm Bill, just click here.

On Sep. 26, Rep. Boswell spoke with The Des Moines Register editorial board, to listen to the discussion of that meeting regarding the Farm Bill, just click here.

An update on October 6 at The Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa) reported that, “No clear front-runner has emerged in the race between two incumbent congressmen seeking re-election in southwest Iowa.

“Democrat Leonard Boswell and Republican Tom Latham, colleagues in the U.S. House, are battling in Iowa’s newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, which includes Council Bluffs and most of southwest Iowa.”

The article pointed out that, “Such issues may divide Boswell and Latham, but they agree that Iowa needs a new farm bill sooner rather than later. [House Speaker John Boehner] has postponed consideration of the food and farm policy legislation until after the election.

“The candidates – both have farming roots – said the House should take up the legislation now, even if it’s not perfect.

“‘I’m as frustrated as anyone, being a farmer myself,’ Latham said. ‘My position is, bring it to the floor.’

“Said Boswell: ‘For those of us who are hands-on farmers, planting season has already taken place…and we don’t have a farm bill. I’m terribly frustrated.'”

RadioIowa Online reported on October 10 that, “The first of a series of debates between Congressman Leonard Boswell and Congressman Tom Latham took place last night in Creston. The 90-minute exchange included topics ranging from the farm bill to health care and education to the deficit. Democrat Boswell noted one of the biggest problems looms…“We’ve got to have a farm bill I think that represents, number one savings, and farmers are willing to contribute to deficit reduction doing away with direct payments, revising the countersicyclical payments. If in fact there’s a safety net for them, basically with crop insurance, risk management tools,’ Latham said.

Boswell agrees, the farm bill needs to be passed, and adds they should be in Washington doing it. He also sees the need for rural infrastructure, and suggests ways to pay for it. ‘We’re gonna have to look at the revenue side, nobody likes that word. We’re gonna have to look at it, and I’ve said I long time ago I’m willing to. And I’ve noticed now Farm Bureau and others are saying the same thing,’ according to Boswell. ‘We’re gonna have to look at that because the steel costs more, the concrete costs more. If we’re gonna stay competitive, we’re gonna have to do that.'”

The Des Moines Register reported on October 11 that, “This debate got into personal attacks.

“Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Latham hit Democratic U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell for rewarding his Capitol staffers with more than half a million dollars in bonuses during a tight economy, while Boswell questioned the financial bailout money accepted by a bank owned by Latham’s family.”

The Register noted that, “The 60-minute exchange touched on several topics, including economic recovery, taxes, health care, the future of Medicare, term limits, the farm bill, defense spending, debt, immigration, the effectiveness of Congress and the gas tax.”

The Des Moines Register reported on October 15 that, “Democratic operatives have said they were surprised Latham didn’t pull out all the stops early on with an intensive advertising campaign meant to cut off Boswell at the knees early and scare off funding from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. After all, Latham started the cycle with a steep cash advantage because he was able to ward off his rival in the previous cycle rather easily.

“But as of late, Democrats voice confidence that Boswell has a better shot to secure his ninth term, and deny Latham his 10th. A Sept. 18-20 poll released by the DCCC showed the two men tied at 45 percent when those who are leaning one way or the other are included. Roll Call on Sept. 27 changed its race rating from ‘leans Republican’ to ‘tossup.’ Real Clear Politics considers the race a tossup.”

The Des Moines Register reported on October 15 that, “U.S. Rep. Tom Latham’s fundraising lead over 3rd Congressional District rival and fellow incumbent Leonard Boswell widened in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Federal Election Commission records show.

“Latham, a nine-term Republican from Clive, reported raising $481,332 in the July-through-September reporting period, running his total for the cycle above $3 million. As of Sept. 30, he had $1.5 million in the bank and ready to spend.

“Boswell, an eight-term Democrat from Des Moines, meanwhile, reported contributions of $299,676 for the same period, boosting his total for the election cycle to just under $1.5 million. He reported $226,276 on hand for the final weeks of the campaign.”

Jennifer Steinhauer reported on October 17 in The New York Times that, “But the two men, locked in one of the hardest-fought House races in the country, are finding their campaign inextricably tied to the race for the White House as Iowa emerges as one of the most contested states between Mitt Romney and President Obama. Just last week, Mr. Latham, a Republican, appeared with Mr. Romney at a rally near Van Meter, Iowa, and former President Bill Clinton came to Des Moines to stump for Mr. Boswell, a Democrat.”

On October 20, The Des Moines Register endorsed Rep. Latham for Iowa’s Third Congressional District seat.


*** North Carolina, District Eight, CongressLarry Kissell (D., Ag. Comm. Member, Incumbent) v. Richard Hudson (R). New York Times says tossupJoshua Miller reported on Sep. 24 at Roll Call Online that, “There was bad news today for North Carolina Rep. Larry Kissell (D) out of Washington, D.C.

“The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee canceled a second week of advertising in Kissell’s 8th district. Roll Call has learned that the DCCC’s independent expenditure arm canceled a reservation for advertising in the Charlotte media market from Oct. 9-15. This comes after the DCCC canceled a reservation from Oct. 2-8, as first reported by Roll Call.”

Roll Call reported on Oct. 1 that, “It looks more and more like Nov. 6 will be curtains for North Carolina Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell.

“Today the independent expenditure arm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee canceled a third week of advertising in Kissell’s 8th district. Roll Call has learned that more than $180,000 worth of advertising in the Charlotte media market from Oct. 16-22 was canceled by the DCCC.”


*** California, District 16, Congress: Jim Costa (D., Ag. Comm. Member, Incumbent) v. Brian Whelan (R).  New York Times says leans Democrat. John Ellis reported on Sep. 24 in Fresno Bee that, “About this time two years ago, incumbent Democrat Jim Costa’s relatively unknown Republican opponent came out of nowhere and turned a sleepy congressional race into a down-to-the-wire barn burner.

“Hanford cherry farmer Andy Vidak fell short in his upset bid — but just barely.

“Now, Fresno attorney Brian Whelan, Costa’s Republican opponent this time around, says history is poised to repeat itself, only with a better ending.”

The article added that, “But a lot has changed since 2010, and it is widely believed that Costa is in a stronger position as he seeks his fifth term in Congress.”

The article also noted that, “Also, several prominent locals in the business and agriculture fields say Costa has stepped it up politically after his close call.”

(Note that before the Congress break for elections, Rep. Costa spoke about the stalled Farm Bill on the House floor.)


(UPDATED 11.1) *** New York, District 21, Congress: Bill Owens (D) Incumbent (Ag. Comm. Member) v. Matthew Doheny (R).  New York Times says leans Democrat.

Article from Sep. 6 reported that , “Mr. Owens said that the most important issue facing farmers was passage of the farm bill. The current law expires at the end of September. The Senate has passed its version, and the House Agriculture Committee, with the support of Mr. Owens, also passed its own version.”

A separate article from Sep. 6 stated that, “The federal farm bill has been caught up in the hard-line battle, with any conservatives pushing to kill the measure…But in their first debate of the season, in the Washington County community of Greenwich, the candidates for New York’s 21st district House seat both supported the farm bill. On a wide range of issues, Republican Matt Doheny and Democrat Bill Owens made a clear bid for the center.”

On October 8,  7 News- Fox 28 Television (Watertown, N.Y.) reported that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was in this district to campaign for the GOP’s Mr. Doheny; and during a Q and A with reporters, the issue of the stalled Farm Bill came up.  A video and recap of the exchange with Doheny and Cantor is available here.

A related article was posted at The Watertown Daily Times Online on October 9.

An update on October 11 at WCAX (Burlington, Vt.) Online noted that, “At the top on both candidates’ lists– the economy and passing a farm bill.”

Brian Dwyer reported at YNN (Syracuse, N.Y.) Online on October 25 on a debate between the two candidates, and noted that, “The 2008 Farm Bill officially expired after Congress failed to reach an agreement. It provides incentives and subsidies to farms that they say help keep them in business.

“Congressman Owens says he’s worked to help the farmers, but says the GOP is standing in the way.

“‘We have put up four or five different bills that would have addressed that issue. The Republican leadership has refused to let those bills onto the floor. Even when they have been supported, on a bipartisan basis, by many Republicans in the house,’ Owens said.”

An update at YNN Online on October 30 indicated that, “Owens has been in office for about three years now. He says while jobs and the economy are certainly priority number one, people are becoming more and more vocal about the dysfunction in Congress. Things like the Farm Bill just not getting done.

‘I vote about 35 percent of the time with Republicans,’ Owens said. ‘So I’m making decisions based upon what’s good for my constituents not what is necessarily good for the party, if you will.'”

“In September, Siena College released a poll that shows Bill Owens with a 13 point lead. But the Doheny camp says that margin has closed considerably, releasing a poll Tuesday that says, ‘voters most likely to turnout on election day,’ give Owens only a two point lead.”


*** New York, District 19, Congress: Christopher Gibson (R, Incumbent, Ag Comm. Member) v. Julian Schreibman (D).  New York Times says leans GOP.

Scott Bland reported on Sep. 21 at National Journal Online that, “Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., sports a solid double-digit lead and majority support in New York’s 19th Congressional District, according to results of a Siena poll released Friday morning.

“Gibson leads Democratic challenger Julian Schreibman 52 percent to 36 percent in the independent survey, a strong starting point for the freshman incumbent. The poll was conducted by Siena College Research Institute, which surveyed 635 likely voters from Sept. 17-18. The poll’s margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.9 percentage points.”

Roll Call reported on October 10 that, “Freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) recently led his Democratic challenger by a little or a lot, depending on which pollster did the asking.

“A new poll commissioned for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee found Gibson leading Julian Schreibman 43 percent to 41 percent with 16 percent of those likely voters surveyed undecided. The president led Mitt Romney by 7 points in the poll conducted by Democratic firm Grove Insight.

“But a new poll commissioned for the independent expenditure arm of the National Republican Congressional Committee and obtained by Roll Call found Gibson leading Schreibman 47 percent to 39 percent, with 16 percent of those likely voters surveyed undecided. The president led Romney by 3 points in the poll conducted by Republican firm On Message Inc.”

ABC Television News 10 reported on October 18 that, “Congressman Chris Gibson and his opponent, Democrat Julian Schreibman faced off Thursday night in their first televised debate…When the Farm Bill was brought up, specifically Congress’ failure to pass it, Screibmen attacked.”


*** Illinois, District 12, Congress: Bill Enyart (D) v. Jason Plummer (R) (Open Seat).  New York Times says tossup.

Article from Sep 8  reported that:  “Frustration over the U.S. Congress’ failure to pass a farm bill has led the major party nominees for the 12th U.S. Congressional District seat, in a rare moment of agreement, to call on federal lawmakers to pass it as soon as possible when Congress reconvenes Monday….Bill Enyart, the Democratic nominee for the 12th District seat, noted the Republican-led Congress has voted 33 times to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, even though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in late June. Meanwhile, the farm bill remains stuck in neutral.”


*** South Dakota, Congress, At- Large: Rep. Kristi Noem (R) Incumbent (Ag. Comm. Member) v. Matt Varilek (D).  New York Times says solid GOP.

Tom Lawrence reported on September 18 at the Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.) Online that, “Rep. Kristi Noem and Matt Varilek agree that the stalled 2013 farm bill is important to South Dakota. But Varilek, a Varilek v. Noem Democrat in his first race for office, and Noem, a freshman Republican, differ on what exactly the huge package of laws, programs and incentives should contain. They also disagree on why it remains stalled in the House after a version easily passed the Senate.”

The article added that, “Noem said the bill is stuck in the House because Democrats and Republicans in that chamber won’t work together.

“She voted for the bill in the House Agriculture Committee, has urged her fellow House members to support it and asked House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to set a vote on it.

“Boehner has not done so, and since the House recessed recently, it now appears certain the bill will not receive a vote in the full House before the election. That’s a point Noem said she ‘prayed’ would not happen.”

The candidates held a debate that covered Farm Bill issues back in August.

Tom Lawrence reported on Sep. 22 at The Daily Republic Online that, “Republican incumbent Kristi Noem has a nearly nine-point lead over Democratic challenger Matt Varilek in their U.S. House race, according to newly released poll results.

Noem leads 50.8 to 42 percent, according to a Friday release from Nielson Brothers Polling, of Sioux Falls. In a July poll by the same firm, she led by two points, 47.4 to 45.6 percent.”

David Montgomery reported on Sep. 24 at the Argus Leader (S.D.) Online that, “Rep. Kristi Noem and her Democratic challenger Matt Varilek discussed the budget, the farm bill and tribal issues during an hour-long Argus Leader forum Monday morning.

The article noted that, “‘Anyone who says I’m not working hard to pass the farm bill is just playing political games,’ Noem said, at a different point in the debate. ‘I’ve done everything I possibly can to get that farm bill accomplished.’”

The AP reported on October 12 that, “Republican Rep. Kristi Noem tried to paint Democratic challenger Matt Varilek as a dedicated follower of President Barack Obama, while Varilek accused her of being ineffective and missing meetings during a brisk Friday debate in which they often ignored the moderator.

Noam tried to tie Varilek to Obama’s policies on taxes, health care and other issues, a strategy likely motivated by the fact that registered Republican voters far outnumber Democrats in South Dakota. Varilek repeatedly said Noem has been ineffective in getting a farm bill and other measures crucial to South Dakota passed even though her party controls the House.”

The article noted that, “Varilek, a 37-year-old lawyer from Sioux Falls and former member of Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s staff, accused her of missing many meetings of the House Agriculture Committee and at least a couple of subcommittees…Noem called allegations that she has missed many committee meetings a “smear campaign” by Democrats. She insisted that she attended many meetings Democrats said she skipped, but also said she won’t apologize for skipping meetings that have nothing to do with South Dakota issues.”

An update on October 12 at KDLT News (Sioux Falls, SD) reported that, “A poll conducted last week indicates Rep. Kristi Noem’s lead in the race for South Dakota’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives has narrowed.

“Nielson Brothers Polling says Noem now leads Democratic challenger Matt Varilek by 5.7 percent, with 7.1 percent still undecided. In a survey conducted by NBP at the beginning of September, Noem led Varilek by 8.8 percent.”

The Arugus Leader reported on October 19 that, “Rep. Kristi Noem outraised her election rival Matt Varilek during the past three months, pulling in $445,000 to Varilek’s $274,000 as the two battle to fill South Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives….Noem had a similar advantage on the expenses side of the equation. From July through September, the incumbent congresswoman spent $638,000, while Varilek spent $411,000.”

On October 25, the Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, Iowa) endorsed Rep. Noem for re-election.


*** Kansas, District Two, Congress: Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R., Incumbent) v. Tobias Schlingensiepen (D).  New York Times says solid GOP. The AP reported on Sep. 25 that, “A U.S. House candidate from northeastern Kansas is criticizing incumbent Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins and Congress for failing to act on a new farm bill.

“Topeka minister Tobias Schlingensiepen, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd Congressional District, issued a statement critical of Jenkins on Monday.

“Schlingensiepen says House members left Washington to campaign for re-election without acting on the farm bill, despite receiving a version from the Senate earlier this year.”


*** North Dakota, Congress, At-Large:  On Oct. 2, the AP reported on the North Dakota Congressional race where Democrat Pam Gulleson is running against Republican Kevin Cramer. New York Times calls the race solid GOP.

The AP article noted that in a recent debate, “Cramer said Gulleson has advocated quick approval of the U.S. Senate’s version of the farm legislation. It requires farmers to participate in soil conservation programs to qualify for crop insurance, which helps to protect farmers against losses from hailstorms, flooding and drought.

“Cramer called the provision a ‘nonstarter’ and said it is unnecessary because farmers already have an incentive to protect the soil they use to raise crops.

“‘What I hear more than anything else is, ‘Give me crop insurance and get out of my way. Don’t tell me how to farm,’’ Cramer said.”

The article noted that, “‘If (Cramer) was serious about the farm bill, he would have reached out to those leaders’ and put more emphasis on farm legislation, Gulleson said.

She said she opposes requiring farmers to take part in soil conservation programs to qualify for crop insurance. She believes the provision can be removed during House-Senate negotiations on the bill’s final version.”


*** Wisconsin, District Eight, Congress: Rep. Reid Ribble (R, House Ag Comm. Member, Did not sign House Farm Bill discharge petition) vs. Jamie Wall (D).  New York Times says leaning GOP.  In a “Q and A” posted on Oct. 2 at Manitowoc Wisconsin News Online, Rep. Bibble stated that, “There’s certainly work left on the Farm Bill. If that doesn’t get done in the lame duck session, there will need to be extensions. I’ve led a group of members to extend the (milk income loss contract program) for the dairy industry. We’ll see what the agenda looks like after the electionIn 2009, we budgeted about $53 billion for food stamps. At the time, unemployment was moving up to 10 percent. Today we’re budgeting $78 billion and unemployment is down to 8.1 percent. So as fiduciaries of the federal money, as more people come back to work, you should be able to adjust those down.”

Don Behm reported on October 15 at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online that, “[Wall] blames Ribble, in part, for the failure by the House to pass a federal Farm Bill before Congress recessed for the November elections. The Senate adopted its version of the bill in June.

Ribble is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and did not get the job done, according to Wall.”

The Journal Sentinel article added that, “Ribble voted for the bill in committee and said he is as frustrated as anyone that it did not get through the full Congress before the September recess.

“In an interview, Ribble blamed partisans on both sides of the aisle for the delay in the House. He expects a lame-duck session of Congress to pass the Farm Bill later this year before its programs expire.”


U.S. Senate

(UPDATED 11.1) Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) Senate Ratings were updated on November 1 and noted that, “Now we are willing to call the Senate for the Democratsas long as the presidential race doesn’t break heavily for Romney in the last days. Our current Senate projection is 52 Democrats to 46 Republicans, with two leftover toss-ups: Arizona and Wisconsin.”

Jonathan Weisman reported on October 26 in The New York Times that, “Once viewed as likely to win the Senate, Republicans are now in jeopardy of losing seats in Massachusetts and Maine. If they do, they will need to win at least five seats held by Democrats and hold three other Republican seats at risk to net the three needed to take the Senate if Mitt Romney wins the presidency.

“If President Obama prevails, Republicans will have to win at least one additional seat in a state where they are seen as slightly behind — in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania.

“‘Republicans can do it,’ said Jennifer Duffy, a Senate political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. ‘It’s just getting a lot harder.'”

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) Senate Ratings were updated on October 25 and noted that, “Our Senate count is now 51-44 Democrats, but we are NOT comfortable calling the Senate for the Democrats. There is just too much uncertainty. It’s possible that some of the candidates we now favor, such as Democrats Tim Kaine in Virginia, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania… won’t actually make it across the finish line.”

Rosalind S. Helderman and Jason Horowitz reported on October 25 in The Washington Post that, “In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, there are now at least eight critical contests in which polling shows essentially a dead heat, encouraging Republicans’ hopes that they may yet snag the chamber, which very recently seemed beyond their reach.”

The Need-to-Know Daily Email (National Journal) reported on October 24 that, “The presidential election isn’t the only contest that’s going down to the wire in November. The battle for the Senate is remarkably close, and control could end up being determined by the outcome of the presidential contest, writes Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar.  As things stand today, Republicans look reasonably positioned to net two to three seats in the upper chamber, and three is enough for Mitch McConnell to become Senate majority leader, if Romney wins the presidency. But if Obama wins, Republicans would need to net four seats for a majority. Given the narrowing Senate map, that’s looking almost impossible.”

Stuart Rothenberg noted on October 23 at Roll Call Online that, “But now, with the presidential race tight and polls contradictory, this year’s fight for the Senate is anything but clear.”

The Need-to-Know Daily Email (National Journal) reported on October 8th that, “With Democratic pickups in once long-shot states like Arizona and Indiana augmenting their hopes in Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine, and GOP candidates trailing in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, and running even in Montana and North Dakota, the only sure GOP pickup today looks like Nebraska. That map leaves some Democratic aides predicating the party picks up a seat, and GOP aides dialing down talk of regaining the Senate to gaining just a few seats. Republicans are banking on a Mitt Romney surge to change the equation.”

Politico reported on Sep. 30 that, “Five weeks from Election Day, both parties jousting for control of the Senate face a stark fact: Neither has yet locked down races that should have been put away by now.

“That means the Senate map has gotten bigger, not smaller, leaving races from New England to the Upper Plains to the Southwest all in play. Both parties will have to start making cutthroat decisions on money: Some candidates are going to get cut loose, and others will see a surge of cash.”

USA Today reported on Sep. 30 that, “[Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.)  said on CNN that it is ‘at least 50-50′ Republicans will win the four seats needed to win power in the Senate. He cited races in Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin as ones that could go to the GOP candidates.”

On Sept. 26,  both The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times ran front page stories explaining that the GOP chances of taking control of the U.S. Senate have slipped.

On Sept. 27, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) Senate Ratings were updated.  Of particular interesting, the update noted that: “As President Obama has grabbed and maintained an edge both nationally and in many crucial swing states, Democratic Senate candidates made their moves in a number of key swing states where Obama appears to be leading. While Republicans have a few bright spots too, the overall movement in the Senate is unmistakably toward the Democrats.”

* Missouri: Moved from tossup to leans Democrat.

* Montana: Moved from tossup to leans GOP.

* North Dakota: Moved from leans GOP to tossup.

* Wisconsin: Moved from leans GOP to tossup.

* Indiana– Moved from leans GOP to tossup.


*** North Dakota Senate: Former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rep. Rick Berg (R).  New York Times says leaning GOP.  The AP reported on Sep. 25 that, “Democrats launched two ads in North Dakota on Tuesday criticizing Republican Senate candidate Rick Berg over the stalled farm bill as the party seeks to capitalize on rural voters’ frustration with congressional inaction.”  To view the two ads, just click here and here.

Jonathan Weisman reported in the Oct. 1 edition of The New York Times that, “Senate Republicans considered the state in their column when Senator Kent Conrad, a veteran Democrat, announced his retirement last year. But with shoe leather, calibrated attacks and likability — an intangible that goes far in North Dakota — Ms. Heitkamp has made this a real fight. Though North Dakota is deeply conservative and is on no one’s presidential map as a question mark, this race could be one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 contests. And, like all close races this year, it could help decide control of the Senate…[T]he House’s failure to pass a farm bill amid deep Republican divisions has left North Dakota’s farmers uncertain…”

For additional information on the North Dakota U.S. Senate race and the Farm Bill, listen to this brief clip (MP3- 1:10) from the Sep. 28 edition of Agriculture Today radio program (Red River Farm Network).  The report from Don Wick includes remarks on the ag legislation from both of the North Dakota Senate candidates.

Politico reported on October 7th that, “Though North Dakota has a history of electing Democrats — both its senators had ‘D’s’ next to their names until 2010 — the race in this increasingly red state was long thought to be Berg’s to lose. But Heitkamp, proving to be perhaps the best pure Senate campaigner of this election cycle, has made it a barnburner.

“A GOP loss would be a stinging embarrassment for the party — and all but dash its hopes of retaking the Senate.”

The Washington Times reported on October 14 that, “North Dakota’s 3 percent unemployment rate in August — the lowest in the nation — and a thriving oil industry has meant the twin topics of jobs and the economy haven’t been the epicenter of the race as elsewhere. So voters’ personal feelings toward the candidates are playing big in the race. And it’s this factor, experts say, that has handed Ms. Heitkamp a clear edge.”

The article added that, “Mr. Berg has had to deal with voters upset over Congress’ failure this year to pass a long-term farm bill — an agricultural subsidy measure massively popular in farm states like North Dakota.”

Roll Call reported on October 15 that, “Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) raised nearly the same amount in the third quarter for the North Dakota Senate race, with Heitkamp $1.6 million to Berg’s $1.57 million in the same period.

That brings Heitkamp’s fundraising total this cycle to more than $3.7 million, and Berg’s to almost $5.8 million.”

The AP reported on October 15 that, “Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp on Monday questioned Rep. Rick Berg’s ability to fulfill a promise to help break Washington gridlock, noting he failed to get Republican leaders to hold a pre-election vote on farm legislation crucial to North Dakota.

“In a debate recorded Monday for later broadcast on Prairie Public’s North Dakota television and radio network, Heitkamp criticized what she said was Berg’s ineffectiveness in advocating for a new five-year farm bill.

The AP article stated that, “Berg is trying to move to the Senate after serving one term as North Dakota’s lone U.S. House member. He described Heitkamp’s criticism as ‘simply not accurate’ and said he has pushed repeatedly for a pre-election vote, including supporting a ‘discharge petition’ that would compel a floor vote on the legislation…‘I am doing everything I can, and I will continue to do what I can, to get this farm bill passed, because it is important to North Dakota,’ [Rep. Berg] said.”

Alexandra Jaffe reported on October 24 at The Hill’s Campaign Blog that, “The race for Senate in North Dakota is a statistical dead heat, according to a new poll that gives Democrat Heidi Heitkamp a 1 percentage point lead over opponent Rep. Rick Berg (R).

Heitkamp has 49 percent support to Berg’s 48 percent support, with 3 percent undecided.”

The Minot Daily News endorsed Rep. Berg on October 25.

Nick Smith reported on October 25 at The Bismarck Tribune Online that, “The federal deficit, energy policy and the farm bill were sharply debated in Bismarck Thursday night by Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., and former Democratic Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, [who are running for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota].”

The article noted that, “‘Agriculture has been a non-partisan issue for the last two years,’ Berg said. He noted that approximately 80 percent of the farm bill is food programs such as food stamps. Berg said the degree of food stamp cuts was the biggest sticking point between the House and Senate billsHeitkamp called Berg’s efforts to try and force a vote on the farm bill by getting members of Congress to sign a discharge petition was too little, too late.”


(UPDATED 11.1)*** Montana Senate: Jon Tester (D., Incumbent) v. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R).  New York Times says tossup.

Cameron Joseph reported on September 24 at The Hill’s Ballot Box Blog that, “Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) narrowly leads Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), according to a new independent poll from Mason-Dixon Research for a group of Montana newspapers.

Rehberg leads Tester by 48 to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error. The two have been neck-and-neck in nearly every single public poll of the race, though Rehberg has held a slight edge in more of them than Tester has.”

The Great Falls Tribune reported on Sep. 27 that, “A group of 25 to 30 protesters gathered outside the Great Falls campaign headquarters of Congressman Denny Rehberg on Wednesday, holding placards deriding Rehberg for the U.S. House of Representatives’ failure to pass a farm bill.”

The New York Times reported on Oct. 4 that, “The mustachioed Mr. Rehberg campaigns in cowboy boots and denim, telling stories about his family’s old ranch and his days at Billings West High School. His speeches and advertisements are aimed at yoking Mr. Tester to President Obama, bailouts, deficits and health care reform — none of which are popular here…Mr. Tester, sporting an $8 buzz cut, argues he is the real agrarian. His family runs an organic millet and alfalfa farm near Big Sandy, and in his campaign ads, he drives a red combine across his fields and talks about understanding the lives of farmers. He has dismissed Mr. Rehberg as a ‘mansion rancher’ who converted much of his ranchland to housing developments.”

The article added that, “Mr. Rehberg, in his sixth term, points out that he voted against the budget put forth by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate. And he joined other rural Republicans in urging House leaders to pass a farm bill that would provide help to farmers and ranchers after one of the worst droughts in American history. The Senate has passed its own version, but the House declined to take up a vote before it adjourned last month.”

The AP reported on October 6th that, “Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is hanging on in a brutal re-election battle in Montana despite a drag from President Barack Obama, who is poised to lose big in this sparsely populated, libertarian-minded state.

“His opponent, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, has been unable to pull ahead of the first-term senator after trying to tie him to Obama and the president’s signature health care law. Victory probably lies in the dwindling ranks of undecided voters.”

The article added that, “Tester touts his independence on issues such as wolves, big business bailouts, energy development important in the booming oil fields in eastern Montana, and proposed administration agricultural rules considered laughable by many family farmers. He says his top issue after re-election would be to resuscitate a bipartisan balanced budget solution that has languished in Congress…Tester blames Rehberg for failing to persuade the GOP-controlled House to pass a farm bill.”

The Billings Gazette reported on October 8 that, “Democratic Sen. Jon Tester blasted Rep. Denny Rehberg at a debate Monday night as a do-nothing congressman, while Rehberg attacked Tester as a clone of President Barack Obama…The two candidates agreed on virtually no issues at the debate, sponsored by The Billings Gazette and Montana State University Billings…[Tester] criticized the House’s failure to pass a Farm Bill this year, although Rehberg said he went against his party to support one.”

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (Univ. of Va.) indicated on October 25 that, “Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) and Sen. Jon Tester (D) remain locked in an achingly close duel in Montana, but we still give Rehberg a tiny edge.

The Hill reported on October 31 that, “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears in a TV ad endorsing Montana U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.).”


(UPDATED 11.1) *** Indiana Senate: Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) v. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R).  New York Times says tossup. Roll Call reported on Sep. 27 that, “Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) led state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) by 2 points  — a statistical dead heat — in a new bipartisan poll of the Indiana Senate race released today.

“Donnelly led Mourdock 40 percent to 38 percent in the Howey/DePauw University Indiana Battleground Poll. Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning received 7 percent in the survey.”

The Hill reported on Sep. 27 that, “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is out with a new ad tying Republican Richard Mourdock to Tea Party positions in the race for Senate in Indiana,” the ad can be viewed here.

On October 22, The Hill reported that, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will campaign for Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana on Monday.”

Politico reported on October 23 that, “Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Republican Senate candidate, came under fire Tuesday night for comments suggesting that pregnancies occurring from rape are the result of God’s will…The Indiana Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington immediately jumped on the comments, comparing them with the firestorm over remarks made by Todd Akin, the Missouri Senate GOP candidate.”

Roll Call reported on October 25 that, “Many Hoosiers agree with his ideology, but Mourdock’s errors are political. As a result, less than two weeks before Election Day, Mourdock’s greatest hurdle to winning a Senate seat is himself.”

National Journal reported on October 30 that, ” Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Senate candidate in Indiana, hopes to get some last-minute mileage out of the farm bill stalled in Congress.

“The Democrat will be joined by Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the House Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat, to talk about the need for a five-year farm bill. The pair will appear at a winery in Plainfield, Ind.

“Donnelly has consistently tried to portray his GOP opponent, Richard Mourdock, as an uncompromising partisan and the farm bill appears to be another means to do so.”

Politico reported on October 31 that, “In a Global Strategy Group poll shared with POLITICO, Donnelly now leads Mourdock by 9 points in a two-way race, 47 percent to 38 percent.”


*** Missouri Senate: Rep. Representative Todd Akin (R) v Sen. Claire McCaskill Incumbent (D).  New York Times says tossup.

An article from Sep. 11 reported that, “McCaskill has highlighted her support for the federal farm bill, which includes crop insurance provisions. Akin has historically opposed the farm bill, but he told the Farm Bureau his concerns rest primarily with expansive food stamp spending that is included in the legislation.”

Roll Call reported on Sep. 25 that, “…Roll Call is changing its race rating for the Missouri Senate race from Tossup to Leans Democratic.”

USA Today reported on Sep. 27 that, “The chairman of the Senate GOP campaign committee said late Thursday that his group has ‘no plans’ to support Akin with funding.

“‘I just think that this is not a winnable race,’ Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told our Gannett colleague Jim Carroll.”

USA Today reported on Sep. 30 that, “Missouri’s Republican senator [Roy Blunt] said today embattled Rep. Todd Akin could win his state’s Senate race, suggesting the debate should focus on how it plays into the battle for power.”

Politico reported on Oct. 3 that, “Two polls out Wednesday show Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill leading Republican challenger Todd Akin by six points, with one survey putting the Missouri senator over the ‘50 percent mark for the first time.'”


*** Wisconsin Senate: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) (signed House Farm Bill discharge petition)  v. Tommy Thompson, a former GOP governor  New York Times says tossup. Cameron Joseph reported on Sept. 21 at The Hill’s Ballot Box Blog that, “Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) leads former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) in their Senate race in a new poll, the latest to show her with momentum in the state.

“The poll shows Baldwin leading Thompson by 48 to 46 percent in a poll conducted for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal by Marist College. Two other nonpartisan public polls released this week showed the race tied and Baldwin up by 9 points, a big shift from one month ago, when Thompson led in all public polling by a comfortable margin.”

Politico reported on Sep. 26 that, “Tommy Thompson’s polling advantage in the Wisconsin Senate race against Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin evaporated almost as suddenly as his home state Packers’ lead on Monday night.

“Thompson doesn’t have the replacement referees to blame. But he does, unlike the Packers, have time to turn things around. And the fundamentals of the race point to a much closer contest leading up to Election Day.”

Hotline on Call reported on Oct. 3 that, “Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., has a slight advantage over former Gov. Tommy Thompson in the Wisconsin Senate race, according to a Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday. Thompson was considered the favorite in the race following his GOP primary win in August, but several surveys released in the last three weeks have shown Baldwin tied or leading the former governor.

“Baldwin leads Thompson, 48 percent to 44 percent, among likely voters in the new poll.”

An update at the Pierce County Herald (Ellsworth, Wis.) Online (video included) reported on October 12 that, “The theme of the Spring Valley visit was obviously farming, as Baldwin received support from Wisconsin Farmers Unions President Darin Von Ruden.

“‘We need someone who will level the playing field when it comes to corporate farms versus family farms and that’s Tammy Baldwin,’ said Von Ruden.”

The Hill reported on October 14 that, “Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) sought to tie her Senate opponent, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), to entrenched special interests – and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan – during a candidate forum with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation Sunday morning.”

Roll Call reported on October 18 that, “If Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) ekes out a win in the Wisconsin Senate race, it might be because she closely copied the successful media strategy of the state’s conservative rock star,  Gov. Scott Walker.

“Baldwin built a huge media advantage last month, spending millions of dollars on attack ads to knock down former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), much to the consternation and befuddlement of Badger State Republicans. Now, with both the Senate and presidential races tightening, Thompson finds himself fighting to find enough time and airspace to catch up.”

Roll Call reported on October 18 that, “In a rarely used debate format, Wisconsin Senate candidates Tommy Thompson (R), a former governor, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) were permitted to directly spar with each other in unmoderated six-minute chunks on topics picked by voters.

“The result?

“The hourlong debate in Wausau played very much like an extended, spliced-together greatest hits video of Thompson and Baldwin campaign ads, an at times heated back-and-forth defined more by established talking points than off-the-cuff remarks. Given that predictability, and in a race that’s too close to call 19 days before Election Day, it’s unclear whether either candidate was able to sway the few remaining undecided voters in ways their media operations can’t.”

On October 20, the AP provided a “Q and A” for the Badger State U.S. Senate race in which the candidates responded to the following question: “What would you do to improve the state’s dairy industry?

Politico reported on October 23 that, “Yet, there’s evidence that Thompson’s more recent work in Washington has tarnished his sterling image back home. Thompson served as a senior partner at the Beltway lobbying powerhouse Akin Gump, making millions as a consultant on health care issues after serving as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush…But a deluge of Democratic TV ads portray the Thompson of 2012 as an influence-peddling sellout who bears little resemblance to the Thompson beloved by older Badger State voters…Thompson has since climbed his way back with ads focused on Baldwin’s liberal voting record. He has tagged the Madison-area congresswoman as a ‘radical‘ to the ideological left of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 25 that, “Now back in the fray of Wisconsin politics after 10 years in Washington, Mr. Thompson trails narrowly in his Senate race against Rep. Tammy Baldwin, one of the most liberal members of Congress. Pundits, pollsters and his fellow Republicans thought he’d win the contest handily, but Ms. Baldwin has outspent the former governor and succeeded in damaging the positive image he still had in the eyes of many Wisconsin voters.”


(UPDATED 11.1) *** Nebraska Senate: State Senator Deb Fischer (R) v. Bob Kerrey, the state’s former governor and two-term senator (D).  New York Times says leans GOPDon Walton reported on Sep. 20 at The Lincoln Journal Star Online that, “Republican Senate nominee Deb Fischer said Thursday she supports an effort to force a House vote on a new five-year farm bill that has been bottled up by GOP House leadership.

“‘I support the effort of Democrat and Republican House members to gather the petition signatures needed to force an up or down vote,’ Fischer said.”

“‘With the current farm bill soon set to expire, and our nation facing a record drought that has devastated this year’s crop yields and led to wildfires across the western U.S., immediate action is desperately needed,’ Fischer said.

“‘We must put America’s agriculture ahead of partisan politics.'”

The Hill reported on October 2 that, ” Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who’s trailing GOP rival Deb Fischer in their race for the state’s open Senate seat,  turned to his opponent’s denial of the human impact on global warming to gain some ground.

“The candidates met in their third debate on Monday, and Kerrey was the “clear aggressor,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.

“He aimed to sharpen his differences with Fischer, emphasizing their opposing stances on climate change: Kerrey says humans contribute to global warming; Fischer has questioned the idea.”

The Hill reported on Oct. 3 that, “Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) was at the top of the list when Democrats touted a recruiting class that would help them keep control of the Senate.

“But, months later, as other Senate candidates — including Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) and former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) in Arizona — have turned their races in Republican states into dogfights, Kerrey’s contest has faded into the background.

“A recent poll from the Omaha World-Herald had Kerrey trailing state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) by 16 points among likely voters.”

The AP reported on Oct. 8 that, “GOP U.S. Senate candidate Deb Fischer is promising to work with Democrats if elected, but she made her pledge at a news conference surrounded by an all-Republican group of lawmakers.”

The AP reported on October 26 that, “Democrats hoped Nebraska’s Senate race would be the story of Bob Kerrey’s political revival. Instead, the emergence of Republican Deb Fischer, a previously little-known state senator, has given Republicans their clearest shot at taking a U.S. Senate seat away from Democrats.”

However, the Omaha World-Herald reported on October 28 that, “As the heat rises in the Nebraska U.S. Senate campaign, the race has tightened. Democrat Bob Kerrey is now within striking distance of upsetting Republican Deb Fischer, according to The World-Herald Poll.

Kerrey trailed Fischer by only 3 percentage points in a statewide survey of 800 registered voters.

“He has closed the gap considerably from five weeks ago, when he was behind by 10 points among registered voters in a World-Herald Poll.”

Politico reported on October 29 that, “Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson endorsed the uphill Senate campaign of Democrat Bob Kerrey in Nebraska Monday, describing his former colleague as a friend and someone willing to ‘place the national interest ahead of the howling special interests’ in addressing the federal debt and entitlement reforms.”

The AP reported on October 31 that, “A Nebraska U.S. Senate race that once appeared headed for a blowout has gotten newfound attention with a frenzy of spending on political ads and some polls showing the race could be tightening.


*** Ohio Senate: Sen. Sherrod Brown, a first-term Democrat, Member of the Ag. Comm. v. Josh Mandel (R) the State Treasurer.  New York Times says leans Democrat.  Politico reported on Oct. 1 that, “As President Barack Obama has gained in Ohio polls, so has incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has now jumped out to a 10-point lead over GOP Senate candidate Josh Mandel, according to a poll released Monday.

“A survey from the Columbus Dispatch found Brown ahead of Mandel by a margin of 10 points, 49 percent to 39 percent. The last Dispatch poll, out Aug. 26, had the two candidates tied at 44 percent.”

Roll Call reported on October 18 that, “Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) were alternately feisty and condescending in a debate tonight in the state’s capital city.

“The two-term Senator defended his ‘pro-worker, pro-small business’ record, while Mandel accused Brown of “gobbledygook” and “Washington speak”  that requires an online translator.”

The update added that, “Their Senate race is one of the most competitive and closely watched in the country, especially given the focus the presidential campaigns have given the Buckeye State. Recent public polling shows Brown with a single-digit lead over Mandel. Roll Call rates the race as Leans Democratic  — a rating that has held for almost the entirety of this cycle.”

The Columbus Dispatch reported on October 19 that, “The second debate between Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel was already well on its way down a certain path.

“‘Senator, you are a liar,’ Mandel charged, about 20 minutes into the debate held at the Nationwide Center watched by a live audience of 225 and televised on WBNS-10TV.

“Brown, the 59-year-old first-term senator, had just said that the first-term state Treasurer Mandel ‘has fallen far short on the honesty and integrity quotient.’ Brown said Mandel placed personal aspirations to be a senator over fulfilling responsibilities as treasurer, and voted as a state legislator to protect the interest of campaign contributors.”

Politico reported on October 29 that, “Republicans have renewed optimism that a late surge by Senate candidate Josh Mandel could offer a Buckeye State surprise — and keep the party’s fading chances of winning the Senate alive…Make no mistake: Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown remains the favorite…But it’s also true that Mandel has closed on Brown in the final weeks, turning the race from a potential landslide into a single-digit affair.”

Politico reported on October 31 that, “Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, running for re-election in Ohio, is ahead of GOP challenger Josh Mandel by nine points in a poll released Wednesday.”


*** Connecticut Senate: Democratic Representative Christopher S. Murphy vs. Linda E. McMahon (R).  New York Times says leans DemocratBrian Lockhart reported on Oct. 2 at the News-Times Online (Danbury, Conn.) that, “It was 40 years ago, and only to purchase about a week’s worth of groceries. But Linda McMahon’s temporary reliance upon food stamps has the Republican candidate again distancing herself from the GOP’s conservative orthodoxy as she runs for a U.S. Senate seat in blue-state Connecticut.

“‘I can tell you in today’s economy, with so many people out of work, I would not support cuts to our food and nutrition programs‘ McMahon told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers on Tuesday.”

The article noted that, “Most recently, the Republican-run House of Representatives was unable to pass a farm bill, in part because of divisions between moderates and conservatives over how deeply to cut food stamp spending.”

An update posted on October 12 at Roll Call Online reported that, “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is making an additional $650,000 purchase of Connecticut advertising time in support of Rep. Christopher Murphy’s (D) open-seat Senate race against former WWE CEO Linda McMahon (R).

“The new buy lasts from Oct. 16 through Oct. 22 and will be on broadcast and cable. This builds on the DSCC’s independent expenditure arm’s previous $2.1 million investment in this race, according to a source who tracks Connecticut Senate media buys. Also per this source, the Democratic group Majority PAC has spent $1.1 million.

“The ad spending in this race is unlike any other Senate race in the country. Because McMahon is able to self-fund her television advertising to levels that include saturating the expensive New York City media market that covers a significant portion of the Nutmeg State, national Republicans are on the offense here without having to invest a dime.”

The Hill reported on October 17 that, “The Connecticut Senate race remains in a statistical dead-heat, with Rep. Chris Murphy (D) leading Republican Linda McMahon by only two points in a new poll.

“Murphy has 46 percent support to McMahon’s 44 percent support in the Siena poll, with 8 percent of likely voters still undecided. McMahon has stronger crossover appeal, taking 21 percent of Democrats to Murphy’s 12 percent of Republicans.”


Budget Issues: Sequester, Fiscal Cliff; the Farm Bill; Biofuels; and Trade

Categories: Budget /Farm Bill

Suzy Khimm reported on Friday at the Wonk Blog (Washington Post) that, “The White House has released its plan explaining how the sequester’s mandatory spending cuts to defense and domestic spending will be implemented in 2013.”

The update explained that the sequester is “a package of automatic spending cuts that’s part of the Budget Control Act (BCA), which was passed in August 2011. The cuts, which are projected to total $1.2 trillion, are scheduled to begin in 2013 and end in 2021, evenly divided over the nine-year period. The cuts are also evenly split between defense spending — with spending on wars exempt — and discretionary domestic spending, which exempts most spending on entitlements like Social Security and Medicaid, as the Bipartisan Policy Center explains. The total cuts for 2013 will be $109 billion, according to the new White House report.

“Under the BCA, the cuts were triggered to take effect beginning Jan. 1 if the supercommittee didn’t to agree to a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package by Nov. 23, 2011. The group failed to reach a deal, so the sequester was triggered.”