Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is working hard to elect more Republicans to the Senate and hasnt ruled out personally targeting incumbent Democrats. But one stop not on his midterm itinerary is Nevada, home to politically vulnerable Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The Kentucky Republican has traveled extensively to campaign and raise money for GOP candidates and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, with plans to accelerate those efforts as Nov. 2 approaches. But while McConnell has left open the option of campaigning directly against incumbent Democratic Senators, even traveling to their home states to do so, targeting Reid is off the table.
Everything else is in play, one Republican source said, including a visit to Washington state to campaign against Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, if Dino Rossi, the likely GOP nominee in that race, were to request McConnells presence.
In a brief interview recently, McConnell said growing the ranks of Republican Senators is among his top priorities.
Ive been doing a lot of [campaigning] already, McConnell said. Its a very high agenda item. We would like to improve our numbers, and Im certainly going to use every bit of spare time I can muster to try to bring that about.
McConnell, a former two-term NRSC chairman, has been active on the campaign front. He plans to contribute the maximum allowed to every Republican Senate nominee, and he has attended roughly 30 fundraising events for the NRSC, second only to Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) among GOP Senators. More than half of those events were held outside of Washington, D.C., in at least a dozen states.
McConnell travels regularly to New York to fundraise and has donated generously through his political action committee. He joined Cornyn both in Bismarck, N.D., for Gov. John Hoevens declaration that he would run for Senate and in San Antonio for Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchisons announcement that she would remain in the Senate through 2012 rather than resign before her term is up.
Mitch has indicated that he cant think of anything more important, beyond his family, than helping us grow our numbers in November, Cornyn said. Hes been very active traveling around the country and working with me to recruit candidates and get the resources we need to win.
Hes been terrific, added Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is serving as NRSC vice chairman for the second consecutive election cycle. Hes raised a lot of money. Hes gone multiple places, time after time. I know how hard that is.
However, McConnell will not campaign against Reid, according to GOP sources, despite the fact that the Majority Leader is among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents on the ballot this year.
McConnells decision, which follows Reids move to avoid directly attacking the Minority Leader during his somewhat competitive 2008 re-election bid, is an unspoken deal between the two Senators to return some of the decorum lost in the chamber in 2004. That year, then-
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) traveled to South Dakota to campaign against then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a deviation from tradition that rankled even many Republicans who were otherwise happy to see Daschle ousted.
McConnells view is that we can have the most aggressive opposition possible. But at the end of the day, the Senate has to run, the Republican source said. To do that, the two leaders need to have a relationship.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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