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Jul 192013

Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images(CHENYENNE, Wyo.) — This week Liz Cheney started her Wyoming Senate bid with what some might consider an insult. Cheney, a Republican, called her GOP rival, Sen. Mike Enzi, “just confused” at her very first campaign event.

She was referring to Enzi’s contention that she had promised him not to run if he did.

An obviously surprised Enzi said after her announcement Tuesday, “I thought we were friends.”

The dig is a clear hit at his age: Enzi is 69 while Cheney is 46. But in a Republican vs. Republican match-up, is it the right move to go mean at the starting line?

Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist with family ties in the state, says it’s the wrong move.

“Going after him and tearing him down will actually splash mud back onto Liz Cheney,” Bonjean said in an interview with ABC News. “It’s bad form and it’s bad politics in a state like Wyoming to go after a senator with high approval ratings in a way that is tearing him down.”

Bonjean added, “You want to engage the hug-the-opposition strategy.”

By that, Bonjean means Cheney should have employed what some have called the “gold watch strategy,” praising your fellow Republican and hoping they get the hint and move on to greener pastures.

Bonjean says she should have said something more like this, “‘We love Senator Enzi, he’s done a great job, but it’s time for a new chapter. We appreciate his leadership and thank him for it, but it’s time for him to move along so that there can be new leadership for the new problems we are facing.’”

Cheney’s opening salvo was a sudden departure from her announcement video in which she did not specifically mention Enzi at all. Instead her main focus was on the president and how she would be a strong voice of opposition. She did manage a veiled shot at Enzi and his reputation for negotiating, saying, “Instead of cutting deals with the president’s liberal allies, we should be opposing them every step of the way.”

James King, chairman of the political science department at the University of Wyoming, pointed out that since Cheney is not challenging someone who is an “unpopular incumbent,” she does need to “do something to distinguish herself” and that’s exactly what she’s doing.

“She has to make a contrast somehow and obviously she has decided on age and thinking that Wyoming wants someone more confrontational with the Obama administration,” King said.

Cheney’s attempt to point out the generational differences is not without precedent. Newark mayor Cory Booker announced his decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey before the 89-year-old Frank Lautenberg had announced his own intentions.

The move didn’t immediately push Lautenberg out, but it did anger him. He told reporters that Booker deserved a “spanking” for his behavior. Lautenberg did eventually announce plans to retire and then in June passed away. Those hard feelings didn’t go away; his family backed Democratic rival Rep. Frank Pallone earlier this month.

Other candidates have found different ways to try and nudge older incumbents out of a race. In 1996, Slate reported that Strom Thurmond’s GOP Senate primary challenger in South Carolina, Elliot Close, aired an ad called “Legacy,” praising the 95-year-old senator and aiming to give voters permission to vote Thurmond out in favor of a younger candidate. It didn’t work, and Thurmond won.

Almost as soon as Cheney announced her intentions on Tuesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee made it clear it would be backing Enzi, supporting the incumbent as it traditionally does and noting it would provide back up to Enzi if necessary.

Brian Walsh, former spokesperson for the NRSC and current GOP strategist, said Cheney has to be “very careful” when it comes to criticizing Enzi and using “code words” as she did this week.

“You have to be careful, especially in a small state where everyone knows each other,” Walsh said. “Senator Enzi is still well-liked in Wyoming, and in a small state if the vast majority of voters have met and feel like they know him, it becomes much more personal.”

Wyoming is the least populous state in the nation with about 576,000 residents. According to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, as of this month there are 166,643 Republicans and 53,301 Democrats in the state; 36,491 voters are registered as unaffiliated or as Libertarian or Constitution Party members.

Wyoming also allows voters to change their party registration on Election Day, which would allow Democrats to cross over and vote for Enzi, possibly just to be able to vote against a member of the Cheney family.

Cheney, with the help of her famous father, will no doubt be a formidable fundraiser, a potential problem for Enzi who has admitted his weakness raising money. In the three previous races, where he has sailed to victory, he has only spent a total of $4.2 million.

But, in a state so spread out, with such small urban centers, money isn’t everything and the University of Wyoming’s King warned that blanketing the airwaves runs the risk of alienating voters or “overexposure.”

“There is that risk if you become consistently and frequently negative you create in essence a sympathy vote,” King said. “You can’t go about advertising with a lot of money in Wyoming the same way you would in a lot of states.”

Cheney moved to Wyoming last year and has been making the rounds at GOP dinners and fundraisers. Her father was the state’s at-large congressman and her family has called the state home for generations, but she has spent most of her adulthood in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. She was clearly hoping with her movements in the state and now with her candidacy that it would be enough to push Enzi into retirement.

But, it doesn’t look as if Enzi will go quietly. Thursday he released a statement saying in clear terms that he intends to run for reelection.

“Wyoming people don’t like long campaigns,” Enzi said foreshadowing what is likely to be a bloody GOP primary fight. “When the time comes, I am confident the people of Wyoming will vote for my results, dedication, legislative experience and hard work for the state.”

He also thanked supporters for the “many calls and emails my family and I have received in the last few days.”

“So many people are telling us they remain committed to me and will do whatever they can to see that I can continue to faithfully represent them,” he wrote, adding that he will “continue to do what is right,” which includes treating “others as they expect to be treated.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 142013

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Nearly a decade ago, the nuclear tables were turned in the Senate when the two leaders at the center of this month’s squabble over the so-called “nuclear option” sang entirely different tunes on the filibuster.

In 2005, then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” against Democrats filibustering President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was then a part of the majority leadership, was one of the Republicans hoping to stop the minority’s use of the filibuster over judicial nominees. Then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, defended his party’s tactics and fought to prevent Republicans from changing the rules.

Democrats and Republicans eventually worked out a deal, saving the Senate from complete nuclear meltdown for the time being, but eight years later, the two leaders have reversed their positions on the nuclear option.

So this time around, as Reid readies the nukes in the Senate and McConnell is arming his own troops for retaliation, here is a comparison of each leader’s statements on the nuclear option between the fight in 2005 and now. Times may change, but in Washington, it seems that hypocrisy is forever.

Harry Reid Then
“If there were ever an example of an abuse of power, this is it… The filibuster is the last check we have against the abuse of power in Washington.” – Harry Reid 2005

“Republicans are in power today, Democrats tomorrow. A simple majority can change anything. Mr. President, this is the way it should be. You should not be able to come in here and change willy-nilly a rule of the Senate.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

“I just couldn’t believe that Bill Frist was going to do this. The storm had been gathering all year, and word from conservative columnists and in conservative circles was that Senator Frist of Tennessee, who was the Majority Leader, had decided to pursue a rules change that would kill the filibuster for judicial nominations. And once you opened that Pandora’s box, it was just a matter of time before a Senate leader who couldn’t get his way on something moved to eliminate the filibuster for regular business as well. And that, simply put, would be the end of the United States Senate.” – Harry Reid in his 2008 book The Good Fight

“As long as I am the leader, the answer’s no. I think we should just forget that. That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate. I hope we never ever get to that again because I really do believe it will ruin our country.” – Harry Reid on nuclear option, C-SPAN interview, Sept. 12, 2008

Harry Reid Now
“I’m going to go to the floor on Tuesday and do what I need to do so this doesn’t happen anymore.” – Harry Reid in news conference on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013

“A consistent and unprecedented obstruction by this Republican Congress has turned advise and consent into deny and obstruct. Republicanism obstruction is to deny President Obama the ability to choose a team. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or independent, we should all be able to agree that presidents deserve the team members they want, and their nomination be subject to simple up-or-down votes.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“The American people know this dysfunction we have here. And all we’re asking is, let the president have his team. We’re not talking about changing the filibuster rules that relates to nominations or judges. We’re saying we shouldn’t be held up — we have 15 nominees who have been held up for an average of nine months. Does the place need to be changed? Yes.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

Mitch McConnell Then
“The majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedence to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It’s time to move away from … advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 19, 2005

“This is not the first time a minority of senators has upset a Senate tradition or practice, and the current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done–use its constitutional authority under article I, section 5, to reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote. Despite the incredulous protestations of our Democratic colleagues, the Senate has repeatedly adjusted its rules as circumstances dictate.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

“The time has come to change the rules. I want to change them in an orderly fashion. I want a time agreement. But, barring that, if I have to be forced into a corner to try for majority vote I will do it because I am going to do my duty as I see my duty, whether I win or lose…. If we can only change an abominable rule by majority vote, that is in the interests of the Senate and in the interests of the nation that the majority must work its will. And it will work its will.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

Mitch McConnell Now
“It would be naive to assume that you could break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules for the Senate only for nominations, that there would be a widespread clamor across our conference, were we to be in the majority, to take that precedent and apply it to everything else…. As Harry Reid, as Lamar pointed out in his book in 2007, using the nuclear option is the end of the Senate — I repeat, the end of the Senate. It turns the Senate into the House.” – Mitch McConnell in news conference on Capitol Hill, June 18, 2013

“This is about trying to come up with excuses to break our commitments. What this is about is manufacturing a pretext for a power grab.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“They’re willing to irreparably damage the Senate to ensure that they get their way.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“That would violate every protection of minority rights that have defined the United States Senate for as long as anyone can remember. Let me assure you, this Pandora’s box, once opened, will be utilized again and again by future majorities. And it will make the meaningful consensus-building that has served our nation so well a relic — a relic of the past.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 092013

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence committees defended the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs revealed last week, saying that the programs are “within the law” and have been critical in thwarting potential terrorist attacks.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on This Week Sunday that the NSA phone surveillance program revealed in reports last week is limited in scope to viewing phone records, not listening to private conversations, while reiterating that court orders are required for further information.

“The program is essentially walled off within the NSA. There are limited numbers of people who have access to it,” Feinstein said on This Week. “The only thing taken, as has been correctly expressed, is not content of a conversation, but the information that is generally on your telephone bill, which has been held not to be private personal property by the Supreme Court. If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those numbers then can be obtained. If you want to collect content on the American, then a court order is issued.”

“The National Security Agency does not listen to Americans’ phone calls and it is not reading Americans’ e-mails. None of these programs allow that,” added Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Both Feinstein and Rogers said that the phone and internet surveillance programs has been instrumental in stopping terrorist attacks, citing the 2009 terror plot by Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado resident who was arrested in Sept. 2009 after plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Feinstein said the program also helped to track the case of David Headley, a Pakistani-American who traveled to Mumbai to scope the Taj Mahal Hotel for an attack.

“I can tell you, in the Zazi case in New York, it’s exactly the program that was used,” Rogers said, later adding, “I think the Zazi case is so important, because that’s one you can specifically show that this was the key piece that allowed us to stop a bombing in the New York subway system.”

Feinstein said the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still loom in her mind, and that strong intelligence from the type of surveillance conducted by the NSA is needed to prevent future attacks.

“I flew over World Trade Center going to Senator [Frank] Lautenberg’s funeral, and in the distance was the Statue of Liberty. And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building, hitting the canopy,” Feinstein said. “Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe. Human intelligence isn’t going to do it, because you can’t – it’s a different culture. It is a fanaticism that isn’t going to come forward.”

Feinstein said she would be open to public hearings on the surveillance programs, and said that the Senate Intelligence Committee has made information on the programs available to all senators. But she noted the difficulty of being fully public without disclosing classified information.

“The instances where this has produced good – has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks – is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this,” Feinstein said. “So that we can’t actually go in there and, other than the two that have been released, give the public an actual idea of people that have been saved, attacks that have been prevented, that kind of thing.”

“If you tell our adversaries and enemies in the counterterrorism fight exactly how we conduct business, they are not going to do business the same ever again,” Rogers added. “It makes it more difficult.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who has raised warnings about the domestic surveillance methods in recent years, said he hopes the released information will spark debate over the NSA’s methods, and will lead to re-opening the Patriot Act to limit the NSA’s abilities.

“I think it’s an opportunity now to have a discussion about the limits of surveillance, how we create transparency, and above all, how we protect Americans’ privacy,” Udall said this morning on This Week. “My main concern is Americans don’t know the extent to which they are being surveilled… I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security Administration is collecting.”

Udall said he did not believe the right balance is being struck currently between privacy and security.

“We do need to remember, we’re in a war against terrorists, and terrorism remains a real threat, but I also think we have to cue to the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unlawful searches and seizures, ought to be important to us,” Udall said. “It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here. That is what I’m aiming for.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 092013

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said Sunday that she will support the immigration reform bill drafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” arguing that the legislation provides a “tough but fair way” for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship.

“This is a thoughtful bipartisan solution to a tough problem, and so that’s why I’m going to support it,” Ayotte said on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday.

Ayotte’s support adds to the small tally of Republicans currently promoting the bill, including the four Republican senators in the “Gang of Eight.” However, one of the bipartisan group’s members, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has threatened to vote against the bill unless it includes tougher border security provisions.

In an interview on Univision’s Al Punto, Rubio argued that strengthening the border security measures would help “earn our colleagues’ trust” and predicted that his group will find enough votes to exceed the 60 required to prevent a filibuster.

“We’ll have a lot more than 60 votes, but we’re going to have to work at it,” Rubio told Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas in an interview that aired Sunday on Al Punto.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Sunday that he is “willing to compromise” on the immigration plan if it includes changes like tougher border measures, and the Kentucky senator suggested he could serve as a “conduit” to House conservatives who currently disagree with the plan proposed in the Senate.

“I am the conduit between conservatives in the House who don’t want a lot of these things and more moderate people in the Senate who do want these things. I want to make the bill work, but see, the thing is, is what they have in the Senate has zero chance of passing in the House.” Paul said on FOX News Sunday. “I’m really trying to make immigration work, but they’re going to have to come to me, and they’re going to have to work with me to make the bill stronger if they want me to vote for it.”

Formal debate on the bill started in the Senate on Friday and is expected to continue through the week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 082013

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images(TRENTON, N.J.) — Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced on Saturday that he will seek the Senate seat made vacant when Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., died earlier this week.

“I’m here today to officially announce my candidacy to be New Jersey’s next United States senator,” Booker said in a news conference. “Democracy is not a spectator sport, but now as much as in any time, we must bring people together. We must actually get into the complicated difficult messy arena and take on the difficult challenges, work in uncommon ways with conviction and courage.”

Booker, who has served as mayor of Newark for seven years, praised Lautenberg for his service and leadership in New Jersey and the Senate.

“As a senator and as a citizen, he has been one of the most impactful New Jerseyans. He was truly a giant in the United States Senate. He was a giant for our state and a giant for our nation from his service in World War II to his assiduous work and advocacy in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “Generations yet unborn will feel the impact of his leadership and contributions.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set the date for the special election to fill Lautenberg’s seat for Oct. 16, three weeks before Christie faces re-election himself. On Thursday, Christie appointed state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, a Republican, as interim senator, but Chiesa does not plan on running in the special election this year. The Democratic primary for the seat will be held in August.

Booker, 44, is well known for his heroic acts as well as for his active Twitter account. He said on Saturday he’s often been criticized for his tweeting, but that will not deter him.

“Too much Twitter from the mayor, too much exposure — there is not a criticism I haven’t heard over the years. I’ve heard it all but, there’s one thing that everyone has to admit about my life as a professional,” he said. “I do not run from challenges. I run towards them.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio