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Vulnerable Dems are running against Washington – and her party

NEW YORK – Just like vulnerable Democrats in other states, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto runs against Washington.

The Nevada Democrat, who is nearing the end of her first six-year term, ignores the fact that her party controls both houses of Congress and the White House as she explains the reasons for her candidacy.

“I’m running for re-election because you deserve a senator who will break the deadlock and dysfunction in Washington and bring real results to your family,” Cortez Masto says on her campaign website. “I will work with everyone — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — to help Nevada’s families thrive.”

Cortez Masto, who will easily win her party’s nomination for another term on Tuesday, is far from alone.

Many of the country’s most vulnerable Democrats are actively seeking to distance themselves from Washington — and her party. In response to the deep frustration of voters who will decide their fate in November, Democratic candidates in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Hampshire are railing against the institutions that have run their party for the past 16 months.

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Given the political climate Democrats face in 2022, this strategy is born of necessity: President Joe Biden remains deeply unpopular and an overwhelming majority of US adults believe the country is moving in the wrong direction. The Democrats, who control Congress, have failed to deliver on key campaign promises, and perhaps most worryingly, the cost of basic commodities like food and gasoline are skyrocketing under their watch. The nationwide average price of a gallon of gasoline over $5 for the first time always on the weekend.

Privately, the Democrats admit they are trying to strike a delicate balance. Part of the deadlock on Capitol Hill is a result of divisions within its own ranks.

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Two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have spoken out against key elements of Biden’s agenda. At a Democratic fundraiser in California last week Biden acknowledged thistelling donors he needs “two more senators” to essentially overcome that resistance.

Basically, Republicans are doing everything they can to undermine Democrats’ plans — in terms of politics and politics. Senate Republicans have blocked Democratic legislation to address concerns about the economy, healthcare, climate change, gun violence and voting rights on almost every corner. The GOP also devotes tremendous resources to subverting the Democrats’ political message.

five months before election day, the Republican campaign arm of the Senate backed by allied outside groups, has begun launching a nationwide publicity campaign targeting Democrats in key states. The barrage of ads comes months before the GOP typically releases its first major wave of television ads.

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Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said his organization started spending early “to make sure voters know that Senate Democrats are supporting Joe Biden and his inflationary, the Supported border crisis raising gas prices – almost 100% of the time making agendas.”

From early May through the end of this week, spending reports from The Associated Press show that the NRSC and allied nonprofit One Nation spent a combined nearly $3.7 million on television advertising to undermine Arizona Senator Mark Kelly; an additional $3.3 million against Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock; $1.5 million against Lt. gov. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, the Democratic Senate nominee; $958,000 against Maggie Hassan, Senator from New Hampshire; and $5.6 million for shaping the Wisconsin Senate contest, which will not select its Democratic nominee until August 9.

The Republican groups have yet to run any attack ads against Cortez Masto, but they have accumulated over $4.9 million in television reserves to run through the end of August.

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Wisconsin has emerged as a top target months before Democrats will decide which candidate to run against two-term Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

In an interview, Lt. gov. Mandela Barnes, a leading Democrat in the running, described the Democratic Party-controlled Senate as an “out-of-touch millionaires club.” He insisted he would not run against his party, although he had nothing positive to say about Biden when asked to rate the Democratic president’s job performance.

“To be honest, voters are frustrated by a lack of action from people on both sides of the aisle. I agree with them. I’m frustrated too,” Barnes said. “To change Washington, we must change the people we send there.”

Similarly in Pennsylvania, Fetterman published the opening ads of his campaign last week just days after his party’s nomination.

“The big guy is running for the Senate to take on Washington,” the narrator says in one of the new ads about Fetterman, who is 6ft 9 inches tall. Fetterman’s message is even sharper in the other TV commercial: “Washington, DC, has been attacking cities like this for years,” says the narrator. “We need help. They’re just talking.”

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And while running against Washington may be somewhat easy for candidates like Fetterman and Barnes, who have never served in Congress, incumbent Democrats in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire may have a more difficult task.

In New Hampshire, Hassan is urging voters to send her back to Washington, where she served for nearly six years. She is expected to face a challenging general election, even as Republicans struggle to rally behind a high-profile challenger.

In recent weeks, Hassan has condemned the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and its policies on the US-Mexico border. And in one of the first television spots of her campaign, Hassan said she was urging other Democrats in Congress to do more to lower the price of gas.

“I’m recruiting members of my own party to push for a gas tax holiday and I’m urging Joe Biden to release more of our oil reserves,” Hassan said in an ad titled Relief.

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Democratic strategists suspect that most of the party’s leading candidates have had personal hallmarks for years that would allow them to overcome concerns about their party’s leadership in Washington. In fact, Cortez Masto is a former Nevada Attorney General and Hassan is a former New Hampshire Governor.

“The Democratic Senate candidates who go through this cycle really have their own identity, their own track record in their states,” said David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “And because of that, they have a deep source of support and popularity in their states that goes beyond the national party brand.”

To differentiate themselves from their national party brand, Democrats in key states are hoping to keep their focus on hyper-local issues rather than making November’s election a referendum on which party controls Washington. History suggests it will be a difficult task.

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Cortez Masto is focused on what she has accomplished for the people of Nevada rather than Washington’s dysfunction, campaign spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank said.

“Sen. Cortez Masto took on the chaos of the pandemic in Nevada and provided the federal support needed to bring the unemployment rate down from 30% to pre-pandemic levels, and now she’s leading the fight to do it with the big oil companies who are pressuring Nevada residents,” he said. “Your opponent bases his entire campaign on Trump’s big lie and has made millions at a firm representing the same corporations, which is a contrast we welcome.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/13/vulnerable-dems-run-against-washington-and-their-party/ Vulnerable Dems are running against Washington – and her party

Sarah Y. Kim

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