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Daniel Strauss

Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Daniel

It's already a bad year for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) according to Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes (D), who is running against the top Senate Republican.

A spokeswoman noted that in the first three days of 2014, McConnell was passed up for an endorsement by a local GOP county chairman and news broke that the Senate Conservatives Fund spent about $1 million to boost Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin.

Read the Grimes campaign statement, per spokeswoman Charly Norton, below:

Less than 72 hours into the New Year, Mitch McConnell’s campaign has already managed to stumble out of the gate. McConnell lost significant ground with Kentucky Republicans, as the Daviess County GOP Chair refused to back the 30-year incumbent over Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin. In yet another sign of Senator Gridlock’s horrible start to 2014, the Senate Conservatives Fund announced spending $1 million to date to unseat McConnell. Senator Gridlock’s failure to connect with Kentuckians underscores the Commonwealth’s overwhelming desire for a new senator in the New Year.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) stressed Friday that he did not endorse Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for reelection in a recently aired conservative ad.

"To be clear, I haven't endorsed Lindsey Graham for Senate," Huckabee said in a statement on his HuckPac.com.

Huckabee's statement came a few days after a conservative outside group, the South Carolina Conservative Action Alliance, aired an ad featuring the former Arkansas governor praising Graham's stance on Israel. The ad was interpreted in some circles as an endorsement from Huckabee. Graham is up for re-election this year but has attracted a handful of primary challengers. The ad was taped in 2013 but did not air until Wednesday during the Capitol One Bowl in South Carolina.

"Last year, I voiced an ad thanking him for support of Israel," Huckabee continued in the statement. "It was not an endorsement for his reelection. In fact, I don't plan to endorse anyone in SC Senate race in the primary but I will certainly help in the general election if asked."

The chairman of the SCCAA, David Wilkins, said that the ad was never meant to serve as a vessel for an endorsement by Huckabee.

"That was not the intention. We agree with Governor Huckabee that this was not an endorsement," Wilkins said in an email to TPM.

In the ad Huckabee described Graham as a "leader in South Carolina who knows what it takes to win."

"He demands answers on Benghazi, backs our allies in Israel, and he fights for a strong national defense," Huckabee said in the ad. "Call Lindsey Graham and thank him for being a conservative champion for peace through strength."

Watch the ad below:

A conservative candidate running against Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Republican primary argued that his decision to fight his domestic violence conviction in court showed his integrity.

The candidate, Erick Bennett, a consultant in Portland who worked on the anti-marriage equality push in 2012, made the argument Monday at a press conference. He discussed his Senate campaign, his time serving for Maine Gov. Paul LePage's (R) campaign in 2010 and his domestic violence conviction.

"The fact that I have been jailed repeatedly for not agreeing to admit to something I didn’t do should speak to the fact of how much guts and integrity I have," Bennett said. "I've noticed some people questioning that."

In 2003 Bennett was convicted of attacking his then-wife. A district court convicted him of Class D Assault. Bennett fought the conviction but in 2004 a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the lower court "sufficient evidence does exist in the record to support his conviction," according to the Bangor Daily News. At the press conference Bennett stressed his innocence.

Bennett went on to say that that his time in jail demonstrates how much character he has.

"If I go to D.C., I'm going to have that same integrity in doing what I say, and saying what I do, when it comes to protecting people's rights, as well as their pocketbooks," Bennett continued, according to the Daily News.

(Photo credit: Facebook)

(H/t: Slate)

There's something puzzling about the first campaign ad by House Speaker Thom Tillis' (R-NC), who is challenging Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).

The ad features Tillis bashing Obamacare while simultaneously wearing a pin of an autism advocacy group that highlighted the benefits of the new law, like prohibiting coverage denial for a pre-existing condition, which autism has sometimes been classified as.

"Obamacare is a disaster but the president won't admit it," Tillis said in the ad, which he released Thursday, while wearing a puzzle piece-shaped pin that is a symbol for Autism Speaks, which supports autism research and awareness.

"The debt's out of control and neither party has stopped it," Tillis continued. "Kay Hagan enabled President Obama's worst ideas. She refused to clean up his mess. So you and I have to clean up hers."

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The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) has already invested nearly $1 million of its $2 million haul in Matt Bevin, the Republican challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the Senate primary.

The group announced Friday that it had reached its goal of raising $2 million to boost its preferred Senate candidates. Of that $2 million, $985,994 went to Bevin. Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-KY) got the most money next with $515, 993. McDaniel is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS).

SCF has continuously attacked McConnell during even the earliest days of the 2014 election cycle. McConnell hasn't taken those attacks lying down. In November the top Senate Republican said SCF gives conservatism "a bad name."

Here's the breakdown of how much each SCF endorsed candidate got:

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) has a message for the GOP: the party can retake the Senate but only if there are no "foolish" moments.

In an interview with The Hill, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) ally and often proxy for the Speaker of the House predicted that Senate Republicans could pick up the six seats needed to retake control of the Senate. He cautioned though that Republicans have to "make sure that we don't do something foolish" that could endanger their chances.

The comment by Cole likely alludes to former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) whose bid against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) largely collapsed after he said the female body has ways of shutting down a pregnancy if it is the result of "legitimate rape."

In the early days of the 2014 midterm election cycle the GOP has already taken steps to prevent a repeat of a Todd Akin moment. The National Republican Congressional Committee held meetings with aides to incumbent House Republicans to teach them about "messaging against women opponents."

Democrat Alex Sink has far out-fundraised her Republican opponents in the special election for the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young's (R-FL) congressional seat.

Sink, the former Florida gubernatorial candidate, raised $1.1 million so far in the special election. Of that haul she has $1 million cash on hand, more than the Republicans also running in the seat, according to The Washington Post on Thursday.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-FL) announced raising just $170,000 with $18,000 cash on hand. Republican David Jolly said he raised $338,000 with $142,000 cash on hand.

In 2010 Sink narrowly lost the governor's race to now-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).

A Republican super PAC has raised over $1 million toward boosting a possible Republican primary challenger to Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession last year.

The Values are Vital super PAC has received a $525,000 donation from Ronald Firman, a retiree from Florida and the group's treasurer, and $485,000 from Las Vegas attorney Martin Burns, according to Bloomberg News. The group's goal is to replace Radel with Florida state Rep. Paige Kreegel (R).

Anthony Farhat, the chairman of the super PAC, said that the group's aim is not to defeat Radel over his cocaine plea, but said Radel "created his own demise."

"I'm just trying to do what I can as a business owner in this district…I'm trying to say 'Hey, I don't want to see our district continue to make mistakes,'" Farhat said according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Kreegel previously ran in the 2012 Republican primary against Radel. He has not said whether he plans to challenge Radel again.

Radel has been in rehab since his plea before the D.C. Superior Court and plans to return to Capitol Hill early next week.

Updated: January 2, 2013, 3:48 PM.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is getting a primary challenger.

Ohio Tea Party leader Ted Stevenot plans to announce his candidacy for governor on Jan. 7. Stevenot's decision to challenge Kasich follows the Ohio governor promoting the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare in Ohio. Stevenot has strongly criticized Kasich for highlighting the expansion.

Stevenot is the former president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, a tea party group in the state. According to an announcement on the coalition's website, Stevenot will announce his candidacy on Jan. 7 at a press conference where he will also introduce his running mate, Brenda L. Mack, who served as the president of the Ohio Black Republicans Association.

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The Democrats targeted by the conservative Americans for Prosperity with a new major ad buy are slamming the new ads as "grossly misleading" and "lies" that misrepresent their positions.

On Thursday AFP, the Koch brothers-backed group, announced that it would spend $2.5 million on a round of ads attacking Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on Obamacare. The ads featured the three senators saying that Americans would be able to keep their old insurance plans if they liked it under the new healthcare law. But, the Democrats shot back, the ads take their words out of context. Both the Hagan campaign and Landrieu campaign noted that those two Democratic senators have strongly criticized parts of the healthcare law. Landrieu and Hagan both supported legislation that makes insurers offer the option of letting people keep their old policies permanently.

"A new year and a new smear from a Koch-brothers backed group that has no accountability to North Carolinians, takes secret, undisclosed cash and has a record of airing ads that fact checkers call ‘false,’" Hagan campaign communications director Sadie Weiner said in a statement on Thursday.

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