Hill leaders emerge as niche players in national campaign

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At the top of their roosts in Washington, leaders of Congress are, as usual, turning out to be niche players on the national campaign stage.

The Senate’s top two leaders, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are tending to home-state politics.

Not so in the House, where Republican Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California are crisscrossing the country, siphoning every last dollar of campaign cash they can find to help win House seats.

More junior House and Senate leaders are out campaigning and raising money as well — not just to win this year’s races, but to shore up rank-and-file support for when it’s their turn to run for the top jobs on Capitol Hill.

For Mr. Reid, all politics is local. For the most part, he’s staying in Nevada, where he is at the helm of a powerhouse political machine that’s fully cranked up on behalf of President Obama. Nevada is a crucial swing state and one that Mr. Obama increasingly needs to hold as polls show states such as North Carolina and Florida slipping away.

Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California is traveling across the country in hopes of winning House seats for her party. (Associated Press)

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Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California is traveling across the country ... more >

On top of his efforts to help Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid is working hard to unseat Sen. Dean Heller, a fellow Nevadan, who was appointed to replace Republican Sen. John Ensign. Mr. Ensign resigned last year after a scathing report from the Senate Ethics Committee on his efforts to cover up an affair with the wife of a top aide.

Mr. Reid had a nonaggression pact with Mr. Ensign — they promised to not campaign against each other — but he’s been very active in promoting the Senate candidacy of Rep. Shelley Berkeley and the campaign of Democrat Steven Horsford in a newly drawn House district.

Mr. Reid’s appeal doesn’t extend outside Nevada, however. Republicans and groups supporting them are vilifying him in speeches, debates and attack ads on Democrats in Senate races around the country.

Mr. Boehner, on the other hand, is anything but a homebody. Since the House recessed Sept. 21, he’s been on the road nonstop, raising money, rallying Republican volunteers and appearing at rallies for presidential nominee Mitt Romney in such states as Iowa and North Carolina.

Confident that most Republican incumbents are safe, for instance, Mr. Boehner is now taking the fight to Democratic-held districts, including a trip to Iowa this week for a fundraiser for House candidate Ben Lange, who nonetheless faces an uphill battle to unseat Democratic Rep. Bruce L. Braley.

Boehner political aide Corey Fritz says the speaker’s schedule might allow for a night or two to sleep in his own bed in West Chester, Ohio, before heading out for a traditional three-day bus tour of Ohio. On Election Day he’ll vote, then head to Washington to watch the results in his political shop.

Mrs. Pelosi has been just as busy as Mr. Boehner, working as a powerhouse fundraiser. On Tuesday, she will be in New York City for a fundraiser to benefit a Democratic super PAC called the House Majority PAC. The event at the Park Avenue apartment of investment banker Charles Myers has a minimum donation of $500, though guests can give unlimited amounts.

Her office said that in September, Mrs. Pelosi attended 77 fundraising and campaign events in five states and Washington that raised more than $7 million for Democratic coffers. In the five weeks leading to the election, 65 fundraising and campaign appearances were on her schedule.

Mr. McConnell, himself a hand-over-fist fundraiser, has mixed travel across the country to raise campaign cash for Senate Republicans with time back home in Kentucky helping Republican efforts to wrench the state House from Democratic control and unseat one of the state’s two Democratic congressmen, Ben Chandler.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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