Washington (CNN) - Former Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan, who has maintained a very low profile since losing his re-election bid to Michael Steele last year, has re-emerged as a top advisor to a new Republican effort to pick up state legislative seats in this year's midterm elections.
The effort - REDistricting MAjority Project, or REDMAP - is a program of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which also works to elect Republicans to state legislatures and down-ballot offices like Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State.
The RSLC recently added another former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie, as its chairman. REDMAP's goal is to boost GOP majorities in state legislatures around the country, which will play a crucial role in the 2011 redistricting process.
Duncan is one of four new senior advisers to REDMAP. The others are former Tennessee Sen. and RNC chairman Bill Brock, former North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes and former RNC official Anne Hathaway.
"We're thrilled to join the RSLC team and are excited about combining our ideas about redistricting with the proven success the RSLC has had on state races to ensure future GOP victories," Duncan said in a statement announcing the launch of REDMAP.
Duncan served as party chairman from January 2007 until he withdrew from the contested chairman's race in January 2009.
Washington (CNN) - The Republican Governors Association raised $13.5 million in the first seven weeks of the year, a figure that coincides with the organization's annual fundraising dinner Monday evening here in the nation's capital.
The RGA, the political arm of GOP governors, raised $10.2 million during this same time period in 2009.
"This record participation demonstrates that more and more people are excited about our party and recognize governors will lead our comeback," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the RGA, said in a statement accompanying the fundraising numbers. "We're off to a good start, but we still have a lot of work to do between now and the November elections."
The RGA had $25 million in the bank as of January 1, 2010.
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Los Angeles (CNN) - It's another day, another controversial Web ad from California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina, who hopes to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer this fall if she can emerge from a tight three-way Republican primary, has started running a new Web ad that uses the face of newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown. In the ad, a caption accompanying Brown's image reads: "Thank You Massachusetts. Now on to California. Join the Path to Victory."
But Fiorina's GOP rivals - former Rep. Tom Campbell and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore - say the ad falsely implies that Brown has endorsed Fiorina.
Campbell new media consultant Patrick Ruffini claimed that Fiorina is exploiting Brown, who became a hero to Republicans when he defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election in January. "I don't know if she's claiming an endorsement, but that's up there in the Scott Brown exploitation sweepstakes," Ruffini tweeted on Saturday.
Joshua Trevino, communications director for DeVore, called the ad "deceptive and misleading".
Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund brushed off the charges and told CNN that "the ad in no way implies an endorsement."
Washington (CNN) - The organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference are hitting back at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who argued over the weekend that the annual convention's influence among conservatives is waning.
CPAC is becoming "increasingly libertarian and less Republican," Huckabee told Fox News on Saturday, one reason he said he decided not to attend this year.
But that claim is not true, said David Keene, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which has organized CPAC for 37 years.
"We were frankly a perplexed by Governor Huckabee's comments about CPAC given our long and cordial relationship with him and his family," Keene said in a statement provided to CNN.
Keene said Huckabee could not appear at the conference due to a scheduling conflict with his television show. At no point, he said, did Huckabee express concerns about the legitimacy of the event.
"We offered him several time slots, but on December 18th received an email from his scheduler saying essentially what the Governor's daughter told reporters over the weekend," Keene said. "The email from Kristin Dulin, the Governor's Director of Scheduling, said that he wouldn't be able to join us because he would have to be in New York to do his show, but assured us that he 'appreciates the invitation and hopes that you have a wonderful event.'"
Huckabee, who finished a disappointing tie for sixth place in the CPAC presidential straw poll, also accused the conference of being a "pay for play" event, not "truly grassroots."
Keene said the governor "has been misinformed."
"Many of those invited are from groups that are neither co-sponsors nor financial supporters of the conference itself," he said in the statement.
Full statement from American Conservative Union chairman David Keene after the jump:
Washington (CNN) - Two months into the new year, Congress is at a standstill, stuck in party-line votes, heated debates and electoral politics.
And there's no indication that will change before mid-term elections in November, political observers say: Democrats are afraid to take chances on anything that might alienate voters, and Republicans can stand pat and hope the anti-incumbent mood brewing in the country will help weaken Democrats' control of Congress.
"The problem is the combination of highly ideologically polarizing political parties operating at sort of near parity," said Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.
With many members of Congress in tough re-election fights this year - and bitter fighting between the two parties - key legislative items such as health care and climate change go nowhere, said Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor.
"Worried members of Congress are often distracted by their opponents' campaigns," he said. "They start thinking of every tough vote they must cast as a potential campaign commercial to be used against them."
Washington (CNN) - Following his disappointing sixth place finish in this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee criticized the conference as increasingly irrelevant to the conservative movement and accused its organizers of conducting a "pay for play" event.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a libertarian icon, won Saturday's straw poll with 31 percent of the vote. Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each took in 4 percent, earning them a tie for sixth.
Huckabee, who has never fared well in the poll, said the results did not surprise him. "CPAC has has become increasingly libertarian and less Republican over the last years, one of the reasons I didn't go this year," he said Saturday on Fox News, where he is a paid contributor.
The 2008 GOP presidential candidate said the "truly grassroots" energy on the right lies in the Tea Party movement.
"Where CPAC was historically the event, the Tea Parties now are having their own events all over the country and a lot more truly grassroots people are getting involved because of the Tea Parties," Huckabee argued.
He added: "Because of the way that [CPAC] solicits sponsors it has almost become a pay-for-play. It's almost like, who will pay money to be able to be a sponsor and get time on the program. It's one of the things that has hurt it's credibility in recent years."
A CPAC organizer did not respond when asked to comment on Huckabee's observations.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama urged the nation's governors Monday to improve public education by offering states financial incentives to do so.
"This year, as a condition of receiving access to Title I funds, we'll ask all states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards that are college- and career-ready in reading and math," Obama said. Title I refers to the programs set up by the U.S. Department of Education to distribute funds to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.
"Once you've got those standards in place, you will be better able to better compete for funds to improve teaching and upgrade curriculums," he said in an address at the White House.
School districts that begin preparing educators to teach to higher standards will then compete for $4 billion in a program he calls Race to the Top.
Schools that embrace reforms, raise achievement and respond to student needs will be helped, he promised.
U.S. schools rank ninth in the world in math and 11th in science, Obama said. He lauded Massachusetts educators for having "upped their game" so that the state's students now tie for first in the world in science.
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Washington (CNN) - Conservatives are jubilant about their prospects for this fall's midterm elections, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney - fresh off a rousing performance at the Conservative Political Action Conference - is urging them to temper that optimism.
"If the election were held today, I would anticipate Democrats would lose office and so would the president, but a week is a lifetime in politics," Romney told USA Today in an interview after his CPAC speech last Thursday. Video of the sit-down was posted on Monday.
"By November, things could be very different," said the Republican, who is plotting a second White House run in 2012. "We conservatives can't start counting our chickens before they hatch. We got a long way to go before November. And 2012? My goodness."
"A year ago a lot of people thought President Obama was going to be a three-term president like FDR, and now he's going downhill faster than Lindsey Vonn," he joked, name-dropping the Olympic gold-medalist skier.