The Morning Line: Recess Is Over

BY Quinn Bowman  August 10, 2010 at 8:29 AM EST

That was fast.

The House of Representatives concluded its work for the summer nearly two weeks ago and members thought they wouldn’t have to be back in Washington until September 14. With a universe of nearly 60 highly competitive House races taking shape this fall and a political environment where no member is taking anything for granted, Washington, D.C., is likely one of the least desirable places for these lawmakers.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the House back into session to give final passage to $26 billion in state aid, which passed the Senate last week. Democrats on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration believe the more they can deliver on jobs and the economy, the better off they’ll be with voters this campaign season. According to Democrats, this bill, through increased Medicaid assistance to the states and direct education funding, will help save 160,000 teachers jobs as well as first responders positions across the country.

Although the bill is fully paid for and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, helps reduce the federal deficit over the long haul, Republicans are eager to point out the tax increases on corporations that will help pay for this additional government stimulus.

More significantly, Republicans charge, the bill is geared to help the teachers unions — powerful interest groups closely allied with the Democratic Party.

President Obama will do a bit of cheerleading for the bill at 11:40 am EDT in the Rose Garden. The vote is expected to take place on the House floor between 2-3 p.m. And before you know it, once recess is back on, all those members will be back at the airport to go back home.

PRIMARY DAY

It’s primary day in Colorado, Connecticut and Minnesota, and runoff day in Georgia, where candidates for governor, House and Senate seats will be finalized.

The stakes for the national parties are highest in Colorado.

Sen. Michael Bennet faces an extraordinarily tough and significant challenge from former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff.

Bennet, who was appointed to fill Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s seat, will be facing voters for the first time. Appointed senators without prior statewide experience often run into headwinds because they don’t have much of a political base. If he loses, Bennet would be the third sitting senator, following Republican Robert Bennett of Utah and recently turned-Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, to be rejected by primary voters.

President Obama will once again have some egg on his face if Bennet, his preferred candidate, loses. And questions will be raised even louder about the abilities of the White House political operation.

There’s also a close primary on the Republican side: Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck have been battling to the finish line. A few weeks ago, Buck, the Tea Party favorite, was riding a surge in support that seemed to severely threaten Norton’s chances. But after saying that not wearing “high heels” is an attribute (and Norton’s effective ad in response) the race has remained close.

If Norton loses, she’ll be the sixth preferred candidate of Sen. John Cornyn’s National Republican Senatorial Committee to fall in a primary. The other five include Florida, Nevada, Kentucky, Utah and Connecticut, where Linda McMahon is expected to trounce former Rep. Rob Simmons in Tuesday’s primary.

Be sure to check out Gwen Ifill’s roundup of all of Tuesday’s key races.

Polls close in Colorado at 9 p.m. EDT.

POLL POSITION

The Gallup organization is out with its latest look at the generic congressional ballot.

Since the midterm elections are a series of individual races across the country with specific names attached to them, it’s important not to read too much into a generic ballot test of Republicans vs. Democrats. However, the generic ballot test does provide a sense of the overall landscape in the country, and this week’s finding shows Republicans enjoying their greatest lead over Democrats since Gallup started tracking back in March.

Republicans are currently beating Democrats 49 percent to 43 percent among registered voters. Perhaps worse for the Democrats is the 16-point enthusiasm gap favoring the GOP.

‘AQUA BUDDHA?’

Rand Paul, the Republican Party candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky, who has grown accustomed to some bad press, is coming under more scrutiny after a newly published magazine profile.

In a GQ magazine web piece, writer Jason Zengerle talks to a woman who claims that in college Paul and a friend kidnapped her, tried to force her to smoke marijuana and then took her to a creek where they made her bow down in the water and say that she worshiped “Aqua Buddha.”

The piece explains that Paul was part of a fringe “secret society” at Baylor University in 1983 called NoZe, and members attempted to subvert the conservative Baptist culture of the campus.

The Paul campaign said it’s considering a lawsuit over the piece, but a Paul spokesman has not issued a denial of the story. GQ Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson said he stands by the story and the fact-checking behind it.

Paul is one of the few Tea Party favorites who has a good chance at becoming a U.S. Senator — as long as stories about his past or controversies over his positions on the issues don’t get in the way. Shortly after winning the Republican primary in Kentucky, Paul created a media feeding frenzy when he asserted that parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act might need to be repealed.

TED STEVENS POSSIBLY IN PLANE CRASH

Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens may have been aboard a small plane that crashed in Southwest Alaska on Monday evening. The National Guard said helicopters were having trouble reaching the crash site because of bad weather. The Anchorage Daily News says at least five people managed to reach the site on the ground and were helping victims. No further details were available.