Obama Says Gulf Spill ‘echoes 9/11’…..No Joke…

President Barack Obama is interviewed in the Oval Office. John Shinkle

Sounding reflective as he heads into a bruising electoral season, President Barack Obama told POLITICO columnist Roger Simon that the Gulf disaster “echoes 9/11” because it will change the nation’s psyche for years to come.

Obama — facing mounting criticism of his handling of the BP gusher, even from longtime allies — vowed to make a “bold” push for a new energy law even as the calamity continues to unfold. And he said he will use the rest of his presidency to try to put the United States on a course toward a “new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”

“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11,” the president said in an Oval Office interview on Friday, “I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.”

Previewing his message for the midterm congressional elections in November, the president said: “[T]he Democrats in Congress have taken tougher votes, have worked harder under more stressful circumstances, than just about any Congress in our memory. And they’ve done a great job and deserve reelection.”

“So I’m going to be fighting on their behalf and doing everything I can and using my bully pulpit to communicate that fact to the American people,” he said. “I know there’s an anti-incumbent mood out there right now because … people are frustrated about the hit that the economy has taken. … But what I’m going to remind people of is we didn’t create this mess. And this Congress responded forcefully at a time when this economy really could have fallen off a cliff.”

Historic patterns and the current political climate all but guarantee that both the House and Senate will lose Democrats in the election, and administration officials concede the Republicans have a chance of winning control of the House.

Obama acknowledged that the results will help determine the course of his term’s second half. “I am spending some time thinking about 2010 because, obviously, my ability to get things done on behalf of the American people depends on a Congress that is willing to cooperate,” he said.

In his firmest declaration yet that he views the calamity as an impetus to push Congress afresh to pass a major energy and climate bill, Obama vowed to “move forward in a bold way in a direction that finally gives us the kind of future-oriented, … visionary energy policy that we so vitally need and has been absent for so long..”

“One of the biggest leadership challenges for me going forward is going to be to make sure that we draw the right lessons from this disaster,” he said.

Hardening one of his persistent complaints throughout his presidency, Obama expressed frustration with press coverage of his administration’s response, declaring that “the media specifically is demanding things that the public aren’t demanding.” He contended that “the overwhelming majority of the American people” have reasonable expectations.

“What they hope and expect is for the president to do everything that’s within his power,” he said. “They don’t expect us to be magicians.”

The interview was a rare chance to get a glimpse of how the most-written-about man in the world sees himself. He acknowledged the power of symbolism in his office, but reiterated his distaste for what he has referred to as “method-acting.”

When Simon asked about appealing to public emotion, Obama replied that “part of leadership always involves being able to capture people’s imaginations, their sense of hope, their sense of possibility, being able to move people to do things they didn’t think they could do.”

“The irony of course is, is that the rap on me before I got to office was that that’s all I could do — right?” he said with a chuckle. “[Y]ou know, ‘The guy gives a great speech, he inspires people, gets them all excited but we don’t know if he can manage and govern.’ So it’s not that I don’t think these issues are important. It’s that there’s a time and a place for these issues. …

“What the public wants to see is us solving this problem. And that may not make for good TV. Me sitting in a meeting with [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu and [Gulf national incident commander] Thad Allen and looking over maps and figuring out how boom gets someplace, that’s not something that is high theater. But ultimately that’s going to make the biggest difference in terms of whether or not the Gulf recovers.”

Obama said he couldn’t predict whether the nation would transition completely from an oil-based economy within his lifetime but added that “now is the time for us to start making that transition and investing in a new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”

“I have no idea what new energy sources are going to be available, what technologies might drive down the price of renewable energies,” he said. “What we can predict is that the availability of fossil fuel is going to be diminishing; that it’s going to get more expensive to recover; that there are going to be environmental costs that our children, … our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren are going to have to bear.”

On the mixed to negative polling about the historic health-reform law he signed in March, Obama said: “I strongly believe that the health care bill was the right thing to do … I think that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, people are going to say this was a big achievement. I think it’s going to help us bend the cost curve in ways that will actually help us deal with the deficit, not add to it.”

Turning to the issue that’s likely to dominate midterm campaigns, Obama said the economy “is still fragile, and not all those 8 million jobs have been brought back.”

“[T]he good news is that we have pulled ourselves out of what could have been a Great Depression,” he said. “The trajectory of the economy is moving in the right direction. We’ve had job growth for five consecutive months. GDP estimates have gotten better. We’ve got some headwinds because there continue to be problems in Europe that have an indirect impact on us.”

Pressed on the inevitability that the elections will be cast as a report-card on him, Obama replied: “I’m less concerned about the report card on me. I’m more concerned about really fine public servants who’ve been in the line of fire, done really good work — I want to see if we can get them back here.”

Politico

Bob Ehrlich for Governor of Maryland on the Issues

ECONOMIC GROWTH:

Bob Ehrlich’s first priority is to strengthen Maryland’s economy and help the private sector create jobs. To reach that goal, he will treat small business owners as a source of new jobs – not a source of new tax revenue like the O’Malley Administration has the past four years.

Roughly 230,000 Marylanders are currently unable to find work, and the unemployment rate in Maryland has doubled since the O’Malley Administration took office. Approximately 3,000 small businesses have closed in Maryland in the last year alone. Maryland ranks 45th out of 50 states in CNBC’s 2009 “Cost of Doing Business” ranking of the states. Bob Ehrlich believes this status quo in unacceptable.

To help create jobs, he will lower the tax burden in Maryland and cut bureaucratic red tape that discourages entrepreneurs from starting new companies and hiring new employees. He believes we must get government off the backs of job-creating small business owners so they can flourish and invest in people, technology, and Maryland’s future.

When Bob Ehrlich served as governor from 2003 to 2007, more than 100,000 private sector jobs were created in Maryland. Unemployment consistently remained around 4 percent, and business confidence in Maryland reached an all-time high, according to surveys.
TAX RELIEF:

Bob Ehrlich will cut taxes in Maryland in order increase prosperity for everyday Marylanders and entrepreneurs. As governor from 2003 to 2007, Ehrlich defeated for vetoed $7.5 billion in tax hikes proposed by the Maryland General Assembly.

Bob Ehrlich opposed the O’Malley’s Administration’s enactment of the largest tax increase in Maryland history in 2007. He believes it had a crippling effect on Maryland families and small business owners who were already struggling under the weight of a national recession. The O’Malley Administration enacted a record $1.4 billion tax increase, including a 20% increase in the sales tax, which disproportionately punishes low and middle income Marylanders. The O’Malley Administration also raised the corporate income tax, making it harder for small businesses to grow and create jobs. Maryland has the 4th highest combined personal income tax in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.

Bob Ehrlich firmly believes in lowering the tax burden to help Marylanders get back to work. As governor, he will repeal the O’Malley Administration’s 20 percent increase in Maryland’s sales tax, which disproportionately hurts small businesses and low and middle-income Marylanders.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY:

Bob Ehrlich believes Maryland must begin spending within its means. In the last three years, the O’Malley Administration has plunged Maryland into its largest budget deficits in history without offering any plan to balance the budget. In addition to this deficit, total state spending today is nearly $2 billion higher than it was when the O’Malley Administration took office. When the O’Malley Administration called a special legislative session in Annapolis to “reduce spending,” it actually approved $600 million in new spending just as the state was entering a recession.

As governor, Bob Ehrlich will immediately cut wasteful spending and make government more responsive to the taxpayers. When he served as governor from 2003 to 2007, Ehrlich turned $4 billion in inherited budget deficits into a budget surplus and nearly tripled the State’s Rainy Day Fund. He did so without increasing sales or income taxes. Under his leadership, Maryland was one of just six states with a coveted Triple A bond rating from all three major rating agencies.
CHESAPEAKE BAY:

Bob Ehrlich believes the environmental, cultural, and economic benefits of the Chesapeake Bay are priceless. He wants his two sons to inherit a Bay that is cleaner and healthier than the one his generation inherited, but the task will require uncommon political leadership.

He is proud to have authored the landmark Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act as governor in 2004. This innovative plan financed upgrades to faulty wastewater treatment plants that emitted millions of pounds of pollution into the Bay and its tributaries every year, harming wildlife and Maryland’s watermen community. As a result of his leadership, the Bay Restoration Act is currently preventing one million pounds of pollution from entering Maryland’s waterways every year.

As governor, Bob Ehrlich will continue to pursue innovative and nonpartisan solutions to restore the Bay and the wildlife that depends on it, and he has a record of delivering once-in-a-generation results for this great national treasure.
EDUCATION:

Maryland is blessed to have many school districts that have performed at consistently high levels for decades. Unfortunately, those blessings are not extended to tens of thousands of students trapped in failing schools across Maryland.

Bob Ehrlich believes every child in Maryland has a civil and constitutional right to a quality education. As governor, he will dramatically expand charter schools in Maryland to give children and parents stuck in failing schools a choice to move to a better and safer learning environment. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate with greater freedom to help students reach their full potential.

As governor in 2003, Bob Ehrlich authored Maryland’s first-ever charter schools law. As a result, more than 12,000 students in Maryland are currently learning and growing in 42 charter schools across the state. He also strengthened Maryland’s needs-based college scholarship program, helping 37,000 students go to college who could not otherwise afford it.

AUTHORITY: BOB EHRLICH FOR MARYLAND COMMITTEE, TREASURER: H. TERRY HANCOCK

Sarah Palin: Please Endorse Rob Simmons

by Ann Coulter

Sarah Palin endorsed three dark-horse candidates in Republican match-ups this year, and all three won their primaries yesterday: Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Carly Fiorina in California. No wonder Sarah’s being stalked by Joe McGinniss.

Now, she’s got to endorse Rob Simmons for U.S. Senate. Otherwise, Republicans can kiss the possibility of a major upset in Connecticut goodbye.

I wouldn’t ask, but the country is at stake. We have a mere 100 senators; only 16 Senate seats currently held by Democrats are up this year; and only about six of those could possibly go Republican, even in Newt Gingrich’s wildest fantasies.

Republicans have done a fantastic job predicting a landslide in the November elections, but not such a good job of doing anything that will actually help them achieve victory.

Which may explain why Connecticut Republicans rolled the dice and said: Let’s run a professional wrestling “impresario” for the U.S. Senate! … You never know.

Except in this case, you know. Running a professional wrestler in the richest, most highly educated state in the nation is going to force voters to hold their noses and vote for the Democrat, Richard Blumenthal (who’s already been endorsed by a leading group of Connecticut men who lied about serving in Vietnam).

Until recent revelations about Blumenthal’s boasting of his nonexistent service in Vietnam — and the Harvard swim team — Republicans didn’t have a snowball’s chance to pick up Chris Dodd’s old seat anyway.

But now The New York Times has splashed on its front page the news that Blumenthal has been lying about his Vietnam War service. Even knee-jerk Democratic partisans, such as Chris Matthews and Bill Press, refused to defend him.

Blumenthal immediately resigned and pulled out of the Senate race … ha ha, just kidding! That man will never voluntarily stop annoying us. Blumenthal is so churning with ambition that he probably had his first ulcer at age 9.

But no matter how much the local press flacks for Blumenthal, people won’t soon forget that he lied about his Vietnam service. It’s like finding out he likes to wear diapers or he cheated the Girl Scouts out of cookie money — but enough about Frank Rich.

Connecticut Republicans have done nothing to deserve this gift. All they need to do is field a candidate who isn’t inextricably linked to professional frigging wrestling.

Instead, last month, a majority of Republican caucus-goers voted for professional wrestling impresario Linda McMahon, based on her offer to spend “up to” $50 million of her own money on the campaign.

McMahon would be a fantastic choice if money were associated with electoral victory. But it’s not.

We know this because rich dilettantes are constantly thinking to themselves: “I have $300 million, I’ve bought everything I can buy … I think I’d like to be a senator!”

In 1994, Michael Huffington spent $30 million in his bid for a Senate seat from California against Democrat Dianne Feinstein. He lost.

In 2002, Tom Golisano spent more than $74 million of his own money running for governor of New York. He received 14 percent of the vote. That same year, Democrat Tony Sanchez spent $60 million of his own money trying to become the governor of Texas — and lost to Rick Perry.

In 2004, John Kerry spent $6.4 million of John Heinz’s money on his presidential race, and still lost.

Last year, Jon Corzine, then-governor of New Jersey, spent about $24 million of his own money trying to hold onto his job. Despite outspending Republican Chris Christie 3-to-1, Corzine lost 49 percent to 44 percent. (Corzine also out-slimed Christie in that race by an whopping 106-to-1.)

In all, 20 candidates for the House or Senate in 2002 spent at least $1 million of their own money on their campaigns; 19 of the 20 lost, generally to more experienced candidates.

Even in the rare cases when the deep-pocket candidate wins, it’s not a novelty candidate — unless it’s Minnesota. Michael Bloomberg, the sitting mayor of New York City, spent an astronomical $100 million last year just to win his own office back, outspending his opponent 15-to-1. He squeaked in with 51 percent of the vote — and that was only after Bloomberg passed a massive new tax on voting for his opponent.

So Republicans better have a more impressive reason for picking Linda McMahon than “She’ll spend up to $50 million of her own money.”

But they don’t.

Any half-wit knows Connecticut will not vote for a professional wrestling “impresario” for the U.S. Senate. So unless Republicans have secret information that Blumenthal does enjoy dressing up in diapers, Republicans are forfeiting a Senate seat for no reason.

By contrast, Rob Simmons, who recently suspended his primary campaign against McMahon for lack of money, is a Haverford College graduate, a former Yale professor and an Army colonel. Unlike fantasist Blumenthal, Simmons really did serve in Vietnam, coming home with two Bronze Stars.

And Simmons, who remains on the Aug. 9 primary ballot, can win even in moderate-Republican Connecticut. He’s good on taxes, he’s good on defense — and he’s the best Connecticut is ever going to get.

Simmons was elected to Congress three times from a very liberal Connecticut district, beating an incumbent Democrat in his first run. As a result, he had the distinction of representing the largest number of Democrats of any Republican in the House of Representatives. Even in the dark Republican year of 2006, Simmons lost to his Democratic challenger by only 83 votes.

Instead of sitting around, idly predicting massive Republican landslides this fall, how about Republicans work on running candidates who might actually win?

If only we had some popular former governor, preferably a moose-hunter, whose endorsements are gold … Then we’d show ’em.

Steven Rosenblum For Florida House: District 89

Issues:

Jobs
Florida faces an unemployment rate over 12%. Many Floridians have been out of work for a year or more. Some have given up looking for work out of frustration.

We need a combination of lower taxes and incentives to bring new businesses to Florida and to allow existing businesses to hire again. We can create jobs by developing our energy resources while also lowering the cost of energy, which in turn will also free up more dollars for businesses to grow.

We also need to examine our state university and county community college curriculums to ensure they are offering students classes that will allow them to compete in the 21st Century job market.

Lower Taxes/Smaller Government
We need to lower taxes, shrink the size of government and eliminate fraud and waste. We need to go to Zero-based budgeting, where all expenditures must be justified each new period, as opposed to only explaining the amounts requested in excess of the previous period’s funding.

In addition a full audit of all state agencies and departments is necessary to find inefficiencies, waste and fraud so that we can eliminate them and close our budget shortfall.

We need to remind Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. that the money they spend in such a cavalier manner isn’t theirs, it belongs to the taxpayers.

I will fight to greatly reduce property taxes. A small sales or consumption tax would broaden the tax base to all Floridians, as well as to tourists and illegal immigrants, who also use our public services. However, I will only support a bill that enacts the consumption tax after the property tax reduction has been instituted.

We also need to reduce corporate taxes and unnecessary regulations that prohibit businesses from expanding and hiring, and prevent new businesses from opening.

Energy Independence
I favor a use it all approach to energy. Florida has vast energy resources and energy potential. We should be drilling for oil and natural gas off our Atlantic and Gulf coasts, in an environmentally responsible way. Florida also needs to encourage the private development of efficient and economical solar, wind and tidal power generation, or other new energy sources, as well as building nuclear power plants to carry us into the next century, with clean renewable sources of electricity.

The last oil refinery completed in the United States was in 1976. Many of our nation’s existing refineries are in disrepair and do not operate at full capacity. We will bring more jobs to Florida, lower the cost of gasoline and refine more crude oil safely and efficiently when we build a new refinery here in Florida.

Florida should be a leader in energy research and production. Once in Tallahassee I’ll work to make Florida a literal powerhouse state.

Healthcare
Without question, healthcare and health insurance reform are issues that the states must address. The solutions are simple and can only be tackled by state legislatures. The federal government has usurped the rights of the states and the people with Obamacare and still hasn’t solved the problem. If elected to the State House I will work to solve the problem in ways that are practical and constitutional.

We need to cut out the mandates that contribute to the high cost of health insurance. A 45 year old woman, shouldn’t have to be covered for a prostate exam anymore than a man, of any age, should have to be covered for a pap-smear.

We should create a statewide health insurance market that allows defined contributions toward health care coverage.*

We should also use the state’s power to regulate commercial insurance to create a new hybrid insurance market for employer-sponsored coverage through plans that are individually chosen and owned by workers.*

In addition we must reform the Medicaid and SCHIP programs by redirecting these funds, for otherwise healthy recipients, to private institutions to reduce the use of emergency rooms by Medicaid and SCHIP recipients.*

Next we have to enact meaningful TORT reform measures so that good doctors won’t be driven out of business by outrageous malpractice insurance rates and frivolous lawsuits.

Finally, we must work with the other states to allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines, if they choose.

* From the Heritage Foundation’s “2010 Guide to State Healthcare Reform”

Security
Homeland Security starts with state, county and local agencies and governments. Our police, fire fighters, paramedics and all first responders are on the front lines of homeland defense. We need to ensure they have sufficient training and adequate resources to be prepared for natural disasters and terrorist attacks. We must ensure that there is proper communication and coordination between local, county, state and federal agencies in order to prevent and respond to major incidents.

Florida’s Sovereignty
The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. The United States Constitution is a limiting document and a contract between the People, the States and the Federal government.

Washington has been overstepping its powers for decades now, under both political parties. It is past the time legislators in Tallahassee do their duty and protect the rights of the People and the State of Florida. I will honor my oath of office and not propose or vote for any bill that violates either the Florida or U.S. Constitutions.

Education
Our education system is the key to the future of our children, our state and our nation. The federal government has become far too involved in what is a state and local issue. I believe that the billions of dollars that the U.S. Department of Education squanders each year would be far better spent by disbanding that lumbering bureaucracy. The states and local communities are much more qualified to decide how to spend our education dollars and to set standards and curriculums. I will work with members of Florida’s congressional delegation to achieve that goal.

In addition, American history has been distorted and in many cases has been completely rewritten by progressives that want to create a narrative that paints the United States as an evil, colonial power that has been a destructive force in the world, rather that the great force for good and freedom that it truly is. Take a look at the history books that our schools are using to teach our children and you will see what I mean.

Science and math are obviously vital keys to success and should be stressed. But the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights should all be required parts of every child’s education as well.

I believe that we need conservatives in Tallahassee that will fight to restore our schools and work with teachers to ensure that our children will know their nation’s history. We must also strive to bring all our public schools, colleges and universities to a level that will ensure that our children will be equipped to compete in the world and in today’s competitive job market.

Parental Rights
Barring proven instances of physical abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, or other extenuating circumstances I believe that both parents in a divorce/custody case should be given equal custody of their children.

I have long thought that a mother automatically receiving primary custody of a child was wrong, and a form of reverse chauvinism. Mothers and fathers have every right to have equal access to their children regardless of whether they are married.

The current system has led to a cottage industry for lawyers, doctors, forensic experts and many more newly created layers of bureaucratic professionals. This is supposed to be about what is best for the children, not what will make money for “experts”.

I would favor legislation to give both parents equal custody assuming there are no legitimate accusations of abuse, or other pertinent extenuating circumstances. In addition, Florida must work with the other states to ensure reciprocity. We can’t have parents running to other states in an attempt to circumvent custody agreements which have been adjudicated in Florida.

Children should not be used as pawns in a divorce dispute, nor should they be deprived of the love and nurturing of both their parents without cause. I will work to ensure that our laws don’t allow them to be.

Illegal Immigration
Illegal immigration is very much a state issue. It costs Florida billions of dollars and poses a threat to our state and national security. When elected I will sponsor a bill modeled on the one that Arizona’s legislature passed and their governor signed into law. It is not unconstitutional, anti-immigrant, racist or un-American to enforce our nation’s immigration laws. Our city, county and state law enforcement should enforce our existing immigration laws, since the federal government is failing in its duty to do so. No nation can be sovereign if its borders are not secure.
Second Amendment
Tallahassee has raided the firearms permit trust fund and Washington, D.C. wants to deny you your Second Amendment rights. I will fight to protect the right of every law-abiding Floridian to own and carry legally obtained firearms.

I believe our right to bear arms is something we are born with. It is not granted to us by the government, it is an unalienable right, and one that the United States Constitution guarantees to us. The Second Amendment is not open to interpretation. The founders intended for law-abiding individuals to have the right to be armed, not just for sport and hunting, but for self defense and to protect ourselves from tyranny. The founders made the right to bear arms the Second Amendment, because it is this right that ensures all of our other rights.

Learn more here.

Rob Fisher for District 1 in Maryland/Issues

Jobs

The current Congress has spent the vast majority of their time trying to force-feed a massive and unpopular health care bill down the throats of American taxpayers, at the expense of creating jobs and solving the unemployment crisis. In parts of the 1st District unemployment is 14% with no signs of slowing. We must work together to remove obstacles for American businesses, not create more barriers for growth, and allow them every opportunity to prosper. As a small businessman, I am deeply concerned that the Federal Government continues to forget that consumers spend money not Banks or Corporations. We need to develop new ways for consumers to feel safe in putting money back into the economy.

Government Spending

Our country is bankrupt, yet Congress is intent on ballooning the deficit even higher while proposing massive tax increases to pay for health care and climate bills the majority of Americans don’t want. We must work quickly to get our fiscal house in order or risk leaving today’s problems at the doorsteps of our children and grandchildren. Every member of Congress has a duty to spend our tax dollars wisely, and as your representative I pledge to vote against any bill that increases the deficit without real and immediate benefits to Maryland taxpayers. It is shameful that on the same day that the House of Representatives reinstituted the PayGo mandate, they passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling again. These actions show that they have no interest in controlling spending but are interested in raising taxes to pay for more government intervention in the Free Enterprise system.

Education
E ducation is the key to creating the kinds of high-paying jobs that will help the 1st District thrive and prosper in the 21st Century. Our leaders in Maryland and Washington, D.C. must do more to encourage college graduates to stay local and settle in their home communities. That means providing good jobs for them to come home to when they finish college. When in Congress I will work to stop the brain drain of math and science degrees that is currently limiting American businesses from reaching their full potential and help bring those jobs to the 1st District and the Eastern Shore.

Read More and Contact information here.

Phone Number is 443-859-8176

Unions to spend $100M in 2010 campaign to save Dem majorities

By Kevin Bogardus and Sean J. Miller

At least two influential unions will spend close to $100 million on the 2010 election, with most of those funds going to protect incumbents.

Union officials told The Hill they plan to help endangered members — particularly freshmen — who made politically difficult votes in a year during which an anti-incumbent mood has filled the country.

And the number will be even higher since the AFL-CIO declined to give its figures.

While the labor movement has displayed an aggressive tack in Democratic primaries, including supporting some challengers over incumbents, it remains concerned about the party retaining its congressional majorities.

As a result, it plans an enormous spending spree to help ensure Democratic control of Congress.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) plans to spend in excess of $50 million during the 2010 campaign, part of which will fund “a massive incumbent protection program,” according to Gerry McEntee, president of the union.

AFSCME spent roughly $67 million on its political activities in 2008. But the $50 million slated for the 2010 elections is the largest expenditure the union will make in a midterm election, according to union officials. The money will go to help defend the union’s top tier of eight Senate seats and 34 House members.

“We have got to protect the incumbency in the House. We have got to protect the incumbency in the Senate,” McEntee said. “It is going to be hard. Those tea-baggers are out there. There is an anti-incumbency mood out there.”

After the top tier, there will be a second tier of House candidates AFSCME will be monitoring and will step in to help defend if they become endangered by GOP challengers.

“We are not out there looking for new seats. We have our hands full the way it is,” said McEntee, who has been a key voice in pushing labor to play in Democratic primaries.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend $44 million in total on its 2010 election program. The union spent $85 million on its 2008 campaign, according to union officials.

SEIU has a list of 15 top-priority House districts across the country that it plans to campaign in to protect members who voted for the healthcare reform bill. Among those who will see support from the national union are Reps. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

“In the past, we have not paid as much attention to incumbent protection as we have this year,” said Jon Youngdahl, national political director for the SEIU. “In the past, decisions were made on electoral opportunities and this year decisions are being made on the healthcare reform accountability.”

For the SEIU, the 2010 campaign began in the fall of 2009 during the House’s first healthcare reform vote. The union has already spent $3 million on three rounds of television ads thanking members for backing the legislation.

A third labor group said it plans to spend big in 2010 but wouldn’t get into specific numbers.

Karen Ackerman, the AFL-CIO’s political director, told reporters on Wednesday that the labor federation will be active in 18 states, will campaign in gubernatorial and Senate races and will likely have a role in 60 to 70 House races this election.

She declined to give a dollar amount.

“The field is very large, maybe even more races than there was in 2008,” Ackerman said. The AFL-CIO official said the labor movement sees 2010 as “a very hard election, maybe the hardest yet” and wants to see the “many, many good progressive members of Congress” return to Capitol Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be the most important test of labor’s efforts to save incumbent lawmakers. Based in a state with high unemployment and a high home foreclosure rate, Reid is facing a tough reelection race this year. Consequentially, unions are revving up their general-election campaigns three months earlier than usual, as soon as Reid’s Republican challenger is picked in the June 8 primary.

“It’s our single focus. Harry Reid has done more for the state — more than anyone in history,” said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, which has more than 200,000 members.

The state labor federation has a three-pronged program in place: a worksite initiative, from construction sites to casinos, where workers will lobby other workers to vote for Reid, target union members for door-to-door campaigning and then direct-mail pieces paid for by the national union.

Thompson said he believes the labor vote will be key to Reid’s reelection, estimating it makes up to 32 to 34 percent of the vote in Nevada. “We are right now putting everything in place. The people who will be running the campaign are in place. The structure is in place. We are ready to go,” Thompson said.

Another senator who will have stout labor backing is Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

“We are going to devote more resources to the 2010 campaign than we have ever done in any prior campaign,” said Steve Smith, communications director of the California Labor Federation.

Electing California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) as governor and reelecting Boxer to the Senate are the state federation’s two highest priorities. But the labor group is also looking to protect a trio of House members based in the Central Valley region who took tough votes in favor of healthcare reform.

California Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D), Jim Costa (D) and Jerry McNerney (D) could be facing stiff GOP opposition this November. Smith said the 2.1 million member-strong union has been preparing for months, microtargeting non-union members in the region who share the same priorities with labor to find more votes for the Democrats.

“Given where they are, it’s never an easy proposition. We are going to make sure that we stand up and they are reelected and sent back to Congress,” Smith said.

Unions are aware that some of the most endangered incumbents in 2010 are the freshmen who voted for the healthcare reform bill.

In Virginia, labor groups are moving to protect freshman Reps. Gerry Connolly (D) and Perriello.

“Definitely, Tom Perriello will have priority with us,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, the secretary-treasurer of the Virginia AFL-CIO. “Along with Gerry Connolly, they will definitely get protection for the healthcare vote.”

The union has some 15,000 members in Connolly’s district and 2,500 in Perriello’s whom it plans to mobilize ahead of November.

Crouse-Mays said the union would also support Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a 14-term incumbent who didn’t vote for the healthcare bill. “He’s still a 28-year incumbent who’s been there for working families in the past,” she said.

In Illinois, unions are working to protect Foster and Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D), two freshman members who voted for the healthcare bill.

“The action is going to be in Halvorson and Foster, so we’re going to put a lot of effort there,” said Jerry Morrison, executive director of the SEIU’s state council. “That would always be our first [priority], especially in the off-year, to protect our incumbent allies. There’s going to be a lot of activity at the federal level this year.”

The union plans to focus on voter registration, early voting and then get-out-the-vote efforts, Morrison said. “Debbie’s district, the first time she ran, I think we registered 18,000 new voters in high-Democratic-performing precincts, which helped her.”

Foster will have more difficulty this cycle because his district, which was formerly held by GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert, is more Republican. “It’s just a tough district,” Morrison said. “But Foster’s been very good — he’s taken some really tough votes and I think people are really energized to get out there and go work for him.”

The SEIU is also targeting the state’s open Senate seat and the House seat vacated by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

A similar strategy is being used in Ohio by the state’s branch of the SEIU. “We have already made contributions to candidates who supported working families in Ohio,” said Anthony Caldwell, a union spokesman.

Caldwell noted that freshman Reps. Boccieri, Mary Jo Kilroy (D) and Steve Driehaus (D), who voted for healthcare reform, are all expected to have tough reelection races. “We want to make sure those folks return to Congress come January,” he said.

One member who won’t be getting support: Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio). He angered labor groups by voting against the healthcare bill and will have to go without their help in his reelection bid.