Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can Bipartisanship Sell in Election 2014? These Candidates Are Banking on It

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can Bipartisanship Sell in Election 2014? These Candidates Are Banking on It

Article excerpt

Perhaps surprisingly amid intensely partisan times in Washington, several high-profile candidates for Senate are trying to make inroads with voters by touting their bipartisan credentials.

In Georgia, upstart Michelle Nunn, a Democrat and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, says voters tell her "they are tired of the dysfunction, the finger-pointing, and the name-calling." She wants to do something about it.

In Virginia, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, also a Democrat, is running on a record of reaching across the aisle. "Every piece of major legislation I've worked on, I've got a Republican partner," he recently said on a campaign swing through the state.

With the tea party pushing candidates rightward during primary season, compromise remains a dirty word for most Republicans - at least until the general election. But in New Hampshire, Scott Brown boasts: "I'm a problem-solver."

In a politically polarized America, can bipartisanship sell?

For these candidates, the bipartisan sales pitch comes down to political necessity, says Jennifer Duffy, senior political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Plain and simple, Democratic candidates running in "purply, reddish" states such as Georgia "can't win based on just Democratic votes," she says. "They need to get some crossover votes."

A perfect example is Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), who's in a tough race in Louisiana. She worked with Republicans and Democrats on legislation to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline - though the bill died last month in a filibuster battle.

"I think we need senators that will find common ground and compromise," she told NBC's Chuck Todd in May. "I'm one of the few that's left."

Louisiana has voted Republican in the last four presidential elections.

Whether such a message can give these candidates an edge depends on the state and the candidate. Senator Warner has a substantial bipartisan record as a businessman, a popular former governor of Virginia, and as a dealmaker in the Senate. Virginia is starkly split between blue and red regions, though the trend line suggests it is becoming bluer.

A state like Kentucky is trickier. …

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