With the respected, nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifting Barney Frank’s Massachusetts district from “solid” Democratic to “likely” Democratic and what appears to be the increasing momentum of his Republican challenger Sean Bielat, the National Republican Congressional Committee may be putting its money into the race.
The Party committee’s spending would be a major boon to the young former Marine challenging the notoriously cantankerous Frank, and is the latest sign of just how wide the playing field is in the 2010 midterm elections.
Bielat had lunch with House Republican Whip Eric Cantor Tuesday, and a spokeswoman for Bielat said “we expect some resources” from the NRCC “going into the home stretch.”
NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola said the NRCC is “keeping an eye” on the race “because over the last few weeks it’s become very competitive.”
Privately, a Republican operative said Cantor’s lunch with Bielat was illustrative. “That would certainly be an indication this is winnable,” the source said. A major Tea Party group has also vowed to pour money into the race.
Frank’s office did not return a call for comment.
Meanwhile, Frank, who has donned a nice guy demeanor recently after apparently realizing he might lose the seat he’s held for thirty years, debated Bielat on a local Fox affiliate late Tuesday.
Moderator Maria Stephanos sought to prevent interruption – an obsession of Frank’s in debates – from becoming an issue by setting clear terms and authoritatively steering the discussion.
“I ask that you respect each other when answering questions. Please do not talk over one another. I do, of course, encourage a spirited debate,” Stephanos said.
Even with the caution, Frank could not help but object several times to perceived slights.
One on occasion, he held a rather snippy back and forth with Stephanos herself.
After the moderator interjected to clarify her question, Frank sarcastically said, “I’m sorry but I was trying to answer you. Am I not supposed to?”
On another occasion he impatiently asked, “May I explain this, please?”
Bielat took another jab at Frank on the issue, telling Frank “I wish you wouldn’t interrupt me” with a broad grin on his face.
Besides being interrupted, Frank faces other difficulties in the campaign.
Late Tuesday, the Boston Herald revealed that Frank took a free private jet belonging to a billionaire hedge fund owner.
The jet is owned by S. Donald Sussman, head of Paloma Securities, which received $200 million in government bailouts for Wall Street, the Herald reported.
Frank explained that his partner Jim Ready is personal friends with Sussman. “It was purely personal,” he said. Frank said the House Ethics Committee cleared the trip.
Frank, his partner Jim and Sussman traveled on the jet from Portland, Maine to the Virgin Islands for a few sun-filled days. As Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank oversees the hedge fund industry.
Frank also faces a new foe in the Tea Party Express, which has vowed to pour resources into the campaign.
Apparently viewing the threat as rather dire, Frank asked donors for money by warning that “Tea Party Express thinks that it has me tied to the tracks,” the Examiner’s David Freddoso reported.