From msnbc.com's Tom Curry:
Las Vegas -- When 2,100 progressive activists gather in one place, Democratic Senate candidates show up too.
Democratic nominee for Senate Alexi Giannoulias, in a tight race with Republican Mark Kirk, told the Netroots Nation candidate cattle call in Las Vegas this weekend "I'm probably the first candidate in the history of the state of Illinois to run for the U.S.Senate not to take money from federal lobbyists, corporate PACs." (Which made one wonder about former Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. In 2004 Obama's Senate campaign did take $1.2 million in money from PACs including those of BP, Boeing, Pfizer, and the American Federation of Teachers. )
Iowa Democrat Roxanne Conlin reminded the Netroots activists that her opponent, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, had contended that the health care law would allow the federal government "to decide when to pull the plug on granny."
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway promised the crowd that "with your help" he would "beat back the ignorance and intolerance of one Rand Paul."
And North Carolina Senate candidate Elaine Marshall, a Netroots favorite, told her supporters that, "I am running against one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the Senate," Sen. Richard Burr. But Burr had $6.2 million in cash in his campaign treasury as of June 30, compared to Marshall's $163,000.
Rep. Paul Hodes, running in New Hampshire for the seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, said the difference between the two parties was the "we are about the people" and that the Republicans were "extremists, obstructionists, lying hypocrites, -- and we're not going to let them take back this country."
He urged the activists to "stop whining, start winning."
Noting that the unemployment rate in New Hampshire, at 5.9 percent is well below the national average, Hodes later told me, "Things haven't been quite as bad there – and you know we have this tradition of independence in New Hampshire."
Hodes' party loyalty record as a House member is strong. But if he wins while other Democrats are losing, New Hampshire voters may show that they're independent of national trends.
Hodes' Republican opponent won't be selected until the Sept. 14 primary. The frontrunner among the GOP contenders appears to be former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte.
Standing quietly and little noticed in the crowd of a couple of hundred, listening along to the Senate candidates make their pitches, was former Arkansas Senate candidate Bill Halter, one of the Netroots heroes, who narrowly lost his primary last June to Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
When Arizona Democratic contender Rodney Glassman told the crowd, "Howard Dean was talking earlier about the importance of Democratic primaries," Halter, the loser of the year's most hotly contested Democratic primary, looked down pensively.
Editor's Note: The quote from Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias in the story above originally stated that he had taken no money from PACS when he actually said he had not taken any money from corporate political action committees.