Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chris Dodd

The Touch of Political Death?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The White House is reaching into political races nationwide to urge its preferred candidates to seek election to competitive seats, while helping to nudge weak contenders out of the way, according to party officials familiar with the moves.

It isn’t unusual for a president to pick favorites, but the sense of urgency is heightened this year by Democrats’ sense that a difficult election year lies ahead.

Sometimes this might make sense, as with the effort to push Chris Dodd into retirement and potentially rescue the Connecticut Senate seat that had appeared lost as long as the senator from Countrywide remained in the race. But the danger of White House meddling is three-fold.

First, the appearance on the scene of the White House political hacks has the aura of buzzards circling a bleeding beast. For example:

In Ohio, White House political director Patrick Gaspard has been in conversations with Gov. Ted Strickland, whose approval ratings have slipped and who is facing a challenge from former Republican Rep. John Kasich. Democrats there say the White House is backing Mr. Strickland’s re-election bid but is focused on reigniting the grassroots effort that helped Mr. Obama win there in 2008 and would be necessary for success again in 2012.

Translation: Strickland is in trouble (having gone from a huge double-digit lead to a 9-point deficit in the last Rasmussen poll in his matchup against John Kasich), and the White House has now advertised that to voters and donors alike. No doubt Strickland isn’t pleased to have it known that he’s been paid a visit by the White House fix-it team.

Second, this may not be the year to be the handpicked candidate of Barack Obama. It didn’t do Jon Corzine any good. And that was in a state in which Obama is still relatively popular. Do candidates in Michigan or Ohio really want to be tied to the White House and its agenda? That seemed to work out not at all for Creigh Deeds in Virginia.

And finally, it’s not clear that the White House has the magic touch. It seems that the White House is backing Kirsten Gillibrand against a potential challenge from Harold Ford Jr. (who doesn’t thrill the liberal base), but is Gillibrand really the strongest candidate in the field? (In December, the Quinnipiac poll reported: “New York City Comptroller William Thompson leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 41 – 28 percent in a possible 2010 Democratic primary race.”) And recall it was the White House, with the keen political acumen of Joe Biden, that convinced Arlen Specter to switch parties and now is backing him in the Pennsylvania primary, though he’s now tied with Republican Pat Toomey in recent polling.

The White House’s triage efforts are understandable. Democrats may be headed for a shellacking in November, so it’s time to pull out all the stops. But it’s not at all clear that candidates selected by the White House will fare any better than those whom Democratic voters, through a normal primary process, may select. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Democrats are in trouble in no small part because of the White House’s hyper-partisan tone, ultra-left-wing agenda, and fixation on a health-care bill the country doesn’t want. Democrats might do better if they distanced themselves from Obama and found candidates who weren’t propped up by the gang that thought ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were political winners.

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Is Reid the Best They Can Do?

Pundits are divided: is Harry Reid a racist or just a buffoon? I tend to agree with Mark Steyn and Matt Yglesias (hard to believe there would ever be an occasion to write those words):

It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else.

Ruth Marcus put it this way:

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.) The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

Nor is this the only time Harry Reid showed an odd obsession with the manner in which prominent African Americans express themselves. It was Reid who declared of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (He nevertheless had kind words for Justice Scalia, the other sharp-penned conservative on the court.) And then there was his remark that Republicans who opposed ObamaCare were comparable to those who opposed the repeal of slavery. It is hard to think of another figure in public life who is so tone-deaf on matters of race.

There is something, well, just not right about Reid’s propensity to toss around incendiary racial analogies and observations. Goodness knows what’s in his heart, but this simply isn’t what we expect of public leaders, who, if they can’t think of something helpful or enlightening to say on race relations, should at the very least keep quiet. Honestly, is he the best that the Democrats can do for a majority leader, or the best the people of Nevada can do for a senator? I suppose we’ll find out in November. But the Democrats’ insistence that there’s nothing wrong with Reid aside from a slip of the tongue (well, lots and lots of them) or nothing wrong enough to be disqualifying rings hollow. You’d think they’d at least prefer someone who doesn’t absorb days of media attention in apology mode.

You might expect the Democratic establishment to quietly encourage him to follow Chris Dodd’s example. In circling the wagons around their wounded and increasingly embarrassing leader, the Democrats in D.C. are passing the buck to Nevada voters, who, I suspect, will be more anxious than ever to elect someone more in line with their views and less offensive in his public rhetoric.

Pundits are divided: is Harry Reid a racist or just a buffoon? I tend to agree with Mark Steyn and Matt Yglesias (hard to believe there would ever be an occasion to write those words):

It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else.

Ruth Marcus put it this way:

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.) The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

Nor is this the only time Harry Reid showed an odd obsession with the manner in which prominent African Americans express themselves. It was Reid who declared of Justice Clarence Thomas: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (He nevertheless had kind words for Justice Scalia, the other sharp-penned conservative on the court.) And then there was his remark that Republicans who opposed ObamaCare were comparable to those who opposed the repeal of slavery. It is hard to think of another figure in public life who is so tone-deaf on matters of race.

There is something, well, just not right about Reid’s propensity to toss around incendiary racial analogies and observations. Goodness knows what’s in his heart, but this simply isn’t what we expect of public leaders, who, if they can’t think of something helpful or enlightening to say on race relations, should at the very least keep quiet. Honestly, is he the best that the Democrats can do for a majority leader, or the best the people of Nevada can do for a senator? I suppose we’ll find out in November. But the Democrats’ insistence that there’s nothing wrong with Reid aside from a slip of the tongue (well, lots and lots of them) or nothing wrong enough to be disqualifying rings hollow. You’d think they’d at least prefer someone who doesn’t absorb days of media attention in apology mode.

You might expect the Democratic establishment to quietly encourage him to follow Chris Dodd’s example. In circling the wagons around their wounded and increasingly embarrassing leader, the Democrats in D.C. are passing the buck to Nevada voters, who, I suspect, will be more anxious than ever to elect someone more in line with their views and less offensive in his public rhetoric.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.’” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

Harry Reid’s poll numbers in Nevada look awfully bad. His hometown paper reports: “More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst ‘unfavorable’ rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.” Isn’t he reaching Chris Dodd territory? (And that was before his “light skinned” comment about Obama.)

Wow: “The race to replace Ted Kennedy in the US Senate is looking like a toss up, with Republican Scott Brown up 48-47 on Martha Coakley. Brown is benefiting from depressed Democratic interest in the election and a huge lead among independents for his surprisingly strong standing. Those planning to vote in the special election only report having voted for Barack Obama in 2008 by a 16 point margin, in contrast to his actual 26 point victory in the state.”

Maybe voters don’t like being ignored. GOP senate candidate Scott Brown has raised a stink about the Democratic plan to jam through ObamaCare even if he wins: “‘This is a stunning admission by Paul Kirk and the Beacon Hill political machine,’ Brown said in a statement to the newspaper. ‘Paul Kirk appears to be suggesting that he, (Gov.) Deval Patrick, and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid intend to stall the election certification until the health care bill is rammed through Congress, even if that means defying the will of the people of Massachusetts.’” Well, they don’t care that 60 percent of Americans oppose a government takeover of health care so why would they care what the people of Massachusetts think?

Coakley’s friends rush to the rescue: “With Democrat Martha Coakley in trouble in the Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat, Democrats could lose vote No. 60 for President Obama’s health-care bill. In response, an army of lobbyists for drug companies, health insurance companies, and hospitals has teamed up to throw a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for Coakley next Tuesday night.”

Why unemployment is worse than it seems: “Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent. . . About 1.7 million Americans opted out of the workforce from July through December, representing a 1.1 percent drop that marks the biggest six-month decrease since 1961, the Labor Department report showed. The share of the population in the labor force last month fell to the lowest level in 24 years.” And when those workers come back to the workforce, expect the unemployment rate to jump again.

The Washington Post runs an advice column for forlorn Democrats: half say to head for the center, the other to go all in for the leftist agenda. Karl Rove seems to have it right: “It would be hard to come up with less popular causes than they’ve already embraced. So find something that might redirect voter anger, especially if Republicans cooperate by failing to offer a positive alternative. Good luck: You made the mess.”

Maybe it would help if Obama stopped doing this: “U.S. President Barack Obama, in his weekly radio address Saturday, said once he signs new health care legislation into law, Americans can expect dozens of benefits and protections to be quickly put in place.” First of all, Americans hate the plan. And second, in the senate version (which is likely to be closest to the final bill) all we get for the first few years is some tax hikes.

James Carafano: “The Left mustered every idiotic argument they could think of against reinforcing our efforts in Afghanistan. Hey, they argued “the Taliban are in Afghanistan, not al-Qaeda.” We now know al-Qaeda was behind the assassination bombing of the CIA agents in Afghanistan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are tied at the hip….you can’t destroy the latter without defeating the former. Its time to stop turning our back on the long war, and pull together as Americans, Left and Right, and as we did in WWII…win this thing.”

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Democrats Flee the Battleground

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick – who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick – who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

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A New Ballgame, Perhaps

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Robert Reich doesn’t like ReidCare: “If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well.”

Others don’t like it either. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services actuary say it will increase health-care spending by $234B. And Sen. Bill Nelson says its a “non-starter.”

Ten senators write a letter complaining to Harry Reid about the deal, which doesn’t seem like it’s a deal at all.

Rasmussen tells us that Harry Reid trails all GOP challengers: “For now at least, his championing of the president’s health care plan appears to raise further red flags for the Democratic incumbent. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Nevada voters oppose the plan, while 44% favor it.”

Maybe that is Obama’s problem too: “Excluding the Rasmussen and Gallup overnight tracking polls, there have been seven major national surveys released this week. President Obama has recorded an all-time low job approval rating in six of the seven.”

Not good: “The last person to know that Sen. Max Baucus wanted a divorce may have been his wife of 25 years. It appears that Wanda Baucus was in the dark even as a member of Baucus’s staff — Melodee Hanes, the woman who is now his live-in girlfriend — was plotting out the senator’s life without a wife.” And it turns out Hanes got a political appointment at the Justice Department. Maybe it is time for him to go. “Say what you want about Republicans, but they have a much better sense than their opponents of when it’s time to grab one of their own and throw him off the sled to the wolves running behind.”

Makes you wonder what Chris Dodd was thinking when he asked for his help: “Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is ‘getting the living hell beat out of him, the living bejesus beat out of him.’”

An inconvenient poll: In the latest Ipos Public Affairs poll, 52 percent of adults think global warming isn’t happening or is happening mostly because of natural patterns while only 43 percent think it is due to human activity.

A very smart move Republicans should support: “U.S. President Barack Obama told lawmakers in private talks this week that he supported moving forward on stalled free trade deals with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.”

If you loved Orin Hatch’s Chanukah tune, just wait until we get to Purim. No, really, he’s thinking about it.

Robert Reich doesn’t like ReidCare: “If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well.”

Others don’t like it either. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services actuary say it will increase health-care spending by $234B. And Sen. Bill Nelson says its a “non-starter.”

Ten senators write a letter complaining to Harry Reid about the deal, which doesn’t seem like it’s a deal at all.

Rasmussen tells us that Harry Reid trails all GOP challengers: “For now at least, his championing of the president’s health care plan appears to raise further red flags for the Democratic incumbent. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Nevada voters oppose the plan, while 44% favor it.”

Maybe that is Obama’s problem too: “Excluding the Rasmussen and Gallup overnight tracking polls, there have been seven major national surveys released this week. President Obama has recorded an all-time low job approval rating in six of the seven.”

Not good: “The last person to know that Sen. Max Baucus wanted a divorce may have been his wife of 25 years. It appears that Wanda Baucus was in the dark even as a member of Baucus’s staff — Melodee Hanes, the woman who is now his live-in girlfriend — was plotting out the senator’s life without a wife.” And it turns out Hanes got a political appointment at the Justice Department. Maybe it is time for him to go. “Say what you want about Republicans, but they have a much better sense than their opponents of when it’s time to grab one of their own and throw him off the sled to the wolves running behind.”

Makes you wonder what Chris Dodd was thinking when he asked for his help: “Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is ‘getting the living hell beat out of him, the living bejesus beat out of him.’”

An inconvenient poll: In the latest Ipos Public Affairs poll, 52 percent of adults think global warming isn’t happening or is happening mostly because of natural patterns while only 43 percent think it is due to human activity.

A very smart move Republicans should support: “U.S. President Barack Obama told lawmakers in private talks this week that he supported moving forward on stalled free trade deals with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.”

If you loved Orin Hatch’s Chanukah tune, just wait until we get to Purim. No, really, he’s thinking about it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

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Sixty, Again and Again

Health-care debate in the Senate gets underway this week, as this report explains:

The debate is expected to last at least several weeks. Democrats would like to pass a bill by Christmas, but have yet to find a formula that can win 60 votes, the number required to conclude debate. Complicating the situation, lawmakers from both parties are planning to introduce dozens of amendments, addressing issues from a government-run health-care plan to medical malpractice lawsuits to abortion and taxes. The aim isn’t just to shape the bill but also to make political points.

One “point” would be that Harry Reid wants to slash hundreds of billions out of Medicare. Another is that Mary Landrieu wants to raise hundreds of billions in new taxes. Still another is that Blanche Lincoln is opposed to tort reform. Well, lots of Democrats will be taking these very toxic positions, but those three are up for re-election in less than a year, as are Michael Bennett of Colorado, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — all of whom will face well-funded and serious opposition by candidates who will run on these votes. And if each of these controversial votes takes 60 to pass, then all will walk the plank to keep Reid’s bill intact. And then there are senators like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman whose terms aren’t up in 2012 but who have voiced principled opposition to the idea of a government takeover of health care.

We saw it wasn’t easy for Reid to get 60 votes, only to start the vote when lawmakers had the excuse that they simply wanted the “process to go forward.” Now we get to the merits, and we’ll see if there are 60 votes — again and again — to pass the components of an increasingly unpopular bill. And all by the end of the year? I’m thinking probably not.

Health-care debate in the Senate gets underway this week, as this report explains:

The debate is expected to last at least several weeks. Democrats would like to pass a bill by Christmas, but have yet to find a formula that can win 60 votes, the number required to conclude debate. Complicating the situation, lawmakers from both parties are planning to introduce dozens of amendments, addressing issues from a government-run health-care plan to medical malpractice lawsuits to abortion and taxes. The aim isn’t just to shape the bill but also to make political points.

One “point” would be that Harry Reid wants to slash hundreds of billions out of Medicare. Another is that Mary Landrieu wants to raise hundreds of billions in new taxes. Still another is that Blanche Lincoln is opposed to tort reform. Well, lots of Democrats will be taking these very toxic positions, but those three are up for re-election in less than a year, as are Michael Bennett of Colorado, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — all of whom will face well-funded and serious opposition by candidates who will run on these votes. And if each of these controversial votes takes 60 to pass, then all will walk the plank to keep Reid’s bill intact. And then there are senators like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman whose terms aren’t up in 2012 but who have voiced principled opposition to the idea of a government takeover of health care.

We saw it wasn’t easy for Reid to get 60 votes, only to start the vote when lawmakers had the excuse that they simply wanted the “process to go forward.” Now we get to the merits, and we’ll see if there are 60 votes — again and again — to pass the components of an increasingly unpopular bill. And all by the end of the year? I’m thinking probably not.

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Who Are They Gonna Believe?

This report from Politico neatly sums up the looming collision between reality and White House spin:

Mounting evidence that independent voters have soured on the Democrats is prompting a debate among party officials about what rhetorical and substantive changes are needed to halt the damage. Following serious setbacks with independents in off-year elections earlier this month, White House officials attributed the defeats to local factors and said President Barack Obama sees no need to reposition his own image or the Democratic message.

Democrats who must face the voters next year can read the polls. They see not simply a falling away of support by independents but also the underlying unease with the liberal big-government, big-spending agenda. Lawmakers may not be geniuses but they are smart enough to see that their own political future is at risk and that the likely culprit is Obamaism. The fear extends to the state level as they recognize the impact of Obama’s agenda on the elections in Virginia and New Jersey. One Democratic pollster observes: “The perception of what’s happening in Congress is polluting what’s happening down below.” And the problem isn’t regional:

Democrats are anxious about the prospects of five-term Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut, who trails one of his GOP opponents by 28 percentage points among independents in a prospective head-to-head matchup, and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, two Democratic incumbents with shrinking approval ratings among independent voters. A Des Moines Register poll released this weekend showed the first-term Culver trailing the GOP front-runner among independents by nearly 30 percentage points.

Hmm. Democrats had assured themselves that the Republicans were becoming a regional, all-Southern party. But that was before Obama and the Democrats in Congress spent nearly a year in control.

The Obami and the Democratic leadership in Congress, on the other hand, are putting their fingers in their ears to block out the sound of stampeding independents and to ignore the obvious explanation — the public does not share their zeal to remake America and reorder the relationship between government and citizenry, and between the public and private sectors. They have a leftward lurch to complete, and they aren’t about to let the voters get in the way. Their answer: more of the same! A government health-care takeover tops the list, which of course is increasingly unpopular among these same independents.

Democrats in Congress will have to decide whether they believe the polls and election results or the self-serving spin from the White House and their leadership, which is desperate to ram home ObamaCare before the 2010 election exacts its toll. Apparently, the Obama team is not going to adjust course to save their congressional allies, so the latter will have to fend for themselves. We’ll see if Step One in the “save their skins” program is to refashion ObamaCare from a monstrous government power grab to something voters might actually like.

This report from Politico neatly sums up the looming collision between reality and White House spin:

Mounting evidence that independent voters have soured on the Democrats is prompting a debate among party officials about what rhetorical and substantive changes are needed to halt the damage. Following serious setbacks with independents in off-year elections earlier this month, White House officials attributed the defeats to local factors and said President Barack Obama sees no need to reposition his own image or the Democratic message.

Democrats who must face the voters next year can read the polls. They see not simply a falling away of support by independents but also the underlying unease with the liberal big-government, big-spending agenda. Lawmakers may not be geniuses but they are smart enough to see that their own political future is at risk and that the likely culprit is Obamaism. The fear extends to the state level as they recognize the impact of Obama’s agenda on the elections in Virginia and New Jersey. One Democratic pollster observes: “The perception of what’s happening in Congress is polluting what’s happening down below.” And the problem isn’t regional:

Democrats are anxious about the prospects of five-term Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut, who trails one of his GOP opponents by 28 percentage points among independents in a prospective head-to-head matchup, and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, two Democratic incumbents with shrinking approval ratings among independent voters. A Des Moines Register poll released this weekend showed the first-term Culver trailing the GOP front-runner among independents by nearly 30 percentage points.

Hmm. Democrats had assured themselves that the Republicans were becoming a regional, all-Southern party. But that was before Obama and the Democrats in Congress spent nearly a year in control.

The Obami and the Democratic leadership in Congress, on the other hand, are putting their fingers in their ears to block out the sound of stampeding independents and to ignore the obvious explanation — the public does not share their zeal to remake America and reorder the relationship between government and citizenry, and between the public and private sectors. They have a leftward lurch to complete, and they aren’t about to let the voters get in the way. Their answer: more of the same! A government health-care takeover tops the list, which of course is increasingly unpopular among these same independents.

Democrats in Congress will have to decide whether they believe the polls and election results or the self-serving spin from the White House and their leadership, which is desperate to ram home ObamaCare before the 2010 election exacts its toll. Apparently, the Obama team is not going to adjust course to save their congressional allies, so the latter will have to fend for themselves. We’ll see if Step One in the “save their skins” program is to refashion ObamaCare from a monstrous government power grab to something voters might actually like.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.’” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.’” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

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Democrats Dismiss This NIE

When a summary of the N.I.E. on Iran’s nuclear weapons program was released in October 2007, Democrats wasted no time in citing its “findings” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. Prominent party members dashed in front of cameras and microphones to bolster their claims that Tehran was ripe for dialogue and the Bush administration was wrong to think otherwise:

John Edwards: “The new NIE finds that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that Iran can be dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.”

Harry Reid: “The Administration should begin this process by finally undertaking a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”

Nancy Pelosi: “[T]he new Iran NIE suggests there is time for a new policy toward Iran that deters it from restarting its nuclear program while also improving relations overall.”

Chris Dodd: “Taken together these findings make a strong case for pursuing robust diplomacy to resolve our differences with Iran . . .”

And the Clinton campaign’s national security director said

The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns. Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Put aside the fact that the NIE buried the most worrisome indication of Iran’s continued nuclear weaponization in a footnote. And forget that, even if Iran had halted its program, one could most readily attribute this to the display of American military might in Iraq. That’s old news. The question today is: What are Democrats saying about the new classified NIE that paints an encouraging picture of progress in Iraq?

“It’s much less insightful than other, recent products and focuses narrowly on counterterrorism efforts in Iraq and the progress of the Iraqi leadership,” said Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee.

There’s also suspicion about the supposedly funny timing of the NIE’s release, as General David Petraeus is scheduled to testify about Iraq before Congress next week.

“One might ask whether the timing of the release and the apparent departure from usual procedures means this is more of a political document than an intelligence document,” said Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee. The Wall Street Journal adds, “He declined to say how the procedures were unusual.”

It’s the wrong NIE at the wrong time, as John Kerry might put it. That is, if someone could find him (or Hillary or Obama) to comment about what seems like a monumentally important document.

When a summary of the N.I.E. on Iran’s nuclear weapons program was released in October 2007, Democrats wasted no time in citing its “findings” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. Prominent party members dashed in front of cameras and microphones to bolster their claims that Tehran was ripe for dialogue and the Bush administration was wrong to think otherwise:

John Edwards: “The new NIE finds that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that Iran can be dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.”

Harry Reid: “The Administration should begin this process by finally undertaking a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”

Nancy Pelosi: “[T]he new Iran NIE suggests there is time for a new policy toward Iran that deters it from restarting its nuclear program while also improving relations overall.”

Chris Dodd: “Taken together these findings make a strong case for pursuing robust diplomacy to resolve our differences with Iran . . .”

And the Clinton campaign’s national security director said

The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns. Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Put aside the fact that the NIE buried the most worrisome indication of Iran’s continued nuclear weaponization in a footnote. And forget that, even if Iran had halted its program, one could most readily attribute this to the display of American military might in Iraq. That’s old news. The question today is: What are Democrats saying about the new classified NIE that paints an encouraging picture of progress in Iraq?

“It’s much less insightful than other, recent products and focuses narrowly on counterterrorism efforts in Iraq and the progress of the Iraqi leadership,” said Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee.

There’s also suspicion about the supposedly funny timing of the NIE’s release, as General David Petraeus is scheduled to testify about Iraq before Congress next week.

“One might ask whether the timing of the release and the apparent departure from usual procedures means this is more of a political document than an intelligence document,” said Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee. The Wall Street Journal adds, “He declined to say how the procedures were unusual.”

It’s the wrong NIE at the wrong time, as John Kerry might put it. That is, if someone could find him (or Hillary or Obama) to comment about what seems like a monumentally important document.

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Crimes Against Humanity

Listening to the Democrats’ rhetoric these days you get the sense they are . . . how to put this gently . . . wimps. Politics ain’t beanbag and you wonder how fragile they imagine their candidates might be that they fear a continuation of their primary process. Chris Dodd says that “we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that’s going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention.” Barack Obama likens the race to the “Bataan Death March.” Yeah, just like that. (Note to our Democratic friends: avoid analogies which compare, even in jest, the minor stresses of campaigning to war crimes; there’s a candidate out there who knows something about real wars and real suffering.)

In short, what do these people think politics is all about? Far be it from me to agree with Bill Clinton, but if these folks can’t give and take a punch you have to wonder if they have the mettle to make it through the general election. And beyond that, what do they expect the presidency to be like?

Perhaps the shock of having continued press coverage focus on their foibles rather than on the Republicans’ is a novel and overwhelming experience. Perhaps all the feigned indignation over the latest jibe from the other camp has clouded their view. Or perhaps the Obama-mania doesn’t wear well with time. For now, all they see is danger and ruin so they want the match called off and the referees (who exactly they would be is unclear) to come in and stop the game.

You think they would be enjoying all this attention. Maybe less is more.

Listening to the Democrats’ rhetoric these days you get the sense they are . . . how to put this gently . . . wimps. Politics ain’t beanbag and you wonder how fragile they imagine their candidates might be that they fear a continuation of their primary process. Chris Dodd says that “we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that’s going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention.” Barack Obama likens the race to the “Bataan Death March.” Yeah, just like that. (Note to our Democratic friends: avoid analogies which compare, even in jest, the minor stresses of campaigning to war crimes; there’s a candidate out there who knows something about real wars and real suffering.)

In short, what do these people think politics is all about? Far be it from me to agree with Bill Clinton, but if these folks can’t give and take a punch you have to wonder if they have the mettle to make it through the general election. And beyond that, what do they expect the presidency to be like?

Perhaps the shock of having continued press coverage focus on their foibles rather than on the Republicans’ is a novel and overwhelming experience. Perhaps all the feigned indignation over the latest jibe from the other camp has clouded their view. Or perhaps the Obama-mania doesn’t wear well with time. For now, all they see is danger and ruin so they want the match called off and the referees (who exactly they would be is unclear) to come in and stop the game.

You think they would be enjoying all this attention. Maybe less is more.

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McCain in Michigan

Independents are a huge factor in Michigan, and the reason why I think John McCain will win there next week. The Democratic primary is non-existent this year. When Michigan ignored the Democratic National Committee and moved up its primary date to January, the DNC punished it by taking away its 156 delegates from the convention.  The only names on the Democratic ballot will be Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd. Barack Obama is not even contesting there. Like New Hampshire, Michigan allows its registered independents to vote in either primary. That means they go to McCain (who won the state in 2000 in part due to an independent vote) in what would otherwise be a tight race for GOP voters among McCain, Huckabee, and Romney.

Independents are a huge factor in Michigan, and the reason why I think John McCain will win there next week. The Democratic primary is non-existent this year. When Michigan ignored the Democratic National Committee and moved up its primary date to January, the DNC punished it by taking away its 156 delegates from the convention.  The only names on the Democratic ballot will be Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd. Barack Obama is not even contesting there. Like New Hampshire, Michigan allows its registered independents to vote in either primary. That means they go to McCain (who won the state in 2000 in part due to an independent vote) in what would otherwise be a tight race for GOP voters among McCain, Huckabee, and Romney.

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IOWA: The Vanity Primary

Presumably, sometime in the next 48 hours, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd will take a deep drink of reality and drop out. They have not just failed to be competitive in any part of the race.  They have failed to bring no influence to the debate within their party. No one felt a need to respond to them or counter their arguments. Despite the buzz on some blogs, these candidates don’t have supporters of any decisive weight. For months Biden, Dodd, and others have sucked up air time on debates in what amount to a massive act of vanity and self-importance. Shouldn’t someone have had the decency to get out of the race last September?

Presumably, sometime in the next 48 hours, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd will take a deep drink of reality and drop out. They have not just failed to be competitive in any part of the race.  They have failed to bring no influence to the debate within their party. No one felt a need to respond to them or counter their arguments. Despite the buzz on some blogs, these candidates don’t have supporters of any decisive weight. For months Biden, Dodd, and others have sucked up air time on debates in what amount to a massive act of vanity and self-importance. Shouldn’t someone have had the decency to get out of the race last September?

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It’s Official: Bill Clinton’s Lost His Touch

The widening gyre that is the Hillary Clinton campaign is spinning into near-chaos, and once again, the Senator’s supposed ace-in-the-hole is lending his name to the cause.

Last night, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton grew red-faced and tense as he grasped to defend his wife. He complained that Senator Barack Obama has garnered media support, as if to suggest good press is the Clinton clan’s exclusive entitlement.

Clinton tried to be elusive about trashing Obama for his lack of experience, but the bitterness was front and center. A Youtube clip of the interview has Clinton saying: “It’s less predictable, isn’t it? I mean when is the last time we elected a President based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?”

He added that he gets “tickled” watching Obama on the stump. The urge to knock Obama led Clinton into strange territory for someone who’s been charged with campaigning for the New York Senator.

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be President?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson also earned his endorsement. In discussing the merits of John Edwards, Marc Ambinder reports Clinton as saying, “He is great, Edwards is really good . . .” and “It’s a miracle she’s got a chance to win [in Iowa].” Bill Clinton seems to have adopted “Anyone but Obama” as his slogan.

According to Ambinder: “Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton’s staff was asking producers in his show’s control room to get them to have Rose end the interview.” With all the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama comparisons floating around, perhaps the former President is getting a fresh look into his own past, and not liking what he sees.

The widening gyre that is the Hillary Clinton campaign is spinning into near-chaos, and once again, the Senator’s supposed ace-in-the-hole is lending his name to the cause.

Last night, in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Clinton grew red-faced and tense as he grasped to defend his wife. He complained that Senator Barack Obama has garnered media support, as if to suggest good press is the Clinton clan’s exclusive entitlement.

Clinton tried to be elusive about trashing Obama for his lack of experience, but the bitterness was front and center. A Youtube clip of the interview has Clinton saying: “It’s less predictable, isn’t it? I mean when is the last time we elected a President based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?”

He added that he gets “tickled” watching Obama on the stump. The urge to knock Obama led Clinton into strange territory for someone who’s been charged with campaigning for the New York Senator.

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be President?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Senator Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson also earned his endorsement. In discussing the merits of John Edwards, Marc Ambinder reports Clinton as saying, “He is great, Edwards is really good . . .” and “It’s a miracle she’s got a chance to win [in Iowa].” Bill Clinton seems to have adopted “Anyone but Obama” as his slogan.

According to Ambinder: “Towards the end of the interview, Rose indicated that Clinton’s staff was asking producers in his show’s control room to get them to have Rose end the interview.” With all the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama comparisons floating around, perhaps the former President is getting a fresh look into his own past, and not liking what he sees.

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The NIE Is Good News, Not Political Currency

Whenever Democrats accuse George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a scare tactic or talking point it tells me that the accuser, not the President, is set on trivializing the attacks of that day. If things are so good that you can’t see beyond the partisan implications of world-historic catastrophe then you’ve settled into a deadly kind of decadence.

On the flipside, I think you can say the same of people whose response to dodging a nuclear bullet is to snicker.

The NIE, if accepted at face value, means nothing less than the nullification of the deadliest threat we faced. Less than a week ago, we understood our Iranian options to be abysmal and worse. An Iran hell-bent on nukes demanded either military intervention or de facto surrender (and this is to say nothing of the consequences of an Iranian nuclear launch.) One would think averting, if not facing down, this menace a cause for celebration. Yet, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats have found nothing more than an opportunity for political calibration. All they’ve done is tsk tsk the Bush administration for its hardline approach to Tehran (while ignoring that it’s this very tactic which yielded Iranian compliance.)

In going down this road, Democrats are endorsing a dangerously cynical analysis. Any genuine threat is downplayed as a scare tactic, and any success is denied as Bush PR. As the Left continues to react to potentially world-shaking events with political haymaking, we’re left wondering where they actually stand on those events. That is, if such things matter to them at all.

Whenever Democrats accuse George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a scare tactic or talking point it tells me that the accuser, not the President, is set on trivializing the attacks of that day. If things are so good that you can’t see beyond the partisan implications of world-historic catastrophe then you’ve settled into a deadly kind of decadence.

On the flipside, I think you can say the same of people whose response to dodging a nuclear bullet is to snicker.

The NIE, if accepted at face value, means nothing less than the nullification of the deadliest threat we faced. Less than a week ago, we understood our Iranian options to be abysmal and worse. An Iran hell-bent on nukes demanded either military intervention or de facto surrender (and this is to say nothing of the consequences of an Iranian nuclear launch.) One would think averting, if not facing down, this menace a cause for celebration. Yet, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats have found nothing more than an opportunity for political calibration. All they’ve done is tsk tsk the Bush administration for its hardline approach to Tehran (while ignoring that it’s this very tactic which yielded Iranian compliance.)

In going down this road, Democrats are endorsing a dangerously cynical analysis. Any genuine threat is downplayed as a scare tactic, and any success is denied as Bush PR. As the Left continues to react to potentially world-shaking events with political haymaking, we’re left wondering where they actually stand on those events. That is, if such things matter to them at all.

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Dems’ Contradictions After NIE

If Iran did halt its nuclear weaponization program in 2003, then we can thank the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Yet the Democrats consider the NIE an indication of the effectiveness of diplomacy. Here’s a round-up:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “The Administration should begin this process by finally undertaking a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”

Speaker of The House, Nancy Pelosi: “[T]he new Iran NIE suggests there is time for a new policy toward Iran that deters it from restarting its nuclear program while also improving relations overall.

Senator John Edwards: “The new NIE finds that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that Iran can be dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.”

Senator Chris Dodd: “Taken together these findings make a strong case for pursuing robust diplomacy to resolve our differences with Iran . . .”

The logical bind here is evident. If the President hasn’t been pursuing diplomacy to their satisfaction, how can diplomacy be responsible for Iran’s turnaround? This rush to doubletalk may haunt these Democrats in the near future.

But it’s Senator Hillary Clinton who makes the most transparent mess of things. Here’s Lee Feinstein, her Campaign National Security Director:

The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns. Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Clinton supported the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, which turned up the heat on Iran, via military threat. Claiming vindication of her imagined diplomatic policy is as strange as her husband’s comments on Iraq last week. And that last bit about unconditional meetings is too telegraphed a jab at Obama for anyone to stomach.

If Iran did halt its nuclear weaponization program in 2003, then we can thank the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Yet the Democrats consider the NIE an indication of the effectiveness of diplomacy. Here’s a round-up:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “The Administration should begin this process by finally undertaking a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”

Speaker of The House, Nancy Pelosi: “[T]he new Iran NIE suggests there is time for a new policy toward Iran that deters it from restarting its nuclear program while also improving relations overall.

Senator John Edwards: “The new NIE finds that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that Iran can be dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.”

Senator Chris Dodd: “Taken together these findings make a strong case for pursuing robust diplomacy to resolve our differences with Iran . . .”

The logical bind here is evident. If the President hasn’t been pursuing diplomacy to their satisfaction, how can diplomacy be responsible for Iran’s turnaround? This rush to doubletalk may haunt these Democrats in the near future.

But it’s Senator Hillary Clinton who makes the most transparent mess of things. Here’s Lee Feinstein, her Campaign National Security Director:

The assessment of the NIE vindicates the policy Senator Clinton will pursue as President: vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation, and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns. Neither saber rattling nor unconditional meetings with Ahmadinejad will stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Clinton supported the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, which turned up the heat on Iran, via military threat. Claiming vindication of her imagined diplomatic policy is as strange as her husband’s comments on Iraq last week. And that last bit about unconditional meetings is too telegraphed a jab at Obama for anyone to stomach.

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