Commentary Magazine


Topic: Colorado

Which Is the Lesser of the Evils?

Colorado legalized the selling of marijuana beginning January 1 and the punditocracy largely does not approve. David Brooks of the New York Times writes that “In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post writes “widespread legalization is a bad idea, if an inevitable development. Washington state will be the next to light up, in a few months. A measure is heading to the ballot in Alaska this year, along with measures in Oregon and California. As with gambling — also a bad idea, by the way — more states are certain to feel the peer pressure for tax dollars and tourist revenue.”

I’m not an advocate for pot. I think that, unlike alcohol in moderation, it makes you stupid while giving you the illusion of being brilliant. And it surely must be bad for one’s health. Sucking smoke into your lungs has a pretty bad track record in that regard after all.

But unlike Brooks and Marcus, I’m not opposed to its legalization. I would state as a general principle that it is a bad idea to forbid what the government cannot substantially prevent and which a substantial portion of the population has no moral objection to. We should have learned this lesson with Prohibition, which was supposed to get rid of demon rum and gave us Al Capone instead.

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Colorado legalized the selling of marijuana beginning January 1 and the punditocracy largely does not approve. David Brooks of the New York Times writes that “In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post writes “widespread legalization is a bad idea, if an inevitable development. Washington state will be the next to light up, in a few months. A measure is heading to the ballot in Alaska this year, along with measures in Oregon and California. As with gambling — also a bad idea, by the way — more states are certain to feel the peer pressure for tax dollars and tourist revenue.”

I’m not an advocate for pot. I think that, unlike alcohol in moderation, it makes you stupid while giving you the illusion of being brilliant. And it surely must be bad for one’s health. Sucking smoke into your lungs has a pretty bad track record in that regard after all.

But unlike Brooks and Marcus, I’m not opposed to its legalization. I would state as a general principle that it is a bad idea to forbid what the government cannot substantially prevent and which a substantial portion of the population has no moral objection to. We should have learned this lesson with Prohibition, which was supposed to get rid of demon rum and gave us Al Capone instead.

When something with a large market is outlawed, entrepreneurs will try to tap into the huge profit premium produced by its being illegal and they will succeed in doing so. And unlike hard drugs and alcohol, marijuana can be easily grown nearly anywhere in the country and requires minimal industrial processing. It is already about as hard to obtain as Coca-Cola. Any commercial disputes those entrepreneurs have will be settled in parking lots with guns, not court rooms with lawyers. Tax money will be spent trying, unsuccessfully, to suppress an illegal product instead of being earned taxing a legal one.

So now, because the states can be the “laboratories of democracy,” we’re going to have an experiment. As the Wall Street Journal wrote this morning, “Colorado and Washington voters may come to regret their decision if they notice a surge in drug use, or more violence, or a generation of underdeveloped young people. Legalization, once achieved, will be hard to reverse. Better, then, to let Colorado go first, and watch what happens.”

We are about to find out which is the lesser of the evils, legal or illegal marijuana.

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Forget Mixed Seating. How About the President Just Mailing It In?

In the wake of President Obama’s call for more civility in the wake of the tragedy in Arizona, some in his party are seeking a symbolic effort to play down partisanship during one of the Capitol’s annual displays of partisanship: the State of the Union speech. Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has called for mixed seating during the event. The Democratic leaders like it, and Republicans, who are leery of being portrayed as insufficiently sensitive or overly partisan, are not opposing the plan.

Is there anything wrong with the idea? Not really. The tradition of having Democrats sit on one side of the Chamber and Republicans on the other is based on the way Congress operates when it is in a normal session. Congressional seating patterns, not to mention the existence of organized political parties, are nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

However, it is not clear that mixed seating will achieve the avowed purpose of those advocating this measure, which is to avoid the sophomoric displays of partisanship that have become a regular feature of State of the Union speeches. While representatives and senators from both parties stand and applaud, as they should, during the president’s entrance, once the speech starts, the two sides morph into a congressional version of a college football game, where the supporters of the two teams divide the stadium and engage in organized cheers. It doesn’t matter which party holds the White House or Congress. Every year, the president can count on raucous cheers and standing ovations from his fellow party members in the chamber while members of the other party ostentatiously stay seated and silent.

Will mixed seating prevent a recurrence of this nonsense? The answer here is probably not. When the president speaks a line that is designed to appeal to the sensibilities of his own party — for example, one urging Congress not to repeal his health-care program — most Democrats are likely to stand and cheer while Republicans will remain seated (and need to restrain themselves from muttering their disapproval, which would lead to accusations of bad manners, such as those aimed at Justice Samuel Alito, who silently voiced his disapproval at a presidential barb aimed at the Supreme Court last year). The odds are, Democrats will get up and applaud and Republicans will not at certain points in the speech. And they will do so even if they have not clumped together by party. Read More

In the wake of President Obama’s call for more civility in the wake of the tragedy in Arizona, some in his party are seeking a symbolic effort to play down partisanship during one of the Capitol’s annual displays of partisanship: the State of the Union speech. Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado has called for mixed seating during the event. The Democratic leaders like it, and Republicans, who are leery of being portrayed as insufficiently sensitive or overly partisan, are not opposing the plan.

Is there anything wrong with the idea? Not really. The tradition of having Democrats sit on one side of the Chamber and Republicans on the other is based on the way Congress operates when it is in a normal session. Congressional seating patterns, not to mention the existence of organized political parties, are nowhere to be found in the Constitution.

However, it is not clear that mixed seating will achieve the avowed purpose of those advocating this measure, which is to avoid the sophomoric displays of partisanship that have become a regular feature of State of the Union speeches. While representatives and senators from both parties stand and applaud, as they should, during the president’s entrance, once the speech starts, the two sides morph into a congressional version of a college football game, where the supporters of the two teams divide the stadium and engage in organized cheers. It doesn’t matter which party holds the White House or Congress. Every year, the president can count on raucous cheers and standing ovations from his fellow party members in the chamber while members of the other party ostentatiously stay seated and silent.

Will mixed seating prevent a recurrence of this nonsense? The answer here is probably not. When the president speaks a line that is designed to appeal to the sensibilities of his own party — for example, one urging Congress not to repeal his health-care program — most Democrats are likely to stand and cheer while Republicans will remain seated (and need to restrain themselves from muttering their disapproval, which would lead to accusations of bad manners, such as those aimed at Justice Samuel Alito, who silently voiced his disapproval at a presidential barb aimed at the Supreme Court last year). The odds are, Democrats will get up and applaud and Republicans will not at certain points in the speech. And they will do so even if they have not clumped together by party.

An even better suggestion than mixed seating would be to do away with this televised extravaganza altogether. While the Constitution does mandate that the president report to the Congress annually on the state of the union, it does not say he needs to go there and speak to them in person on national TV. Until the 20th century, the practice (initiated by Thomas Jefferson, who thought the speech that his two predecessors had delivered was too reminiscent of the British monarch’s annual speech from the throne) was for the president to write his report and then have it delivered via messenger to the Congress, where the Clerk of the House publicly read it. Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of delivering it in person; and as first radio and then television entered into the question, it became a highly choreographed ritual that served as a valuable PR tool for every president.

The point is, if ending the obnoxious partisanship and pointless rituals of the occasion is the goal, the president can write and then deliver his speech from the Oval Office, something that would satisfy his constitutional obligation without forcing the nation to endure a pointless spectacle. While I am sure that no president will take up this suggestion, doing so will not only end the partisanship that nobody likes but might also encourage presidents to stick to serious policy points and avoid the smarmy feel-good touches (such as singling out praiseworthy citizens who have been invited to sit in the gallery) that have made the speech an even lengthier and more boring ordeal that it needs to be.

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Boneheaded Birthright Citizenship Fight

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

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RE: Independent Voters Turn Right

As Pete pointed out yesterday, the midterm elections did not turn merely on the enthusiasm gap. Independent voters — the Holy Grail of politics — turned decisively against the Democrats. Charlie Cook explains:

Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.

This huge shift from one midterm election to the next, by a group that constitutes 26 percent of the electorate, is seismic. It is not a matter of turnout or partisan intensity; it is a clear indication that Democrats alienated voters in the middle who saw an agenda in 2009 and 2010 that was quite different and much more ideological that the one described in 2006 and 2008.

But it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume, just as it was for Democrats following the 2008 election, that they now have this large and decisive group in their grasp. You want proof? Try Senate races in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado. The danger for the GOP is that while independents have been dislodged from the Democratic coalition, they can easily be turned off by Republican candidates.

The challenge for the GOP, as it is in each presidential election, is to form a center-right coalition that can gin up enthusiasm among the base but also reach out to those not automatically within the fold. Part of the challenge is to define policy objectives, and part is persona. The GOP has made strides in formulating the former, but the latter — the search for the “hot but not too hot” salesperson — has yet to begin in earnest. The dramatic swing in the independent vote should remain a cautionary tale: it’s easier to lose the independents than to keep them moored to your party.

As Pete pointed out yesterday, the midterm elections did not turn merely on the enthusiasm gap. Independent voters — the Holy Grail of politics — turned decisively against the Democrats. Charlie Cook explains:

Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.

This huge shift from one midterm election to the next, by a group that constitutes 26 percent of the electorate, is seismic. It is not a matter of turnout or partisan intensity; it is a clear indication that Democrats alienated voters in the middle who saw an agenda in 2009 and 2010 that was quite different and much more ideological that the one described in 2006 and 2008.

But it would be a mistake for Republicans to assume, just as it was for Democrats following the 2008 election, that they now have this large and decisive group in their grasp. You want proof? Try Senate races in Nevada, Delaware, and Colorado. The danger for the GOP is that while independents have been dislodged from the Democratic coalition, they can easily be turned off by Republican candidates.

The challenge for the GOP, as it is in each presidential election, is to form a center-right coalition that can gin up enthusiasm among the base but also reach out to those not automatically within the fold. Part of the challenge is to define policy objectives, and part is persona. The GOP has made strides in formulating the former, but the latter — the search for the “hot but not too hot” salesperson — has yet to begin in earnest. The dramatic swing in the independent vote should remain a cautionary tale: it’s easier to lose the independents than to keep them moored to your party.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

Never underestimate the ability of GOP candidates to turn off voters who should be their natural allies. “Clearly, Sharron Angle’s ad depicting dark-skinned figures violating U.S. immigration laws angered many Hispanic voters in Nevada, especially after she clumsily tried to claim they might have been Asian. Similarly, the presence of anti-immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo on Colorado’s ballot as the de facto Republican candidate for governor helped fuel Hispanic turnout.”

A lot of conservatives wish Chris Christie had abided by the “never say never” rule and left just a crack open for a 2012 run.  He has a “51-38 percent approval rating, higher than President Barack Obama or any other statewide leader, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.”

Never confuse Keith Olbermann for a journalist, says Michael Kinsley. “Does anyone doubt what Olbermann’s views are on politics in general and these races [in which he contributed to the Democrats] in particular? Most journalists try to suppress their biases — Olbermann gets paid to flaunt his biases.”

George W. Bush was never self-pitying or a buck-passer, writes Mark McKinnon. “Bush never complains. He never blames others. He takes full responsibility for his campaigns, his administration, his life. He accepts the cards he’s dealt. That’s the George Bush I know.” Get ready for the Bush nostalgia. (His approval rating is statistically identical to Obama’s. Says as much about Obama as it does Bush, huh?)

Never mind luring him to switch parties. The National Republican Senate Committee is already going after Joe Manchin.

Never think “no” means “no.” Rick Perry says he’s not running in 2012, but he sure is going after someone who certainly will be.

Never mess with Stephen Hayes. Especially if you don’t have your facts straight.

Never forget: in victory, minor spats tend to fade. “[Sen. Jim] DeMint is co-sponsoring an amendment [Sen. John] Cornyn plans to offer that would put the Senate GOPers on record in support of a constitutional amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced and thereby force Congress to put the brakes on government spending and require a supermajority to raise taxes. … Funny, Cornyn and DeMint working together to stop earmarks, require a balanced budget and prevent future tax increases without a congressional supermajority. DeMint was the major force behind the Senate Conservative Fund that contributed mightily the victories of many of the incoming GOP senators, while Cornyn headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee that made some moves earlier in the 2010 campaign that were strongly criticized by conservatives.” Victory tends to make pols magnanimous.

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Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

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Could NPR Survive Without the Taxpayers?

As I previously noted, NPR’s perennial claim that only a sliver of its funding comes from the taxpayers is misleading. Now CEO Vivian Schiller comes clean:

“If defunding to public broadcasting were to occur, it would be devastating to public broadcasting. That’s a fact,” Schiller said.

After Schiller fired commentator Juan Williams several weeks ago for comments he made about Muslims on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” calls for defunding NPR erupted again.

“Almost all federal funding goes to member stations,” Schiller said. “Very, very little of it goes to NPR, but a lot goes to stations.”

While NPR headquarters only receives about 1 percent of funding from tax dollars, member stations receive about 9 percent of their funding from tax dollars, Schiller said. She said that the 9 percent NPR member stations receive from taxpayer dollars is essential for them to stay on the air.

“For small stations, and even for large stations, that’s a big chunk of their revenue,” she said. “It’s been a critical part of keeping those stations vibrant and, so, we take these calls for defunding very, very seriously.”

But not seriously enough to curtail its blatant left-leaning bias or to apply its internal rules in an evenhanded manner. (She sneers, however, at cable news for “its partisan nature.” News exec, heal thyself!)

In the big scheme of things, the public financial support for NPR is chump change. But there could be no better example of unnecessary and unhelpful government spending. If the public loves NPR as much as Schiller seems to believe it does, then let the listeners, or NPR’s largest donor, pay for it. And according to her, the NPR audience is so very educated and special (wow wee — its blog commenters debated the dimensions of the Colorado balloon, which was the subject of a media hoax). Such people are just the types to support NPR — unless, of course, they figure that over-the-air and satellite radio stations are more than enough to satisfy their listening needs.

Schiller finds that thought — fending for herself in the free market – petrifying. She should.

As I previously noted, NPR’s perennial claim that only a sliver of its funding comes from the taxpayers is misleading. Now CEO Vivian Schiller comes clean:

“If defunding to public broadcasting were to occur, it would be devastating to public broadcasting. That’s a fact,” Schiller said.

After Schiller fired commentator Juan Williams several weeks ago for comments he made about Muslims on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” calls for defunding NPR erupted again.

“Almost all federal funding goes to member stations,” Schiller said. “Very, very little of it goes to NPR, but a lot goes to stations.”

While NPR headquarters only receives about 1 percent of funding from tax dollars, member stations receive about 9 percent of their funding from tax dollars, Schiller said. She said that the 9 percent NPR member stations receive from taxpayer dollars is essential for them to stay on the air.

“For small stations, and even for large stations, that’s a big chunk of their revenue,” she said. “It’s been a critical part of keeping those stations vibrant and, so, we take these calls for defunding very, very seriously.”

But not seriously enough to curtail its blatant left-leaning bias or to apply its internal rules in an evenhanded manner. (She sneers, however, at cable news for “its partisan nature.” News exec, heal thyself!)

In the big scheme of things, the public financial support for NPR is chump change. But there could be no better example of unnecessary and unhelpful government spending. If the public loves NPR as much as Schiller seems to believe it does, then let the listeners, or NPR’s largest donor, pay for it. And according to her, the NPR audience is so very educated and special (wow wee — its blog commenters debated the dimensions of the Colorado balloon, which was the subject of a media hoax). Such people are just the types to support NPR — unless, of course, they figure that over-the-air and satellite radio stations are more than enough to satisfy their listening needs.

Schiller finds that thought — fending for herself in the free market – petrifying. She should.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Recap

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami – Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami – Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

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LIVE BLOG: Obama’s Seat Goes to the GOP

If Ted Kennedy’s seat can go to Scott Brown, then Obama’s seat can go to Mark Kirk. And it did. It is, to put it mildly, an embarrassment to the president and his party. The Democrats selected an ethically flawed candidate. Could a better candidate have won? Maybe. But recall that the Illinois Democratic Party largely did this to themselves. Sen. Roland Burris will become the answer to a trivia question. The party hemmed and hawed, couldn’t find a way to boot him out and refused to have an early special election when Obama’s standing was higher.  And ultimately the president could not save even his former seat for his party. This was a seat highly coveted by the Republicans. The total Senate haul for the GOP is now 6. Nevada, Colorado and Washington are still to be determined. Yes, Harry Reid’s demise would be bigger than Illinois. But make no mistake, the GOP is especially delighted to snatch this one from the Dems.

If Ted Kennedy’s seat can go to Scott Brown, then Obama’s seat can go to Mark Kirk. And it did. It is, to put it mildly, an embarrassment to the president and his party. The Democrats selected an ethically flawed candidate. Could a better candidate have won? Maybe. But recall that the Illinois Democratic Party largely did this to themselves. Sen. Roland Burris will become the answer to a trivia question. The party hemmed and hawed, couldn’t find a way to boot him out and refused to have an early special election when Obama’s standing was higher.  And ultimately the president could not save even his former seat for his party. This was a seat highly coveted by the Republicans. The total Senate haul for the GOP is now 6. Nevada, Colorado and Washington are still to be determined. Yes, Harry Reid’s demise would be bigger than Illinois. But make no mistake, the GOP is especially delighted to snatch this one from the Dems.

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LIVE BLOG: Colorado

Remains tense there. The raw data (with big margins of error) on the Senate race has Democrat Michael Bennet beating Ken Buck by two points. Could go either way still.   loss there would  be a blow for Obama, who, in 2008, carried the state 54 percent to 45 percent. Colorado was also cited by the New York Times back in August as evidence that “predictions of doom for incumbents and establishment candidates this campaign season are proving to be more complex in the real world,” because the Democrat that Obama backed won the primary won. If the Dems hold on to Colorado, even by two points, it will be cited as something more robust than it actually merits.

Remains tense there. The raw data (with big margins of error) on the Senate race has Democrat Michael Bennet beating Ken Buck by two points. Could go either way still.   loss there would  be a blow for Obama, who, in 2008, carried the state 54 percent to 45 percent. Colorado was also cited by the New York Times back in August as evidence that “predictions of doom for incumbents and establishment candidates this campaign season are proving to be more complex in the real world,” because the Democrat that Obama backed won the primary won. If the Dems hold on to Colorado, even by two points, it will be cited as something more robust than it actually merits.

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The Perils of Palin Punditry

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.

You can bet the “how to stop Palin” columns will keep proliferating. There’s one in the Daily Beast today, warning the GOP establishment “to treat her with respect, and to avoid any hint at all of a patronizing attitude.” Not bad for platitudinous advice, albeit a little late. Tunku Varadarajan asserts that “the party cannot ‘manage’ Sarah Palin unless she agrees to manage herself.” Actually, if she were managing herself, she might advise herself not to be managed by the people who backed Charlie Crist. He then opines:

Palin knows her own strengths. In all likelihood, she knows her own weaknesses even better. The Republican Party must flatter her for her strengths, all the better to use them well in the next year. Equally, it must be diplomatic about her weaknesses, alluding to them in private and not blaring them out to the nation in the incendiary manner of a Karl Rove. Palin will come to concede her electoral limitations—sooner than most people expect. And when she does, she will leave the presidential field open to a candidate better able than she to tackle Obama in 2012. That would be her finest contribution to the Republican Party. In not running herself, she will make the party electable.

How does he know all this? He certainly hasn’t talked to her and cites no source (he couldn’t even manage a blind quote or two) for his “upon clear reflection, she’ll not run” view.  The problem with most of these “managing Palin” stories is that they are based on nothing more than the wishful thinking of her skeptics and potential adversaries. They tell us a lot about them, but nothing about Palin.

Far more helpful and certainly more reliable than peering into the Palin crystal ball is to analyze what she has done and said. The 2010 midterms show the promise and the peril of Palin. She spotted some unique talent (e.g., Nikki Haley), knew enough to stay away from Charlie Crist, and encouraged the Tea Party to remain within the two-party system. She also has been a consistent voice for a robust foreign policy, providing an important counterweight to neo-isolationist strains on the right. But there was also plenty to raise concerns. Mike Gerson explains:

Palin’s endorsement of Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican Senate primary revealed a preference for a shallow ideological purity above achievement, qualification or electoral success. And on Monday, Palin issued a robocall for Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado, one of the most divisive figures in American politics.

Gerson is dismayed by what he calls an “odd mix of Tea Party Jacobinism and feminist grievance.” If Palin is inclined to run, she should take these concerns and the lessons of 2010 to heart.

And the pundits would do well to stop playing Carnac the Magnificent. There’s plenty of news to opine on without making up fanciful scenarios.

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Where Is the 10th?

The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit has a spate of final polls showing GOP candidates leading narrowly in Nevada, Illinois, Washington, and Colorado. Rand Paul and Pat Toomey are pulling away. California is tightening. But Joe Manchin is leading in West Virginia. Not much good news for the Democrats. Still, it’s hard to see how the GOP can come up with 10 seats.

Let’s say PPP is on the money. The GOP has North Dakota, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania well in hand. Add in Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada. Washington also is doable for the Republicans. So the Senate comes down to a search for the 10th seat. West Virginia? I’ve seen no recent public or private poll (Dem or GOP) showing the Democrat contender behind. California? Carly Fiorina is close, but, again, there is no poll out there showing her in the lead. This is not to say that one of these states won’t fall to the GOP in the conservative-rich turnout on Election Day. But unless one of those GOP contenders pulls an upset, prepare to hear a lot of recriminations about Delaware. If so, it’s a lesson to keep in mind for 2012.

One caveat: if, in fact, we’re talking about an election not like that of 1994 but like that of 1928 (which Jay Cost suggests is more analogous), the rising tide will lift all boats and perhaps swing some marginal Senate seats the GOP’s way. Yes, Senate races tend to be more differentiated than House contests and are often determined on the merits of individual candidates. But if the electorate is dark Red, there are only so many Democratic votes for Barbara Boxer, Joe Manchin, and the rest to work with. For those of you who recall 1980, the liberal Senate lions fell one after another, to the shock of the network anchors and liberal intelligentsia. In a wave year, lots of marginal candidates are swept in and lots of dead wood swept out.

The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit has a spate of final polls showing GOP candidates leading narrowly in Nevada, Illinois, Washington, and Colorado. Rand Paul and Pat Toomey are pulling away. California is tightening. But Joe Manchin is leading in West Virginia. Not much good news for the Democrats. Still, it’s hard to see how the GOP can come up with 10 seats.

Let’s say PPP is on the money. The GOP has North Dakota, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania well in hand. Add in Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada. Washington also is doable for the Republicans. So the Senate comes down to a search for the 10th seat. West Virginia? I’ve seen no recent public or private poll (Dem or GOP) showing the Democrat contender behind. California? Carly Fiorina is close, but, again, there is no poll out there showing her in the lead. This is not to say that one of these states won’t fall to the GOP in the conservative-rich turnout on Election Day. But unless one of those GOP contenders pulls an upset, prepare to hear a lot of recriminations about Delaware. If so, it’s a lesson to keep in mind for 2012.

One caveat: if, in fact, we’re talking about an election not like that of 1994 but like that of 1928 (which Jay Cost suggests is more analogous), the rising tide will lift all boats and perhaps swing some marginal Senate seats the GOP’s way. Yes, Senate races tend to be more differentiated than House contests and are often determined on the merits of individual candidates. But if the electorate is dark Red, there are only so many Democratic votes for Barbara Boxer, Joe Manchin, and the rest to work with. For those of you who recall 1980, the liberal Senate lions fell one after another, to the shock of the network anchors and liberal intelligentsia. In a wave year, lots of marginal candidates are swept in and lots of dead wood swept out.

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Colorado’s Got Initiative

Forget the Colorado Senate and guberantorial races. I’m keeping my eye on this one:

Ballot Initiative 300 would require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, stocked with Ph.D. scientists, to “ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact “with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles.

I suppose the vehicles could come without drivers, so it’s good the ballot sponsors are thorough. The contest is getting a tad nasty:

Promoting the initiative: Jeff Peckman, a silver-haired entrepreneur who lives with his parents. “Low overhead,” he explains. Mr. Peckman is a firm believer in intergalactic life, though he has never been personally contacted by an alien. That gives him more credibility, he says; it’s harder to dismiss him as biased.

Mr. Peckman has recruited about 20 volunteers for his campaign.

They face an impassioned opposition led by Bryan Bonner, who dismisses the unidentified-flying-object buffs as delusional if not outright frauds.

“Frauds” seems sort of harsh, no? Especially for a ghost-hunter. You got that right: “One thing about Mr. Bonner: He spends his spare time crawling through spooky spaces, deploying remote digital thermometers, seismographs, infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and Nerf balls in pursuit of evidence of the paranormal. He is, in short, a ghost hunter.” Clearly this man is peeved that there is no initiative to “ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact with ghosts. Or their vehicles.

Now the election is getting ugly:

Mr. Bonner, the ghost hunter, is fighting back with his own website asserting that “Peckman and his ‘little green people’ are not representative of the people of Denver.”

“Little green people,” Mr. Peckman responds with outrage, is a “racial slur.”

Peckman is no political novice. He says this is about jobs, jobs, jobs:

Recognizing that ET contact protocols aren’t foremost in the minds of voters these days, Mr. Peckman has refined his pitch on Initiative 300. These days, he promotes it as a jobs bill. He envisions sci-fi film directors flocking here, space-travel researchers, and engineers hoping to pry the secrets of intergalactic technology from space visitors.

Councilman Charlie Brown is skeptical. “That’s not the kind of job we want to create,” he says.

But Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, says she’s game: “We are open for business to all other planets.”

It sounds like just the sort of thing stimulus money would be used for. You don’t want jobs going to other galaxies.

Forget the Colorado Senate and guberantorial races. I’m keeping my eye on this one:

Ballot Initiative 300 would require the city to set up an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, stocked with Ph.D. scientists, to “ensure the health, safety and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact “with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles.

I suppose the vehicles could come without drivers, so it’s good the ballot sponsors are thorough. The contest is getting a tad nasty:

Promoting the initiative: Jeff Peckman, a silver-haired entrepreneur who lives with his parents. “Low overhead,” he explains. Mr. Peckman is a firm believer in intergalactic life, though he has never been personally contacted by an alien. That gives him more credibility, he says; it’s harder to dismiss him as biased.

Mr. Peckman has recruited about 20 volunteers for his campaign.

They face an impassioned opposition led by Bryan Bonner, who dismisses the unidentified-flying-object buffs as delusional if not outright frauds.

“Frauds” seems sort of harsh, no? Especially for a ghost-hunter. You got that right: “One thing about Mr. Bonner: He spends his spare time crawling through spooky spaces, deploying remote digital thermometers, seismographs, infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors and Nerf balls in pursuit of evidence of the paranormal. He is, in short, a ghost hunter.” Clearly this man is peeved that there is no initiative to “ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents” when it comes to future contact with ghosts. Or their vehicles.

Now the election is getting ugly:

Mr. Bonner, the ghost hunter, is fighting back with his own website asserting that “Peckman and his ‘little green people’ are not representative of the people of Denver.”

“Little green people,” Mr. Peckman responds with outrage, is a “racial slur.”

Peckman is no political novice. He says this is about jobs, jobs, jobs:

Recognizing that ET contact protocols aren’t foremost in the minds of voters these days, Mr. Peckman has refined his pitch on Initiative 300. These days, he promotes it as a jobs bill. He envisions sci-fi film directors flocking here, space-travel researchers, and engineers hoping to pry the secrets of intergalactic technology from space visitors.

Councilman Charlie Brown is skeptical. “That’s not the kind of job we want to create,” he says.

But Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, says she’s game: “We are open for business to all other planets.”

It sounds like just the sort of thing stimulus money would be used for. You don’t want jobs going to other galaxies.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.’” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.’” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

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Cook: House in the Bag, Senate Up for Grabs

Charlie Cook writes:

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats.

That view matches the take of many conservative analysts and activists. Why is the Senate so much closer? For one thing, the seats that could tip the Senate majority to the Republicans are in Blue States — Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, etc. It is remarkable that these are competitive and that they may, in fact, go to the GOP. Second, senators are simply more distinct figures than House members, with the ability to differentiate themselves. Harry Reid can’t, because he is the Senate majority leader and therefore is joined at the hip with the White House. But in places like Colorado and West Virginia, Democrats are making the case that they are not rubber stamps for the Obama administration. And yes, the Republicans blew a seat in Delaware. But, again, that is only one seat.

It is a measure of how far we have come in two years that the “ray of sunshine” for the Dems is that they may lose only eight Senate seats.

Charlie Cook writes:

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats.

That view matches the take of many conservative analysts and activists. Why is the Senate so much closer? For one thing, the seats that could tip the Senate majority to the Republicans are in Blue States — Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, etc. It is remarkable that these are competitive and that they may, in fact, go to the GOP. Second, senators are simply more distinct figures than House members, with the ability to differentiate themselves. Harry Reid can’t, because he is the Senate majority leader and therefore is joined at the hip with the White House. But in places like Colorado and West Virginia, Democrats are making the case that they are not rubber stamps for the Obama administration. And yes, the Republicans blew a seat in Delaware. But, again, that is only one seat.

It is a measure of how far we have come in two years that the “ray of sunshine” for the Dems is that they may lose only eight Senate seats.

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Enthusiasm Not Absent for GOP

Two reports suggest that the enthusiasm gap remains a problem for the Democrats.

From Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania voters have requested nearly 127,000 absentee ballots so far. Of that total, Republican voters made up 50 percent and Democrats made up 42 percent, according to figures collected Tuesday afternoon.

The state records show Republicans are returning their absentee ballots in greater numbers as well. The state has received about 40 percent of requested ballots, and Republican registrations outpace Democrats by 19 points, 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the state data. Absentee ballots made up 5 percent of total turnout in 2008.

In Colorado:

The Colorado Secretary of State has released the first glimpse of early voting turnout from a combination of mail-in balloting and early voting centers. Republicans have an early partisan lead of just over 10,000 votes, 81,545 to 71,325. A total of 195,283 votes have been cast in the eight days since ballots were mailed and three days early voting has been available.

We’ve already seen the phenomenon at work in Nevada: “For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who is locked in a slugfest with tea-party favorite Sharron Angle, the early results appear to be discouraging. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, 52% of the early vote in 2008 came from Democrats, while 30.6% came from Republicans. So far this year, the Democratic edge is narrower, 46.4% to 38.2%.”

To be sure, these are small slices of the electorate. Especially in Senate races, many contests will be close. But at least for now, the polls showing a substantial enthusiasm gap seem to be on the money.

Two reports suggest that the enthusiasm gap remains a problem for the Democrats.

From Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania voters have requested nearly 127,000 absentee ballots so far. Of that total, Republican voters made up 50 percent and Democrats made up 42 percent, according to figures collected Tuesday afternoon.

The state records show Republicans are returning their absentee ballots in greater numbers as well. The state has received about 40 percent of requested ballots, and Republican registrations outpace Democrats by 19 points, 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the state data. Absentee ballots made up 5 percent of total turnout in 2008.

In Colorado:

The Colorado Secretary of State has released the first glimpse of early voting turnout from a combination of mail-in balloting and early voting centers. Republicans have an early partisan lead of just over 10,000 votes, 81,545 to 71,325. A total of 195,283 votes have been cast in the eight days since ballots were mailed and three days early voting has been available.

We’ve already seen the phenomenon at work in Nevada: “For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who is locked in a slugfest with tea-party favorite Sharron Angle, the early results appear to be discouraging. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, 52% of the early vote in 2008 came from Democrats, while 30.6% came from Republicans. So far this year, the Democratic edge is narrower, 46.4% to 38.2%.”

To be sure, these are small slices of the electorate. Especially in Senate races, many contests will be close. But at least for now, the polls showing a substantial enthusiasm gap seem to be on the money.

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RE: Surprise: The Tea Party Is Important!

As a follow-up, Ken Buck, running for Senate in Colorado, has a beautiful ad in which he discusses how the elite ignored the Tea Party as long as it possibly could. But as Buck says at the close, “on November 2nd, they will ignore us no more.” (h/t Michael Barone)

As a follow-up, Ken Buck, running for Senate in Colorado, has a beautiful ad in which he discusses how the elite ignored the Tea Party as long as it possibly could. But as Buck says at the close, “on November 2nd, they will ignore us no more.” (h/t Michael Barone)

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Finding the Path to 10 Senate Seats

Over the last week it appears that Sharron Angle is edging ahead in Nevada and John Raese is leading in West Virginia. Meanwhile, Dino Rossi in Washington enjoys a six-point lead in the latest poll. Here, then, is one very viable path to a 10-seat pick-up for the Republicans: North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington. The Republican challenger leads in the latest polling in every one of these races.

This state of affairs can change, certainly. There are races within the margin of error or with conflicting polling data. But that runs both ways. Connecticut may tighten up. Carly Fiorinia in California has been hanging tough. So there are a minimum of 12 potential pick-ups with varying degrees of difficulty for the GOP. It would be foolish to say a Senate pick-up is “likely,” but it’s simply wrong to say it’s a long shot.

Over the last week it appears that Sharron Angle is edging ahead in Nevada and John Raese is leading in West Virginia. Meanwhile, Dino Rossi in Washington enjoys a six-point lead in the latest poll. Here, then, is one very viable path to a 10-seat pick-up for the Republicans: North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, West Virginia, Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington. The Republican challenger leads in the latest polling in every one of these races.

This state of affairs can change, certainly. There are races within the margin of error or with conflicting polling data. But that runs both ways. Connecticut may tighten up. Carly Fiorinia in California has been hanging tough. So there are a minimum of 12 potential pick-ups with varying degrees of difficulty for the GOP. It would be foolish to say a Senate pick-up is “likely,” but it’s simply wrong to say it’s a long shot.

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