Commentary Magazine


Topic: Connecticut

Connecticut First in Flight? Yeah, Wright!

Among the prices we pay for democracy are legislatures doing silly things.

In 1894, the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that claimed that an Indiana man had devised a means of “squaring the circle,” constructing with just a compass and a straight edge a square of the same area as a given circle. Thought an impossibility since ancient times, squaring the circle had been proved impossible by the German mathematician Ferdinand Von Lindemann in 1882, one of the great mathematical accomplishments of the 19th century. The bill also made several vague references to the value of the mathematical constant pi, the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference, in one instance calling it 3.2 (it’s 3.1459 . . . and so on out to as many digits as your computer is willing to go, for pi is an irrational number and thus cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction or decimal). The Indiana Senate, fortunately for that state’s reputation, killed the bill.

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Among the prices we pay for democracy are legislatures doing silly things.

In 1894, the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that claimed that an Indiana man had devised a means of “squaring the circle,” constructing with just a compass and a straight edge a square of the same area as a given circle. Thought an impossibility since ancient times, squaring the circle had been proved impossible by the German mathematician Ferdinand Von Lindemann in 1882, one of the great mathematical accomplishments of the 19th century. The bill also made several vague references to the value of the mathematical constant pi, the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference, in one instance calling it 3.2 (it’s 3.1459 . . . and so on out to as many digits as your computer is willing to go, for pi is an irrational number and thus cannot be expressed exactly as a fraction or decimal). The Indiana Senate, fortunately for that state’s reputation, killed the bill.

Now the Connecticut legislature has decided that it has the power to legislate historical fact. In this case it has passed a bill that reads, “The Governor shall proclaim a date certain in each year as Powered Flight Day to honor the first powered flight by Gustave Whitehead and to commemorate the Connecticut aviation and aerospace industry, . . .”

Gustave Whitehead, who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is supposed to have flown an airplane of his own design in August 1901, more than two years before the Wright Brothers undoubtedly flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The only problem is he almost certainly didn’t. These sorts of stories float around journalism like Elvis sightings and UFOs, getting resurrected on slow news days every decade or so. Whitehead certainly built airplanes, but there is precious little evidence that any of them ever flew. He did build and fly gliders. A website dedicated to the Wright Brothers has an excellent essay that demolishes the claims for Whitehead. It is a brilliant piece of historiographical analysis, which is how historians—if not legislatures—determine historical truth.

The bill now sits of Governor Malloy’s desk. He would do the state a favor by vetoing this nonsense. But he probably won’t.

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Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: Not Much of a Competition There

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

Gail Collins of the New York Times has written a column upon Joe Lieberman’s announcement of his retirement from the Senate that, as with so many of her pieces, is written in a spirit of jocularity when its author actually has no observable sense of humor. This one is full of invective without wit. It’s as if Collins, whose tenure as the editor of the Times editorial page made for excellent bird-cage lining, were the bastard child of Don Rickles and David Broder.

Of Lieberman, she says he was, at the outset of his career, “extremely boring.” Of his speech yesterday, she writes: “Lieberman has reached a point in his public career when every single thing he does, including talking about his grandparents, is irritating.” She quotes “a friend in Connecticut” who said, “He’s the kind of guy who, when you see him in line at the supermarket, you go and get in a different line so you won’t have to make conversation.” She then tasks him, through a quote from a Connecticut pol, for “taking it personally” when people called him a baby-killer and a monster and evil for supporting the war in Iraq.

Listen. Hate Joe Lieberman all you want for his ideas — and she freely acknowledges she does hate him for “watering down” the health-care bill and “consolidating the intelligence services” — but it is simply preposterous to describe him as boring or the kind of person you flee from. Until the Iraq war rended the nation and heated up politics in Washington to a dangerous roil, Lieberman was certainly among the best-liked senators among people on both sides of the aisle. His staffers loved him, and so did the staffs of committees on which he served. And he is the opposite of boring: once (or maybe even twice) he won a contest that judged the funniest elected politician in Washington. Granted, that’s not much of a contest, but in the contest for unfunniest columnist in America, Gail Collins would win hands-down.

I know him a little; his daughter Rebecca is a very close friend of mine. At Rebecca’s wedding, Lieberman got up to make the paternal toast. “I am so happy today,” he said, “that I wish I could give you all an earmark.” If she lived a hundred lifetimes, Gail Collins would be unable to crack a joke one-thousandth as clever. Believe me, if you had to pick one or the other to go out and have a drink with, even if you were Noam Chomsky, you’d have a better time with Joe.

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Lieberman May Drop Out of 2012 Race

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

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Sic Transit Joe Lieberman

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

Monday’s report in Roll Call about Linda McMahon’s interest in another crack at a U.S. Senate seat has broader implications than whether she will be on the Republican ticket in Connecticut in 2012. While the professional-wrestling mogul hasn’t made any public statements about a future candidacy, it is assumed that her scheduling of an appointment with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas means she is laying the groundwork for 2012.

Cornyn will probably encourage McMahon to run again, since Senate candidates who are prepared to loan their campaigns nearly $50 million, as McMahon did this year in her loss to Dick Blumenthal, don’t grow on trees. While her final vote total of 43 percent in what was otherwise a year of Republican victories wasn’t terribly impressive, the GOP has to hope that in another two years, more Connecticut voters will see her as a serious politician rather than as the former ring mistress of a televised freak show.

Deep-blue Connecticut remains, as they say, “the land of steady habits,” which means that whether or not McMahon runs, her Democratic opponent will be favored. But the big loser here is not any one of the obscure Connecticut Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run in 2012. Rather, it is the man who currently sits in the seat that McMahon covets: Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman hasn’t said whether he will run for a fifth term in 2012, but a McMahon run means his prospects for re-election have now shifted from unfavorable to highly unlikely. In 2006, Lieberman overcame his defeat in the Democratic primary at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont by cruising to victory in November. But the formula for that victory as an independent was one that cannot be repeated. In 2006, the majority of Democratic voters rejected Lieberman again in the general election. But he won because of large majorities among independents and Republicans. That was made possible only because the Republicans, anticipating that Lieberman would be the Democratic candidate, nominated a nonentity who wound up getting less than 10 percent of the vote.

Six years later, Lieberman knows he would have no chance in a Democratic primary, since most of those Democrats who backed him in the past still hold his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election against him. Virtually any Democrat could beat him. And he is still too much of a liberal on domestic policy to have a chance to win a Republican primary should he choose to try that route. That leaves him with the option of a straightforward run as an independent. But while Connecticut has a tradition of backing party-jumping mavericks in statewide races, the only way he can win is if he is able to claim, as he did in 2006, the lion’s share of Republican ballots. A McMahon candidacy will mean a well-funded and serious GOP candidate who is conservative enough to retain the loyalty of most of that party’s voters in November. That means Lieberman has no reasonable scenario for victory in 2012.

This makes it all but certain that the Congress that convenes in January will be the last in which Lieberman will sit. If so, it will be yet another indication that the Scoop Jackson Democrat — liberals on domestic policy and hawks on foreign policy — is truly extinct. Lieberman will, of course, be remembered as the man who came within a few hanging chads of being elected the first Jewish vice president of the United States. But his real legacy will be the fact that he was willing to risk his career for the sake of principle as he bucked his party’s loyalists by faithfully supporting the war against Islamist terrorists in Iraq.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.’”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: ”Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.’”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: ”Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

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Do They Really Need All That Money?

More evidence emerges each day that money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in elections. This report observes that Sharron Angle wound up spending the equivalent of $97 per voter, while Harry Reid plunked down only $69. The extra cash, much of it from out of state, didn’t “buy” Angle the seat. Nor did Meg Whitman prevail despite $140M in spending. Linda McMahon’s personal fortune didn’t talk Connecticut voters out of electing the truth-challenged Richard Blumenthal. In fact, out of the top 10 congressional cash-per-vote spenders, only three won.

So why do the media and politicians obsess so over cash? Well, there is a kernel of truth that you need some money to run a respectable campaign. And in states with expensive media (e.g., New Jersey, New York, California), that is going to be a big figure. But to a large extent, we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that money is more critical than it is. Reporters love to write about it — there are concrete figures and a horse-race quality to the money race. Pols — even the president this time around — love to grouse that the other guys have more, even when they don’t. It beats admitting that your own candidates are less than stellar and that your agenda is toxic. And of course there is an army of consultants, new- and old-media experts, pollsters, ad men, social-network gurus, debate preparers, clothing mavens, and speech coaches to convince their clients and us that all their very expensive services are essential to victory.

But in the end, much of that money is wasted. John McCain won the GOP presidential nomination on a shoestring budget. This year, many small spenders won. (“In upstate New York, Rep. Scott Murphy (D) and his supporters spent $66 for each of the 99,000 votes he received, or about $6.5 million. But he was defeated by retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who spent $4 million, or $33 per vote.”) So when hysterics scream that our democracy is being “hijacked” by corporate money or that a billionaire is “buying” an election, take it with a grain of salt. Interest groups — from Big Labor to the Chamber of Commerce — don’t mind the illusion that their largesse is essential to a candidate’s victory; indeed, they perpetuate it in order to sustain their clout. But perhaps the “problem” of money in politics is largely in our heads — and in the wallets of those whose livelihoods depend on exaggerating the importance of campaign cash.

More evidence emerges each day that money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in elections. This report observes that Sharron Angle wound up spending the equivalent of $97 per voter, while Harry Reid plunked down only $69. The extra cash, much of it from out of state, didn’t “buy” Angle the seat. Nor did Meg Whitman prevail despite $140M in spending. Linda McMahon’s personal fortune didn’t talk Connecticut voters out of electing the truth-challenged Richard Blumenthal. In fact, out of the top 10 congressional cash-per-vote spenders, only three won.

So why do the media and politicians obsess so over cash? Well, there is a kernel of truth that you need some money to run a respectable campaign. And in states with expensive media (e.g., New Jersey, New York, California), that is going to be a big figure. But to a large extent, we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that money is more critical than it is. Reporters love to write about it — there are concrete figures and a horse-race quality to the money race. Pols — even the president this time around — love to grouse that the other guys have more, even when they don’t. It beats admitting that your own candidates are less than stellar and that your agenda is toxic. And of course there is an army of consultants, new- and old-media experts, pollsters, ad men, social-network gurus, debate preparers, clothing mavens, and speech coaches to convince their clients and us that all their very expensive services are essential to victory.

But in the end, much of that money is wasted. John McCain won the GOP presidential nomination on a shoestring budget. This year, many small spenders won. (“In upstate New York, Rep. Scott Murphy (D) and his supporters spent $66 for each of the 99,000 votes he received, or about $6.5 million. But he was defeated by retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who spent $4 million, or $33 per vote.”) So when hysterics scream that our democracy is being “hijacked” by corporate money or that a billionaire is “buying” an election, take it with a grain of salt. Interest groups — from Big Labor to the Chamber of Commerce — don’t mind the illusion that their largesse is essential to a candidate’s victory; indeed, they perpetuate it in order to sustain their clout. But perhaps the “problem” of money in politics is largely in our heads — and in the wallets of those whose livelihoods depend on exaggerating the importance of campaign cash.

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LIVE BLOG: The Senate

The West Virginia Senate race has been called for Joe Manchin. With Delaware and Connecticut gone, I don’t see a viable path to 10 seats. In all of these, we should not lose track of the fact that six or seven or eight seats in the Senate, with mostly Blue seats on the ballot, would be a significant accomplishment for the GOP.

The West Virginia Senate race has been called for Joe Manchin. With Delaware and Connecticut gone, I don’t see a viable path to 10 seats. In all of these, we should not lose track of the fact that six or seven or eight seats in the Senate, with mostly Blue seats on the ballot, would be a significant accomplishment for the GOP.

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LIVE BLOG: The Senate

Republicans fail to win in Delaware and Connecticut. They hold in New Hampshire and Missouri. Delaware, as many of us warned, was a missed opportunity and the downside of the Tea Party’s emphasis on ideological purity. It is also a lesson that establishment Republicans (in New Hampshire and Missouri) remain critical players in the party. For Sarah Palin’s critics, Christine O’Donnell’s loss will be Exhibit A in the indictment against her political judgment. That said, Rand Paul won, as will other Palin-endorsed candidates. It will be, I suspect, a mixed result for the Mama Grizzly.

Republicans fail to win in Delaware and Connecticut. They hold in New Hampshire and Missouri. Delaware, as many of us warned, was a missed opportunity and the downside of the Tea Party’s emphasis on ideological purity. It is also a lesson that establishment Republicans (in New Hampshire and Missouri) remain critical players in the party. For Sarah Palin’s critics, Christine O’Donnell’s loss will be Exhibit A in the indictment against her political judgment. That said, Rand Paul won, as will other Palin-endorsed candidates. It will be, I suspect, a mixed result for the Mama Grizzly.

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Down to West Virginia and Washington

The latest batch of Senate polls suggests that there is a good chance of Republicans picking up these seats: North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin (Russ Feingold is down 6.6 points in the RealClearPolitics average), Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada (Sharron Angle is up by 4 in the most recent poll), and Colorad0 (Ken Buck is leading in all recent polls). That is a total of eight.

If the recent polls are to be believed, Carly Fiorina is in a tough spot in California. Connecticut is trending solidly Democratic. But there is Washington, where it is a dead heat. And there is West Virginia, where polls have been inconsistent, but the incumbent governor’s administration is now ensnared in an FBI investigation. Is it doable for the GOP? Sure. I’d give it better odds than 50-50.

And, by the way, if the GOP gets nine, the scramble is on to lure Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson to switch parties. In sum, the excitement may be far from over on election night.

The latest batch of Senate polls suggests that there is a good chance of Republicans picking up these seats: North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin (Russ Feingold is down 6.6 points in the RealClearPolitics average), Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada (Sharron Angle is up by 4 in the most recent poll), and Colorad0 (Ken Buck is leading in all recent polls). That is a total of eight.

If the recent polls are to be believed, Carly Fiorina is in a tough spot in California. Connecticut is trending solidly Democratic. But there is Washington, where it is a dead heat. And there is West Virginia, where polls have been inconsistent, but the incumbent governor’s administration is now ensnared in an FBI investigation. Is it doable for the GOP? Sure. I’d give it better odds than 50-50.

And, by the way, if the GOP gets nine, the scramble is on to lure Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson to switch parties. In sum, the excitement may be far from over on election night.

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Get Your GM Stock!

Get out your checkbook — GM’s IPO is just around the corner. This report explains:

The Treasury is seeking to sell roughly $6 billion to $8 billion of its GM stock through the IPO, with other sellers taking the entire deal to a total of roughly $10 billion to $12 billion.

The government paid $40 billion for its stake, and risks political fallout if the share price sinks due to releasing too many shares at once on the market. That could send a signal the Obama administration won’t recoup its investment.

Yes, contrary to the administration’s spin, there is a strong likelihood of the shareholders not even coming close to getting their money back. In the short term, the numbers could look particularly grim:

Linda Killian, a principal of Renaissance Capital LLC in Greenwich, Conn., which specializes in IPO research, estimates GM’s valuation at $50 billion to $70 billion, yet added that the chances of the government breaking even are “low.”

Because the IPO should take place at a discount to the market price, the government is likely to show a big loss in realized proceeds on its sales on IPO day. If the IPO is priced at the $50 billion level, that would equate to a U.S. loss of approximately 38% on the first batch of shares it sells.

But not to worry; the former car czar, Steve Rattner (who’s about to enter a settlement regarding a kickback arrangement with the New York State pension fund and “accept a multi-year ban from the securities industry and pay a fine of more than $5 million”), says that our losses will only be in the “single-digit” billions. I’ll hang on to that rosy scenario.

The real problem is that GM is not all that attractive so long as it remains a subsidiary of Obama, Inc.

“Would I jump at the GM deal? Probably not,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank in Chicago. He said the “overhang of government ownership” results in a “management straitjacket” that could require GM executives to “get permission every time they want to extend a bonus to somebody.”

Robert Pavlik, a senior partner at investment advisers Banyan Partners LLC in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said he “wouldn’t put my clients’ money into it” because GM still carries the “stigma” of both bankruptcy and government ownership as well as recent top-management turnover.

“What’s going to drive their sales? The Chevrolet Volt? I think that’s going to turn out to be more of a publicity stunt than anything else,” Mr. Pavlik said.

This raises at least two troubling issues. First, the UAW is also going to get some of its (that is, its members’) money back in the IPO. It has a 17.5 percent stake in the company. So where is that money going — directly into the pension plan, or is the union taking some off the top? You know, for political contributions, union bosses’ salaries, and the upkeep of its swank golf course.

But the bigger issue is this: by stepping into the car business, the government is now in the position of hawking GM stock, singing the praises of the GM Volt, and persuading investors to put their money in this company as opposed to other businesses. There is something unseemly in all that. The administration finds itself in a classic case of conflict of interest. On the one hand, it is the federal regulator/pension guarantor/SEC monitor, and on the other, it is running the GM “road show” to sell, sell, sell GM. It is the natural and inevitable result of a move that should have never been made — namely, the injection of the U.S. government into the car industry.

All of that, plus the potential for billions in losses, should remind us why the Obama car bailout is a lemon.

Get out your checkbook — GM’s IPO is just around the corner. This report explains:

The Treasury is seeking to sell roughly $6 billion to $8 billion of its GM stock through the IPO, with other sellers taking the entire deal to a total of roughly $10 billion to $12 billion.

The government paid $40 billion for its stake, and risks political fallout if the share price sinks due to releasing too many shares at once on the market. That could send a signal the Obama administration won’t recoup its investment.

Yes, contrary to the administration’s spin, there is a strong likelihood of the shareholders not even coming close to getting their money back. In the short term, the numbers could look particularly grim:

Linda Killian, a principal of Renaissance Capital LLC in Greenwich, Conn., which specializes in IPO research, estimates GM’s valuation at $50 billion to $70 billion, yet added that the chances of the government breaking even are “low.”

Because the IPO should take place at a discount to the market price, the government is likely to show a big loss in realized proceeds on its sales on IPO day. If the IPO is priced at the $50 billion level, that would equate to a U.S. loss of approximately 38% on the first batch of shares it sells.

But not to worry; the former car czar, Steve Rattner (who’s about to enter a settlement regarding a kickback arrangement with the New York State pension fund and “accept a multi-year ban from the securities industry and pay a fine of more than $5 million”), says that our losses will only be in the “single-digit” billions. I’ll hang on to that rosy scenario.

The real problem is that GM is not all that attractive so long as it remains a subsidiary of Obama, Inc.

“Would I jump at the GM deal? Probably not,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank in Chicago. He said the “overhang of government ownership” results in a “management straitjacket” that could require GM executives to “get permission every time they want to extend a bonus to somebody.”

Robert Pavlik, a senior partner at investment advisers Banyan Partners LLC in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said he “wouldn’t put my clients’ money into it” because GM still carries the “stigma” of both bankruptcy and government ownership as well as recent top-management turnover.

“What’s going to drive their sales? The Chevrolet Volt? I think that’s going to turn out to be more of a publicity stunt than anything else,” Mr. Pavlik said.

This raises at least two troubling issues. First, the UAW is also going to get some of its (that is, its members’) money back in the IPO. It has a 17.5 percent stake in the company. So where is that money going — directly into the pension plan, or is the union taking some off the top? You know, for political contributions, union bosses’ salaries, and the upkeep of its swank golf course.

But the bigger issue is this: by stepping into the car business, the government is now in the position of hawking GM stock, singing the praises of the GM Volt, and persuading investors to put their money in this company as opposed to other businesses. There is something unseemly in all that. The administration finds itself in a classic case of conflict of interest. On the one hand, it is the federal regulator/pension guarantor/SEC monitor, and on the other, it is running the GM “road show” to sell, sell, sell GM. It is the natural and inevitable result of a move that should have never been made — namely, the injection of the U.S. government into the car industry.

All of that, plus the potential for billions in losses, should remind us why the Obama car bailout is a lemon.

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Senate Coming into Focus

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a ”tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad’”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

The House outcome is no longer in dispute. As Jay Cost put it, it is either a tsunami or a ”tsunami-to-end-all-tsunamis.” But in the Senate, with fewer seats up for grabs and the ones in play in Blue States, the question for the Senate is: 10 or fewer?

The surest pickups for the Republicans are North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana. Pat Toomey has re-established his lead (or it was never gone, depending on which poll you like). Sharron Angle, Mark Kirk (David Axelrod is already coming up with excuses), and Ron Johnson seem to be holding narrow but steady leads. Ken Buck, Dino Rossi, John Raese, and Carly Fiorina (“In the not to be missed category, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, stepped way out of the spin cycle yesterday, as she is often wont to do. Feinstein … was asked how things were going, and she replied, ‘bad’”) are each up or down a few, but within the margin of error. Connecticut and Delaware no longer appear competitive for the Republicans, but the GOP seems likely to hold Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Missouri, and Kentucky. Alaska is, well, confused. But we can assume that should Lisa Murkowski win, thanks to the good spellers of Alaska (who will have to write in her name correctly), she will caucus with the GOP.

So, yes, 10 of the seats currently held by Democrats could fall the Republicans’ way. If only nine of them did, the focus would shift to Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to see if they’d switch sides. Or we could wind up with a still remarkable seven- or eight-seat pickup.

Yes, the chairmanships and the balance on the committees depend on who has a majority. But neither side will have close to a filibuster-proof majority. From the GOP perspective, with the House virtually in the bag (and the subpoena power and chairmanships along with the majority), it might not be the worst of all things to have a slim Democratic majority (and some responsibility for governance) and watch Chuck Schumer duke it out with Dick Durbin to be the leader of the Democratic caucus.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Is Harry Reid down for the count? “Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to ‘man up’ – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant. By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.”

Angle also pummeled Reid in fundraising: $14.3 million vs. $2.8 million in the third quarter.

Angle wasn’t the only Republican woman who won on points in her debate. “Democrat Richard Blumenthal now leads Republican Linda McMahon by just five points in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate in a survey conducted two nights after their third and final head-to-head debate.”

Nancy Pelosi is going to take the fall, bemoans Jonathan Cohn: “It’s not Pelosi’s fault Congress didn’t produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.” Unintentionally funny, but correct.

A low blow: “Obama in 2010 on the path of John McCain 2008?”

If you expected liberal feminists to smack down Jerry’s Brown’s camp, you aren’t cynical enough. “The president of the National Organization for Women may have said it’s wrong for anyone to call a woman a ‘whore,’ but the head of the California NOW affiliate says Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is one. California NOW President Parry Bellasalma told the TPM blog on Thursday that the description of the Republican candidate for governor of California is accurate. ‘Meg Whitman could be described as ‘a political whore.’ Yes, that’s an accurate statement,’ Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website.”

Failing Democrats are dealt a knockout punch – by their own party. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with keeping the party in the House majority after Nov. 2, began to make those unkindest of cuts last week, walking away, financially and figuratively, from more than half a dozen Democratic candidates. Call them ‘the Expendables,’ the first but certainly not last group to receive political pink slips from their party leaders. Among their ranks: Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio), as well as open-seat candidates in Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas.”

The conservative base is simply not going to go to the mat for a candidate already talking about raising taxes. Sometimes, when someone says he doesn’t want to be president, it’s wise to take him at his word.

Mort Zuckerman explains why the Middle East talks and Obama’s own credibility are on the ropes. “So why should the settlements have become the one issue to kill the talks? The key reason is that from the very beginning of his presidency, Obama put the construction in the settlements at the center of his Middle East strategy. It was the original sin that has hamstrung the possibility of successful talks. Public advocacy of the freeze not only put Israel in a bind, but it also put the Palestinians in an even tighter bind, giving both little room to maneuver. When Obama spoke repeatedly for a construction freeze in the West Bank as a public condition for the renewal of talks, it turned the settlement freeze from a dignified wish into a threshold demand that needed to be met in full. It also set a bar that made it impossible for the Palestinians to compromise. Abbas cannot be less Palestinian than the U.S. president.”

Is Harry Reid down for the count? “Angle took full advantage of Reid’s position as a political insider, taunting him for his support of Democratic policies, from the stimulus to the health care bill. At one point, Angle told Reid to ‘man up’ – and later questioned how he became so wealthy as a public servant. By debate’s end, Reid had failed to land any significant blows on Angle. He looked unprepared for Angle’s barbs. With just one day until early voting becomes available to Nevada residents, Reid’s performance didn’t improve his precarious political standing.”

Angle also pummeled Reid in fundraising: $14.3 million vs. $2.8 million in the third quarter.

Angle wasn’t the only Republican woman who won on points in her debate. “Democrat Richard Blumenthal now leads Republican Linda McMahon by just five points in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate in a survey conducted two nights after their third and final head-to-head debate.”

Nancy Pelosi is going to take the fall, bemoans Jonathan Cohn: “It’s not Pelosi’s fault Congress didn’t produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.” Unintentionally funny, but correct.

A low blow: “Obama in 2010 on the path of John McCain 2008?”

If you expected liberal feminists to smack down Jerry’s Brown’s camp, you aren’t cynical enough. “The president of the National Organization for Women may have said it’s wrong for anyone to call a woman a ‘whore,’ but the head of the California NOW affiliate says Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is one. California NOW President Parry Bellasalma told the TPM blog on Thursday that the description of the Republican candidate for governor of California is accurate. ‘Meg Whitman could be described as ‘a political whore.’ Yes, that’s an accurate statement,’ Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website.”

Failing Democrats are dealt a knockout punch – by their own party. “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is tasked with keeping the party in the House majority after Nov. 2, began to make those unkindest of cuts last week, walking away, financially and figuratively, from more than half a dozen Democratic candidates. Call them ‘the Expendables,’ the first but certainly not last group to receive political pink slips from their party leaders. Among their ranks: Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio), as well as open-seat candidates in Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas.”

The conservative base is simply not going to go to the mat for a candidate already talking about raising taxes. Sometimes, when someone says he doesn’t want to be president, it’s wise to take him at his word.

Mort Zuckerman explains why the Middle East talks and Obama’s own credibility are on the ropes. “So why should the settlements have become the one issue to kill the talks? The key reason is that from the very beginning of his presidency, Obama put the construction in the settlements at the center of his Middle East strategy. It was the original sin that has hamstrung the possibility of successful talks. Public advocacy of the freeze not only put Israel in a bind, but it also put the Palestinians in an even tighter bind, giving both little room to maneuver. When Obama spoke repeatedly for a construction freeze in the West Bank as a public condition for the renewal of talks, it turned the settlement freeze from a dignified wish into a threshold demand that needed to be met in full. It also set a bar that made it impossible for the Palestinians to compromise. Abbas cannot be less Palestinian than the U.S. president.”

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Business Execs vs. Professional Pols

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

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Senate Sliding Toward GOP

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

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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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Blumenthal Needed a Debate Knockout. He Didn’t Get It.

The Connecticut Senate race provides an interesting test case for the proposition that the old political rules don’t apply this year. As demonstrated by last night’s debate between Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Linda McMahon, this election seems to be a referendum on the resumes of the two candidates. Voters are being asked to choose between a man who has spent his entire adult life on the public payroll and a woman who has spent her life in the private sector. Both have serious flaws. But the question is not only which of those flaws (Blumenthal’s lying about his military service during the Vietnam War or McMahon’s involvement with the disreputable world of professional wrestling) is more damning but also what sort of a potential senator fits the mood of the electorate this fall.

Polls have fluctuated, with the latest ones showing the Democrat gaining ground after earlier surveys indicated that his lead, once huge, had shrunk down to nearly nothing. But as Paul Bass, the editor of the New Haven Independent, wrote last week in the New York Times, McMahon’s association with wrestling has helped rather than hurt her. That’s due not only to the changes in culture, which render the scripted violence of the WWE less appalling to the public, but also because its edgy tenor appeals to a wider demographic (including, as Bass notes, working-class and Hispanic voters, who are an important part of the Democrats’ base) than perhaps it once did.

As New York Times blogger Nate Silver has noted, there might be very few undecided voters left in this race, a fact that should work to Blumenthal’s advantage. But Blumenthal, the man the Times has called “Martha Coakley in Pants,” needed to demonstrate in this first debate that, whatever his own failings, his opponent was simply unsuitable to serve in the Senate. He did not do that last night and is unlikely to make that point stick in the month remaining before Election Day.

McMahon’s demonstrated ability to go toe-to-toe with Blumenthal in the debate and still emerge on her feet was crucial to her candidacy. In an election year in which even Connecticut’s liberal voters are largely dissatisfied with the political class and its addiction to spending and taxes, Blumenthal’s riposte to McMahon’s answers to a debate question about how to create jobs — “I’m not running to be an entrepreneur as a senator” — hit exactly the wrong note for 2010. If results from generic polls — such as Gallup’s survey, which showed a huge swing to the Republicans over Democrats — are credible, then there are going to be some results next month that will be driven by this wave of political sentiment in spite of the conventional wisdom about the individual candidates. For all the Democrats’ inherent advantages in that state, the Connecticut race may show how a flawed candidate running on a record of private business accomplishments and skepticism toward government will have an edge this November over another flawed one whose life has been spent in public office.

The Connecticut Senate race provides an interesting test case for the proposition that the old political rules don’t apply this year. As demonstrated by last night’s debate between Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Linda McMahon, this election seems to be a referendum on the resumes of the two candidates. Voters are being asked to choose between a man who has spent his entire adult life on the public payroll and a woman who has spent her life in the private sector. Both have serious flaws. But the question is not only which of those flaws (Blumenthal’s lying about his military service during the Vietnam War or McMahon’s involvement with the disreputable world of professional wrestling) is more damning but also what sort of a potential senator fits the mood of the electorate this fall.

Polls have fluctuated, with the latest ones showing the Democrat gaining ground after earlier surveys indicated that his lead, once huge, had shrunk down to nearly nothing. But as Paul Bass, the editor of the New Haven Independent, wrote last week in the New York Times, McMahon’s association with wrestling has helped rather than hurt her. That’s due not only to the changes in culture, which render the scripted violence of the WWE less appalling to the public, but also because its edgy tenor appeals to a wider demographic (including, as Bass notes, working-class and Hispanic voters, who are an important part of the Democrats’ base) than perhaps it once did.

As New York Times blogger Nate Silver has noted, there might be very few undecided voters left in this race, a fact that should work to Blumenthal’s advantage. But Blumenthal, the man the Times has called “Martha Coakley in Pants,” needed to demonstrate in this first debate that, whatever his own failings, his opponent was simply unsuitable to serve in the Senate. He did not do that last night and is unlikely to make that point stick in the month remaining before Election Day.

McMahon’s demonstrated ability to go toe-to-toe with Blumenthal in the debate and still emerge on her feet was crucial to her candidacy. In an election year in which even Connecticut’s liberal voters are largely dissatisfied with the political class and its addiction to spending and taxes, Blumenthal’s riposte to McMahon’s answers to a debate question about how to create jobs — “I’m not running to be an entrepreneur as a senator” — hit exactly the wrong note for 2010. If results from generic polls — such as Gallup’s survey, which showed a huge swing to the Republicans over Democrats — are credible, then there are going to be some results next month that will be driven by this wave of political sentiment in spite of the conventional wisdom about the individual candidates. For all the Democrats’ inherent advantages in that state, the Connecticut race may show how a flawed candidate running on a record of private business accomplishments and skepticism toward government will have an edge this November over another flawed one whose life has been spent in public office.

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How the GOP Gets to 10 Without Delaware

The GOP’s Senate prospects are looking up. New polling shows Republicans with solid leads in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Add to those Indiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota, which look like they’re in the bag for the GOP. West Virginia is now looking very gettable for the GOP as well. That’s seven. The Senate majority flips if the GOP snags three more from among the next batch of most-viable pickups: Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, and California. That is quite doable. And should the GOP fall one short, might Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman switch sides?

The Democrats whooped it up after Delaware, convinced that Christine O’Donnell’s victory would somehow turn off voters in other states. It hasn’t happened. And now Delaware may not even be essential to a Republican takeover of the Senate.

The GOP’s Senate prospects are looking up. New polling shows Republicans with solid leads in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Add to those Indiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota, which look like they’re in the bag for the GOP. West Virginia is now looking very gettable for the GOP as well. That’s seven. The Senate majority flips if the GOP snags three more from among the next batch of most-viable pickups: Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, and California. That is quite doable. And should the GOP fall one short, might Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman switch sides?

The Democrats whooped it up after Delaware, convinced that Christine O’Donnell’s victory would somehow turn off voters in other states. It hasn’t happened. And now Delaware may not even be essential to a Republican takeover of the Senate.

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Senate Slipping Away from the Dems

Liberals got very excited when Delaware Republicans made an imprudent selection in the Senate primary. They proclaimed the Senate was now “safe.” Not so fast.

Today we see that Richard Blumenthal’s lead has been cut to three points in Connecticut (voters in this solid Blue state disapprove of Obama’s performance by a 51-to-45 margin), Republican John Raese has moved ahead in West Virginia, and Russ Feingold now trails by eight points. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Ken Buck leads Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet by four points, Mark Kirk narrowly leads (42 to 40 percent) in Illinois, and Dino Rossi is only one point back in Washington.

There are no Republican Senate seats that look at risk at this point. (Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Alaska, and New Hampshire look safe for the GOP.) Here are the list of Democratic seats in which the GOP challenger is ahead or within the margin of error in recent polling: Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, West Virginia, and Washington. Meanwhile, the races in California and New York remain competitive. Put another way, there are less than 50 safe Democratic seats at this point. Of the 13 Republican seats I have listed, the GOP can lose three and still win the Senate. The GOP sure would have liked to have Delaware in the bag, but it may not be necessary.

Liberals got very excited when Delaware Republicans made an imprudent selection in the Senate primary. They proclaimed the Senate was now “safe.” Not so fast.

Today we see that Richard Blumenthal’s lead has been cut to three points in Connecticut (voters in this solid Blue state disapprove of Obama’s performance by a 51-to-45 margin), Republican John Raese has moved ahead in West Virginia, and Russ Feingold now trails by eight points. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Ken Buck leads Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet by four points, Mark Kirk narrowly leads (42 to 40 percent) in Illinois, and Dino Rossi is only one point back in Washington.

There are no Republican Senate seats that look at risk at this point. (Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Alaska, and New Hampshire look safe for the GOP.) Here are the list of Democratic seats in which the GOP challenger is ahead or within the margin of error in recent polling: Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, West Virginia, and Washington. Meanwhile, the races in California and New York remain competitive. Put another way, there are less than 50 safe Democratic seats at this point. Of the 13 Republican seats I have listed, the GOP can lose three and still win the Senate. The GOP sure would have liked to have Delaware in the bag, but it may not be necessary.

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Batting .000 With the Voters

The Democrats not only got the economic policy wrong (Keynesian economic policy works no better in 2010 than it did in the 1930s) — they, time and again, have gotten the politics wrong.

On taxes, the class-warfare gambit is turning into a retreat:

Going into a pivotal caucus Thursday, Senate Democrats show more and more signs of losing their nerve and backing away from earlier plans with the White House to force a vote on middle-class tax cuts prior to November’s election.

A final decision has not been made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it’s a real political Rubicon with no safe choice in today’s political climate. Taxes have long been a third rail for Democrats, but to have no vote at all could also be seen as a sign of weakness.

Once the Senate Democrats run for the hills, the House Democrats will be close behind. If so, the Democrats will have the worst of both worlds: the voters will know they would dearly love to raise taxes and the base will know they don’t have the political moxie to act on their convictions. (“White House officials have been warning this week that they expected no vote — provoking some frustration among liberals that the administration wasn’t doing more to intercede.”)

That political miscalculation, however, is nothing compared to the ObamaCare debacle. This report suggests that just “everyone” thought ObamaCare would be a winner. (Hmm, a lot of us who were watching the rowdy town-hall protesters and the poll numbers argued it wouldn’t, but no, never mind. It sounds better if everyone was wrong.) Is it really a “riddle” that voters don’t appreciate the “historic” legislation – or has it become crystal clear to all but the deluded that ObamaCare was a bust, politically? It seems that the White House’s assurance that it would prevent an electoral wipe-out was hooey. Now we hear:

“The textbook in a civics class of how the institution should not act was the health care bill,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told NBC News this month. “It was arrogant. Both parties were arrogant and selfish, in my view.”

Did he not vote for it? Whatever — he’s retiring. Too many arrogant ethical lapses.

Inside the Beltway, they are amazed that ”rather than being viewed as a kooky notion, the repeal-and-replace battle cry resonates with the electorate: Polls show voters are divided on the question, with about as many people opposed to rolling back the law as those who favor doing so.” Actually, some polls show that many more favor repeal. (“61 percent of likely U.S. voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health-care law, including 50 percent who Strongly Favor it.”)

Whatever the spin doctors and the media enablers tell us, the historical record is there for all to see. Democrats ignored the public’s anger, pooh-poohed the polls, and scoffed at the conservatives’ warning that a party-line vote on a mammoth bill of taxes and regulations disguised as “reform” was a grave political miscalculation. In the political debate, with a nod to Ronald Reagan, we conservatives win; liberals lose.

This chapter in the Obama era of policy overreach and political tone-deafness will come to an end on election day. Afterwards, the Democrats would be wise to listen more to their Republican colleagues than to the White House. The latter seems not to have a clue about the American electorate.

The Democrats not only got the economic policy wrong (Keynesian economic policy works no better in 2010 than it did in the 1930s) — they, time and again, have gotten the politics wrong.

On taxes, the class-warfare gambit is turning into a retreat:

Going into a pivotal caucus Thursday, Senate Democrats show more and more signs of losing their nerve and backing away from earlier plans with the White House to force a vote on middle-class tax cuts prior to November’s election.

A final decision has not been made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it’s a real political Rubicon with no safe choice in today’s political climate. Taxes have long been a third rail for Democrats, but to have no vote at all could also be seen as a sign of weakness.

Once the Senate Democrats run for the hills, the House Democrats will be close behind. If so, the Democrats will have the worst of both worlds: the voters will know they would dearly love to raise taxes and the base will know they don’t have the political moxie to act on their convictions. (“White House officials have been warning this week that they expected no vote — provoking some frustration among liberals that the administration wasn’t doing more to intercede.”)

That political miscalculation, however, is nothing compared to the ObamaCare debacle. This report suggests that just “everyone” thought ObamaCare would be a winner. (Hmm, a lot of us who were watching the rowdy town-hall protesters and the poll numbers argued it wouldn’t, but no, never mind. It sounds better if everyone was wrong.) Is it really a “riddle” that voters don’t appreciate the “historic” legislation – or has it become crystal clear to all but the deluded that ObamaCare was a bust, politically? It seems that the White House’s assurance that it would prevent an electoral wipe-out was hooey. Now we hear:

“The textbook in a civics class of how the institution should not act was the health care bill,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told NBC News this month. “It was arrogant. Both parties were arrogant and selfish, in my view.”

Did he not vote for it? Whatever — he’s retiring. Too many arrogant ethical lapses.

Inside the Beltway, they are amazed that ”rather than being viewed as a kooky notion, the repeal-and-replace battle cry resonates with the electorate: Polls show voters are divided on the question, with about as many people opposed to rolling back the law as those who favor doing so.” Actually, some polls show that many more favor repeal. (“61 percent of likely U.S. voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health-care law, including 50 percent who Strongly Favor it.”)

Whatever the spin doctors and the media enablers tell us, the historical record is there for all to see. Democrats ignored the public’s anger, pooh-poohed the polls, and scoffed at the conservatives’ warning that a party-line vote on a mammoth bill of taxes and regulations disguised as “reform” was a grave political miscalculation. In the political debate, with a nod to Ronald Reagan, we conservatives win; liberals lose.

This chapter in the Obama era of policy overreach and political tone-deafness will come to an end on election day. Afterwards, the Democrats would be wise to listen more to their Republican colleagues than to the White House. The latter seems not to have a clue about the American electorate.

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Obama Finally Notices the Tea Party

The Chicago pols who occupy the White House may not know much about economics or the Middle East, but they are unparalleled in their devotion to (obsessed with, really) partisanship and attack-dog politics. They’ve gone after Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, talk show hosts, town hall protesters, Justice Alito, Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and, of course, the Republican Party. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House is contemplating a smear attack on the Tea Party, according to the New York Times:

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

Translation: the White House is so panicked and has been so unsuccessful in juicing up the base (wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to do that?) that it now wants to assail a movement of millions of Americans, risk further alienating independents (who loathe hyper-partisanship), and demonstrate just how desperate the Democrats are by attacking the Tea Partiers. Even the Times thinks it’s a dopey idea:

In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.

The danger in all this — aside from making their political predicament worse — is that it elevates the Tea Party and sets the populist advocates up for some post-election gloating. (“Obama went after us and we beat Obama.”) And for a president who will need to learn to get along, for the first time in his presidency, with committed conservative lawmakers, it’s probably not the best idea to run a vicious, personal attack on them. Some of them — most, in fact — are likely to get elected, and they may be in no mood to compromise with a president who tags every opponent as an “extremist.” But then the Obami aren’t nearly as concerned about governing as they are about campaigning.

The Chicago pols who occupy the White House may not know much about economics or the Middle East, but they are unparalleled in their devotion to (obsessed with, really) partisanship and attack-dog politics. They’ve gone after Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, talk show hosts, town hall protesters, Justice Alito, Wall Street, Sarah Palin, and, of course, the Republican Party. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House is contemplating a smear attack on the Tea Party, according to the New York Times:

White House and Congressional Democratic strategists are trying to energize dispirited Democratic voters over the coming six weeks, in hopes of limiting the party’s losses and keeping control of the House and Senate. The strategists see openings to exploit after a string of Tea Party successes split Republicans in a number of states, culminating last week with developments that scrambled Senate races in Delaware and Alaska.

Translation: the White House is so panicked and has been so unsuccessful in juicing up the base (wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to do that?) that it now wants to assail a movement of millions of Americans, risk further alienating independents (who loathe hyper-partisanship), and demonstrate just how desperate the Democrats are by attacking the Tea Partiers. Even the Times thinks it’s a dopey idea:

In 1994, Democrats were in power and similarly took hope when Republican primaries yielded candidates deemed too far right for the general election. Yet the wave against Democrats that year was strong enough to carry those newcomers into office and put Republicans in control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Except for Ms. O’Donnell in Delaware, Republican nominees that Democrats like to showcase as extremists — including in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and even blue-state Connecticut — are even with their Democratic rivals in polls or ahead.

The danger in all this — aside from making their political predicament worse — is that it elevates the Tea Party and sets the populist advocates up for some post-election gloating. (“Obama went after us and we beat Obama.”) And for a president who will need to learn to get along, for the first time in his presidency, with committed conservative lawmakers, it’s probably not the best idea to run a vicious, personal attack on them. Some of them — most, in fact — are likely to get elected, and they may be in no mood to compromise with a president who tags every opponent as an “extremist.” But then the Obami aren’t nearly as concerned about governing as they are about campaigning.

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