Commentary Magazine


Topic: Fairfax County

What Loughner’s Mental State Will Mean for His Trial

As more information trickles out to the media about the private life of Jared Loughner, it’s become apparent how severely unhinged and divorced from reality he was. Charles Krauthammer, a certified psychiatrist, noted yesterday that Loughner fits the textbook description of a paranoid schizophrenic, and he wasn’t the first commentator to reach that conclusion.

But what exactly will Loughner’s mental state mean for his trial? And how much of a chance is there that he’ll get a reduced sentence or not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity?

After John Hinkley was acquitted of shooting President Reagan by reason of insanity, it’s become much more difficult to mount that type of defense. At the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson sheds some light on the three-step process:

First, “you have to have a mental disease or defect—you have to qualify,” [attorney Robert Delahunt Jr.] explained. This is not as simple as it seems, he said, because someone “can be mentally ill and it’s not a disease or defect as diagnosed by experts.” Or, there could be disagreement between experts. There “can be something wrong with this guy, can have an anxiety disorder, one expert will say it is a mental defect, one expert will say it isn’t.” …

If a defendant can get past this first hurdle, the second thing is to prove that the mental defect was relevant to the action — that “it was a big deal in his decision-making; it was a significant influence; it was the predominant impulse governing his behavior, shaping his decisions,” Delahunt said, as opposed being just a “distraction.” …

[Third], it is important to note that the defense need only prove that the defendant was either unable to “conform” to societal standards, or that he or she was unable to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions.” One or the other is sufficient to raise the issue of insanity.

Attorneys Levinson spoke to noted that it’s extremely difficult to prove that a client meets all three requirements. These types of pleas are also problematic because they can imply an admission of guilt.

Of course, admitting guilt may not be a huge risk for Loughner’s defense team. Attorneys who spoke to the Washington Post said that his culpability is probably not going to be much of a question during the trial:

“Guilt is not the issue here. Everyone saw him do it; he was stopped there. There’s just no question,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a Fairfax County death penalty expert who defended Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. “The issue is his mental state, and the sole goal is to avoid the death penalty.”

And since the facts of the case aren’t widely disputed, it’s much more likely that Loughner’s defense team will use his mental illness in order to get a reduced sentence. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke — who opposes capital punishment — is known for helping her mass-murdering clients avoid the death penalty. According to the Post, Clarke will be sure to dig into the obscure details of her client’s life in an attempt to prove he was suffering from an extensive mental illness when he opened fire on the crowded political event. So get used to hearing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior once the trial gets underway.

As more information trickles out to the media about the private life of Jared Loughner, it’s become apparent how severely unhinged and divorced from reality he was. Charles Krauthammer, a certified psychiatrist, noted yesterday that Loughner fits the textbook description of a paranoid schizophrenic, and he wasn’t the first commentator to reach that conclusion.

But what exactly will Loughner’s mental state mean for his trial? And how much of a chance is there that he’ll get a reduced sentence or not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity?

After John Hinkley was acquitted of shooting President Reagan by reason of insanity, it’s become much more difficult to mount that type of defense. At the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson sheds some light on the three-step process:

First, “you have to have a mental disease or defect—you have to qualify,” [attorney Robert Delahunt Jr.] explained. This is not as simple as it seems, he said, because someone “can be mentally ill and it’s not a disease or defect as diagnosed by experts.” Or, there could be disagreement between experts. There “can be something wrong with this guy, can have an anxiety disorder, one expert will say it is a mental defect, one expert will say it isn’t.” …

If a defendant can get past this first hurdle, the second thing is to prove that the mental defect was relevant to the action — that “it was a big deal in his decision-making; it was a significant influence; it was the predominant impulse governing his behavior, shaping his decisions,” Delahunt said, as opposed being just a “distraction.” …

[Third], it is important to note that the defense need only prove that the defendant was either unable to “conform” to societal standards, or that he or she was unable to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions.” One or the other is sufficient to raise the issue of insanity.

Attorneys Levinson spoke to noted that it’s extremely difficult to prove that a client meets all three requirements. These types of pleas are also problematic because they can imply an admission of guilt.

Of course, admitting guilt may not be a huge risk for Loughner’s defense team. Attorneys who spoke to the Washington Post said that his culpability is probably not going to be much of a question during the trial:

“Guilt is not the issue here. Everyone saw him do it; he was stopped there. There’s just no question,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a Fairfax County death penalty expert who defended Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. “The issue is his mental state, and the sole goal is to avoid the death penalty.”

And since the facts of the case aren’t widely disputed, it’s much more likely that Loughner’s defense team will use his mental illness in order to get a reduced sentence. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke — who opposes capital punishment — is known for helping her mass-murdering clients avoid the death penalty. According to the Post, Clarke will be sure to dig into the obscure details of her client’s life in an attempt to prove he was suffering from an extensive mental illness when he opened fire on the crowded political event. So get used to hearing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior once the trial gets underway.

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Diversity Disappoints

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thomas Jefferson High School (known commonly as “TJ”), a Fairfax County high school for select, über–academic achievers (i.e., Virginia’s Bronx Science). The curriculum is rigorous (its college-level courses are not offered at regular high schools), and the workload is grueling. The Post‘s beef is that “diversity is not working”:

[African American students] amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”

The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.

Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

There are two major reasons. Admissions decisions are generally made without regard to race or ethnicity, despite a policy meant to promote diversity. And initiatives to enlarge the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students in elementary and middle school have flopped.

To be clear: admissions are made without regard to race, and the school makes every effort to ferret out every qualified minority student in the district. There are plenty of Asian students. But there are only a few African Americans and Hispanics who can meet the school’s standards. That is defined as a failure — by the school. What the Post and the controversial ex-admissions director (whose championing of diversity at the price of maintaining standards of excellence met with a furious backlash) are upset about is that, without quotas, there aren’t “enough” African Americans and Hispanics (that is, enough minority students proportionate to their percentages in the population):

For more than a decade after its founding in 1985, the school actively sought to diversify its enrollment, even if that sometimes meant admitting students with lower test scores than others. In 1997, the school admitted 24 Hispanic students and 25 black students.

That year, several federal courts struck down school affirmative action programs, and attorneys advised Fairfax school officials to end any racial or ethnic preferences. The number of black and Hispanic freshmen plummeted.

It’s not like the professional ethnic bean counters didn’t try. (“Then admissions panels, mostly teachers and administrators from other area schools, consider subjective criteria such as essays and teacher recommendations. At that point, race and ethnicity can come into play. But generally they don’t.”)

Frankly, TJ has done everything right. No one is discriminated against. (Although Asian parents complain that the number of Asian students is artificially depressed to prevent the school from becoming nearly all Asian.) There is no lack of mentoring and assistance programs for minority students. The results are not a sign of failure by the school. They are, to be blunt, a sign that students and their parents in certain ethnic and racial groups are not matching the effort and the output of those from other groups. The results should be a warning signal not to the school but to those parents and children. You want to join the elite of the elite? Work as hard, place a priority on academic achievement, and make use of the ample resources in the public schools to promote success.

The left considers “bad” numbers a sign that our institutions are biased or haven’t done enough. Maybe it’s time to ask the parents and students to do more.

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front-page story on Thomas Jefferson High School (known commonly as “TJ”), a Fairfax County high school for select, über–academic achievers (i.e., Virginia’s Bronx Science). The curriculum is rigorous (its college-level courses are not offered at regular high schools), and the workload is grueling. The Post‘s beef is that “diversity is not working”:

[African American students] amount to less than 1 percent of the Class of 2014 at the selective public school in Fairfax County, regarded as among the nation’s best. “It’s disappointing,” said Andrea Smith, the club’s faculty sponsor. “But you work with what you got.”

The count of Hispanic freshmen is not much higher: 13.

Years of efforts to raise black and Hispanic enrollment at the regional school have failed, officials acknowledge. The number of such students admitted has fallen since 2005.

There are two major reasons. Admissions decisions are generally made without regard to race or ethnicity, despite a policy meant to promote diversity. And initiatives to enlarge the pipeline of qualified black and Hispanic students in elementary and middle school have flopped.

To be clear: admissions are made without regard to race, and the school makes every effort to ferret out every qualified minority student in the district. There are plenty of Asian students. But there are only a few African Americans and Hispanics who can meet the school’s standards. That is defined as a failure — by the school. What the Post and the controversial ex-admissions director (whose championing of diversity at the price of maintaining standards of excellence met with a furious backlash) are upset about is that, without quotas, there aren’t “enough” African Americans and Hispanics (that is, enough minority students proportionate to their percentages in the population):

For more than a decade after its founding in 1985, the school actively sought to diversify its enrollment, even if that sometimes meant admitting students with lower test scores than others. In 1997, the school admitted 24 Hispanic students and 25 black students.

That year, several federal courts struck down school affirmative action programs, and attorneys advised Fairfax school officials to end any racial or ethnic preferences. The number of black and Hispanic freshmen plummeted.

It’s not like the professional ethnic bean counters didn’t try. (“Then admissions panels, mostly teachers and administrators from other area schools, consider subjective criteria such as essays and teacher recommendations. At that point, race and ethnicity can come into play. But generally they don’t.”)

Frankly, TJ has done everything right. No one is discriminated against. (Although Asian parents complain that the number of Asian students is artificially depressed to prevent the school from becoming nearly all Asian.) There is no lack of mentoring and assistance programs for minority students. The results are not a sign of failure by the school. They are, to be blunt, a sign that students and their parents in certain ethnic and racial groups are not matching the effort and the output of those from other groups. The results should be a warning signal not to the school but to those parents and children. You want to join the elite of the elite? Work as hard, place a priority on academic achievement, and make use of the ample resources in the public schools to promote success.

The left considers “bad” numbers a sign that our institutions are biased or haven’t done enough. Maybe it’s time to ask the parents and students to do more.

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RE: Virginia’s 11th

If you needed any reminder of the Washington Post‘s egregious cheerleading for Democrats in Virginia (which results in comical reporting and flawed analysis, as Gov. Bob McDonnell, a survivor of Post-attack syndrome, can attest), along comes this take on the contest in Virginia’s 11th:

The 11th District’s recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. [Gerry] Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat [Keith] Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative. Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of [Pat] Herrity’s campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County.

Let’s count the ways in which this is ridiculous and misleading to voters. First, the key problem for Connolly, which the Post conceals, is that he has departed from Tom Davis’s moderate approach and aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and the president on taxes, health care, cap-and-trade, and spending. But the Post has its narrative — Fimian is too extreme, Connolly is suited to the district — and it is not going to let facts get in the way. Second, which national party strategists are we talking about? None are named. The ones I’ve talked to knew all along that Herrity was a weak candidate, unimpressive on the stump, and unlikely to fire up the troops. That’s why Eric Cantor, among others, endorsed Fimian.

This is just one more example of why the Post‘s Virginia political reporting is routinely ignored by readers and politicians alike.

If you needed any reminder of the Washington Post‘s egregious cheerleading for Democrats in Virginia (which results in comical reporting and flawed analysis, as Gov. Bob McDonnell, a survivor of Post-attack syndrome, can attest), along comes this take on the contest in Virginia’s 11th:

The 11th District’s recent history suggests it is favorable to centrists. [Gerry] Connolly and his predecessor, GOP Rep. Tom Davis, lean toward the middle ideologically, and Connolly beat [Keith] Fimian in 2008 partly by arguing that the Republican was too conservative. Without explicitly calling himself a moderate, Herrity said he was the only Republican who could beat Connolly. Many national party strategists privately agreed with that assessment, although some worried about the effectiveness of [Pat] Herrity’s campaign. On Tuesday, Herrity barely scratched out a win in his home base of Fairfax County and lost by a huge margin in Prince William County.

Let’s count the ways in which this is ridiculous and misleading to voters. First, the key problem for Connolly, which the Post conceals, is that he has departed from Tom Davis’s moderate approach and aligned himself with Nancy Pelosi and the president on taxes, health care, cap-and-trade, and spending. But the Post has its narrative — Fimian is too extreme, Connolly is suited to the district — and it is not going to let facts get in the way. Second, which national party strategists are we talking about? None are named. The ones I’ve talked to knew all along that Herrity was a weak candidate, unimpressive on the stump, and unlikely to fire up the troops. That’s why Eric Cantor, among others, endorsed Fimian.

This is just one more example of why the Post‘s Virginia political reporting is routinely ignored by readers and politicians alike.

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Rubber-Stamping Obama’s Agenda Can Be Hazardous to Democrats

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.’”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

This report on the prospects for Republicans’ gains in the House in suburban districts features my home district, the 11th in northern Virginia. Represented for years by moderate Republican Tom Davis, Gerry Connolly now occupies the seat. He’s brimming with confidence — sort of:

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a liberal Democrat who won the seat by a wide margin in 2008, agrees—up to a point. “Seeing it go Republican again would be big,” he said, before adding, “I don’t expect that to happen.”

But unlike his immediate predecessor, who hewed a moderate line and often confounded the conservative base, Connolly has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. And his constituents are none too pleased. At a health-care town hall, they vented their frustration:

He touted the hundreds of millions he had won for his district to expand its congested highways and intersections. He defended the president’s stimulus package, noting that $77 million was going to help build a rail line to Dulles Airport, which lies partly in Fairfax County.

He then gave a detailed defense of the health bill. “I voted for it and am proud to have voted for it,” he said.

What followed was a barrage of negative comments and questions on health care. Did he really read the whole bill? Why is my doctor now telling me that he’ll check my pacemaker only four times a year instead of monthly? What in the Constitution gives you the power to demand people pay for health insurance?

Mr. Connolly cut off questioning after 20 minutes, saying he has to get home to his wife. A knot of constituents gathered to shake his hand and to invite him to various events. One asked about his daughter, who’s now in college.

Outside, he waved off the hostility. “Yeah, they were critical in there,” he said. “But I’ve known these folks for years. You saw how they were asking about my daughter. I’ll win this precinct.”

Perhaps. Or maybe the voter was being polite. The two Republicans vying to oppose Connolly have figured out his weak spot: he’s gone far left in a moderate district. (“‘He’s been acting as Nancy Pelosi’s personal lieutenant,’ Mr. [Pat] Herrity said to a chorus of boos, speaking one morning to several hundred party faithful in the gym of West Springfield High School. ‘I call him Gerry Pelosi.’”) Keith Fimian is focusing on the deficit that the Democrats have piled up, accusing them of “preparing for the next generation a life of servitude and mediocrity.”

It is noteworthy that Obama crushed John McCain in 2008 in Fairfax County, winning by more than 20 points. But it is a different story now. Bob McDonnell won the county in the 2009 gubernatorial race. It seems that the voters have gotten a good look at Obamaism and don’t like what they see. Connolly — like Obama — took a risk that voters had moved left and would welcome a huge  expansion of federal power and shrug off the taxes to pay for it. We’ll find out in November if that was a smart bet.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

Obama could use an “intervention,” says Noemie Emery. “Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: One, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is ‘sort of like God.’ Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.”

Obama could use a change of topic. ObamaCare is killing him: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President.”

Nancy Pelosi could use some votes. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s task of securing 216 votes for passage is only getting more difficult. Several members who voted against the legislation when it was first before the House in Nov. told Hotline OnCall [Tuesday] they would vote against the measure again, trimming the number of Dems who might be persuaded to make up the difference.”

The Democrats could use some esprit de corps (or a marriage counselor): “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to stop assigning deadlines to Congress for finishing the health care reform bill. In a House-Senate leadership meeting on health care Tuesday, she essentially told Emanuel to ‘cool it,’ according to one Hill Democratic aide — an account confirmed by a second aide.”

We could all use less Glenn Beck and Eric Massa.

We could use more forthrightness about our feeble Iran policy. AIPAC steps up to the plate with a rare public letter expressing “outrage at the U.S. government’s continuing relationship with dozens of companies doing business with Iran. These ongoing financial dealings undermine longstanding American efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.” Great. Now where’s the letter on the Obama administration’s pathetic effort to wriggle out of its promise to impose crippling sanctions?

The Democrats could use a break from the bad news in Virginia (which Bob McDonnell swept in a landslide in November): “Fairfax County businessman Keith Fimian, who unsuccessfully ran against former County Board chairman Gerry Connolly for the congressional seat of retiring Republican congressman Tom Davis, has just released a poll giving him a five-point lead over Connolly, the president of the Democrats’ 2008 freshman class. … Pollsters found voters in a strong ‘very anti-incumbent’ mood, with two-thirds (65 percent) saying they believe Washington is on the wrong track. And they’re blaming Congress in general — and Connolly in particular — for the mess.”

Democrats could use more enthusiasm, says Jonathan Chait: “Democrats face an enormous problem here. The electorate that shows up in November could be far more Republican than the electorate as a whole. In these circumstances, it seems like the party’s number one imperative has to be shoring up the base and giving its voters a reason to go to the polls in November.” His solution: pass ObamaCare! Which, of course, will only fire up conservatives even more.

Charlie Crist could use an exit plan. “Former House Speaker Marco Rubio’s stunning early lead in Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race was confirmed today by an Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll that shows him leading Gov. Charlie Crist by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.’”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.’”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

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Tax Hikes Not Popular in Virginia?

The Wall Street Journal editors scrounge up two Democrats who actually favor leaving the Bush tax cuts in place. Interestingly, one is northern Virginia freshman Congressman Gerry Connolly, one of the four vulnerable Democratic House members targeted by Republicans in the wake of Robert McDonnell’s huge victory in the gubernatorial race and win in Connolly’s own Fairfax County. Connolly, who has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the budget, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade, now realizes the economy is fragile. “I think there is a certain logic to leaving well-enough alone for now, given the fragility of the economic recovery … it’s a question of prudent judgment and timing.”

That suggests Connolly is feeling the heat. He sees two viable Republican challengers and knows his district is decidedly more moderate than Massachusetts. He’s spent the year adhering closely to the ultra-liberal agenda without regard to the impact on his suburban constituents. Connolly may not find many allies on his side of the aisle, but it’s revealing that he now feels compelled to stake out an anti-tax-hike position. He’s unlikely to prevail in his caucus. He then can try to explain in November why divided government is such a bad thing and how he has served the interests of voters in his district. It will be an interesting race to watch and may become one more example of the toll Obamaism has taken on his party.

The Wall Street Journal editors scrounge up two Democrats who actually favor leaving the Bush tax cuts in place. Interestingly, one is northern Virginia freshman Congressman Gerry Connolly, one of the four vulnerable Democratic House members targeted by Republicans in the wake of Robert McDonnell’s huge victory in the gubernatorial race and win in Connolly’s own Fairfax County. Connolly, who has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the budget, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade, now realizes the economy is fragile. “I think there is a certain logic to leaving well-enough alone for now, given the fragility of the economic recovery … it’s a question of prudent judgment and timing.”

That suggests Connolly is feeling the heat. He sees two viable Republican challengers and knows his district is decidedly more moderate than Massachusetts. He’s spent the year adhering closely to the ultra-liberal agenda without regard to the impact on his suburban constituents. Connolly may not find many allies on his side of the aisle, but it’s revealing that he now feels compelled to stake out an anti-tax-hike position. He’s unlikely to prevail in his caucus. He then can try to explain in November why divided government is such a bad thing and how he has served the interests of voters in his district. It will be an interesting race to watch and may become one more example of the toll Obamaism has taken on his party.

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Northern Virginia Up for Grabs

Virginia continues to surprise Democrats and the elite media. This week a special election was held to fill the state Senate seat in Fairfax County vacated by conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected as the state attorney general. The Democrat won but by only a few hundred votes. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post — not known to make excuses for the GOP — explained that the Democrat was a “well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation,” while the Republican “served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office.” The result should give Democrats pause:

This is a no-brainer. [Democrat Dave] Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked. All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs next November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

But before we get to another round of state races, we have this year’s congressional contests. Gerry Connolly, a first-term congressman in the 11th district and former Fairfax County supervisor who replaced longtime and very popular Tom Davis, should be “very afraid” as well. Two Republicans — Fairfax county supervisor Pat Herrity and businessman Keith Fimian (who lost to Connolly in 2008 by a 54 to 43 percent margin, considerably ahead of John McCain, who lost to Obama by a 60 to 39 percent margin in the county) — are vying to challenge him.

Since coming to the Hill, Connolly has eschewed the model of his predecessor, a moderate, pro-business Republican who remained popular in his district even when Republican fortunes flagged. Instead, Connolly has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the left-wing agenda. His votes on cap-and-trade and especially ObamaCare (which will hit his constituents with a bevy of new taxes) will certainly be under attack. Connolly has reason to be nervous: Bob McDonnell shocked Virginia politicos, who had come to see Fairfax as drifting further and further into the Blue, by carrying the county 51 to 49 percent, running against the very Obama agenda items Connolly has supported.

In a year in which Massachusetts is competitive, northern Virginia certainly will be — especially if Republicans can make the case that incumbent Democrats have lost faith with their more moderate voters.

Virginia continues to surprise Democrats and the elite media. This week a special election was held to fill the state Senate seat in Fairfax County vacated by conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected as the state attorney general. The Democrat won but by only a few hundred votes. Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post — not known to make excuses for the GOP — explained that the Democrat was a “well respected, two-term member of the House of Delegates who is universally acknowledged as one of the state’s leading experts on juvenile justice, incarceration and rehabilitation,” while the Republican “served a single term on the Fairfax School Board before being unceremoniously turned out of office.” The result should give Democrats pause:

This is a no-brainer. [Democrat Dave] Marsden should’ve cleaned up. Instead, he won by scarcely 1 percent of the 23,600 votes cast. His margin of victory came from a 2-1 edge among the state’s 1,200 absentee voters, a constituency GOP officials somehow overlooked. All 40 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs next November. Be afraid, Virginia Democrats, be very afraid.

But before we get to another round of state races, we have this year’s congressional contests. Gerry Connolly, a first-term congressman in the 11th district and former Fairfax County supervisor who replaced longtime and very popular Tom Davis, should be “very afraid” as well. Two Republicans — Fairfax county supervisor Pat Herrity and businessman Keith Fimian (who lost to Connolly in 2008 by a 54 to 43 percent margin, considerably ahead of John McCain, who lost to Obama by a 60 to 39 percent margin in the county) — are vying to challenge him.

Since coming to the Hill, Connolly has eschewed the model of his predecessor, a moderate, pro-business Republican who remained popular in his district even when Republican fortunes flagged. Instead, Connolly has voted down the line with Nancy Pelosi and Obama on the left-wing agenda. His votes on cap-and-trade and especially ObamaCare (which will hit his constituents with a bevy of new taxes) will certainly be under attack. Connolly has reason to be nervous: Bob McDonnell shocked Virginia politicos, who had come to see Fairfax as drifting further and further into the Blue, by carrying the county 51 to 49 percent, running against the very Obama agenda items Connolly has supported.

In a year in which Massachusetts is competitive, northern Virginia certainly will be — especially if Republicans can make the case that incumbent Democrats have lost faith with their more moderate voters.

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Early Virginia Returns

Mike Huckabee leads with about 12% of the vote. However, and it is a big however, no votes are yet in from Fairfax County (the most populous county and filled with Washington professionals) or from Norfolk(lots of military). Stay tuned.

Mike Huckabee leads with about 12% of the vote. However, and it is a big however, no votes are yet in from Fairfax County (the most populous county and filled with Washington professionals) or from Norfolk(lots of military). Stay tuned.

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