Commentary Magazine


Topic: Florida Senate

Annals of Headshaking Punditry

Eugene Robinson, the liberal columnist for the Washington Post, on MSNBC this morning: “Can Marco Rubio appeal to Hispanics?” Marco Rubio, the overwhelming favorite to win the Florida Senate race, is the child of two Cuban refugees. Apparently Americans of Cuban descent are not Hispanics, in Robinson’s eyes, because they tend to vote Republican.

Eugene Robinson, the liberal columnist for the Washington Post, on MSNBC this morning: “Can Marco Rubio appeal to Hispanics?” Marco Rubio, the overwhelming favorite to win the Florida Senate race, is the child of two Cuban refugees. Apparently Americans of Cuban descent are not Hispanics, in Robinson’s eyes, because they tend to vote Republican.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RE: Bill Clinton’s Double Standards on Rhetoric

Pete, to your point, there was a lively discussion on Fox News Sunday about Clinton’s comments and the Tea Parties. There is a single reason why Clinton, Obama, and the mainstream media are in a tizzy about the Tea Party protests. As Bill Kristol said:

It’s an attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. … I think this notion that — the left pretends to think the Tea Parties are a problem for the Republicans. The fact is the left is terrified of the Tea Parties.President Obama knows they have done a huge amount of damage to his attempt to transform America in a left-wing direction. And therefore, they don’t want to debate the issues. They want to demonize them.

You don’t see the liberal attack machine getting this bent out of shape over nothing. As Bill remarked, “The Obama administration has given rise to a more powerful conservatism than has existed for 20 years, since Ronald Reagan in this country.” And it’s not the GOP Beltway crowd that has done this — it’s ordinary citizens. I don’t think Bill was exaggerating when he said: “The Republican establishment is the threat to the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. The Tea Party is the best thing that’s happened for conservatives.” (You need look no further than the Florida Senate race, where the insiders picked the hapless Charlie Crist, and the Tea Party amateurs identified Marco Rubio as a rising star.) And so the liberals attack and make ludicrous connections to murders like Timothy McVeigh or concoct racist allegations that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The irony is great, of course. The community organizer has stirred the sleeping beast and is now the object of its ire. The Democrats want to shush them all up. I suspect the more the Democrats shush, the more irate the citizen protesters will become. It is proof of how disconnected the ruling party is from popular sentiment and how scared the Democrats are of their own constituents.

Pete, to your point, there was a lively discussion on Fox News Sunday about Clinton’s comments and the Tea Parties. There is a single reason why Clinton, Obama, and the mainstream media are in a tizzy about the Tea Party protests. As Bill Kristol said:

It’s an attempt to demonize and discredit the movement and not engage it on its ideas. … I think this notion that — the left pretends to think the Tea Parties are a problem for the Republicans. The fact is the left is terrified of the Tea Parties.President Obama knows they have done a huge amount of damage to his attempt to transform America in a left-wing direction. And therefore, they don’t want to debate the issues. They want to demonize them.

You don’t see the liberal attack machine getting this bent out of shape over nothing. As Bill remarked, “The Obama administration has given rise to a more powerful conservatism than has existed for 20 years, since Ronald Reagan in this country.” And it’s not the GOP Beltway crowd that has done this — it’s ordinary citizens. I don’t think Bill was exaggerating when he said: “The Republican establishment is the threat to the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. The Tea Party is the best thing that’s happened for conservatives.” (You need look no further than the Florida Senate race, where the insiders picked the hapless Charlie Crist, and the Tea Party amateurs identified Marco Rubio as a rising star.) And so the liberals attack and make ludicrous connections to murders like Timothy McVeigh or concoct racist allegations that do not stand up to scrutiny.

The irony is great, of course. The community organizer has stirred the sleeping beast and is now the object of its ire. The Democrats want to shush them all up. I suspect the more the Democrats shush, the more irate the citizen protesters will become. It is proof of how disconnected the ruling party is from popular sentiment and how scared the Democrats are of their own constituents.

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Desperation Time for Crist

Charlie Crist is being embarrassed in the Florida Senate primary. He now trails by 30-some points. Not surprisingly, his money is drying up. He’s raised less than a third of what Marco Rubio hauled in.

So naturally he’s going negative with a sort of creepy ad that suggests there is something we don’t know about Marco Rubio. I suppose Crist figures he’s got nothing to lose and can’t get the base any angrier at him. It vaguely reminds me of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary — frustrated at the base’s sweetheart, flailing around and going negative in a last ditch effort to make the voters fall out of love with the party’s newest rock star. It didn’t work then either. Crist is, after all, still governor and at some point will need to decide if it’s worthwhile to keep this up, further erode his base of support, and go down as a spoilsport.

Rubio probably doesn’t suffer from having an active primary going on. (Likewise, the prolonged 2008 Democratic primary energized the Democratic base, and Clinton’s negative attack ads never were successfully used against Obama in the general election.) For now, Rubio remains the favorite of the conservative base — and the belated object of affection of party insiders, who learned with some embarrassment that Crist was not the sure-thing candidate they imagined he’d be.

Charlie Crist is being embarrassed in the Florida Senate primary. He now trails by 30-some points. Not surprisingly, his money is drying up. He’s raised less than a third of what Marco Rubio hauled in.

So naturally he’s going negative with a sort of creepy ad that suggests there is something we don’t know about Marco Rubio. I suppose Crist figures he’s got nothing to lose and can’t get the base any angrier at him. It vaguely reminds me of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary — frustrated at the base’s sweetheart, flailing around and going negative in a last ditch effort to make the voters fall out of love with the party’s newest rock star. It didn’t work then either. Crist is, after all, still governor and at some point will need to decide if it’s worthwhile to keep this up, further erode his base of support, and go down as a spoilsport.

Rubio probably doesn’t suffer from having an active primary going on. (Likewise, the prolonged 2008 Democratic primary energized the Democratic base, and Clinton’s negative attack ads never were successfully used against Obama in the general election.) For now, Rubio remains the favorite of the conservative base — and the belated object of affection of party insiders, who learned with some embarrassment that Crist was not the sure-thing candidate they imagined he’d be.

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A New York Battle

This is going to be fun. The “this” is the New York Democratic Senate primary, which is going to make up for that Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton matchup that political fans were deprived of when Giuliani decided not to make a Senate run in 2000. A sample:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is finally heeding New York Democrats’ advice that she get tough with Harold Ford Jr. — slamming the former Memphis congressman as an anti-gay-rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant tool of Wall Street money lords. The problem for Gillibrand: Ford is embracing New York’s slappy-face politics faster than she can generate the comebacks. On Monday, Ford dismissed Gillibrand as a party-controlled “parakeet.” For good measure, his spokesman told POLITICO that Gillibrand is a “desperate liar.”

Yowser. And it’s only January.

Now Gillibrand has some problems. She’s an incumbent when incumbents are out of favor. She hasn’t done anything memorable. And to a degree, Ford is right: she morphed from a moderate, somewhat independent-minded congresswoman into a loyal cog in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine, never raising a  fuss about the KSM trial or objecting to the ObamaCare deals that would have cost her state billions had we not been saved by the Massachusetts voters. (“The 39-year-old Ford, who relocated to New York after losing a 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, has repeatedly lampooned Gillibrand as being protected by her ‘party bosses,’ an argument that Ford advisers believe resonates with nationwide anti-Washington sentiment.”) Her gibes about Ford’s expedient transformation on hot-button issues ring a bit hollow given her conversion on Second Amendment rights (she became enamored of gun regulation only after her appointment to the Senate). You can see why Ford might think he’s got a real chance.

But Ford is not without his problems. The liberal-Democratic establishment has decided he’s too moderate and untrustworthy. For example, he eschews business-bashing at a time when that is de rigueur for Democrats.

The Republicans have yet to come up with a top-tier candidate, despite the giddy optimism circulating in Republican circles post–Scott Brown. But before we get to the general election, there should be plenty to watch and enjoy for those who love a good show. In some ways, it’s an interesting test for Democrats, just as the Florida Senate primary race is for Republicans. (Marco Rubio has come from far back to now lead the establishment favorite Crist in the latest poll.) No, neither is evidence of a “civil war” within the respective party. Rather, both will convey some key political information: whether the association with Beltway-establishment types is the kiss of death and whether a skilled challenger without that taint (Ford in New York and Rubio in Florida) can overcome the money and name recognition that also come with it.

This is going to be fun. The “this” is the New York Democratic Senate primary, which is going to make up for that Rudy Giuliani vs. Hillary Clinton matchup that political fans were deprived of when Giuliani decided not to make a Senate run in 2000. A sample:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is finally heeding New York Democrats’ advice that she get tough with Harold Ford Jr. — slamming the former Memphis congressman as an anti-gay-rights, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant tool of Wall Street money lords. The problem for Gillibrand: Ford is embracing New York’s slappy-face politics faster than she can generate the comebacks. On Monday, Ford dismissed Gillibrand as a party-controlled “parakeet.” For good measure, his spokesman told POLITICO that Gillibrand is a “desperate liar.”

Yowser. And it’s only January.

Now Gillibrand has some problems. She’s an incumbent when incumbents are out of favor. She hasn’t done anything memorable. And to a degree, Ford is right: she morphed from a moderate, somewhat independent-minded congresswoman into a loyal cog in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine, never raising a  fuss about the KSM trial or objecting to the ObamaCare deals that would have cost her state billions had we not been saved by the Massachusetts voters. (“The 39-year-old Ford, who relocated to New York after losing a 2006 Senate race in Tennessee, has repeatedly lampooned Gillibrand as being protected by her ‘party bosses,’ an argument that Ford advisers believe resonates with nationwide anti-Washington sentiment.”) Her gibes about Ford’s expedient transformation on hot-button issues ring a bit hollow given her conversion on Second Amendment rights (she became enamored of gun regulation only after her appointment to the Senate). You can see why Ford might think he’s got a real chance.

But Ford is not without his problems. The liberal-Democratic establishment has decided he’s too moderate and untrustworthy. For example, he eschews business-bashing at a time when that is de rigueur for Democrats.

The Republicans have yet to come up with a top-tier candidate, despite the giddy optimism circulating in Republican circles post–Scott Brown. But before we get to the general election, there should be plenty to watch and enjoy for those who love a good show. In some ways, it’s an interesting test for Democrats, just as the Florida Senate primary race is for Republicans. (Marco Rubio has come from far back to now lead the establishment favorite Crist in the latest poll.) No, neither is evidence of a “civil war” within the respective party. Rather, both will convey some key political information: whether the association with Beltway-establishment types is the kiss of death and whether a skilled challenger without that taint (Ford in New York and Rubio in Florida) can overcome the money and name recognition that also come with it.

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It’s Almost Like a Democracy

Charlie Crist has gone from popular governor to besieged Senate primary candidate in a matter of months. He’s still on the defensive about his endorsement of the stimulus boondoggle, telling a local editorial board (after trying to scoot away from his embrace of Obama) that he’s really glad he had cheered the plan:

“People are hurting and they’re suffering. I hear about it every day. That’s frankly why I thought the stimulus was so important,” Crist said. “I know there are some in my party that don’t agree with that, but I don’t have the luxury of putting politics over people.”

Well, hardly anyone in his party agrees with him, but at least he’s settled on a position. And now he’s refashioning himself as a hard-core conservative:

“It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — there’s different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I’m anti-tax. I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too,” said Crist, who as a state legislator voted against abortion restrictions and more recently supported increasing cigarette taxes in Florida and the federal $787 billion stimulus package.

Ouch. Well, maybe not all that conservative. Some decried the fact that there is a primary at all, arguing that this was all a horrid notion, having Republicans contest one another for a Senate seat. But it’s turned out to be a pretty good idea, the very thing that was missing in the NY-23 circus. Primaries serve a useful purpose — sniffing out poor candidates, uncovering their foibles, testing party enthusiasm, and allowing the candidates to test-run campaign themes. So far at least, Crist has proved to be a remarkably inept candidate, allowing the lesser-known and lesser-funded Marco Rubio to make his way into a competitive race.

Though the mainstream media and even a few snooty pundits think it’s evidence of the GOP’s weakness, a race like this suggests just the opposite. After all, a democracy is supposed to be contentious, messy, and surprising. And the Florida Senate primary is all of them.

Charlie Crist has gone from popular governor to besieged Senate primary candidate in a matter of months. He’s still on the defensive about his endorsement of the stimulus boondoggle, telling a local editorial board (after trying to scoot away from his embrace of Obama) that he’s really glad he had cheered the plan:

“People are hurting and they’re suffering. I hear about it every day. That’s frankly why I thought the stimulus was so important,” Crist said. “I know there are some in my party that don’t agree with that, but I don’t have the luxury of putting politics over people.”

Well, hardly anyone in his party agrees with him, but at least he’s settled on a position. And now he’s refashioning himself as a hard-core conservative:

“It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — there’s different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I’m anti-tax. I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too,” said Crist, who as a state legislator voted against abortion restrictions and more recently supported increasing cigarette taxes in Florida and the federal $787 billion stimulus package.

Ouch. Well, maybe not all that conservative. Some decried the fact that there is a primary at all, arguing that this was all a horrid notion, having Republicans contest one another for a Senate seat. But it’s turned out to be a pretty good idea, the very thing that was missing in the NY-23 circus. Primaries serve a useful purpose — sniffing out poor candidates, uncovering their foibles, testing party enthusiasm, and allowing the candidates to test-run campaign themes. So far at least, Crist has proved to be a remarkably inept candidate, allowing the lesser-known and lesser-funded Marco Rubio to make his way into a competitive race.

Though the mainstream media and even a few snooty pundits think it’s evidence of the GOP’s weakness, a race like this suggests just the opposite. After all, a democracy is supposed to be contentious, messy, and surprising. And the Florida Senate primary is all of them.

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