Commentary Magazine


Topic: GOP House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finding Out What Is in ObamaCare

Obama said he is only interested in tweaking ObamaCare. But what if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? What if employers start dumping people from their existing health care, premiums go up, and the cost projections — shockingly! — are proved to have been entirely fraudulent? Well, no never mind as far as the president is concerned. He’s not an evidence man. He didn’t want the generals coming back to tell him more troops were needed in Afghanistan. He doesn’t want to alter his failed approach to the Middle East. And he’s not about to mess with his “historic” achievement.

Obama supporters, and those concerned that there own reputations may be at risk, are rushing forth to defend ObamaCare. However, the facts aren’t on their side. Veronique de Rugy takes issue with former OMB chief Peter Orszag, who declares that it is imperative to keep ObamaCare in order to control health-care costs. But de Rugy says that this is nonsense. Using CBO’s own data, she explains that ObamaCare will leave “the cost curve of federal healthcare spending virtually unchanged over the next 25 years.” In fact, ObamaCare makes things a whole lot worse:

The CBO finds that the effect of the healthcare legislation has been to increase government spending by $3.8 trillion between 2010 and 2020. From 2020 to 2035, federal spending under the two projections [ObamaCare and no ObamaCare] are equal percentages of GDP. If Orszag is arguing that the real cost-containment provisions kick in around 2036, such futuristic projections are simply not worth taking seriously. …

What we can be certain of is that this legislation increases the amount of money taxpayers will be forced by law to pay for health insurance to the tune of $420 billion over the next 10 years. Claims about ObamaCare’s deficit-reduction effects depend on new taxes growing even faster than new spending. Read More

Obama said he is only interested in tweaking ObamaCare. But what if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? What if employers start dumping people from their existing health care, premiums go up, and the cost projections — shockingly! — are proved to have been entirely fraudulent? Well, no never mind as far as the president is concerned. He’s not an evidence man. He didn’t want the generals coming back to tell him more troops were needed in Afghanistan. He doesn’t want to alter his failed approach to the Middle East. And he’s not about to mess with his “historic” achievement.

Obama supporters, and those concerned that there own reputations may be at risk, are rushing forth to defend ObamaCare. However, the facts aren’t on their side. Veronique de Rugy takes issue with former OMB chief Peter Orszag, who declares that it is imperative to keep ObamaCare in order to control health-care costs. But de Rugy says that this is nonsense. Using CBO’s own data, she explains that ObamaCare will leave “the cost curve of federal healthcare spending virtually unchanged over the next 25 years.” In fact, ObamaCare makes things a whole lot worse:

The CBO finds that the effect of the healthcare legislation has been to increase government spending by $3.8 trillion between 2010 and 2020. From 2020 to 2035, federal spending under the two projections [ObamaCare and no ObamaCare] are equal percentages of GDP. If Orszag is arguing that the real cost-containment provisions kick in around 2036, such futuristic projections are simply not worth taking seriously. …

What we can be certain of is that this legislation increases the amount of money taxpayers will be forced by law to pay for health insurance to the tune of $420 billion over the next 10 years. Claims about ObamaCare’s deficit-reduction effects depend on new taxes growing even faster than new spending.

One benefit of the GOP House majority is that there can now be hearings on exactly the impact of ObamaCare. Nancy Pelosi said we’d have to pass it to find out what’s in it. Now we can. James Capretta gives us a peek at what we will find. No “death panels,” the Democrats insist?

But Obamacare does create the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. … [T]he fifteen-member IPAB has the authority to implement cost-cutting mechanisms in Medicare without further congressional approval. Indeed, IPAB’s proponents have been quite explicit in their hope that the panel will use government-funded “comparative effectiveness research” as the basis to terminate Medicare reimbursement for items and services deemed not “cost effective” by budget cutters. So, here we have an unelected board of so-called experts with the authority to unilaterally decide that certain treatments should not be funded by Medicare.

Medicare will be just fine, they say? Capretta explains:

But Medicare’s chief actuary — who works for the president of the United States — has stated repeatedly that these cuts are so deep and arbitrary that they will force many hospitals and other institutions to stop seeing Medicare patients. In fact, the cuts in Obamacare would drive Medicare’s payment rates for services below those of Medicaid by 2019, and Medicaid’s network of willing suppliers of care and services is already very constrained. It’s quite clear that pushing Medicare’s rates to such low levels would drastically reduce access to care for many beneficiaries.

But don’t take de Rugy’s and Caparetta’s word for it. Beginning in January, the GOP Congress should explain exactly what is in the bill, how much it’s going to cost, how high the tax hike will be ($700B, most agree), and the short- and long-term impact on Americans’ health care. Will Democrats rush forth to defend their handiwork? Or will the evidence be compelling, and embarrassing? Pelosi’s rump liberal caucus in the House will never abandon ObamaCare, but will the Red State senators? Don’t bet on them going down with the ObamaCare ship. Especially after we find out what is in it.

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Only the Counting and the Recriminations Are Left

Next to major holidays, Election Day pre–poll closing is the worst for political junkies. All the opinion polls are moot. Everything that has been said has been said multiple times. The pundits have enumerated all the potential surprises, so there are no surprises, other than in Rumsfeldian terms, the unknown surprises. The election today is not about what will happen but by how much. So all there is to do is wait until the votes come in.

Rather than make predictions (OK, if you insist – 74 in the House and nine in the Senate), I thought some suggestions  for the winners and losers might be in order. For the White House, which may be the biggest loser of them all, this is the time to shift tone and act presidential. Some sincere reflection and admission of their failure to address the voters’ concerns (about debt, bailouts, spending) would signal some much-needed maturity.

For the new GOP House leadership and the expanded GOP Senate caucus, modesty and circumspection is in order. No matter how big the victory, the voters’ message is not that they have “permanently” shifted to the GOP or that the GOP has proved itself as the party of good governance. Shifts are never permanent, and the governance skills have yet to be demonstrated. And whether the new leadership suspects that Obama’s presidency is kaput or not, it is unseemly and unwise to celebrate the demise of a presidency after only two years. (If David Brooks’s sampling of GOP officials is accurate, there is hope in this regard. He observes, “This year, the Republicans seem modest and cautious. I haven’t seen this many sober Republicans since America lost the Ryder Cup.”)

For the self-fancied “moderate” Democrats who survive (there will be some) or who were fortunate enough not to be on the ballot, the lesson to be learned is one of differentiation. To the extent that the public perceives Democrats from competitive seats as loyal foot soldiers of their leadership and the White House, those Democrats are an endangered species. Their votes need to match their labeling.

For the Obama spinners and sycophants who promoted a cult of personality and labeled his victory in 2008 as one of those “permanent” realignments, some mea culpas would be nice; more intellectually honest analysis would be even better.

And for the conservative blogosphere and base, learn the correct lessons. Not every Republican can win, so choose candidates wisely. A core message of economic conservatism is unifying and politically popular. Finally, give those much-maligned Republican leaders some credit. Yeah, they had some goofy favorites in the primary; but they kept the GOP caucus focused, held them together on key votes beyond expectations, and, to be blunt, acted more professionally than the president who constantly derided them. With some Tea Party–backed candidates to stiffen their spines, they might surprise us in the next couple of years.

Next to major holidays, Election Day pre–poll closing is the worst for political junkies. All the opinion polls are moot. Everything that has been said has been said multiple times. The pundits have enumerated all the potential surprises, so there are no surprises, other than in Rumsfeldian terms, the unknown surprises. The election today is not about what will happen but by how much. So all there is to do is wait until the votes come in.

Rather than make predictions (OK, if you insist – 74 in the House and nine in the Senate), I thought some suggestions  for the winners and losers might be in order. For the White House, which may be the biggest loser of them all, this is the time to shift tone and act presidential. Some sincere reflection and admission of their failure to address the voters’ concerns (about debt, bailouts, spending) would signal some much-needed maturity.

For the new GOP House leadership and the expanded GOP Senate caucus, modesty and circumspection is in order. No matter how big the victory, the voters’ message is not that they have “permanently” shifted to the GOP or that the GOP has proved itself as the party of good governance. Shifts are never permanent, and the governance skills have yet to be demonstrated. And whether the new leadership suspects that Obama’s presidency is kaput or not, it is unseemly and unwise to celebrate the demise of a presidency after only two years. (If David Brooks’s sampling of GOP officials is accurate, there is hope in this regard. He observes, “This year, the Republicans seem modest and cautious. I haven’t seen this many sober Republicans since America lost the Ryder Cup.”)

For the self-fancied “moderate” Democrats who survive (there will be some) or who were fortunate enough not to be on the ballot, the lesson to be learned is one of differentiation. To the extent that the public perceives Democrats from competitive seats as loyal foot soldiers of their leadership and the White House, those Democrats are an endangered species. Their votes need to match their labeling.

For the Obama spinners and sycophants who promoted a cult of personality and labeled his victory in 2008 as one of those “permanent” realignments, some mea culpas would be nice; more intellectually honest analysis would be even better.

And for the conservative blogosphere and base, learn the correct lessons. Not every Republican can win, so choose candidates wisely. A core message of economic conservatism is unifying and politically popular. Finally, give those much-maligned Republican leaders some credit. Yeah, they had some goofy favorites in the primary; but they kept the GOP caucus focused, held them together on key votes beyond expectations, and, to be blunt, acted more professionally than the president who constantly derided them. With some Tea Party–backed candidates to stiffen their spines, they might surprise us in the next couple of years.

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The Worst-Case Scenario for the GOP Is Pretty Darn Good

Nate Silver provides a helpful picture of the worst-case scenario for Republicans. He certainly is not, and does not claim to be, neutral in his observations and is not a pollster himself. But he’s about the most intellectually honest analyst on the Dem side. So what’s he say about the House?

FiveThirtyEight’s forecast now projects the most likely composition of the House to be 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats. This is a one-seat improvement for the Republicans from yesterday’s forecast, and would mean that they’d gain a net of 52 seats over all.

Consider 52 seats the floor for the GOP House pickups. As the Hill sums up:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party.

As for the Senate, here is some very useful analysis of the differences between the House and Senate races:

If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority! …

By comparison, in the House, where everyone is up for re-election every two years, Republicans appear most likely to win something like 53 percent of available seats. The fraction could conceivably approach 60 percent if they have a really terrific night, or it could be a bit below 50 if the Democrats overperform their polls and hold the House. But the Republicans almost without doubt will win a higher fraction of the available Senate seats (and probably also the available governors’ seats, although that could be a lot closer) than they will in the House.

And he is honest enough to point out that there is a candidate quality-control problem on both sides of the aisle:

My hunch is that Shelly Berkely would probably be crushing Ms. Angle in Nevada were she on the ballot in place of Mr. Reid; Lisa Madigan would probably have a clear lead over Mark Kirk in Illinois; there are even states like Arizona — where John McCain’s approval ratings are actually quite poor — in which an absolutely top-tier Democratic nominee might have made a competitive race. And meanwhile, the Republicans have some strong candidates, including both establishment choices like Rob Portman in Ohio and John Hoeven in North Dakota, and antiestablishment ones like Marco Rubio in Florida (a Tea Partier), and probably even Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (another Tea Partier), who has run a really smart campaign, although he’s not quite out of the woods yet against the incumbent, Russ Feingold.

To sum up, there is precious little good news for the Democrats. They are on track to lose the House, scads of Senate seats, and their Senate majority leader. (Even pre-programming some voting machines in Nevada isn’t likely to save Harry Reid.) The notion that the Tea Party has handicapped the GOP is belied by the facts, which Silver’s liberal colleagues would do well (at least for the sake of their intellectual integrity) to stop ignoring.

Nate Silver provides a helpful picture of the worst-case scenario for Republicans. He certainly is not, and does not claim to be, neutral in his observations and is not a pollster himself. But he’s about the most intellectually honest analyst on the Dem side. So what’s he say about the House?

FiveThirtyEight’s forecast now projects the most likely composition of the House to be 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats. This is a one-seat improvement for the Republicans from yesterday’s forecast, and would mean that they’d gain a net of 52 seats over all.

Consider 52 seats the floor for the GOP House pickups. As the Hill sums up:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party.

As for the Senate, here is some very useful analysis of the differences between the House and Senate races:

If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority! …

By comparison, in the House, where everyone is up for re-election every two years, Republicans appear most likely to win something like 53 percent of available seats. The fraction could conceivably approach 60 percent if they have a really terrific night, or it could be a bit below 50 if the Democrats overperform their polls and hold the House. But the Republicans almost without doubt will win a higher fraction of the available Senate seats (and probably also the available governors’ seats, although that could be a lot closer) than they will in the House.

And he is honest enough to point out that there is a candidate quality-control problem on both sides of the aisle:

My hunch is that Shelly Berkely would probably be crushing Ms. Angle in Nevada were she on the ballot in place of Mr. Reid; Lisa Madigan would probably have a clear lead over Mark Kirk in Illinois; there are even states like Arizona — where John McCain’s approval ratings are actually quite poor — in which an absolutely top-tier Democratic nominee might have made a competitive race. And meanwhile, the Republicans have some strong candidates, including both establishment choices like Rob Portman in Ohio and John Hoeven in North Dakota, and antiestablishment ones like Marco Rubio in Florida (a Tea Partier), and probably even Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (another Tea Partier), who has run a really smart campaign, although he’s not quite out of the woods yet against the incumbent, Russ Feingold.

To sum up, there is precious little good news for the Democrats. They are on track to lose the House, scads of Senate seats, and their Senate majority leader. (Even pre-programming some voting machines in Nevada isn’t likely to save Harry Reid.) The notion that the Tea Party has handicapped the GOP is belied by the facts, which Silver’s liberal colleagues would do well (at least for the sake of their intellectual integrity) to stop ignoring.

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That’s a Lot of Local Issues

In one of his least believable utterances, Robert Gibbs said the election wasn’t so much about Obama. It was about “local” issues. That’s preposterous, of course, given that this is arguably one of the most “nationalized” midterm elections in recent memory. It is even more ludicrous when one understands the size of the tsunami:

With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the political map has expanded to put Democrats on the run across the country – with 99 Democratic-held House seats now in play, according to a POLITICO analysis, and Republicans well in reach of retaking the House.

It’s a dramatic departure from the outlook one year ago – and a broader landscape than even just prior to the summer congressional recess. As recently as early September, many Republicans were hesitant to talk about winning a majority for fear of overreaching.

Today, however, the non-partisan Cook Political Report predicts a GOP net gain of at least 40 House seats, with 90 Democratic seats in total rated as competitive or likely Republican.

This is not to say that 90 seats will fall to the Republicans, but the numbers now are so large that a GOP House majority is nearly assured. With results that decisive it will be hard even for Gibbs to spin it as anything but a repudiation of one-party liberal rule.

But what about all that money? Two things should be kept in mind. First, money follows excitement and enthusiasm. The best example was Obama’s own 2008 campaign. Second, I tend to agree with David Brooks on this one: money is overrated. Brooks writes:

After all, money wasn’t that important when Phil Gramm and John Connally ran for president. In those and many other cases, huge fund-raising prowess yielded nothing. Money wasn’t that important in 2006 when Republican incumbents outraised Democrats by $100 million and still lost. Money wasn’t that important in the 2010 Alaska primary when Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski despite being outspent 10 to 1. It wasn’t that important in the 2010 Delaware primary when Mike Castle, who raised $1.5 million, was beaten by Christine O’Donnell, who had raised $230,000.

And Brooks points out that for all the president’s huffing and puffing, that independent money is about “a tenth of spending by candidates and parties.”

Nevertheless, it’s a nice excuse to say, “We were outspent.” But there is no amount of money that would help 90+ Democrats guarantee their re-election. There is no amount of money that will change the public’s perception of Obama and his agenda. And there is no amount of money that will convince an increasingly irritated media that the midterm elections are local.

In one of his least believable utterances, Robert Gibbs said the election wasn’t so much about Obama. It was about “local” issues. That’s preposterous, of course, given that this is arguably one of the most “nationalized” midterm elections in recent memory. It is even more ludicrous when one understands the size of the tsunami:

With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the political map has expanded to put Democrats on the run across the country – with 99 Democratic-held House seats now in play, according to a POLITICO analysis, and Republicans well in reach of retaking the House.

It’s a dramatic departure from the outlook one year ago – and a broader landscape than even just prior to the summer congressional recess. As recently as early September, many Republicans were hesitant to talk about winning a majority for fear of overreaching.

Today, however, the non-partisan Cook Political Report predicts a GOP net gain of at least 40 House seats, with 90 Democratic seats in total rated as competitive or likely Republican.

This is not to say that 90 seats will fall to the Republicans, but the numbers now are so large that a GOP House majority is nearly assured. With results that decisive it will be hard even for Gibbs to spin it as anything but a repudiation of one-party liberal rule.

But what about all that money? Two things should be kept in mind. First, money follows excitement and enthusiasm. The best example was Obama’s own 2008 campaign. Second, I tend to agree with David Brooks on this one: money is overrated. Brooks writes:

After all, money wasn’t that important when Phil Gramm and John Connally ran for president. In those and many other cases, huge fund-raising prowess yielded nothing. Money wasn’t that important in 2006 when Republican incumbents outraised Democrats by $100 million and still lost. Money wasn’t that important in the 2010 Alaska primary when Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski despite being outspent 10 to 1. It wasn’t that important in the 2010 Delaware primary when Mike Castle, who raised $1.5 million, was beaten by Christine O’Donnell, who had raised $230,000.

And Brooks points out that for all the president’s huffing and puffing, that independent money is about “a tenth of spending by candidates and parties.”

Nevertheless, it’s a nice excuse to say, “We were outspent.” But there is no amount of money that would help 90+ Democrats guarantee their re-election. There is no amount of money that will change the public’s perception of Obama and his agenda. And there is no amount of money that will convince an increasingly irritated media that the midterm elections are local.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Indiana tilts Red: “Indiana still has the look of a likely Republican Senate pickup, with former Senator Dan Coats remaining comfortably ahead of his Democratic opponent Brad Ellsworth. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Coats with 51% support, while Ellsworth earns 30% of the vote, his poorest showing to date.”

Media moguls are blue about the economy: “Lingering anxiety over the state of the economy colored the proceedings at the annual Sun Valley media and tech mogul gathering, which wrapped during the weekend. On the sidelines of the Allen & Co. camp, execs predicted a long and slow U.S. recovery, which could also affect the advertising market. A few expressed fears of a double-dip recession.” All that money donated to the Obama campaign was the worst investment they ever made.

Orin Hatch explains why Elena Kagan shouldn’t don the black robes: “Over the Supreme Court’s long history, justices who were nominated without past judicial experience have had an average of 21 years of legal practice. Ms. Kagan has two. Her experience is instead academic and political. … I asked for her own views, but she instead told me what Congress said, what she argued before the Court, and what the Court held. … She would not even admit that she had in fact written the 1996 memo about partial-birth abortion that not only bore her name but included her handwritten notes. After three attempts, all she would say is that it was in her handwriting; I suppose that left open the possibility that it had been forged.” And then there’s her judicial philosophy, such as it is.

Sen. Brown caves: “U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) said in a written statement Monday he plans to support the financial-overhaul bill, taking the White House and Democrats to the verge of the support needed to pass the bill.”

Marco Rubio hauls in the greenbacks: “Marco Rubio raised more than $4.5 million in the second quarter, his campaign said, beating rival Charlie Crist’s previous record. Crist raised $4.3 million in his first fundraising quarter of the race, back when he was a Republican, a national record for the cycle.”

A golden opportunity for the GOP: “Republicans are set up to gain a large number of governorships nationwide. At a minimum, the GOP could gain eight, giving the party 32, but larger gains are very possible.”

A silver lining for Obama, says Larry Sabato: “A GOP House would be a godsend in one way: it would give Obama someone to blame for everything, and presidents almost always look better by comparison to Congress. In that sense, it would help his reelection bid.” And a bonanza for the American people: “[I]t would also signal the end of an ambitious Obama legislative program. With Democrats now guaranteed to lose lots of Senate and House seats — even if they maintain narrow control — Obama’s salad days are over for this term.”

Greg Sargent of the Plum Line (yeah, plum is a color) argues that the Tea Party movement is “being widely doted upon as a genuine political movement even though it’s built largely on pure fantasy.” Well, this is a dreamy year for conservatives.

Indiana tilts Red: “Indiana still has the look of a likely Republican Senate pickup, with former Senator Dan Coats remaining comfortably ahead of his Democratic opponent Brad Ellsworth. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Coats with 51% support, while Ellsworth earns 30% of the vote, his poorest showing to date.”

Media moguls are blue about the economy: “Lingering anxiety over the state of the economy colored the proceedings at the annual Sun Valley media and tech mogul gathering, which wrapped during the weekend. On the sidelines of the Allen & Co. camp, execs predicted a long and slow U.S. recovery, which could also affect the advertising market. A few expressed fears of a double-dip recession.” All that money donated to the Obama campaign was the worst investment they ever made.

Orin Hatch explains why Elena Kagan shouldn’t don the black robes: “Over the Supreme Court’s long history, justices who were nominated without past judicial experience have had an average of 21 years of legal practice. Ms. Kagan has two. Her experience is instead academic and political. … I asked for her own views, but she instead told me what Congress said, what she argued before the Court, and what the Court held. … She would not even admit that she had in fact written the 1996 memo about partial-birth abortion that not only bore her name but included her handwritten notes. After three attempts, all she would say is that it was in her handwriting; I suppose that left open the possibility that it had been forged.” And then there’s her judicial philosophy, such as it is.

Sen. Brown caves: “U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) said in a written statement Monday he plans to support the financial-overhaul bill, taking the White House and Democrats to the verge of the support needed to pass the bill.”

Marco Rubio hauls in the greenbacks: “Marco Rubio raised more than $4.5 million in the second quarter, his campaign said, beating rival Charlie Crist’s previous record. Crist raised $4.3 million in his first fundraising quarter of the race, back when he was a Republican, a national record for the cycle.”

A golden opportunity for the GOP: “Republicans are set up to gain a large number of governorships nationwide. At a minimum, the GOP could gain eight, giving the party 32, but larger gains are very possible.”

A silver lining for Obama, says Larry Sabato: “A GOP House would be a godsend in one way: it would give Obama someone to blame for everything, and presidents almost always look better by comparison to Congress. In that sense, it would help his reelection bid.” And a bonanza for the American people: “[I]t would also signal the end of an ambitious Obama legislative program. With Democrats now guaranteed to lose lots of Senate and House seats — even if they maintain narrow control — Obama’s salad days are over for this term.”

Greg Sargent of the Plum Line (yeah, plum is a color) argues that the Tea Party movement is “being widely doted upon as a genuine political movement even though it’s built largely on pure fantasy.” Well, this is a dreamy year for conservatives.

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GOP Strife? Hardly!

Fred Barnes notes that Scott Brown’s victory exploded “the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy.” Brown – like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie — succeeded in a state that went for Obama in 2008 by snatching those voters in the middle of the political spectrum and energizing his own base. The notion that this was an impossible task and that these groups were somehow in opposition to one another was spin propagated by liberals looking for solace and by snooty Beltway pundits who disparaged the tea-party populists with little understanding of their actual concerns.

What brought all these groups together? Limited government, economic conservatism, and antipathy toward backroom special-interest deal making. Rather than a conflict, there is remarkable convergence among these groups. Back in April 2009, tea-party protesters were inveighing against the stimulus plan, excess spending, and the prospect of government-run health care. There was nothing then, and nothing now, antithetical to the message that the GOP leadership has been putting forth. Recall that there was not a single GOP House vote for the stimulus plan and that no Republican senators — not even the accommodating senators from Maine — could be induced to vote for ObamaCare. In Obamaism they have found common cause and reason to put aside other topics (e.g., immigration, social issues) on which there is far less agreement.

The fable of Republican divisiveness was a convenient narrative for pundits who aimed to chase out challengers from primaries (e.g., Marco Rubio) or convince themselves that the Republicans couldn’t really seize the initiative. Those divisions on the Right (otherwise known as healthy primary competition to find the best candidates) are slight compared to the food fight that has broken out on the Left. There Democrats and their blog cheerleaders-turned-vicious-critics are forming the circular firing squad, arguing over whether to dump health care altogether, and trying to figure out how to restyle themselves as populists. (Mostly by condescendingly acknowledging that there are “angry” people out there, it seems.) You can see why they’d rather concoct a tale of Republican strife.

Fred Barnes notes that Scott Brown’s victory exploded “the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy.” Brown – like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie — succeeded in a state that went for Obama in 2008 by snatching those voters in the middle of the political spectrum and energizing his own base. The notion that this was an impossible task and that these groups were somehow in opposition to one another was spin propagated by liberals looking for solace and by snooty Beltway pundits who disparaged the tea-party populists with little understanding of their actual concerns.

What brought all these groups together? Limited government, economic conservatism, and antipathy toward backroom special-interest deal making. Rather than a conflict, there is remarkable convergence among these groups. Back in April 2009, tea-party protesters were inveighing against the stimulus plan, excess spending, and the prospect of government-run health care. There was nothing then, and nothing now, antithetical to the message that the GOP leadership has been putting forth. Recall that there was not a single GOP House vote for the stimulus plan and that no Republican senators — not even the accommodating senators from Maine — could be induced to vote for ObamaCare. In Obamaism they have found common cause and reason to put aside other topics (e.g., immigration, social issues) on which there is far less agreement.

The fable of Republican divisiveness was a convenient narrative for pundits who aimed to chase out challengers from primaries (e.g., Marco Rubio) or convince themselves that the Republicans couldn’t really seize the initiative. Those divisions on the Right (otherwise known as healthy primary competition to find the best candidates) are slight compared to the food fight that has broken out on the Left. There Democrats and their blog cheerleaders-turned-vicious-critics are forming the circular firing squad, arguing over whether to dump health care altogether, and trying to figure out how to restyle themselves as populists. (Mostly by condescendingly acknowledging that there are “angry” people out there, it seems.) You can see why they’d rather concoct a tale of Republican strife.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

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Maybe a Raffle?

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

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McCain Blogger Call

John McCain just completed another blogger conference call. He began by saying he was pleased with the results last night (and pointed out that despite bad weather in Northern Virginia the final tabulation showed he won the state by 9 points and won among conservatives, although not “very conservative” voters). He stressed, as he did repeatedly during the call, that he respected Governor Huckabee and was not going to pressure him out the race. He also reported that he had completed a positive meeting with the GOP House conference and the leadership had endorsed him following the meeting. He emphasized (and repeated during the call) that he understood the importance of uniting the party and is “confident that we will.” He reiterated that he would make the differences between him and his eventual opponent on taxes, government regulation, healthcare and especially on Iraq clear. (He mentioned the recent actions by the Iraqi Parliament and said that the same people who said the surge would not work also said that the Iraqi’s could not make progress in governing themselves and that they were “wrong on both counts, on both counts.” He tried out perhaps a new catch phrase, explaining he will be happy to “draw differences on principles, philosophy and specifics and not platitudes.”

I asked him about Barack Obama’s votes on Iraq and on FISA and his endorsement by MoveOn.org and what that said about his readiness to be commander in chief. He declined to say that Obama lacked the judgment to be president but said Obama was wrong on toop withdrawal, the ability of the Iraqi government to function and on the surge, saying “we’ll all be responsible for our record.” (He also reminded everyone that the same MoveOn.org which endorsed Obama had run the “General Betray- us” ad.) On FISA, he said that the telecom companies “of course” would expect immunity for assisting the government in the war on terror.

Other highlights: 1) He has not begun the VP selection process but did praise Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Mark Sanford (without acknowledging they are on a short list) as two excellent conservatives; 2) In the strongest terms I have heard he endorsed the legal system in place for the 6 Guantanamo terrorists and declared that nothing in the Geneva Convention or our experience with the World War II war crime trials suggested these people were entitled to the same legal protections as U.S. citizens; and 3) repeated his determination to eliminate earmarks, although offered to work with members of Congress on how to phase them out.

Overall, this was one of his more impressive calls. His tone was calm and confident, his rhetoric in taking on the Democrats more forceful than it has been. You can slowly sense that he is doing his level best to transition from maverick to nominee and party leader.

John McCain just completed another blogger conference call. He began by saying he was pleased with the results last night (and pointed out that despite bad weather in Northern Virginia the final tabulation showed he won the state by 9 points and won among conservatives, although not “very conservative” voters). He stressed, as he did repeatedly during the call, that he respected Governor Huckabee and was not going to pressure him out the race. He also reported that he had completed a positive meeting with the GOP House conference and the leadership had endorsed him following the meeting. He emphasized (and repeated during the call) that he understood the importance of uniting the party and is “confident that we will.” He reiterated that he would make the differences between him and his eventual opponent on taxes, government regulation, healthcare and especially on Iraq clear. (He mentioned the recent actions by the Iraqi Parliament and said that the same people who said the surge would not work also said that the Iraqi’s could not make progress in governing themselves and that they were “wrong on both counts, on both counts.” He tried out perhaps a new catch phrase, explaining he will be happy to “draw differences on principles, philosophy and specifics and not platitudes.”

I asked him about Barack Obama’s votes on Iraq and on FISA and his endorsement by MoveOn.org and what that said about his readiness to be commander in chief. He declined to say that Obama lacked the judgment to be president but said Obama was wrong on toop withdrawal, the ability of the Iraqi government to function and on the surge, saying “we’ll all be responsible for our record.” (He also reminded everyone that the same MoveOn.org which endorsed Obama had run the “General Betray- us” ad.) On FISA, he said that the telecom companies “of course” would expect immunity for assisting the government in the war on terror.

Other highlights: 1) He has not begun the VP selection process but did praise Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Mark Sanford (without acknowledging they are on a short list) as two excellent conservatives; 2) In the strongest terms I have heard he endorsed the legal system in place for the 6 Guantanamo terrorists and declared that nothing in the Geneva Convention or our experience with the World War II war crime trials suggested these people were entitled to the same legal protections as U.S. citizens; and 3) repeated his determination to eliminate earmarks, although offered to work with members of Congress on how to phase them out.

Overall, this was one of his more impressive calls. His tone was calm and confident, his rhetoric in taking on the Democrats more forceful than it has been. You can slowly sense that he is doing his level best to transition from maverick to nominee and party leader.

Read Less




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