Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lt. Gov.

Sen. Conrad’s Retirement and a GOP Senate Majority in 2012

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced today that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2012, and chances look good that Republicans will be able to pick up the seat, helping them inch closer to a Senate majority.

There are several reasons for optimism. First, North Dakota is a safely Red State, with strong GOP majorities in both statewide seats and the state legislature, according to Real Clear Politics:

Republicans hold nine of the 10 statewide offices — their one miss is for superintendant of public instruction. Representative Earl Pomeroy, the longtime heir apparent to Conrad and Dorgan, lost his re-election campaign by nine points in 2010. And Democrats hold only 37 of 141 seats in the state legislature.

RCP also notes that the state has been trending Republican in recent years. Older North Dakota voters, who tended to swing toward Democrats, have been replaced by younger, more conservative voters in the past few election cycles. “North Dakota was one of the few states in the 2004 elections where young voters voted more heavily for President Bush than did voters over 60,” RCP reported.

Conrad was elected in 1986, and his ability to hold on to the seat in recent years was likely based heavily on that seniority. But now that the seat is up for grabs, it will be much more difficult for Democrats to retain it with a fresher-faced candidate.

Analysts say that the one Democratic candidate who may have a shot is former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, since he’s considered to be a more moderate Democrat. But since he lost his congressional re-election bid just last year, there’s doubt that he’ll be able to mount a successful Senate campaign.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to have a bevy of strong candidates who could potentially pull off a win. The short list includes Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

Of that list, Kalk appears to have the head start. Even before Conrad announced he was stepping down, Kalk had expressed interest in challenging him, and he even formed an exploratory committee last week.

“Following the election of 2010, a lot of folks have reached out to me as potentially running against Sen. Conrad. Quite honestly, my wife and I are going to give this some serious thought and make a decision after the first of the year,” he said at the time.

Democrats were already facing an uphill battle next year, since only 10 Republican senators will be up for re-election, compared with 23 Democrats. So Conrad’s decision to step down is certainly cheering news for the GOP, which is now in a prime position to control both the House and the Senate.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced today that he won’t be seeking re-election in 2012, and chances look good that Republicans will be able to pick up the seat, helping them inch closer to a Senate majority.

There are several reasons for optimism. First, North Dakota is a safely Red State, with strong GOP majorities in both statewide seats and the state legislature, according to Real Clear Politics:

Republicans hold nine of the 10 statewide offices — their one miss is for superintendant of public instruction. Representative Earl Pomeroy, the longtime heir apparent to Conrad and Dorgan, lost his re-election campaign by nine points in 2010. And Democrats hold only 37 of 141 seats in the state legislature.

RCP also notes that the state has been trending Republican in recent years. Older North Dakota voters, who tended to swing toward Democrats, have been replaced by younger, more conservative voters in the past few election cycles. “North Dakota was one of the few states in the 2004 elections where young voters voted more heavily for President Bush than did voters over 60,” RCP reported.

Conrad was elected in 1986, and his ability to hold on to the seat in recent years was likely based heavily on that seniority. But now that the seat is up for grabs, it will be much more difficult for Democrats to retain it with a fresher-faced candidate.

Analysts say that the one Democratic candidate who may have a shot is former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, since he’s considered to be a more moderate Democrat. But since he lost his congressional re-election bid just last year, there’s doubt that he’ll be able to mount a successful Senate campaign.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to have a bevy of strong candidates who could potentially pull off a win. The short list includes Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

Of that list, Kalk appears to have the head start. Even before Conrad announced he was stepping down, Kalk had expressed interest in challenging him, and he even formed an exploratory committee last week.

“Following the election of 2010, a lot of folks have reached out to me as potentially running against Sen. Conrad. Quite honestly, my wife and I are going to give this some serious thought and make a decision after the first of the year,” he said at the time.

Democrats were already facing an uphill battle next year, since only 10 Republican senators will be up for re-election, compared with 23 Democrats. So Conrad’s decision to step down is certainly cheering news for the GOP, which is now in a prime position to control both the House and the Senate.

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Senate Sliding Toward GOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You Want a Bellwether?

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

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More Obama!

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

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Reading the Election Results

Obama ignored the Tea Party movement. He ignored polls on health-care reform. He ignored the election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. And last night’s elections confirmed that now anyone associated with Washington insiderism and big-government spending is imperiled.

Arlen Specter proved that expediency and convictionless politics — as well as clinging to Obama — aren’t going to cut it with voters. Democrats wanted a dependable liberal and got one in Joe Sestak. Obama took yet another shot — showing that his political judgment is lacking and that any candidate who wraps his arms around the president is going to take a beating. In the end it wasn’t even close, with Sestak beating Specter by more than 7 points. It was an embarrassing end for an embarrassing political turncoat whose sole principle was his own political survival. Specter is finally out of the hair of both Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how he’ll vote on Elena Kagan now — who can tell? And Sestak will now have to answer some tough questions on Israel.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul embarrassed the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who backed Rand’s opponent. It is a big win for the Tea Party movement and the fiscal conservative message. Paul also will face scrutiny on his foreign-policy views (he opposed the Iraq war). Again, if candidates want to win, they better convincingly paint themselves as outsiders.

Blanche Lincoln barely edged out Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the darling of the left, but didn’t come close to the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, gathering less than 45 percent. If she makes it through the runoff, she has an uphill fight just to cement the Democratic vote. Her squishy moderation proved unappealing, and her stalwart defense of ObamaCare didn’t help her a bit. It seems that even for Democrats, ObamaCare is nothing to crow about.

And in the Pennsylvania 12th, the Democrats held John Murtha’s seat with a skilled candidate who ran a well-polished campaign. (Politico notes: “Republicans were quick to point out that Critz ran on a conservative platform, highlighting his opposition to abortion and to the health care reform legislation.”) There can be no better sign of Obama’s toxic impact on his party than the fact that Democrat Mark Critz survived by running against ObamaCare. And he was smart enough to keep Obama out of the district and bring Bill Clinton in to campaign with him. It’s a reminder that despite trends, specific candidates and campaigns matter. Perhaps Clinton — another irony — will be called on by Obama to save more seats and go where Obama would do more harm than good.

Big winners: the Tea Partiers, conviction politics, anti-Washington candidates, and fiscal conservatism. Big losers: Obama, Democratic incumbents, big spenders, and endorsements by office holders. Democrats who haven’t ingested the Obama Kool Aid will — or should — start fretting about less-than-stellar candidates. Many of them are going to lose in November.

Obama ignored the Tea Party movement. He ignored polls on health-care reform. He ignored the election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. And last night’s elections confirmed that now anyone associated with Washington insiderism and big-government spending is imperiled.

Arlen Specter proved that expediency and convictionless politics — as well as clinging to Obama — aren’t going to cut it with voters. Democrats wanted a dependable liberal and got one in Joe Sestak. Obama took yet another shot — showing that his political judgment is lacking and that any candidate who wraps his arms around the president is going to take a beating. In the end it wasn’t even close, with Sestak beating Specter by more than 7 points. It was an embarrassing end for an embarrassing political turncoat whose sole principle was his own political survival. Specter is finally out of the hair of both Democrats and Republicans. I wonder how he’ll vote on Elena Kagan now — who can tell? And Sestak will now have to answer some tough questions on Israel.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul embarrassed the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who backed Rand’s opponent. It is a big win for the Tea Party movement and the fiscal conservative message. Paul also will face scrutiny on his foreign-policy views (he opposed the Iraq war). Again, if candidates want to win, they better convincingly paint themselves as outsiders.

Blanche Lincoln barely edged out Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, the darling of the left, but didn’t come close to the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, gathering less than 45 percent. If she makes it through the runoff, she has an uphill fight just to cement the Democratic vote. Her squishy moderation proved unappealing, and her stalwart defense of ObamaCare didn’t help her a bit. It seems that even for Democrats, ObamaCare is nothing to crow about.

And in the Pennsylvania 12th, the Democrats held John Murtha’s seat with a skilled candidate who ran a well-polished campaign. (Politico notes: “Republicans were quick to point out that Critz ran on a conservative platform, highlighting his opposition to abortion and to the health care reform legislation.”) There can be no better sign of Obama’s toxic impact on his party than the fact that Democrat Mark Critz survived by running against ObamaCare. And he was smart enough to keep Obama out of the district and bring Bill Clinton in to campaign with him. It’s a reminder that despite trends, specific candidates and campaigns matter. Perhaps Clinton — another irony — will be called on by Obama to save more seats and go where Obama would do more harm than good.

Big winners: the Tea Partiers, conviction politics, anti-Washington candidates, and fiscal conservatism. Big losers: Obama, Democratic incumbents, big spenders, and endorsements by office holders. Democrats who haven’t ingested the Obama Kool Aid will — or should — start fretting about less-than-stellar candidates. Many of them are going to lose in November.

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Big Labor Savages Noncompliant Democrats

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.

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The Civil War

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

The media and liberal punditocracy has been searching for a civil war on the Right. Tea Party protestors vs. the GOP! Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist! But the divide isn’t really as significant as the Left would hope, and the primary fights on the GOP side, far from being a bloodbath, look rather tame (and in Florida, one-sided). There really is a fight breaking out — but it’s in the Democratic Party. Politico reports:

With Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s announcement Monday that he will run against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Senate Democrats now have three colleagues facing serious primary challenges from candidates embracing distinctly anti-Washington platforms at a time when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress…. In Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak is battling White House-backed Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, Sestak has criticized the party establishment for supporting a party-switcher and for focusing too much on the political calculus of adding another Democratic Senate vote.

“The Real Arlen Specter has been a longtime Republican for 45 years and has spent the past 29 years in Washington, D.C.,” reads a website Sestak’s campaign launched, titled “The Real Arlen Specter.”

In Colorado, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, has gone so far as to denounce his own party for failing to denounce backroom deal making in health care reform negotiations. In New York, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. branded Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a “parakeet” for party higher-ups before announcing Monday he wasn’t running.

Rather civil war-like, I would say. And then there is the fight over reconciliation, if we ever get that far. Roll Call reports: “Knowledgeable Senate Democratic aides have warned for weeks of the difficulty of drafting a complex health care reform bill under reconciliation rules. The challenge is to construct legislation that can satisfy Democrats, withstand Republican resistance and pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian.” But the leadership is pressing on, despite the objections of prominent Democrats like Sen. Kent Conrad.

In the short term, the primary challengers on the Left will likely jerk the besieged Democrats even further Leftward in an effort to survive their primaries. But that then leaves the playing field wide open for Republican contenders to appeal to the Center-Right majority, the very voters inflamed by the Obami’s extremist agenda.

It is the very tale the Left was pushing, but in reverse. Now it is the Democrats, beset by internal divides and ideological extremism, who are heading for a smash-up.  It is what Obama has wrought, not so long after he promised to bring us into a great post-partisan era. It seems he has instead stirred up quite a fight, in his own party no less.

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Bayh Gets Caught

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.'”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.'”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

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