Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mark Critz

Meet Joe Sestak

David Gregory on Meet the Press asked Joe Sestak a rather straightforward question: “What I’m asking is whether you are an Obama Democrat who supported stimulus, who supported health care, who’s with him on all the major elements of his agenda. Are you or are you not an Obama Democrat?” His answer was long and rambling and no answer at all:

I’ve always described–I’ve always described myself as an independent-thinking person who believes in Democratic principles. Those are the same principles this president believes in. But if I think they’re doing something that isn’t right in accordance with the principles that help, help families in Pennsylvania, I’ll stand up just like I did then. I’m a pretty pragmatic guy, you know. I come from the military, everybody has health care. And the dividends that accrue to our nation are immense. We don’t even, we don’t even promote you above a certain rating or rank unless you have an education, an associates college degree. I’d say pretty much those are kind of principles that give dividends to our nation. Imagine a work force that’s healthy and educated, that can compete with China and India. That’s the kind of focus and Democrat I am.

I’m not sure what that all means. But it is clear that the media and public are going to be probing how close Democratic candidates are to Obama. And it’s interesting that even liberals like Sestak strain to put distance between themselves and the leader of the party. If Obama was a net positive, Sestak would have answered something along the lines of “I’m proud to champion the president’s agenda.”

On foreign policy, too, there’s no sign of daylight between Obama and Sestak on Israel (where he prefers J Street letters over AIPAC letters) or on Iran policy (where he has been cheerleading for engagement). It seems, as on domestic policy, he’s in lockstep with Obama: tough on Israel, easy on Iran.

Sestak is an incumbent in an election year in which incumbents are having a tough time. And unlike Mark Critz in the PA-12, Sestak isn’t going to be able to say he’s a pro-gun, pro-life Democrat who opposes cap-and-trade and ObamaCare.

David Gregory on Meet the Press asked Joe Sestak a rather straightforward question: “What I’m asking is whether you are an Obama Democrat who supported stimulus, who supported health care, who’s with him on all the major elements of his agenda. Are you or are you not an Obama Democrat?” His answer was long and rambling and no answer at all:

I’ve always described–I’ve always described myself as an independent-thinking person who believes in Democratic principles. Those are the same principles this president believes in. But if I think they’re doing something that isn’t right in accordance with the principles that help, help families in Pennsylvania, I’ll stand up just like I did then. I’m a pretty pragmatic guy, you know. I come from the military, everybody has health care. And the dividends that accrue to our nation are immense. We don’t even, we don’t even promote you above a certain rating or rank unless you have an education, an associates college degree. I’d say pretty much those are kind of principles that give dividends to our nation. Imagine a work force that’s healthy and educated, that can compete with China and India. That’s the kind of focus and Democrat I am.

I’m not sure what that all means. But it is clear that the media and public are going to be probing how close Democratic candidates are to Obama. And it’s interesting that even liberals like Sestak strain to put distance between themselves and the leader of the party. If Obama was a net positive, Sestak would have answered something along the lines of “I’m proud to champion the president’s agenda.”

On foreign policy, too, there’s no sign of daylight between Obama and Sestak on Israel (where he prefers J Street letters over AIPAC letters) or on Iran policy (where he has been cheerleading for engagement). It seems, as on domestic policy, he’s in lockstep with Obama: tough on Israel, easy on Iran.

Sestak is an incumbent in an election year in which incumbents are having a tough time. And unlike Mark Critz in the PA-12, Sestak isn’t going to be able to say he’s a pro-gun, pro-life Democrat who opposes cap-and-trade and ObamaCare.

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RE: More Obama!

Jen, I wanted to pick up on your post that calls attention to the front page Washington Post story, according to which:

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.

To which one can only ask: Are they out of their minds? After all, Obama has been spending his entire presidency trying to build the case for the activist approach to government — and he has failed in almost every respect and in almost every particular. Trust in government is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is hugely unpopular. The president’s agenda is mostly radioactive, to the point that the only successful Democrats, such as Mark Critz, are now running against it. Obama himself has lost more support in less time than any president in modern history and has turned out to be (according to both Pew and Gallup polls) the most polarizing president in our lifetime.

We have, in fact, seen a fascinating phenomenon take place: the more Barack Obama — supposedly the Democrat Party’s answer to the Republican Party’s “the great communicator,” Ronald Reagan — speaks out in behalf of a topic, the more unpopular it becomes. If Democrats are staking their future on Obama becoming their “salesman in chief,” the GOP has a very bright future ahead of itself.

Jen, I wanted to pick up on your post that calls attention to the front page Washington Post story, according to which:

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.

To which one can only ask: Are they out of their minds? After all, Obama has been spending his entire presidency trying to build the case for the activist approach to government — and he has failed in almost every respect and in almost every particular. Trust in government is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is hugely unpopular. The president’s agenda is mostly radioactive, to the point that the only successful Democrats, such as Mark Critz, are now running against it. Obama himself has lost more support in less time than any president in modern history and has turned out to be (according to both Pew and Gallup polls) the most polarizing president in our lifetime.

We have, in fact, seen a fascinating phenomenon take place: the more Barack Obama — supposedly the Democrat Party’s answer to the Republican Party’s “the great communicator,” Ronald Reagan — speaks out in behalf of a topic, the more unpopular it becomes. If Democrats are staking their future on Obama becoming their “salesman in chief,” the GOP has a very bright future ahead of itself.

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George Will on the Democrats’ Situation

George Will has a wonderful column today that begins this way:

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district 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. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut — the state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank’s failure on George W. Bush. …

The whole thing is worth reading.

George Will has a wonderful column today that begins this way:

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district 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. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut — the state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank’s failure on George W. Bush. …

The whole thing is worth reading.

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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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Can Democrats Really Replicate the PA-12?

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

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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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The Flight from the Democratic Party

Two different stories — one reporting on last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and the other from yesterday’s New York Times — include quotes from voters that underscore just how bad the political environment is for Democrats these days.

From the Journal story — which reports on how Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women, and small-town and rural voters — we read this:

Of those who want to see Republicans control the House, less than one-third said that was because they support the GOP and its candidates.

Rather, nearly two-thirds said they were motivated by opposition to Mr. Obama and Democratic policies.

“Republicans ran us under financially, and the Democrats are worse,” said poll respondent William Lina, 80, of Alden, N.Y., who is a registered Democrat but plans to vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

He cited frustration with the Democrats’ health-care overhaul and the economic stimulus program.

Joe Carter, a 53-year-old Republican from Kingsport, Tenn., who has voted for Democrats in the past, said he, too, would likely vote a straight Republican ticket.

“Both parties do things I disagree with,” Mr. Carter said. “But just to stop what’s going on now, I will vote Republican.”

And from the New York Times, we read this:

Sam Boyd has been a Democrat his entire adult life, just like many here in this mostly rural, economically impoverished southwestern corner of the state, where the party’s roots run as deep as the coal underfoot.

But in Tuesday’s closely watched special election to succeed the late Representative John P. Murtha in the state’s 12th Congressional District, Mr. Boyd, 65, is leaning toward casting his vote for the Republican candidate, Tim Burns, a millionaire former software entrepreneur who got involved in politics through the Tea Party movement.

“I’m for Burns for the reason I was for Obama,” said Mr. Boyd, a retired general contractor who served as an unpaid campaign liaison for Mr. Murtha in his county. “I want change.”

Whether or not Mr. Burns pulls off a victory over his Democratic opponent, Mark Critz, in what polls suggest is a competitive race, voters like Mr. Boyd embody the nightmare scenario for Democrats nationally: that even committed Democrats will turn on their part. …

Mr. Boyd, who first joined his local Young Democrats club as a 14-year-old, says he now regrets voting for Mr. Obama, even though he hastened to add that he still found the president personally appealing.

“I just think I bought the sizzle, not the steak,” he said.

These anecdotes, which must be sending shivers up and down the spine of Democrats, reflect what the data overwhelmingly shows the country, including traditional Democrats, are moving away from the Democratic Party at an alarming rate. There are multiple causes for this, but prima inter pares is Barack Obama, liberalism’s “sort of God,” America’s “Black Jesus,” the man who would (by his own account) heal the planet and reverse the ocean tides.

It is an extraordinary political exodus that Mr. Obama is engineering — but, for Democrats, it’s going in all the wrong ways.

With every passing week, Obama’s wings of wax continue to melt. Soon enough — say, round around the first Tuesday in November — a terrible crash will follow. At that point, Democrats will begin to rethink just what Mr. Obama has wrought for his party and for the cause of contemporary liberalism.

Two different stories — one reporting on last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and the other from yesterday’s New York Times — include quotes from voters that underscore just how bad the political environment is for Democrats these days.

From the Journal story — which reports on how Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women, and small-town and rural voters — we read this:

Of those who want to see Republicans control the House, less than one-third said that was because they support the GOP and its candidates.

Rather, nearly two-thirds said they were motivated by opposition to Mr. Obama and Democratic policies.

“Republicans ran us under financially, and the Democrats are worse,” said poll respondent William Lina, 80, of Alden, N.Y., who is a registered Democrat but plans to vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

He cited frustration with the Democrats’ health-care overhaul and the economic stimulus program.

Joe Carter, a 53-year-old Republican from Kingsport, Tenn., who has voted for Democrats in the past, said he, too, would likely vote a straight Republican ticket.

“Both parties do things I disagree with,” Mr. Carter said. “But just to stop what’s going on now, I will vote Republican.”

And from the New York Times, we read this:

Sam Boyd has been a Democrat his entire adult life, just like many here in this mostly rural, economically impoverished southwestern corner of the state, where the party’s roots run as deep as the coal underfoot.

But in Tuesday’s closely watched special election to succeed the late Representative John P. Murtha in the state’s 12th Congressional District, Mr. Boyd, 65, is leaning toward casting his vote for the Republican candidate, Tim Burns, a millionaire former software entrepreneur who got involved in politics through the Tea Party movement.

“I’m for Burns for the reason I was for Obama,” said Mr. Boyd, a retired general contractor who served as an unpaid campaign liaison for Mr. Murtha in his county. “I want change.”

Whether or not Mr. Burns pulls off a victory over his Democratic opponent, Mark Critz, in what polls suggest is a competitive race, voters like Mr. Boyd embody the nightmare scenario for Democrats nationally: that even committed Democrats will turn on their part. …

Mr. Boyd, who first joined his local Young Democrats club as a 14-year-old, says he now regrets voting for Mr. Obama, even though he hastened to add that he still found the president personally appealing.

“I just think I bought the sizzle, not the steak,” he said.

These anecdotes, which must be sending shivers up and down the spine of Democrats, reflect what the data overwhelmingly shows the country, including traditional Democrats, are moving away from the Democratic Party at an alarming rate. There are multiple causes for this, but prima inter pares is Barack Obama, liberalism’s “sort of God,” America’s “Black Jesus,” the man who would (by his own account) heal the planet and reverse the ocean tides.

It is an extraordinary political exodus that Mr. Obama is engineering — but, for Democrats, it’s going in all the wrong ways.

With every passing week, Obama’s wings of wax continue to melt. Soon enough — say, round around the first Tuesday in November — a terrible crash will follow. At that point, Democrats will begin to rethink just what Mr. Obama has wrought for his party and for the cause of contemporary liberalism.

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The PA-12

A friend of COMMENTARY who spent six days in the Pennsylvania 12th district reports that in the race to fill the seat of deceased Rep. John Murtha, the polls don’t necessarily reflect what is happening on the ground. (A recent poll had the Democrat up eight points; most polls have the race within the margin of error.) He e-mails that he has been going door-to-door for Republican Tim Burns: “The Republican base is more motivated than the other guys and it will be all about turn out. Scott Brown spoke here [Friday]. The Dems are pouring it on, and the SEIU is in this big time, but we’ll win this race.”

Democrat Mark Critz picked up the endorsements of local media, but let’s face it: this is meaningless. The overwhelming number of local media outlets also backed Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley. And there is a reason why Bill Clinton — who may be the most popular figure Democrats have with blue-collar crowds — came to the district on Sunday. A loss for the Democrats in what has been characterized as a “bellwether” district will likely intensify the panic building in Democratic ranks.

A friend of COMMENTARY who spent six days in the Pennsylvania 12th district reports that in the race to fill the seat of deceased Rep. John Murtha, the polls don’t necessarily reflect what is happening on the ground. (A recent poll had the Democrat up eight points; most polls have the race within the margin of error.) He e-mails that he has been going door-to-door for Republican Tim Burns: “The Republican base is more motivated than the other guys and it will be all about turn out. Scott Brown spoke here [Friday]. The Dems are pouring it on, and the SEIU is in this big time, but we’ll win this race.”

Democrat Mark Critz picked up the endorsements of local media, but let’s face it: this is meaningless. The overwhelming number of local media outlets also backed Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley. And there is a reason why Bill Clinton — who may be the most popular figure Democrats have with blue-collar crowds — came to the district on Sunday. A loss for the Democrats in what has been characterized as a “bellwether” district will likely intensify the panic building in Democratic ranks.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Will Arlen Specter get his comeuppance? Joe Sestak begins to pull away in the polls.

Will the Democrats lose in Colorado? “Republicans are now well positioned for a statewide resurgence, threatening several Democratic seats in the midterm elections and raising questions about whether the opening chapter of the Obama administration has eroded gains that Democrats had been making here for the previous six years.”

Will John Murtha’s district go Republican? “This once safely Democratic district where Murtha reigned for 35 years is now a toss-up. Longtime Murtha aide Mark Critz, 48, vows to carry on his former boss’s legacy, while Republican businessman Tim Burns, 42, tries to leverage anti-Washington passion by treating his opponent as an incumbent tied to the ‘liberal Pelosi-Obama agenda.'”

Will the Obama administration wise up? Even the Washington Post‘s editors fret that “the administration has not given more consideration to other approaches, including the possibility of designating suspects as enemy combatants to allow for lengthier interrogations, which could yield intelligence to thwart terrorist operations and future attacks. In part, this is a reflection of the administration’s mind-set. In explaining the handling of Mr. Shahzad, two administration officials told us that they believe that the law categorically bars them from holding a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant. This is not correct.”

Sounds like there is hope. Will Eric Holder keep sounding like Andy McCarthy? Holder on This Week: “The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,” Holder said. “I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda requirements]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.” Wow. The left will have a meltdown.

Will any White House adviser tell the president that this sort of thing makes them all sound crazy? “Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said Sunday that, despite the attempted Times Square attack orchestrated by the Pakistani Taliban in the heart of New York City, trying professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan is still an option that’s on the table.”

Will Republicans learn the right lesson from the British elections? Fred Barnes: “In the British election, this was one reason Labor was able to turn out its core vote and keep Conservatives from winning a majority. The lesson for Republican, facing an unpopular Democratic Party, is obvious: don’t expect circumstances to win for you. You need to run an aggressive campaign.”

On Richard Goldstone’s apartheid record, will anyone be surprised that Matthew Yglesias is “inclined to give him a pass”? Once you’ve vilified Israel, you earn a lifetime pass from the anti-Israel left. (By the way, credit to Ron Radosh for spotting Goldstone’s apartheid record a few months back.)

Will Arlen Specter get his comeuppance? Joe Sestak begins to pull away in the polls.

Will the Democrats lose in Colorado? “Republicans are now well positioned for a statewide resurgence, threatening several Democratic seats in the midterm elections and raising questions about whether the opening chapter of the Obama administration has eroded gains that Democrats had been making here for the previous six years.”

Will John Murtha’s district go Republican? “This once safely Democratic district where Murtha reigned for 35 years is now a toss-up. Longtime Murtha aide Mark Critz, 48, vows to carry on his former boss’s legacy, while Republican businessman Tim Burns, 42, tries to leverage anti-Washington passion by treating his opponent as an incumbent tied to the ‘liberal Pelosi-Obama agenda.'”

Will the Obama administration wise up? Even the Washington Post‘s editors fret that “the administration has not given more consideration to other approaches, including the possibility of designating suspects as enemy combatants to allow for lengthier interrogations, which could yield intelligence to thwart terrorist operations and future attacks. In part, this is a reflection of the administration’s mind-set. In explaining the handling of Mr. Shahzad, two administration officials told us that they believe that the law categorically bars them from holding a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant. This is not correct.”

Sounds like there is hope. Will Eric Holder keep sounding like Andy McCarthy? Holder on This Week: “The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,” Holder said. “I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda requirements]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.” Wow. The left will have a meltdown.

Will any White House adviser tell the president that this sort of thing makes them all sound crazy? “Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said Sunday that, despite the attempted Times Square attack orchestrated by the Pakistani Taliban in the heart of New York City, trying professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan is still an option that’s on the table.”

Will Republicans learn the right lesson from the British elections? Fred Barnes: “In the British election, this was one reason Labor was able to turn out its core vote and keep Conservatives from winning a majority. The lesson for Republican, facing an unpopular Democratic Party, is obvious: don’t expect circumstances to win for you. You need to run an aggressive campaign.”

On Richard Goldstone’s apartheid record, will anyone be surprised that Matthew Yglesias is “inclined to give him a pass”? Once you’ve vilified Israel, you earn a lifetime pass from the anti-Israel left. (By the way, credit to Ron Radosh for spotting Goldstone’s apartheid record a few months back.)

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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How an Election Is Nationalized

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

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