Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mary Landrieu

Spender’s Remorse

Obama is reacting to the epic rebuff in Massachusetts with his usual mix of denial and detachment. It’s not really his fault. It’s the economy, which is Bush’s fault. The mob is angry. He understands anger, but never shows it. And so on. He may be attempting to project calm, but as in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, you really wonder if there’s no one in the White House to bring him bad news and speak frankly to him.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators are experiencing a spasm of candor. Politico gives us a sample:

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina. Boxer is pushing a cap-and-trade bill to control greenhouse gases, but her counterpart from California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said a “large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

There seems to be a grudging recognition that the president’s agenda — and their own — missed the mark. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) confesses that Red State Democrats should be nervous:

“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.

So will they stop spending so much time on health-care reform now? It would seem like a good idea for all those Red State senators who could have stopped health care last year but simply went with the flow. Mary Landrieu got bribed … er … received a compromise deal for her state (“the Louisiana Purchase,” which begat the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-Aid). But now she’s singing a different tune. (“Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the more conservative members of the caucus, said some in the Democratic Party were ‘overreaching’ and ‘advocating more government’ than her constituents want. She blamed House Democrats for advancing liberal proposals that skewed the public’s perception of more moderate measures moving through the Senate.”) So why didn’t she, you know, vote no last year?

It seems that Democrats were content to ignore the voters, run up the deficit, and create a monstrous health-care bill that no one but the Democratic leadership could defend. But only now, given that Scott Brown has won in a deep Blue State, do they regret it. We’ll see how forgiving the voters are in November and what, aside from some humble sentiments, Democratic lawmakers offer in the meantime. But give them some credit: they sound a lot less out to lunch than the White House political hacks.

Obama is reacting to the epic rebuff in Massachusetts with his usual mix of denial and detachment. It’s not really his fault. It’s the economy, which is Bush’s fault. The mob is angry. He understands anger, but never shows it. And so on. He may be attempting to project calm, but as in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, you really wonder if there’s no one in the White House to bring him bad news and speak frankly to him.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators are experiencing a spasm of candor. Politico gives us a sample:

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina. Boxer is pushing a cap-and-trade bill to control greenhouse gases, but her counterpart from California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said a “large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time.”

There seems to be a grudging recognition that the president’s agenda — and their own — missed the mark. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) confesses that Red State Democrats should be nervous:

“I think part of the problem is the agenda itself,” said Conrad, who doesn’t face voters again until 2012. Instead of spending so much time on health care reform, Conrad said Democrats should have focused first on reducing the national debt and a bipartisan energy bill — and that President Barack Obama should have done a better job of explaining that the economic situation he inherited was “far worse” than he’d originally thought.

So will they stop spending so much time on health-care reform now? It would seem like a good idea for all those Red State senators who could have stopped health care last year but simply went with the flow. Mary Landrieu got bribed … er … received a compromise deal for her state (“the Louisiana Purchase,” which begat the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator-Aid). But now she’s singing a different tune. (“Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the more conservative members of the caucus, said some in the Democratic Party were ‘overreaching’ and ‘advocating more government’ than her constituents want. She blamed House Democrats for advancing liberal proposals that skewed the public’s perception of more moderate measures moving through the Senate.”) So why didn’t she, you know, vote no last year?

It seems that Democrats were content to ignore the voters, run up the deficit, and create a monstrous health-care bill that no one but the Democratic leadership could defend. But only now, given that Scott Brown has won in a deep Blue State, do they regret it. We’ll see how forgiving the voters are in November and what, aside from some humble sentiments, Democratic lawmakers offer in the meantime. But give them some credit: they sound a lot less out to lunch than the White House political hacks.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

Charlie Cook says Scott Brown in now favored. Well, one poll has him up almost 10 points.

My, what a difference a year makes. From the Boston Globe no less: “The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said.”

It might help if Obama were as good as Bill Clinton on the stump. Byron York reports that “it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that Clinton just blew Obama’s doors off. Obama’s speech was halting, wandering, and humorless; the president looked as if he didn’t want to be there. There’s no doubt the crowd was excited to see Obama, but he seemed so hesitant and out-of-rhythm at the top that it appeared he might have been having teleprompter trouble, and he was also clearly rattled and unable to handle the completely-predictable presence of a heckler.”

CNN reports: “Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.” Then going to Massachusetts was sort of like going to Copenhagen for the Olympics (and again for the climate-change confab) — at some point it might be a good idea to stop demonstrating Obama’s ineffectiveness.

Things have gotten so sticky for Democrats that Ben Nelson “offers to give back his ‘bribe’.” Might be too late: his job approval has dropped to 42 percent.

More from the Democrats’ gloom-and-doom file: Friday, Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) announced his retirement. Plus, a “SurveyUSA poll shows Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), a freshman Democrat who represents the Cincinnati area, losing to former Republican congressman Steve Chabot, 56 to 39 percent.” He voted for both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade.

This take from Sen. Mitch McConnell sounds right: “Massachusetts is going to be a very, very close race regardless of who wins. … Regardless of who wins, we have here in effect a referendum on this national healthcare bill. The American people are telling us: ‘Please don’t pass it.’ … I think the politics are toxic for the Democrats either way.”

Lanny Davis at least doesn’t sound divorced from reality, like his fellow Democrats: “If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, it will simply mean Democrats and President Obama need find a new center to enact health care and other progressive legislation – meaning, they must sit down with Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, John McCain and other GOP Senators with long records of bipartisan legislating — and moderate Democrats Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and others –and create a new health care bill that can command broad bipartisan support.” Imagine if Obama had done that from the start — New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts might have looked a whole lot different, and Byron Dorgan might be running for re-election.

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No Partisan, Controversial Legislation for Them!

Senate Democrats are crying out  for help:

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.

So if health care is so toxic, why did they all cast the decisive votes in its favor? It seems as though it has unnerved those Democrats who were essential to its passage, before it has even become law. But you have to marvel at the lack of self-awareness:

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). ?“What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

Because we wouldn’t want a massive tax-and-spend plan unsettling a sixth of the economy to pass before we get the economy back on track, right? Oh, wait. No, Nelson sold his vote already on that one.

But on the bright side, the persistent lack of enthusiasm for the Democrats’ handiwork has now perhaps stymied the rest of the Obama agenda. Suddenly, they realize the peril of passing highly controversial legislation on party-line votes: “After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.” Because if you pass something with little public enthusiasm, job-killing taxes and no support from the minority the voters might get really, really mad.

If you think this has the air of unreality, as if the last weeks of hyper-partisan, hurry-up-and-pass-partisan-health-care-“reform” never occured, you are right. We can only hope that in the weeks that follow Democrats can listen to their own rhetoric and rethink not only cap-and-trade but the legislation which has now spooked their most vulnerable lawmakers. It isn’t too late to dump ObamaCare, you know.

Senate Democrats are crying out  for help:

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.

So if health care is so toxic, why did they all cast the decisive votes in its favor? It seems as though it has unnerved those Democrats who were essential to its passage, before it has even become law. But you have to marvel at the lack of self-awareness:

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). ?“What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

Because we wouldn’t want a massive tax-and-spend plan unsettling a sixth of the economy to pass before we get the economy back on track, right? Oh, wait. No, Nelson sold his vote already on that one.

But on the bright side, the persistent lack of enthusiasm for the Democrats’ handiwork has now perhaps stymied the rest of the Obama agenda. Suddenly, they realize the peril of passing highly controversial legislation on party-line votes: “After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.” Because if you pass something with little public enthusiasm, job-killing taxes and no support from the minority the voters might get really, really mad.

If you think this has the air of unreality, as if the last weeks of hyper-partisan, hurry-up-and-pass-partisan-health-care-“reform” never occured, you are right. We can only hope that in the weeks that follow Democrats can listen to their own rhetoric and rethink not only cap-and-trade but the legislation which has now spooked their most vulnerable lawmakers. It isn’t too late to dump ObamaCare, you know.

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No Chair When the Music Stops

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed doubt and concern on Monday about the Senate health-care reform bill. National media haven’t given this nearly the coverage they awarded his expressions of support for the overall ObamaCare effort in July and October. But under the mainstream media’s radar, the Governator was going soft on the Democrats’ health-care reform as early as last week, and the reason for his shifting posture is the cost to California.

Schwarzenegger’s prior attempt at health-care reform in California makes a superb cautionary tale. The 2006 proposal, advanced by Democrats in Sacramento and substantially endorsed by the governor, was eerily similar to the U.S. Senate bill to be voted on this week. It incorporated an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; increased employer costs through either insurance premiums for workers or a tax penalty; vague and open-ended bureaucratic measures to control costs; expanded enrollment in Medicaid/Medi-Cal; and subsidies to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who would be required by law to buy insurance.

There was no question this plan would cost more. Even friendly analysts concluded that it would add between $6.8 and $9.4 billion in state costs, while causing private health expenses to rise by 9.9 percent per year and employer costs to rise by 8.8 percent per year. California, the analysts pointed out, has 12 times as many “uninsured workers under 65” as Massachusetts; the Bay State’s solutions would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Golden State.

Yet, until the housing-market collapse stopped California’s decade-long spending spree in its tracks, state Democrats were pushing their health-care reform proposal vigorously — with the support of the Republican governor. A CATO Institute analysis pinpointed why: the state Democrats’ plan relied heavily on federal matching funds. A bit of comically transparent budgetary sleight-of-hand would have enabled California to shift most of its additional costs to the other 49 states.

The bill in the U.S. Senate this month, however, will impose on California all the inevitable costs of mandating universal “insurance coverage” in California, and then some. California doesn’t have the advantage of recalcitrant Democratic senators whose votes need to be bought with Medicaid-funding relief, as Ben Nelson’s (NE) and Mary Landrieu’s (LA) were. California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are some of the “safest” party-line voters in Congress. The result is a case of unpleasant consequences that must be humorous to those who don’t live in the Golden State.

The game of “musical health care costs” is only just starting across America. Senators Nelson and Landrieu think they have already grabbed their states’ seats for when the music stops. But the impact on the states — especially an unequal impact — may well be the spike on which the Democrats’ plan is ultimately impaled. Federalism, uniquely strong in America, has not yet had its say on this topic.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed doubt and concern on Monday about the Senate health-care reform bill. National media haven’t given this nearly the coverage they awarded his expressions of support for the overall ObamaCare effort in July and October. But under the mainstream media’s radar, the Governator was going soft on the Democrats’ health-care reform as early as last week, and the reason for his shifting posture is the cost to California.

Schwarzenegger’s prior attempt at health-care reform in California makes a superb cautionary tale. The 2006 proposal, advanced by Democrats in Sacramento and substantially endorsed by the governor, was eerily similar to the U.S. Senate bill to be voted on this week. It incorporated an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; increased employer costs through either insurance premiums for workers or a tax penalty; vague and open-ended bureaucratic measures to control costs; expanded enrollment in Medicaid/Medi-Cal; and subsidies to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who would be required by law to buy insurance.

There was no question this plan would cost more. Even friendly analysts concluded that it would add between $6.8 and $9.4 billion in state costs, while causing private health expenses to rise by 9.9 percent per year and employer costs to rise by 8.8 percent per year. California, the analysts pointed out, has 12 times as many “uninsured workers under 65” as Massachusetts; the Bay State’s solutions would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Golden State.

Yet, until the housing-market collapse stopped California’s decade-long spending spree in its tracks, state Democrats were pushing their health-care reform proposal vigorously — with the support of the Republican governor. A CATO Institute analysis pinpointed why: the state Democrats’ plan relied heavily on federal matching funds. A bit of comically transparent budgetary sleight-of-hand would have enabled California to shift most of its additional costs to the other 49 states.

The bill in the U.S. Senate this month, however, will impose on California all the inevitable costs of mandating universal “insurance coverage” in California, and then some. California doesn’t have the advantage of recalcitrant Democratic senators whose votes need to be bought with Medicaid-funding relief, as Ben Nelson’s (NE) and Mary Landrieu’s (LA) were. California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are some of the “safest” party-line voters in Congress. The result is a case of unpleasant consequences that must be humorous to those who don’t live in the Golden State.

The game of “musical health care costs” is only just starting across America. Senators Nelson and Landrieu think they have already grabbed their states’ seats for when the music stops. But the impact on the states — especially an unequal impact — may well be the spike on which the Democrats’ plan is ultimately impaled. Federalism, uniquely strong in America, has not yet had its say on this topic.

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You Have to Kill It First — and Then Make a Deal

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –“a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –“a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

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A New Ballgame, Perhaps

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

Well this is a relief: “Gibbs: Obama knows he’s no Gandhi.”

One minute (1:56 p.m.) Robert Gibbs decries the “blame game” and the next (1:57 p.m.) he’s back blaming the Bush administration.

Sen. Chris Dodd trails all challengers.

Yuval Levin on Harry Reid’s grand health-care deal: “The parts make very little policy sense, individually or together, and don’t really make political sense outside the Senate either (for instance, sending huge numbers of younger people into Medicare is likely to turn off the AMA, which hates the way Medicare treats doctors, and will send the hospitals screaming for the same reason). But the idea is to cobble together whatever it takes to get 60 votes in the short term and worry about it later.”

But there really isn’t a deal, it seems: “Two centrist Democrats at the center of the Senate’s tense healthcare reform negotiations insisted that there has been no compromise deal on the legislation despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) pronouncements. ‘There’s no specific compromise. There were discussions,’ Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said at a press conference Wednesday.” Blanche Lincoln says all they agreed to was to send the proposal to the CBO. You mean Harry Reid lied? Shocking.

But if there is a deal, liberals don’t like it. ABC News explains: “One week after President Obama’s liberal base opposed his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, several liberal groups are once again lining up against the president and Senate Democrats on the health care reform compromise worked out by the so-called Gang of Ten. … It will certainly be fascinating to watch how the White House and congressional Democrats will tend to their base and get them energized as the calendar turns to the midterm election year in January.”

Deal or no deal, the public doesn’t like what Obama is doing on health care. Pollster.com’s survey average shows 52.9 percent disapproval and 40.7 approval.

Another Democrat retires: “Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. … Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner’s retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements. But Baird’s decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements.”

Elite opinion makers are always surprised when stories they’d like to ignore catch on: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it. … But again and again this week, U.N. officials and government leaders have felt the need to defend climate science in public — something few of them would have thought necessary just a few weeks ago.” Gotta love the “news” report defending the “good green message” from pesky distractions (that would be a massive scientific fraud challenging the basis for environmental hysteria).

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Reid Headed for Defeat?

Sen. Harry Reid is in some trouble with his hometown voters. As this report notes, Republicans Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian lead Reid in recent polling. “And what surely scares the Reid war room the most is the part of the poll that shows Lowden leading Reid in the Democratic stronghold of Clark County, 47 percent to 44 percent. It’s within the poll’s 4 percentage-point margin of error, but that’s still a killer number for a Democrat in Nevada.”

But the source of much of his troubles may be ObamaCare:

Reid’s been carrying the water for President Obama on the health care debate in the Senate. He’s walked so far out on the plank in support of the parts of the health care “reform” bill Nevadans hate the most that imagining a reconciliation and a retreat to the home ship seems nearly impossible. Consider this poll question: “Do you approve of or disapprove of Senator Harry Reid’s efforts to get a health care reform bill through the U.S. Senate?” Answer: 50 percent of registered Nevada voters disapprove, 39 percent approve and 11 percent are not sure.

Unlike Red State Democrats like Mary Landrieu or Blanche Lincoln, Reid can’t very well run from the Democrats’ agenda. He’s in charge of getting it passed, after all. Reid is tied now to an increasingly unpopular agenda and to a president whose own popularity is sagging.  If Reid goes down to defeat, it will be a powerful sign that Obama’s Left-leaning agenda is toxic for Democrats who chose partisanship over the wishes of their constituents.

Thanks to the White House’s determination to pursue big-government power grabs, Reid is in quite a bind. His only chance of survival may be the defeat of the ultra-Left agenda that irks Nevada voters. That certainly won’t reflect well on his legislative leadership skills, however, or endear him to the Democratic base. A year is forever in politics, but it’s looking more probable that Reid could be the second Senate majority leader in 50 years (Tom Daschle was the other) to lose his seat.

Sen. Harry Reid is in some trouble with his hometown voters. As this report notes, Republicans Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian lead Reid in recent polling. “And what surely scares the Reid war room the most is the part of the poll that shows Lowden leading Reid in the Democratic stronghold of Clark County, 47 percent to 44 percent. It’s within the poll’s 4 percentage-point margin of error, but that’s still a killer number for a Democrat in Nevada.”

But the source of much of his troubles may be ObamaCare:

Reid’s been carrying the water for President Obama on the health care debate in the Senate. He’s walked so far out on the plank in support of the parts of the health care “reform” bill Nevadans hate the most that imagining a reconciliation and a retreat to the home ship seems nearly impossible. Consider this poll question: “Do you approve of or disapprove of Senator Harry Reid’s efforts to get a health care reform bill through the U.S. Senate?” Answer: 50 percent of registered Nevada voters disapprove, 39 percent approve and 11 percent are not sure.

Unlike Red State Democrats like Mary Landrieu or Blanche Lincoln, Reid can’t very well run from the Democrats’ agenda. He’s in charge of getting it passed, after all. Reid is tied now to an increasingly unpopular agenda and to a president whose own popularity is sagging.  If Reid goes down to defeat, it will be a powerful sign that Obama’s Left-leaning agenda is toxic for Democrats who chose partisanship over the wishes of their constituents.

Thanks to the White House’s determination to pursue big-government power grabs, Reid is in quite a bind. His only chance of survival may be the defeat of the ultra-Left agenda that irks Nevada voters. That certainly won’t reflect well on his legislative leadership skills, however, or endear him to the Democratic base. A year is forever in politics, but it’s looking more probable that Reid could be the second Senate majority leader in 50 years (Tom Daschle was the other) to lose his seat.

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Sixty, Again and Again

Health-care debate in the Senate gets underway this week, as this report explains:

The debate is expected to last at least several weeks. Democrats would like to pass a bill by Christmas, but have yet to find a formula that can win 60 votes, the number required to conclude debate. Complicating the situation, lawmakers from both parties are planning to introduce dozens of amendments, addressing issues from a government-run health-care plan to medical malpractice lawsuits to abortion and taxes. The aim isn’t just to shape the bill but also to make political points.

One “point” would be that Harry Reid wants to slash hundreds of billions out of Medicare. Another is that Mary Landrieu wants to raise hundreds of billions in new taxes. Still another is that Blanche Lincoln is opposed to tort reform. Well, lots of Democrats will be taking these very toxic positions, but those three are up for re-election in less than a year, as are Michael Bennett of Colorado, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — all of whom will face well-funded and serious opposition by candidates who will run on these votes. And if each of these controversial votes takes 60 to pass, then all will walk the plank to keep Reid’s bill intact. And then there are senators like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman whose terms aren’t up in 2012 but who have voiced principled opposition to the idea of a government takeover of health care.

We saw it wasn’t easy for Reid to get 60 votes, only to start the vote when lawmakers had the excuse that they simply wanted the “process to go forward.” Now we get to the merits, and we’ll see if there are 60 votes — again and again — to pass the components of an increasingly unpopular bill. And all by the end of the year? I’m thinking probably not.

Health-care debate in the Senate gets underway this week, as this report explains:

The debate is expected to last at least several weeks. Democrats would like to pass a bill by Christmas, but have yet to find a formula that can win 60 votes, the number required to conclude debate. Complicating the situation, lawmakers from both parties are planning to introduce dozens of amendments, addressing issues from a government-run health-care plan to medical malpractice lawsuits to abortion and taxes. The aim isn’t just to shape the bill but also to make political points.

One “point” would be that Harry Reid wants to slash hundreds of billions out of Medicare. Another is that Mary Landrieu wants to raise hundreds of billions in new taxes. Still another is that Blanche Lincoln is opposed to tort reform. Well, lots of Democrats will be taking these very toxic positions, but those three are up for re-election in less than a year, as are Michael Bennett of Colorado, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — all of whom will face well-funded and serious opposition by candidates who will run on these votes. And if each of these controversial votes takes 60 to pass, then all will walk the plank to keep Reid’s bill intact. And then there are senators like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman whose terms aren’t up in 2012 but who have voiced principled opposition to the idea of a government takeover of health care.

We saw it wasn’t easy for Reid to get 60 votes, only to start the vote when lawmakers had the excuse that they simply wanted the “process to go forward.” Now we get to the merits, and we’ll see if there are 60 votes — again and again — to pass the components of an increasingly unpopular bill. And all by the end of the year? I’m thinking probably not.

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Bribe-a-thon

As some have observed, the worse ObamaCare gets, the bigger the bribes needed to induce lawmakers to vote for it:

The process has degenerated into taxpayer-financed payoffs for moderate Democrats who don’t want to be held accountable for wrecking the private insurance that 200 million Americans are happy to have. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s wad of cash, for instance, has been fattened to $300 million.

The Hill details the “side deals” that are piling up to gain the votes of wary lawmakers. In addition to Landrieu, we have:

Before Rep. Joseph Cao (La.) cast the lone Republican vote for the healthcare bill in the House, he secured assurances from President Barack Obama to work on Medicaid funding, loan forgiveness and issues related to two of his local hospitals. …

Besides the promises secured by Cao, the best-known deal involved Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, two Blue Dog Democrats from the Golden State who secured funding for a medical school for California’s Central Valley.

Other lawmakers won carve-outs for their state healthcare systems.

And on and on it goes. Perhaps one effective amendment in the Senate process would be to strip all that out — no state-specific deals, no carve-outs, nothing other than the “merits” of the monstrous bill. How many lawmakers would sign on then? If health-care “reform” promises the nirvana that the Obama/Reid sales team says it will usher in, then its supporters should have no trouble rounding up votes, without the bribe-a-thon, to pass hundreds of billions in new taxes, huge Medicare cuts, a public takeover of health care, and abortion subsidies, right? Well, you see the problem. And that should be a sure-fire sign of just how awful the underlying bill really is.

As some have observed, the worse ObamaCare gets, the bigger the bribes needed to induce lawmakers to vote for it:

The process has degenerated into taxpayer-financed payoffs for moderate Democrats who don’t want to be held accountable for wrecking the private insurance that 200 million Americans are happy to have. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s wad of cash, for instance, has been fattened to $300 million.

The Hill details the “side deals” that are piling up to gain the votes of wary lawmakers. In addition to Landrieu, we have:

Before Rep. Joseph Cao (La.) cast the lone Republican vote for the healthcare bill in the House, he secured assurances from President Barack Obama to work on Medicaid funding, loan forgiveness and issues related to two of his local hospitals. …

Besides the promises secured by Cao, the best-known deal involved Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, two Blue Dog Democrats from the Golden State who secured funding for a medical school for California’s Central Valley.

Other lawmakers won carve-outs for their state healthcare systems.

And on and on it goes. Perhaps one effective amendment in the Senate process would be to strip all that out — no state-specific deals, no carve-outs, nothing other than the “merits” of the monstrous bill. How many lawmakers would sign on then? If health-care “reform” promises the nirvana that the Obama/Reid sales team says it will usher in, then its supporters should have no trouble rounding up votes, without the bribe-a-thon, to pass hundreds of billions in new taxes, huge Medicare cuts, a public takeover of health care, and abortion subsidies, right? Well, you see the problem. And that should be a sure-fire sign of just how awful the underlying bill really is.

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Wilkins Micawber for Treasury Secretary?

If you would like a graphic example of the fiscal disconnect  characterizing the liberal establishment currently running the country, the front page of today’s New York Times provides it.

The lead story has a two-column head, “Federal Government Faces Balloon in Debt Payments.” The subhead alludes to the very real possibility that interest on the debt in ten years might exceed $700 billion, up from $202 billion this year. The article, well worth reading, makes no bones about the size of the problem we face.

The potential for rapidly escalating interest payouts is just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.

Right beneath the article, however, is a “reefer,” pointing readers to an article elsewhere in the paper, headlined, “Democrats Courting Health Care Votes.” Votes are courted on Capitol Hill by increased spending. Senator Mary Landrieu voted to take up the health-care bill for debate only after Harry Reid inserted an extra $100 million in Medicaid payments for her state, an action promptly dubbed “the Louisiana Purchase.”

Although carefully crafted accounting mendacity allows Obamacare to be characterized “budget neutral,” I doubt there’s a single person on Capitol Hill — or in the Times newsroom — who actually believes that the label fits. It would, after all, be the first new federal entitlement in history not to cost more than predicted (except for the drug benefit enacted a few years ago, which utilizes the power of the free market to bring down prices — not exactly a characteristic of Obamacare).

This is like a couple worrying about their ever-rising credit-card and mortgage payments while heading downtown to a showroom to buy a new car — on credit.

Perhaps if Timothy Geithner leaves as Treasury Secretary, Obama can persuade Wilkins Micawber to come on board. He was never daunted by such contradictions, at least judging by the words that Charles Dickens put in his mouth: “Welcome poverty! . . . Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!”

If you would like a graphic example of the fiscal disconnect  characterizing the liberal establishment currently running the country, the front page of today’s New York Times provides it.

The lead story has a two-column head, “Federal Government Faces Balloon in Debt Payments.” The subhead alludes to the very real possibility that interest on the debt in ten years might exceed $700 billion, up from $202 billion this year. The article, well worth reading, makes no bones about the size of the problem we face.

The potential for rapidly escalating interest payouts is just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.

Right beneath the article, however, is a “reefer,” pointing readers to an article elsewhere in the paper, headlined, “Democrats Courting Health Care Votes.” Votes are courted on Capitol Hill by increased spending. Senator Mary Landrieu voted to take up the health-care bill for debate only after Harry Reid inserted an extra $100 million in Medicaid payments for her state, an action promptly dubbed “the Louisiana Purchase.”

Although carefully crafted accounting mendacity allows Obamacare to be characterized “budget neutral,” I doubt there’s a single person on Capitol Hill — or in the Times newsroom — who actually believes that the label fits. It would, after all, be the first new federal entitlement in history not to cost more than predicted (except for the drug benefit enacted a few years ago, which utilizes the power of the free market to bring down prices — not exactly a characteristic of Obamacare).

This is like a couple worrying about their ever-rising credit-card and mortgage payments while heading downtown to a showroom to buy a new car — on credit.

Perhaps if Timothy Geithner leaves as Treasury Secretary, Obama can persuade Wilkins Micawber to come on board. He was never daunted by such contradictions, at least judging by the words that Charles Dickens put in his mouth: “Welcome poverty! . . . Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!”

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