Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nevada senate

Flotsam and Jetsam

At the precise moment one of its own is collapsing in a puddle of his own ineptitude, the Left punditocracy congratulates itself that Democrats have the smartest presidents (“veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis”) who outshine the dummies the GOP produces. But let’s get real: “When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?”

Another Nevada Senate poll, another double-digit deficit for Harry Reid. It might have something to do with the fact that Obama’s approval is only at 39 percent.

Michael Barone observes that even liberal pundits think the Republicans did quite well at the health-care summit. (Note to file: disregard Republican insiders who fear that every opportunity to talk to the American people is a “trap.”) He concludes: “Last month, we were told that Obama would switch his focus from health care to jobs. But Democrats have spent February and seem about to spend March focusing on health care. It’s hard to see how they can navigate the legislative process successfully — and even harder to see how they turn around public opinion. Summit flop indeed.”

I think most endorsements don’t matter very much. But some are downright absurd: Condi Rice backs Meg Whitman. What voter would be influenced by this?

Sometimes there is no right answer: “Republicans will win back Congress if Democrats use a majority-vote tactic on healthcare reform, according to the House GOP whip. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking Republican in the House, tied the use of budget reconciliation rules on the healthcare bill to Democrats’ electoral fortunes this fall.” Then again, voters might punish the Democrats even if reconciliation isn’t used. You get the sense the Republicans are having fun taunting their opponents. It’s that kind of year.

Warren Buffet agrees with Republicans, suggesting that “President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats go back to the drawing board on health-care overhaul legislation and work with Republicans to come up with new legislation that deals with the ‘cost, cost, cost,’ that he calls a ‘tapeworm eating at American competitiveness.'” Not sure Obama listens to him, since Buffet went after most everything on Obama’s agenda, from card check to cap-and-trade. But really, didn’t Buffet know what Obama was all about when he backed him for president? I guess not.

Shocking, I know, but Steny Hoyer wants the deficit commission to raise taxes.

Must be George W. Bush’s fault: “Barack Obama now has a negative approval rating in every state he flipped from the Bush column to his in 2008. In each of those places his level of support is now in the 44-46% range. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have to run for reelection this year. He can only hope things start turning around for him once the midterms are in the rear view mirror, much as they did for Bill Clinton.”

At the precise moment one of its own is collapsing in a puddle of his own ineptitude, the Left punditocracy congratulates itself that Democrats have the smartest presidents (“veritable geniuses—tops of their classes, brilliant orators, connoisseurs of facts, and champions of analysis”) who outshine the dummies the GOP produces. But let’s get real: “When you’re comparing the men who brought down the Berlin Wall and the Cold War along with it, liberated the people of Iraq from their butcher dictator and declared war against our terrorist enemies with the men who presided over the Iranian hostage crisis, gas lines, and our national malaise, and sullied the office of the president in a very big way, does it really matter who scored higher on his SATs?”

Another Nevada Senate poll, another double-digit deficit for Harry Reid. It might have something to do with the fact that Obama’s approval is only at 39 percent.

Michael Barone observes that even liberal pundits think the Republicans did quite well at the health-care summit. (Note to file: disregard Republican insiders who fear that every opportunity to talk to the American people is a “trap.”) He concludes: “Last month, we were told that Obama would switch his focus from health care to jobs. But Democrats have spent February and seem about to spend March focusing on health care. It’s hard to see how they can navigate the legislative process successfully — and even harder to see how they turn around public opinion. Summit flop indeed.”

I think most endorsements don’t matter very much. But some are downright absurd: Condi Rice backs Meg Whitman. What voter would be influenced by this?

Sometimes there is no right answer: “Republicans will win back Congress if Democrats use a majority-vote tactic on healthcare reform, according to the House GOP whip. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the second-ranking Republican in the House, tied the use of budget reconciliation rules on the healthcare bill to Democrats’ electoral fortunes this fall.” Then again, voters might punish the Democrats even if reconciliation isn’t used. You get the sense the Republicans are having fun taunting their opponents. It’s that kind of year.

Warren Buffet agrees with Republicans, suggesting that “President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats go back to the drawing board on health-care overhaul legislation and work with Republicans to come up with new legislation that deals with the ‘cost, cost, cost,’ that he calls a ‘tapeworm eating at American competitiveness.'” Not sure Obama listens to him, since Buffet went after most everything on Obama’s agenda, from card check to cap-and-trade. But really, didn’t Buffet know what Obama was all about when he backed him for president? I guess not.

Shocking, I know, but Steny Hoyer wants the deficit commission to raise taxes.

Must be George W. Bush’s fault: “Barack Obama now has a negative approval rating in every state he flipped from the Bush column to his in 2008. In each of those places his level of support is now in the 44-46% range. It’s probably a good thing he doesn’t have to run for reelection this year. He can only hope things start turning around for him once the midterms are in the rear view mirror, much as they did for Bill Clinton.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Nevada Senate race to “lean takeover.” (No wonder Republicans have stopped calling for Harry Reid to step down. Mitch McConnell doesn’t want Reid to go anywhere.) As for Massachusetts, he says: “We continue to believe that [Martha] Coakley will win, though her margin could be so narrow as to cause more jitters on the Democratic side.”

John Fund sure thinks Harry Reid is toast: “In the end, I don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will run for re-election. Whether or not the health care bill he muscled through the Senate becomes law, the 70-year-old will bow out of his race for a fifth term. The major reason has nothing to do with his many verbal gaffes, the latest of which exploded over the weekend. The simple fact is that he probably can’t win re-election — almost no incumbent senator as far down in the polls has come back to win. Asked if Mr. Reid is finished, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd said yesterday, ‘I think so. I do — absolutely.'”

Scott Rasmussen has the race in Massachusetts down to a 2-point margin. Here’s the kicker (and another sign of momentum for Scott Brown): “All polling indicates that a lower turnout is better for the Republican. The new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Brown is ahead by two percentage points among those who are absolutely certain they will vote. A week ago, he trailed by two among those certain to vote.”

David Gergen, who moderated the Massachusetts Senate debate, tips his hat to Scott Brown for his sharp retort: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”

You can understand why they’re jittery: “It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less. But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.”

They should be, considering the Democrat’s campaign, says James Taranto: “Coakley and her Washington insiders are running a campaign that can only be described as incredibly stupid.” Between the negativity, the insistence on carting around the independent candidate to debates, and misspelling the state’s name in an ad, it’s hard to quibble with that conclusion. Plus: “All the talk about enacting ObamaCare as some sort of twisted tribute to Ted Kennedy is beginning to seem a bit reminiscent of the freakish Paul Wellstone funeral service in 2002–a spectacle that cost the Democrats a Senate seat they weren’t supposed to lose.”

John McCormack is apparently the designated punching bag for failing candidates. First, Dede Scozzafava’s husband calls the cops on him, and now Coakley’s flunky shoves him into a railing. Charlie Crist’s people better be on the lookout!

Michael Gerson: “Obama’s rhetorical challenge runs deeper than the recession. In the most unexpected development of his presidency, what was once universally recognized as Obama’s greatest political strength — his oratory — now seems a serious weakness. … People want their president to be both the father and the mother of his country — a talent shared by politicians as diverse as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (whose speeches I once helped write). Obama’s model, instead, is the coolness of Coolidge. It is old-fashioned. It may even be admirable. It is hard to call it effective. With every speech, a realization grows: A president lacking in drama may also be lacking in inspiration.”

On the way out, finally some honesty from Jon Corzine, who “acknowledged his inability to solve the state’s mounting fiscal problems.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

First, governors of both parties object to ObamaCare. Now this: “A growing number of state regulators are urging the Obama administration to slow the rollout of proposed federal rules curbing industrial greenhouse-gas emissions, saying the administration’s approach could overwhelm them with paperwork, delay construction projects and undercut their own efforts to fight climate change.” It’s almost like the Obama agenda isn’t popular around the country.

A smart take on the snooty pundit set that looks down its nose at the Tea Party protesters: “Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.”

Democrats are sensing that the end of Harry Reid’s Senate career is nearing: “‘He’s in deep trouble, I think,’ said one senior aide to a member of the House Democratic leadership. ‘Even with the apology, no matter what it’s a negative thing. There are a lot of minorities that vote [in Nevada].'” At least some activists would like to try to save the seat: “Markos Moulitsas, the prominent liberal blogger and grassroots activist, went one step further, stating on his Twitter feed that he hoped Reid would not only resign leadership but also retire, ‘so we can hold the Nevada Senate seat.'”

Well, I think the voters will figure out they’re related: “As if Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t have enough problems, say hello to Rory Reid, his eldest son. Looks just like him. He’s running for governor of Nevada. It will be Reid and Reid atop the November ballot in this state, the father running for his sixth term, the son making his first bid at statewide office. So far, this double bill is not going so great. Each candidate is dragging down the other, to look at the polls and listen to the Silver State’s political oddsmakers. And neither is mentioning the other’s campaign.”

Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma thinks his fellow Democrats messed up: ” ‘I think the House Democratic leadership along with the administration made a very large mistake by focusing on a lot of different pieces of legislation that would not do a lot to help the economy,” Boren said. At the top of that list of mistakes, he places health-care legislation, which is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks, and the cap-and-trade measure, which passed the House but is not at this point expected to come out of Washington.” He voted against both, but many of his colleagues walked the plank and may pay the price in November.

When it rains, it pours for the Democrats: “North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R) has decided to run for the state’s newly-open Senate seat, a major recruiting victory for Republicans as they seek to expand the playing field in hopes of capitalizing on a national environment that favors their party.”

And Obama may not be able to help incumbent Democrats: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level yet in CBS News Polls, and for the first time is below the 50% mark — just 46% now approve of the job he is doing as president.” Only 42 percent of independents approve of his performance.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post has figured out why the Fox deal with Sarah Palin really matters: “Doing TV, Palin will learn how to think on her feet. She should get used to getting to the studio thinking that she’s going to talk about one thing only to find out that she’s talking about something else. She’ll learn how to debate other people in a forum with no real ground rules. And if Palin gets boffo ratings with her occasional specials on people in what she might call the ‘real America,’ we can expect to see her star rise.”

Democrats still think ObamaCare is a winner. The voters? Not so much: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 17% believe passage of the legislation will achieve the stated goal of reducing health care costs. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think it will lead to higher costs. Fifty-two percent (52%) also believe passage of the legislation will lead to a decline in the quality of care. Overall, 40% of voters nationwide favor the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Fifty-five percent (55%) are opposed. As has been the case throughout the debate, those who feel strongly about the issue are more likely to be opposed. Just 19% of voters Strongly Favor the plan while 45% are Strongly Opposed.” Sounds like a political train wreck, but we’ll see.

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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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