Commentary Magazine


Topic: New Jersey

The Revenge of Politics

Searching for an overarching cause of the result in last night’s Virginia gubernatorial election is going to consist mostly of Democrats and Republicans talking past each other. That’s because, to some degree, they are both right. ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout was not enough to doom Terry McAuliffe, but neither was his victory an affirmation that ObamaCare poses no real political risk to Democrats. Likewise, it seems the government shutdown hurt Ken Cuccinelli, but not enough to make Tea Party conservatism toxic in the swing state of Virginia.

Additionally, neither contender was viewed as a particularly good candidate, making it unrealistic for those on the left and right to try to make either candidate a stand-in for his national party. (Democrats seem to consider McAuliffe an embarrassment even in victory, and for good reason.) But in fact this lack of an overarching theme is a theme in itself. That is, politics–party and individual, national and local–and not ideology offers a pretty simple explanation both for the election in Virginia and the one in New Jersey, in which Republican Chris Christie won reelection in a landslide in a heavily Democratic state. Bergen County Record columnist Charles Stile explains in a lengthy, but eminently worthwhile column how Christie cruised to victory:

Read More

Searching for an overarching cause of the result in last night’s Virginia gubernatorial election is going to consist mostly of Democrats and Republicans talking past each other. That’s because, to some degree, they are both right. ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout was not enough to doom Terry McAuliffe, but neither was his victory an affirmation that ObamaCare poses no real political risk to Democrats. Likewise, it seems the government shutdown hurt Ken Cuccinelli, but not enough to make Tea Party conservatism toxic in the swing state of Virginia.

Additionally, neither contender was viewed as a particularly good candidate, making it unrealistic for those on the left and right to try to make either candidate a stand-in for his national party. (Democrats seem to consider McAuliffe an embarrassment even in victory, and for good reason.) But in fact this lack of an overarching theme is a theme in itself. That is, politics–party and individual, national and local–and not ideology offers a pretty simple explanation both for the election in Virginia and the one in New Jersey, in which Republican Chris Christie won reelection in a landslide in a heavily Democratic state. Bergen County Record columnist Charles Stile explains in a lengthy, but eminently worthwhile column how Christie cruised to victory:

Christie’s bold leadership during Superstorm Sandy, the shrewd marketing of his Jersey tough guy persona and several important legislative accomplishments are indeed important factors in the strong support for his reelection. But while the public was seeing all of that, Christie discreetly and methodically courted Democrats with every lever of power at his disposal. By the end, many of those Democrats would supply the manpower, money or simply the photo ops for his campaign.

Long before Buono entered a race that no other Democratic contender wanted to come near, Christie had already won the campaign. While the cameras and the social-media feeds and the political pundits focused on Christie’s forceful personality, his often over-the-top comments and his welcoming embrace of President Obama after Sandy, Christie was planting the seeds for his own reelection, Demo­cratic mayor by Democratic mayor, Democratic boss by Democratic boss, Demo­cratic union leader by Democratic union leader. As the ancient Chinese military tome “The Art of War” noted, “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

That was only part of it, of course. Christie’s work to recruit Democrats to his campaign certainly helped, but his interactions with constituents were crucial to his reelection. Outside New Jersey, he is known for his made-for-YouTube confrontations. But within the state, far more powerful are the conversations Christie has with voters that aren’t YouTube-friendly.

Christie simply worked hard to make sure he was heard all around the state, and refused to accept the premise that there were any voters he couldn’t convince if given the chance. As the New York Times reports in its recap of Christie’s victory:

For example, he won over Michael Blunt, a black Democrat and mayor of Chesilhurst, a largely black borough in South Jersey, with relentless wooing. Mr. Blunt, who recalled how Mr. Christie held a town hall in his community, steered more municipal aid to it and invited him to a Juneteenth celebration, marking the end of slavery, at the State House, impressing him with his knowledge of the holiday. And the governor invited black elected officials to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion near Princeton, and told them how a black friend in college took him to a historically black campus to demonstrate how it felt to be in the minority.

“If a person has no problem going in enemy territory to explain his policies, that person we really need to look at,” said Mr. Blunt, who was a delegate for Mr. Obama last year.

Christie won over numerous left-leaning voters not with slogans but with classic rope-line politics. As a skilled practitioner of local politics, Christie was able to keep national politics at bay–something neither McAuliffe nor Cuccinelli was able to do.

On this point, Politico’s piece on the “six takeaways” from the Virginia race is instructive. Briefly, here are reporter James Hohmann’s six lessons, though the article is worth reading in full for Hohmann’s explanation of each:

  • Obamacare almost killed McAuliffe.

  • Cuccinelli might have won if he had more money.

  • It was a base election.

  • The gender gap mirrored the presidential.

  • Obama himself was a mixed bag.

  • The shutdown still hurt Republicans.

Two of those stand out immediately as national issues: the government shutdown hurting Cuccinelli and ObamaCare hurting McAuliffe. The fact that it was a base election, according to Hohmann, would seem to indicate that the two candidates failed precisely where Christie succeeded: convincing the unconvinced. The “gender gap” is a complicated, but obviously national issue in the context of whether it “mirrored the presidential.”

And why might Cuccinelli have won with more money? In large part because he would have been able to run more ads and compete with the negative advertising blitz that McAuliffe was able to purchase with help from big-money, out of town, national politicians (like the Clintons, who were absent from the Jersey race, and Michael Bloomberg).

Members of the House of Representatives are rarely immune from public mood swings. Governors can be, but the Virginia gubernatorial election is a reminder of how easily a statewide race can be nationalized in such a media-saturated environment.

Read Less

What Barbara Buono’s Ad Says About Chris Christie’s Popularity

When Chris Christie retained his high approval numbers into 2013, it threw a wrench into the plans and expectations of the New Jersey Democratic Party. Because Christie was something of a political novice (he served as a county freeholder in the 1990s), they thought he might stumble early on. He didn’t. Because he started off taking on a pervasive New Jersey institution in the public education unions, they hoped he would prove too divisive for blue Jersey. He didn’t. Because, despite Christie’s fundraising, his party failed to make gains in the state legislature’s midterm elections, it looked as if he was running out of steam. He wasn’t.

So a gubernatorial election that was supposed to be celebrity Mayor Cory Booker’s perfectly timed transition out of Newark and into the governor’s mansion instead looked liked an intimidating challenge–especially in a state where high-level Democrats are rarely challenged. So Booker seems to have decided to move over to the Senate, to take Frank Lautenberg’s seat. But a Lautenberg retirement was supposed to clear the way for Congressman Frank Pallone, who would now face an uphill battle against Booker. And who will run against Christie on the Democratic ticket? It will be State Senator Barbara Buono, who has just put out an ad taking a self-deprecating shot at her own lack of name ID:

Read More

When Chris Christie retained his high approval numbers into 2013, it threw a wrench into the plans and expectations of the New Jersey Democratic Party. Because Christie was something of a political novice (he served as a county freeholder in the 1990s), they thought he might stumble early on. He didn’t. Because he started off taking on a pervasive New Jersey institution in the public education unions, they hoped he would prove too divisive for blue Jersey. He didn’t. Because, despite Christie’s fundraising, his party failed to make gains in the state legislature’s midterm elections, it looked as if he was running out of steam. He wasn’t.

So a gubernatorial election that was supposed to be celebrity Mayor Cory Booker’s perfectly timed transition out of Newark and into the governor’s mansion instead looked liked an intimidating challenge–especially in a state where high-level Democrats are rarely challenged. So Booker seems to have decided to move over to the Senate, to take Frank Lautenberg’s seat. But a Lautenberg retirement was supposed to clear the way for Congressman Frank Pallone, who would now face an uphill battle against Booker. And who will run against Christie on the Democratic ticket? It will be State Senator Barbara Buono, who has just put out an ad taking a self-deprecating shot at her own lack of name ID:

 

This situation, in which the New Jersey Democrats can’t field a candidate voters have heard of to run for governor, was simply unthinkable just a few years ago, when Jon Corzine was in office and Booker was waiting in the wings. Incidentally, Buono had a close brush with Christie previously when it seemed likely that Corzine would pick Buono to run as his lieutenant governor against Christie in 2009. Corzine passed on Buono in part because of her perceived ambition to be governor, which would have taken the Democratic Party machine out of the process of choosing Corzine’s successor and, most of all, stood in Booker’s way.

Ironically, almost a decade ago Buono opposed a plan that would have enabled Corzine to ascend to the governor’s mansion right away after Jim McGreevey’s resignation, because it would have allowed the state Democratic machine to go over the heads of the voters and the local party organizations. And that connection, unfortunately for Buono, brings us to the one reason voters outside her district may know of her. In 2009, the New York Times reported Corzine’s choice for lieutenant governor this way:

For days, it had appeared certain that Mr. Corzine would choose State Senator Barbara Buono of Metuchen, an expert on the state budget. But Ms. Buono was a protégée of former Senator John Lynch, whom Mr. Christie sent to jail for taking bribes.

As background, Lynch was a state senator and longtime mayor of New Brunswick, the county seat of Middlesex County, in which Buono’s district is located. He was also, as the Times story notes, corrupt. But the Times’s characterization of Buono’s relationship to Lynch isn’t quite fair. First of all, not to excuse anyone’s association with John Lynch, but in New Jersey–as in many states, I’m sure–with regard to party bigwigs, there are protégées and then there are protégées. In one sense, almost anyone in state politics in the dominant party would fall into that category at least superficially, as no one can really advance very far without the right approval. Then there are those who fall under the classic understanding of the term, with much closer professional ties to party bigwigs.

Buono stood up to Lynch twice (if not more). The first time was when she ran against Lynch’s handpicked candidate and won–her victory was at least a temporary defeat for Lynch. The second time was the aforementioned plan to benefit Corzine’s ambitions; it was Lynch’s plan. It’s also quite possible that that helped cost her the lieutenant governorship nod in 2009.

Because of all that, Buono can make a credible case that she is the former kind of protégée, if at all, and not the better connected kind. She can also make the case that she’s received scant assistance from the party machine to take her shot at Christie. But that will change, because the New Jersey Democrats will not abandon a gubernatorial campaign. And Buono’s relative independence from her party–and it is relative, not significant or absolute–is unlikely to benefit her in a general election. Not being corrupt is a low bar to clear (though unfortunately not low enough in Jersey) and might have been enough to beat Christie in 2009, but it’s less of an advantage against a popular incumbent of either party.

Additionally, beyond the humor of her first ad, it’s an acknowledgement that no one with any name recognition had any desire to challenge Christie. That will only serve to reinforce the existing narrative centered on Christie’s popularity.

Read Less

Israel Loses a Friend in New Jersey

New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman, one of the staunchest pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, lost his seat Tuesday night in a primary race against Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (the two members of Congress were pitted against each other due to redistricting):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) crushed Rep. Steve Rothman (D) in a member-vs.-member primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, ending his longtime friend’s 8-term run in the House.

The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell. …

Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides.

Read More

New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman, one of the staunchest pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, lost his seat Tuesday night in a primary race against Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell (the two members of Congress were pitted against each other due to redistricting):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) crushed Rep. Steve Rothman (D) in a member-vs.-member primary in New Jersey on Tuesday, ending his longtime friend’s 8-term run in the House.

The race between the two Democrats and close allies was expected to go down to the wire, but Pascrell delivered a stinging rebuke to Rothman, who took 30 percent to Pascrell’s 70, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Pascrell. …

Although Pascrell and Rothman had almost identical voting records, the two scuffled bitterly during the primary over campaign tactics and liberal bona fides.

There’s likely to be some debate about what the race means in the bigger picture. President Obama publicly backed Rothman (which makes the president 0-2 Tuesday night), while Bill Clinton sided with Pascrell, suggesting that Obama’s support may not carry as much weight as it once did in the heavily-Democratic district. Beyond that, both members tried to run as the true liberal in the race, and their policy positions are very similar.

Still, Rothman has been one of the key Democratic Israel supporters in Congress, using his position on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to back defense cooperation programs like Iron Dome and consistently speaking out in support of the Jewish state. He will no doubt be missed by pro-Israel Democrats.

While Pascrell came under fire during the election for some of his anti-Israel associations and his prior support for the Gaza 54 letter, his congressional voting record on Israel has been very similar to Rothman’s.

“Pascrell’s voting record was with AIPAC basically all the time,” a Democratic strategist told me after the race, but added that “Rothman was a standout leader on these issues.”

Read Less

The Role of Rhetoric in Christie’s Rise

The latest Quinnipiac poll showing Chris Christie’s approval rating at 59 percent in New Jersey has been raising eyebrows. As Aaron Blake writes at the Washington Post, “New Jersey is notoriously tough on its politicians – it’s rare that anybody cracks even 50 percent approval – and the state’s Democratic lean makes Christie’s success all the more notable. Despite his tough rhetoric, 54 percent say he’s a leader, while 39 percent (read: Democrats) say he’s a bully.”

Blake gets one thing backwards, though. New Jersey residents see Christie as a leader not “despite” his tough rhetoric, but in large part because of it–and because it’s backed up by action. Christie is popular because in a state known for crooked politicians he has earned such a reputation for honesty that he has begun to lift the heavy fog of cynicism that has been hanging for a decade or more over the state’s residents. As a Fairleigh Dickinson poll found last month, for the first time in ten years a majority of New Jerseyans say their state is moving in the right direction. And that leads to one other essential element of Christie’s popularity: the contrast with President Obama.

Read More

The latest Quinnipiac poll showing Chris Christie’s approval rating at 59 percent in New Jersey has been raising eyebrows. As Aaron Blake writes at the Washington Post, “New Jersey is notoriously tough on its politicians – it’s rare that anybody cracks even 50 percent approval – and the state’s Democratic lean makes Christie’s success all the more notable. Despite his tough rhetoric, 54 percent say he’s a leader, while 39 percent (read: Democrats) say he’s a bully.”

Blake gets one thing backwards, though. New Jersey residents see Christie as a leader not “despite” his tough rhetoric, but in large part because of it–and because it’s backed up by action. Christie is popular because in a state known for crooked politicians he has earned such a reputation for honesty that he has begun to lift the heavy fog of cynicism that has been hanging for a decade or more over the state’s residents. As a Fairleigh Dickinson poll found last month, for the first time in ten years a majority of New Jerseyans say their state is moving in the right direction. And that leads to one other essential element of Christie’s popularity: the contrast with President Obama.

One of the reasons there was such a popular demand for Christie to run for president this year was that contrast. Christie was elected in 2009 with a mandate to steer the state away from the financial cliff it was heading toward, rein in government overspending and waste, clean up the cronyism so endemic in the state’s politics, ease the burden on taxpayers, and do all this while addressing the perilous state of public education.

And that’s what he did. What’s more, Christie accomplished this while rallying the state’s sense of civic responsibility. His budget, he said, recognized that “every New Jerseyan has shared in the sacrifice that was necessary to begin the New Jersey Comeback and that every New Jerseyan should share in the benefit we’re beginning to feel.”

Obama was swept into office with a similar mandate, but instead of focusing on creating jobs, he used his political capital to force through Congress an overwhelmingly unpopular health care reform bill over the loud protest of the voters. Instead of ending cronyism, the revolving door of lobbyists and beneficiaries remained perfectly in place; the essential votes for Obamacare came thanks to the “Cornhusker kickback” and the “Louisiana purchase”; and the Solyndra debacle combined political favoritism with dreadful policy ideas. He contributed to the erosion of American education by seeking to end the D.C. scholarship program. And rather than rein in spending, the president has set the country on an unsustainable path of debt and entitlements.

And he did this, moreover, while seeking to set Americans against one another, dividing the country, shifting blame, and energizing his party’s base by finding scapegoats on the other side of the aisle.

Christie’s straight talk isn’t a gimmick. He tells voters he’s going to do something, and then does it, and his unyielding demeanor is not to bully his opponents, but rather to fend off the powerful interest groups that work overtime to derail reform and enrich themselves at the expense of the state’s bruised and beleaguered taxpayers. That his honesty is being rewarded at the polls is no surprise.

Read Less

Christie to NJ: Everyone Sacrificed, Everyone Benefits

Yesterday was a pretty good day for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As the video of his put-up-or-shut-up comments about Warren Buffett made the rounds, Quinnipiac released a poll showing Christie to be the favorite of possible Republican “white knights,” beating out Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin. Then the Republican candidates debated (again)–almost always a boon for any Republican not up on that stage.

But there was more to his Buffett shaming than simple grandstanding, and it revealed something about Christie’s own political prospects. I’ve written before about how Christie’s primary challenge in New Jersey was to summon the political capital necessary to continue enacting his much-needed reform agenda and win reelection as the state’s Democrats began to pull away from him. Christie has benefited from the cooperation of Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney and the vocal support of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, but they won’t be at his side when he runs for a second term.

Read More

Yesterday was a pretty good day for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As the video of his put-up-or-shut-up comments about Warren Buffett made the rounds, Quinnipiac released a poll showing Christie to be the favorite of possible Republican “white knights,” beating out Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin. Then the Republican candidates debated (again)–almost always a boon for any Republican not up on that stage.

But there was more to his Buffett shaming than simple grandstanding, and it revealed something about Christie’s own political prospects. I’ve written before about how Christie’s primary challenge in New Jersey was to summon the political capital necessary to continue enacting his much-needed reform agenda and win reelection as the state’s Democrats began to pull away from him. Christie has benefited from the cooperation of Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney and the vocal support of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, but they won’t be at his side when he runs for a second term.

November, meanwhile, dashed Christie’s hopes of getting more help from Republicans, as the Democrats held steady their majority in the state Senate and gained one seat in the Assembly.

As Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, told NJ Spotlight:

“It is a very disappointing night for Gov. Christie,” said Dworkin, adding the GOP should have gained as many as six seats. “He outraised the Democrats by millions of dollars. He put his high approval rating and his personal reputation on the line by going on network television in New York and Philadelphia. And in the end, he wasn’t able to even keep the status quo in the legislature, much less win the several seats that Republicans might have expected given his efforts.”

State Republicans were no more popular and the state legislature would move no closer to giving Christie an allied chamber. What’s more, the paradox of recovery threatened to sap Christie’s momentum further: as his reform measures began to work, the electorate’s appetite for sacrifice would diminish. So Christie had to make the argument that the state was not only moving in the right direction, but that the state’s residents are already beginning to reap the benefits of the first two years of Christie’s term. So on Tuesday, he announced his budget, and said this:

In this budget: I propose that we provide tax relief to every New Jersey citizen – through the first year of an across-the-board 10 percent cut in their income taxes; and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. The people of New Jersey have suffered for too long under the burden of high taxes, it is time for real relief.

I propose that we increase school aid, for the second year in a row, by over $200 million, to $8.8 billion, a record amount of state aid to education. There is no priority more important than educating our children, so let’s reform our schools and give them the tools to be great.

I propose that we more than double the state’s contribution to our pension system. Last year, we enacted landmark reform that showed the nation that we can come together on a bi-partisan basis to manage our long-term liabilities. In my budget, the state will make good on its obligation to fund our pension system….

So this package provides relief for every New Jerseyan, up and down the income scale. It recognizes that New Jersey’s tax situation had gotten out of control and begins to bring it back under our control. It recognizes that every New Jerseyan has shared in the sacrifice that was necessary to begin the New Jersey Comeback and that every New Jerseyan should share in the benefit we’re beginning to feel.

And that is really what his Buffett comment was about. Buffett has adopted the Democrats’ class warfare terminology, splitting the public into those who deserve government largesse and those who should pay even more to fund it. “Everyone deserves to have the government responsive to their concerns and needs,” Christie countered.

Christie is so popular among conservatives in part for this reason. He has shown conservative reform works and is the best antidote to the overspending, cronyism, and political patronage that wrecked the state’s finances in the first place.

Read Less

Will Rep. Pascrell Denounce “Israel-Firster” Rhetoric Against Opponent?

New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell – who’s currently locked in a brutal primary battle with Rep. Steve Rothman because of state redistricting – is in hot water after a prominent supporter accused Rothman-backers of being more loyal to Israel than the United States.

Arab-American activist Aref Assaf penned a column blasting those who support Rothman over Pascrell, claiming their choice is solely based on “blind support for Israel”:

“As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s,” Assaf wrote in an article for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Read More

New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell – who’s currently locked in a brutal primary battle with Rep. Steve Rothman because of state redistricting – is in hot water after a prominent supporter accused Rothman-backers of being more loyal to Israel than the United States.

Arab-American activist Aref Assaf penned a column blasting those who support Rothman over Pascrell, claiming their choice is solely based on “blind support for Israel”:

“As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s,” Assaf wrote in an article for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Now Rothman, one of the staunchest Israel defenders in the Democratic Party, is calling on Pascrell to denounce the “bigoted” rhetoric, reports the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo:

“Congressman Pascrell should disavow these attacks and ask his supporters to stop this harmful, dishonest, and bigoted rhetoric,” Rothman spokesperson Aaron Keyak said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. “Even during tough elections we should be able to debate policy without having our political opponents question our patriotism.”

After the controversy over Democratic-linked organizations engaging in dual-loyalty charges, it’s problematic that one of Pascrell’s supporters would make such inflammatory claims. This also isn’t the first time Pascrell has come under fire for anti-Israel associations. In 2010, he signed the controversial “Gaza 54 letter,” which was harshly critical of Israel. Pascrell’s best move may be to take Rothman’s advice and distance himself from Assaf’s toxic rhetoric, unless he wants to be seen as tacitly approving these allegations.

Read Less

Democrats Criticize Rand Paul’s Call to Cut Aid to Israel

JTA is reporting that seven Democratic senators sent a letter to top GOP senators yesterday, calling on the Republicans to repudiate Sen. Rand Paul’s comments about cutting foreign aid to Israel:

“At a time when U.S. foreign aid is being utilized to strengthen our partnerships around the world, particularly in the Middle East where our relationships are more important than ever, we urge you to commit to maintain full foreign aid funding to Israel,” the letter said. …

Signatories to Tuesday’s letter include Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)., Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

It’s always great to watch Republicans and Democrats in Congress fight over which side is more pro-Israel, because the winner of that argument is always Israel. However, there was one not-so-small accuracy problem with the letter — it implied that there’s been recent interest among Republicans for Paul’s plan. And that’s simply not true.

The opening of the note reads: “We write in light of recent statements that demonstrate the intent of certain Senators to eliminate foreign aid funding to the nation of Israel.” But as Ron Kampeas notes at JTA, Paul has been the only Senate Republican to recently support such a proposal. So obviously, the likelihood that Congress will actually vote to cut aid to Israel is pretty low, and Democrats are simply using Paul’s position to issue a partisan attack on the Republican Party as a whole.

JTA is reporting that seven Democratic senators sent a letter to top GOP senators yesterday, calling on the Republicans to repudiate Sen. Rand Paul’s comments about cutting foreign aid to Israel:

“At a time when U.S. foreign aid is being utilized to strengthen our partnerships around the world, particularly in the Middle East where our relationships are more important than ever, we urge you to commit to maintain full foreign aid funding to Israel,” the letter said. …

Signatories to Tuesday’s letter include Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)., Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

It’s always great to watch Republicans and Democrats in Congress fight over which side is more pro-Israel, because the winner of that argument is always Israel. However, there was one not-so-small accuracy problem with the letter — it implied that there’s been recent interest among Republicans for Paul’s plan. And that’s simply not true.

The opening of the note reads: “We write in light of recent statements that demonstrate the intent of certain Senators to eliminate foreign aid funding to the nation of Israel.” But as Ron Kampeas notes at JTA, Paul has been the only Senate Republican to recently support such a proposal. So obviously, the likelihood that Congress will actually vote to cut aid to Israel is pretty low, and Democrats are simply using Paul’s position to issue a partisan attack on the Republican Party as a whole.

Read Less

Muslim Leaders Warn of ‘Backlash’ from Rep. King Hearings

As Rep. Peter King prepares to hold hearings to investigate homegrown Islamic radicalization next month, opponents of the investigation have fallen back on a familiar defense mechanism: they allege that the hearings will spur a “backlash” of hate crimes against Muslims.

The Washington Post reported that the upcoming hearings “have touched off a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community, which has spent much of the past year battling what it sees as a rising tide of Islamophobia.”

At the New York Daily News, Douglas Murray noted the recurrent fears of anti-Muslim “backlash”:

Across the media and blogosphere, pundits and certain politicians have been warning of the “fear” that Muslims are said to be feeling about the hearings. Not a witness has been confirmed, but self-appointed Muslim “leaders” have expressed their fears of the mythical “backlash” that is meant to be always about to occur.

Murray makes a good point. Just a few examples of incidents that so-called advocates for the Muslim community claimed would lead to a “backlash” in recent years include the Iraq war; when the FBI uncovered an Islamic terrorist attack in New Jersey; when a professor with terrorist links was put on trial; when Americans were beheaded by Islamic extremists; the sale of “Left Behind” video games; President Bush’s use of the term “Islamic fascism”; and the movie United 93.

Of course, the most recent incident that was supposed to spark a backlash was the public anger at the Islamic center near Ground Zero last summer.  “You saw some anti-Muslim views after 9/11, but they were relegated to the fringes of society where they should be,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR, told the Christian Science Monitor on Sept. 10. “Now anti-Muslim sentiment has really been mainstreamed.”

But, as Jonathan pointed out last November, that doesn’t match up with the facts. Hate crimes against Muslims reached a high after the 9/11 attacks, but they have dropped steadily — and significantly — since then.

The backlash theory has become nothing more than an easy way for some people to shut down uncomfortable conversations they don’t want to have. And this isn’t a debate they’re going to be able to put off any longer.

As Rep. Peter King prepares to hold hearings to investigate homegrown Islamic radicalization next month, opponents of the investigation have fallen back on a familiar defense mechanism: they allege that the hearings will spur a “backlash” of hate crimes against Muslims.

The Washington Post reported that the upcoming hearings “have touched off a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community, which has spent much of the past year battling what it sees as a rising tide of Islamophobia.”

At the New York Daily News, Douglas Murray noted the recurrent fears of anti-Muslim “backlash”:

Across the media and blogosphere, pundits and certain politicians have been warning of the “fear” that Muslims are said to be feeling about the hearings. Not a witness has been confirmed, but self-appointed Muslim “leaders” have expressed their fears of the mythical “backlash” that is meant to be always about to occur.

Murray makes a good point. Just a few examples of incidents that so-called advocates for the Muslim community claimed would lead to a “backlash” in recent years include the Iraq war; when the FBI uncovered an Islamic terrorist attack in New Jersey; when a professor with terrorist links was put on trial; when Americans were beheaded by Islamic extremists; the sale of “Left Behind” video games; President Bush’s use of the term “Islamic fascism”; and the movie United 93.

Of course, the most recent incident that was supposed to spark a backlash was the public anger at the Islamic center near Ground Zero last summer.  “You saw some anti-Muslim views after 9/11, but they were relegated to the fringes of society where they should be,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR, told the Christian Science Monitor on Sept. 10. “Now anti-Muslim sentiment has really been mainstreamed.”

But, as Jonathan pointed out last November, that doesn’t match up with the facts. Hate crimes against Muslims reached a high after the 9/11 attacks, but they have dropped steadily — and significantly — since then.

The backlash theory has become nothing more than an easy way for some people to shut down uncomfortable conversations they don’t want to have. And this isn’t a debate they’re going to be able to put off any longer.

Read Less

Chris Christie’s Troubling Appointment

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has earned legions of fans with his take-no-prisoners style over the last year as he defied the unions and other entrenched interests in his drive to return his state to fiscal sanity. But while Christie has sought to silence the buzz about a possible presidential run, it appears that there might be a better reason to abandon this fantasy than his understandable reluctance: the governor has some explaining to do about his cozying up to an Islamist group in the state both before and after his election.

Christie’s decision to appoint attorney Sohail Mohammed to a state Superior Court judgeship has raised questions not only about his nominee’s record but also about the governor’s own stand. Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.

Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.” Read More

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has earned legions of fans with his take-no-prisoners style over the last year as he defied the unions and other entrenched interests in his drive to return his state to fiscal sanity. But while Christie has sought to silence the buzz about a possible presidential run, it appears that there might be a better reason to abandon this fantasy than his understandable reluctance: the governor has some explaining to do about his cozying up to an Islamist group in the state both before and after his election.

Christie’s decision to appoint attorney Sohail Mohammed to a state Superior Court judgeship has raised questions not only about his nominee’s record but also about the governor’s own stand. Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.

Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.”

Terror researcher Steve Emerson was quoted at the time as calling Christie’s involvement in the case “a disgrace and an act of pure political corruption,” especially since “I know for certain that Christie and the FBI had access to information about Qatanani’s background, involvement with and support of Hamas.”

Why would a man who was otherwise tasked as a U.S. attorney with defending America against such Islamists intervene on behalf of a Hamas supporter? The answer was obvious. Christie was already looking ahead to his race for governor against Corzine in 2009 and wanted the enthusiastic support of the state’s not-insignificant Muslim population. Christie’s record in the Qatanani case is a troubling chapter in his biography, and his willingness to further solidify his friendship with the American Muslim Union with his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to the court shows that his judgment on the issue of support for terrorism is highly questionable. If Christie’s name is mentioned again in the context of a presidential politics or even as a possible nominee for vice president, he is going to have to answer some tough questions about all this.

(Hat tip to Daniel Greenfield’s Sultan Knish blog)

Read Less

Chuck Schumer and Chris Christie

Chuck Schumer is a senator from New York. He is upset that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled an ill-conceived and wildly expensive rail project that would have dug a new tunnel between the Garden State and the Empire State. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Schumer, a Democrat, also called Christie’s decision to cancel that tunnel “one of the most shortsighted in New York’s history.”

OK, but the thing is, Christie isn’t from New York. He’s from New Jersey. So maybe Christie didn’t think it was shortsighted for New Jersey.

Chuck Schumer is a senator from New York. He is upset that Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, canceled an ill-conceived and wildly expensive rail project that would have dug a new tunnel between the Garden State and the Empire State. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,

Schumer, a Democrat, also called Christie’s decision to cancel that tunnel “one of the most shortsighted in New York’s history.”

OK, but the thing is, Christie isn’t from New York. He’s from New Jersey. So maybe Christie didn’t think it was shortsighted for New Jersey.

Read Less

ObamaCare and Political Insanity

According to the New York Times:

Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea-Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.

Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away.

The story goes on to report this:

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.

It’s hard to know if Democrats are serious about pursuing this course. If so, they are heading down a perilous political path. Here’s why: the more the public learns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the more they dislike it — and they dislike it plenty right now.

In addition, the thinking that continues to animate many Democrats — namely, that the only reason Obama’s health-care overhaul isn’t wildly popular is because of a “communications problem” by the White House and congressional Democrats — is wholly in error.

The problem is that ObamaCare is a monstrous, incoherent piece of legislation that is/will (among other things) increase premiums, force millions of people off their existing coverage (which many of them are happy with), and increase, not decrease, the federal-budget deficit. It will harm, not improve, our health-care system. In almost every respect, it compounds rather than ameliorates our problems.

If Democrats want to relitigate ObamaCare, they will find a Republican Party plenty eager to join them.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. With that definition in mind, it is fair to say that on health care at least, the Democratic Party’s strategy is bordering on insanity. If Mr. Obama and his party want the political debate of 2011 to center on health care, they will pay a huge political price for it.

According to the New York Times:

Soon after the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday, Republicans in the House plan to make good on a campaign promise that helped vault many new members to victory: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea-Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.

Democrats, who in many cases looked on the law as a rabid beast best avoided in the fall elections, are reversing course, gearing up for a coordinated all-out effort to preserve and defend it. Under the law, they say, consumers are already receiving tangible benefits that Republicans would snatch away.

The story goes on to report this:

Representative Robert E. Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, challenged the Republicans to bring it on. “We will respond by pointing out the impact of repeal on people’s lives,” Mr. Andrews said. “On women with cancer who could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On senior citizens who would lose the help they are receiving to pay for prescriptions.”

Democrats argue that repeal would increase the number of uninsured; put insurers back in control of health insurance, allowing them to increase premiums at will; and lead to explosive growth in the federal budget deficit.

It’s hard to know if Democrats are serious about pursuing this course. If so, they are heading down a perilous political path. Here’s why: the more the public learns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the more they dislike it — and they dislike it plenty right now.

In addition, the thinking that continues to animate many Democrats — namely, that the only reason Obama’s health-care overhaul isn’t wildly popular is because of a “communications problem” by the White House and congressional Democrats — is wholly in error.

The problem is that ObamaCare is a monstrous, incoherent piece of legislation that is/will (among other things) increase premiums, force millions of people off their existing coverage (which many of them are happy with), and increase, not decrease, the federal-budget deficit. It will harm, not improve, our health-care system. In almost every respect, it compounds rather than ameliorates our problems.

If Democrats want to relitigate ObamaCare, they will find a Republican Party plenty eager to join them.

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. With that definition in mind, it is fair to say that on health care at least, the Democratic Party’s strategy is bordering on insanity. If Mr. Obama and his party want the political debate of 2011 to center on health care, they will pay a huge political price for it.

Read Less

Reapportionment Means Obama Just Lost Six Electoral Votes

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election so handily that losing a few electoral votes from his 365 to 173 margin of victory wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But there is every indication that the public’s repudiation of Obama’s policies at the polls this past November shows he will not have as easy a time of it in 2012. And now that the results of the reapportionment based on the 2010 census have been announced, Obama’s re-election just got a bit more difficult.

The new totals for each state’s representation in the House of Representatives will also change the number of electoral votes they can cast for president. So if we tally up the states’ new electoral votes based on the 2008 election, it shows that states that voted for Obama lost a net total of six votes, and those that backed McCain gained the same number. If you look back to the election before that, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry, although some Blue States in 2008 were Red in 2004, the new electoral vote totals shows the same difference, a net gain of six for Bush states and a net loss of six for those that went for Kerry.

The big winners in the reapportionment are Texas, with four more seats, and Florida, with two. Washington, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona all gained one. The biggest losers are New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one.

Of course, there is no telling how these states will vote in 2012; but however you slice it, the hill may have just gotten a little steeper for Obama in his quest for re-election.

Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election so handily that losing a few electoral votes from his 365 to 173 margin of victory wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But there is every indication that the public’s repudiation of Obama’s policies at the polls this past November shows he will not have as easy a time of it in 2012. And now that the results of the reapportionment based on the 2010 census have been announced, Obama’s re-election just got a bit more difficult.

The new totals for each state’s representation in the House of Representatives will also change the number of electoral votes they can cast for president. So if we tally up the states’ new electoral votes based on the 2008 election, it shows that states that voted for Obama lost a net total of six votes, and those that backed McCain gained the same number. If you look back to the election before that, in which George W. Bush beat John Kerry, although some Blue States in 2008 were Red in 2004, the new electoral vote totals shows the same difference, a net gain of six for Bush states and a net loss of six for those that went for Kerry.

The big winners in the reapportionment are Texas, with four more seats, and Florida, with two. Washington, Utah, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Arizona all gained one. The biggest losers are New York and Ohio, which each lost two seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one.

Of course, there is no telling how these states will vote in 2012; but however you slice it, the hill may have just gotten a little steeper for Obama in his quest for re-election.

Read Less

Has the Politically Impossible Become Possible?

CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good story on the financial crisis — and in some cases (California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Arizona) the financial meltdown — facing the states. “The day of reckoning has arrived,” according to Governor Chris Christie. It has, and the ramifications will be huge.

One unanswered question is whether the nature of the crisis is fundamentally altering the political dynamics, whether today certain things are politically possible that once were not (pension and benefit reforms, sacrifices by public-employee unions, cuts in K-12 education funding, etc.). We’ll find out in the next year or so.

CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good story on the financial crisis — and in some cases (California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Arizona) the financial meltdown — facing the states. “The day of reckoning has arrived,” according to Governor Chris Christie. It has, and the ramifications will be huge.

One unanswered question is whether the nature of the crisis is fundamentally altering the political dynamics, whether today certain things are politically possible that once were not (pension and benefit reforms, sacrifices by public-employee unions, cuts in K-12 education funding, etc.). We’ll find out in the next year or so.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

What happens when the Democratic majority ends: “President Obama on Monday proposed a two-year freeze on federal pay, saying federal workers must sacrifice to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. … Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) had called for a freeze on federal pay this month and also had said the average federal worker makes twice the pay of the average private sector worker.”

Jackson Diehl reminds us to stop holding out hope that small-bore covert actions will defang the mullahs. “Covert action, in short, is not likely to be the silver bullet that stops Iran’s nuclear program. That’s true of 21st-century devices like Stuxnet — and it will likely apply to the old-fashioned and ruthless attacks on Iranian scientists.” Still, it helps slow the clock.

Obama’s foreign policy aura is over. Walter Russell Mead writes: “Our propensity to elect charismatic but inexperienced leaders repeatedly lands us in trouble. We remain steadfastly blind to the deterioration of our long-term fiscal position as we pile unfunded entitlements on top of each other in a surefire recipe for national disaster. We lurch from one ineffective foreign policy to another, while the public consensus that has underwritten America’s world role since the 1940s continues to decay. Our elite seems at times literally hellbent on throwing away the cultural capital and that has kept this nation great and free for so many generations.” Ouch.

Is the era of slam-dunk Democratic victories coming to a close in New Jersey? “With one more national election behind him, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez now faces one ahead — his own. And according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 31% of his New Jersey constituency have a favorable opinion of him and 25% have an unfavorable opinion. Another 44% either are unsure (29%) or haven’t heard of him at all (15%). ‘Those are fairly anemic numbers for an energetic guy who has already served five years,’ said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.”

Michael Steele’s finished as Republican National Committee chair — the only issue is which of the competent, low-key contenders will win it.

Are the Dems kaput in the South? “After suffering a historic rout — in which nearly every white Deep South Democrat in the U.S. House was defeated and Republicans took over or gained seats in legislatures across the region — the party’s ranks in Dixie have thinned even further.” I’d be cautious — the GOP was “dead” in New England and the Midwest two years ago.

Rep. Mike Pence is going to halt the speculation as to whether he’ll run for president. Speeches like this tell us he certainly is: “I choose the West. I choose limited government and freedom. I choose the free market, personal responsibility and equality of opportunity. I choose fiscal restraint, sound money, a flat tax, regulatory reform, American energy, expanded trade and a return to traditional values. In a word, I choose a boundless American future built on the timeless ideals of the American people. I believe the American people are ready for this choice and await men and women who will lead us back to that future, back to the West, back to American exceptionalism. Here’s to that future. Our best days are yet to come.” That’s a presidential candidate talking.

Bret Stephens suggests that the WikiLeak documents may bring down the curtain on silly leftist foreign policy ideas. “Are Israeli Likudniks and their neocon friends (present company included) the dark matter pushing the U.S. toward war with Iran? Well, no: Arab Likudniks turn out to be even more vocal on that score. Can Syria be detached from Iran’s orbit? ‘I think not,’ says Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. … Has the administration succeeded in pressing the reset button with Russia? Hard to credit, given Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s description of the Putin-Medvedev regime as one from which ‘there has been little real change.’ Is the threat of an Iranian missile strike—and therefore of the need for missile defense—exaggerated? Not since we learned that North Korea had shipped missiles to Tehran that can carry nuclear warheads as far as Western Europe and Moscow.” But the administration knew all this — the only difference is now we do.

What happens when the Democratic majority ends: “President Obama on Monday proposed a two-year freeze on federal pay, saying federal workers must sacrifice to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. … Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) had called for a freeze on federal pay this month and also had said the average federal worker makes twice the pay of the average private sector worker.”

Jackson Diehl reminds us to stop holding out hope that small-bore covert actions will defang the mullahs. “Covert action, in short, is not likely to be the silver bullet that stops Iran’s nuclear program. That’s true of 21st-century devices like Stuxnet — and it will likely apply to the old-fashioned and ruthless attacks on Iranian scientists.” Still, it helps slow the clock.

Obama’s foreign policy aura is over. Walter Russell Mead writes: “Our propensity to elect charismatic but inexperienced leaders repeatedly lands us in trouble. We remain steadfastly blind to the deterioration of our long-term fiscal position as we pile unfunded entitlements on top of each other in a surefire recipe for national disaster. We lurch from one ineffective foreign policy to another, while the public consensus that has underwritten America’s world role since the 1940s continues to decay. Our elite seems at times literally hellbent on throwing away the cultural capital and that has kept this nation great and free for so many generations.” Ouch.

Is the era of slam-dunk Democratic victories coming to a close in New Jersey? “With one more national election behind him, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez now faces one ahead — his own. And according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 31% of his New Jersey constituency have a favorable opinion of him and 25% have an unfavorable opinion. Another 44% either are unsure (29%) or haven’t heard of him at all (15%). ‘Those are fairly anemic numbers for an energetic guy who has already served five years,’ said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.”

Michael Steele’s finished as Republican National Committee chair — the only issue is which of the competent, low-key contenders will win it.

Are the Dems kaput in the South? “After suffering a historic rout — in which nearly every white Deep South Democrat in the U.S. House was defeated and Republicans took over or gained seats in legislatures across the region — the party’s ranks in Dixie have thinned even further.” I’d be cautious — the GOP was “dead” in New England and the Midwest two years ago.

Rep. Mike Pence is going to halt the speculation as to whether he’ll run for president. Speeches like this tell us he certainly is: “I choose the West. I choose limited government and freedom. I choose the free market, personal responsibility and equality of opportunity. I choose fiscal restraint, sound money, a flat tax, regulatory reform, American energy, expanded trade and a return to traditional values. In a word, I choose a boundless American future built on the timeless ideals of the American people. I believe the American people are ready for this choice and await men and women who will lead us back to that future, back to the West, back to American exceptionalism. Here’s to that future. Our best days are yet to come.” That’s a presidential candidate talking.

Bret Stephens suggests that the WikiLeak documents may bring down the curtain on silly leftist foreign policy ideas. “Are Israeli Likudniks and their neocon friends (present company included) the dark matter pushing the U.S. toward war with Iran? Well, no: Arab Likudniks turn out to be even more vocal on that score. Can Syria be detached from Iran’s orbit? ‘I think not,’ says Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. … Has the administration succeeded in pressing the reset button with Russia? Hard to credit, given Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s description of the Putin-Medvedev regime as one from which ‘there has been little real change.’ Is the threat of an Iranian missile strike—and therefore of the need for missile defense—exaggerated? Not since we learned that North Korea had shipped missiles to Tehran that can carry nuclear warheads as far as Western Europe and Moscow.” But the administration knew all this — the only difference is now we do.

Read Less

Christie-mania

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie. Read More

In a lengthy piece on Chris Christie filled with winks and nods to the left and more than a few unsubstantiated jibes (Christie, we are told, was previously a “political hack,” and it’s just the “sane” wing of the GOP that likes him), Jason Zengerie of New York magazine nevertheless provides an interesting peek inside Christie’s political operation and just a sliver of hope to his fans that he might still be persuaded to make a 2012 presidential run.

Why the excitement?

These are strange days for Republicans. After their historic midterm victories, they are seemingly ascendant, with George Will hailing 2010 as “conservatism’s best year in 30 years—since the election of Ronald Reagan.” And yet there is no Reagan-like figure to lead them. In Congress, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are Establishmentarians ill-suited to the fervor of the times. The Republicans who are currently angling to run for the White House in 2012—Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, John Thune, to name a few—inspire little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, the one potential presidential candidate who does get Republican pulses racing, is such a polarizing figure that the party Establishment is terrified she’ll run. At the very moment that the GOP appears poised to return from its short sojourn in the political wilderness, the party is desperately searching for a leader. Which explains conservatives’ serious—and sudden—infatuation with Chris Christie.

That explains the search for someone, but why him?

He has set the tone, in part, by being “a strong governor who has opinions and is willing to express them,” he said. When I asked him about New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg’s criticism of his decision to cancel the tunnel, Christie shot back, “All he knows how to do is blow hot air … so I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.” Anything? “I’m always willing to read something in the paper that he said, and if he makes sense, I’m happy to work with him on it. I haven’t found one yet.” Christie believes his aggressive approach sends a signal to everyone else in the state. “The tone I’m trying to set for New Jersey is: action. Less talk, more action. And I think that’s what I’m doing as governor, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of stuff done already because of that, because I’m pushing and pushing and pushing.” …

Christie’s combativeness has made him a popular figure with the tea party in a way that someone like Indiana governor Mitch Daniels—who’s fought some of the same fiscal battles in his state but with the mien of an accountant—can only dream of. More than anything, Christie fills the longing, currently felt in all corners of the GOP (and beyond), for a stern taskmaster. “People just want to be treated like adults,” Christie says. “They just want to be told the truth. They know we’re in tough times, and they’re willing to sacrifice. But they want shared sacrifice.”

Less well known is his ability to co-opt and work with key Democrats in the deep Blue State. (He’s “cultivated strong relationships with the three most prominent Democratic power brokers currently not in jail.”)

The good news for Christie fans is that there are a few scraps suggesting that he hasn’t entirely closed the door on a 2012 run.  (“Christie’s actions aren’t those of someone who has ruled out a presidential bid.”) His staff’s YouTube videos, the trip to Iowa, and some whispers from his political confidantes are encouraging those in the GOP who are searching for Mr. Right.

But the premise underlying the piece is a bit off. The reason Christie has become a “star” is not because he’s captured the imagination of the “sane” wing of the party but because he transcends the divide (which is part real and part media-driven hype) between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans. He combines serious governance with political theater. He’s got undeniable stage presence, but he’s also a serious budget wonk. He has no patience with political insiders, yet he’s learned to handle his opponents. And he’s become a master at disarming the liberal media without personal acrimony or a sense of victimhood.

But your reading glasses would have to be exceptionally rosy to see real evidence of a 2012 stealth campaign. The most his supporters can hope for is that the field of current contenders will prove underwhelming and that a serious movement to draft Christie will develop. But if the governor resists the entreaties of his fans, Republicans should remember that he became an overnight success thanks to a bunch of irresistible YouTube moments. Who’s to say that someone else couldn’t do the same?

Read Less

Well, People Do Change Their Minds

He said he’s not interested in a run in 2012. He jokingly asked if he’d have to commit suicide to convince the press he wasn’t running. But Chris Christie has become a rock star in conservative circles — chiding the press, whacking the teachers’ union, refusing to raise taxes, slashing spending, and now cutting public broadcasting and radio in New Jersey. Yup:

New Jersey Network, the state’s non-commercial radio and TV operation has sent out 45-day layoff warnings to all 170 state workers, and would effectively shut down all TV & radio operations. The layoff notices come after Gov. Chris Christie ordered state funding for NJN to be ended. He had already cut the network’s budget in half for 2010-2011.

It’s that sort of decisive, no-nonsense fiscal hawk who many on the right are looking to lead the party in 2012. Christie might really be serious about sitting out 2012, but I suspect the base is going to try to convince him otherwise. Dumping public TV and radio is just one more item on the list of actions he’s taken in the first year on the job, which just convinces more conservatives that, to borrow a phrase, he’s the one they have been waiting for. And if he really isn’t going to run, the GOP would be wise to find someone with the same moxie, determination, and governance skills as Christie possesses.

He said he’s not interested in a run in 2012. He jokingly asked if he’d have to commit suicide to convince the press he wasn’t running. But Chris Christie has become a rock star in conservative circles — chiding the press, whacking the teachers’ union, refusing to raise taxes, slashing spending, and now cutting public broadcasting and radio in New Jersey. Yup:

New Jersey Network, the state’s non-commercial radio and TV operation has sent out 45-day layoff warnings to all 170 state workers, and would effectively shut down all TV & radio operations. The layoff notices come after Gov. Chris Christie ordered state funding for NJN to be ended. He had already cut the network’s budget in half for 2010-2011.

It’s that sort of decisive, no-nonsense fiscal hawk who many on the right are looking to lead the party in 2012. Christie might really be serious about sitting out 2012, but I suspect the base is going to try to convince him otherwise. Dumping public TV and radio is just one more item on the list of actions he’s taken in the first year on the job, which just convinces more conservatives that, to borrow a phrase, he’s the one they have been waiting for. And if he really isn’t going to run, the GOP would be wise to find someone with the same moxie, determination, and governance skills as Christie possesses.

Read Less

Pelosi and the GOP Win

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

Read Less

Follow the States, But Only the Right Ones

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

This report makes the point that, unlike the federal government, state officials have had to make hard choices to balance their books. The impression one gets listening to the mainstream media and incumbent politicians is that budget balancing is nearly impossible. The states have shown otherwise:

In the past three years, 29 states have raised fees on, or cut services for, the elderly and people with disabilities, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research group. Fifteen states raised sales or income taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington research outfit.

Let’s see if you notice the pattern:

One popular state tactic has obvious—and ironic—national implications. New Jersey, Indiana and Minnesota, among others, have trimmed state spending by sending less money to local governments. That pushes onto local officials politically tough decisions about raising taxes, cutting spending or finding major money-saving efficiencies. …

Now, in Illinois and California, “the political system has done little more than lurch to the end of the fiscal year.” While in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Indiana, governors pushed for real fiscal reform. A sample:

New Jersey’s Chris Christie has cut pensions for future state and local employees, vetoed a tax increase on income over $1 million and cut $1.26 billion in aid to schools and municipalities, which local officials said would drive up property taxes. …

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a second-term Republican and the former White House budget director for President George W. Bush, moved the state from deficit to surplus by paring spending in good times. Indiana swung from a nearly $200 million deficit in 2004, the year Mr. Daniels was first elected, to a $1.3 billion surplus last year. It was not without controversy: On his second day in office, Mr. Daniels issued an executive order that ended collective-bargaining rights for state employees. …

In May, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget widely seen as a victory for outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, because it ratified spending cuts he had made unilaterally and it didn’t raise taxes.

And, likewise, Bob McDonnell got elected in 2009 in Virginia on the promise to balance the budget without raising taxes. And he has done just that.

OK, you see point. These budget balancers and spending cutters are successful Republican governors, all of whom have been mentioned as 2012 presidential contenders. And in the 2010 midterms, their ranks expanded with Republicans elected in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. That’s a lot of GOP governors who have the opportunity to lead on fiscal discipline.

Not only does this dispel the liberal myths that we need massive taxes to balance our books or that the public won’t accept reduced services; but is provides Republicans with a wealth of talent for the 2012 and future presidential races. The country seems poised to get serious on tax and budget reform and has grown weary of a president whose not much into governance. That suggests a unique opportunity for these GOP governors — provided they stick to their  sober approach to governance.

And on the other hand, we have the example of California which has yet to get its spending and public employee unions under control. It’s the beauty of federalism — 50 labratories in which we can see what works and what doesn’t. So far a lot of GOP governors are showing how to do it right.

Read Less

The Entitlement Crisis

On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim DeMint – widely admired by conservatives and the Tea Party for his passionate advocacy for limited government – spent a good deal of time condemning earmarks. That’s a fine idea, but it would barely begin to right our fiscal imbalance. When asked about cuts in Social Security, however, DeMint was emphatic:

Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting–I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. …

We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time – the entitlement crisis – DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare. (Bear in mind that entitlements, excluding net interest, account for 56 percent of all federal spending and 14 percent of GDP — up from 10 percent of GDP three years ago.) Read More

On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim DeMint – widely admired by conservatives and the Tea Party for his passionate advocacy for limited government – spent a good deal of time condemning earmarks. That’s a fine idea, but it would barely begin to right our fiscal imbalance. When asked about cuts in Social Security, however, DeMint was emphatic:

Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting–I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. …

We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time – the entitlement crisis – DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare. (Bear in mind that entitlements, excluding net interest, account for 56 percent of all federal spending and 14 percent of GDP — up from 10 percent of GDP three years ago.)

DeMint might consider doing two things. The first is to be a bit less sweeping in his condemnation of government. I certainly share his concerns about the size, scope, reach, and cost of the federal government, especially in the Age of Obama. At the same time, precise, rigorous arguments are important, too – and so DeMint and other Republicans need to be careful not to use rhetoric that puts them in the company of “a small breed of men whose passionate distrust for the state has developed into a theology of sorts.” (The words are William F. Buckley Jr.’s).

At the same time, DeMint should do more to close the gap between his words and his willingness to act on his words. It is simply not tenable for public officials to portray themselves as courageous voices for fiscal sanity while simultaneously fencing off cuts and reforms for entitlements. This doesn’t argue for recklessness or doing everything all at once. And it certainly doesn’t mean promoting austerity at the expense of pro-growth economic policies. But it does mean one should not declare entitlement programs off-limits. We have to deal with them; there’s no way around it. So there’s no point in making things more difficult or making commitments that are contrary to the national interest. Those who do open themselves to the charge that they are fundamentally unserious on this matter.

On the same program, by the way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was interviewed by David Gregory. In contrast to DeMint, Christie was able to say this:

We told everybody there has to be shared sacrifice among everyone, and let me be specific. We cut every department of state government. We cut funding to K to 12 education. We are proposed real pension and benefit reforms on public sector workers, increasing the retirement age, eliminating COLAs, things that are really going to bring the pension problem back under control. We cut all of this spending in the state in every state department, David, every state department. From environmental protection, to military and veterans affairs, all the way through had to sustain a cut. Those are the type of things you have to do to show people you really mean shared sacrifice. Everyone came to the table and everybody had to contribute.

When asked how he’s advising Republicans on Capitol Hill, Christie said, “What I told them was they’d better come up with a plan that’s credible like we did in New Jersey, and the public’s going to be able to smell real quickly if you’re not credible.”

Indeed. And credibility, once lost, is hard to regain.

Read Less

Do They Really Need All That Money?

More evidence emerges each day that money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in elections. This report observes that Sharron Angle wound up spending the equivalent of $97 per voter, while Harry Reid plunked down only $69. The extra cash, much of it from out of state, didn’t “buy” Angle the seat. Nor did Meg Whitman prevail despite $140M in spending. Linda McMahon’s personal fortune didn’t talk Connecticut voters out of electing the truth-challenged Richard Blumenthal. In fact, out of the top 10 congressional cash-per-vote spenders, only three won.

So why do the media and politicians obsess so over cash? Well, there is a kernel of truth that you need some money to run a respectable campaign. And in states with expensive media (e.g., New Jersey, New York, California), that is going to be a big figure. But to a large extent, we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that money is more critical than it is. Reporters love to write about it — there are concrete figures and a horse-race quality to the money race. Pols — even the president this time around — love to grouse that the other guys have more, even when they don’t. It beats admitting that your own candidates are less than stellar and that your agenda is toxic. And of course there is an army of consultants, new- and old-media experts, pollsters, ad men, social-network gurus, debate preparers, clothing mavens, and speech coaches to convince their clients and us that all their very expensive services are essential to victory.

But in the end, much of that money is wasted. John McCain won the GOP presidential nomination on a shoestring budget. This year, many small spenders won. (“In upstate New York, Rep. Scott Murphy (D) and his supporters spent $66 for each of the 99,000 votes he received, or about $6.5 million. But he was defeated by retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who spent $4 million, or $33 per vote.”) So when hysterics scream that our democracy is being “hijacked” by corporate money or that a billionaire is “buying” an election, take it with a grain of salt. Interest groups — from Big Labor to the Chamber of Commerce — don’t mind the illusion that their largesse is essential to a candidate’s victory; indeed, they perpetuate it in order to sustain their clout. But perhaps the “problem” of money in politics is largely in our heads — and in the wallets of those whose livelihoods depend on exaggerating the importance of campaign cash.

More evidence emerges each day that money isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be in elections. This report observes that Sharron Angle wound up spending the equivalent of $97 per voter, while Harry Reid plunked down only $69. The extra cash, much of it from out of state, didn’t “buy” Angle the seat. Nor did Meg Whitman prevail despite $140M in spending. Linda McMahon’s personal fortune didn’t talk Connecticut voters out of electing the truth-challenged Richard Blumenthal. In fact, out of the top 10 congressional cash-per-vote spenders, only three won.

So why do the media and politicians obsess so over cash? Well, there is a kernel of truth that you need some money to run a respectable campaign. And in states with expensive media (e.g., New Jersey, New York, California), that is going to be a big figure. But to a large extent, we’ve been bamboozled into thinking that money is more critical than it is. Reporters love to write about it — there are concrete figures and a horse-race quality to the money race. Pols — even the president this time around — love to grouse that the other guys have more, even when they don’t. It beats admitting that your own candidates are less than stellar and that your agenda is toxic. And of course there is an army of consultants, new- and old-media experts, pollsters, ad men, social-network gurus, debate preparers, clothing mavens, and speech coaches to convince their clients and us that all their very expensive services are essential to victory.

But in the end, much of that money is wasted. John McCain won the GOP presidential nomination on a shoestring budget. This year, many small spenders won. (“In upstate New York, Rep. Scott Murphy (D) and his supporters spent $66 for each of the 99,000 votes he received, or about $6.5 million. But he was defeated by retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, who spent $4 million, or $33 per vote.”) So when hysterics scream that our democracy is being “hijacked” by corporate money or that a billionaire is “buying” an election, take it with a grain of salt. Interest groups — from Big Labor to the Chamber of Commerce — don’t mind the illusion that their largesse is essential to a candidate’s victory; indeed, they perpetuate it in order to sustain their clout. But perhaps the “problem” of money in politics is largely in our heads — and in the wallets of those whose livelihoods depend on exaggerating the importance of campaign cash.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.