Commentary Magazine


Topic: North Dakota

RE: Give Americans a Break Already

Aside from statistical data, there is a body of compelling anecdotal evidence that American Muslims really aren’t under siege at all. For example, CNN reports:

Far from the media frenzy dominating headlines, from the so-called “ground zero mosque” to a pastor’s planned Quran burning, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled more than 13,000 miles into the heart of America over the last month, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days for Ramadan.

They began in New York, headed south and then cut across the country to California before making their way back, ending today in Michigan in the nation’s largest Muslim community. … Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation’s first mosque was built in 1929.

The report is worth reading in full. It suggests — surprise, surprise! — that the “rising tide of Islamophobia” is a creation of the liberal media. Out in America, the citizenry is pretty decent, it turns out:

“After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

But that’s not nearly as “newsworthy” as a crackpot pastor with 50 congregants who in the end decided not to burn the Koran. Any chance these fellows would get on This Week with Christiane Amanpour? Puleeze.

Aside from statistical data, there is a body of compelling anecdotal evidence that American Muslims really aren’t under siege at all. For example, CNN reports:

Far from the media frenzy dominating headlines, from the so-called “ground zero mosque” to a pastor’s planned Quran burning, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled more than 13,000 miles into the heart of America over the last month, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days for Ramadan.

They began in New York, headed south and then cut across the country to California before making their way back, ending today in Michigan in the nation’s largest Muslim community. … Ali and Tariq were embraced nearly everywhere they went, from a Confederate souvenir shop in Georgia to the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, to the hills of North Dakota where the nation’s first mosque was built in 1929.

The report is worth reading in full. It suggests — surprise, surprise! — that the “rising tide of Islamophobia” is a creation of the liberal media. Out in America, the citizenry is pretty decent, it turns out:

“After 13,000 miles, I think that America still exists, and I’m happy to know that it does,” said Tariq, a 23-year-old American of Pakistani descent. “It’s really made America feel like home to me in a way that I’ve never felt before. The America that we think about [as immigrants] is still actually there. I’ve seen it! And I’m seeing it still.”

But that’s not nearly as “newsworthy” as a crackpot pastor with 50 congregants who in the end decided not to burn the Koran. Any chance these fellows would get on This Week with Christiane Amanpour? Puleeze.

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Now It’s Conventional Wisdom

For months and months it has seemed that the Senate was “safe” for Democrats. After all, states like Wisconsin, Illinois, and California would all have to be in play. And the Democrats who were threatening Republican seats in Ohio, Florida, and Missouri would all have to fade. Guess what? That’s where we are.

Even NPR concedes:

Democrats knew they had trouble in states where their elected incumbents had resigned (Illinois, Delaware, Colorado), retired (Indiana, North Dakota) or lost the primary (Pennsylvania). They knew they had two more incumbents staggering under terrible poll numbers (Nevada, Arkansas).

But even if all eight of these seats were to be lost, and even if they were to capture no new seats from the GOP, the Democrats reasoned they could still hold the majority. That “firewall theory” was based on the belief that the rest of the majority’s current 59 seats would remain in the hands of Democrats or affiliated independents.

But now Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, and Patty Murray are all in danger of losing their seats. NPR — after a year of parroting White House spin that Obama had “accomplished” so much — now lets on that he’s made a big old mess of things:

President Obama is still struggling to bring the economy all the way back from the near-collapse of 2008. Iraq is a smaller war, but Afghanistan is a larger one. Congress has been an unlovely mess, and the bills the Senate did manage to pass have yet to win much favor with the public. The political marketplace is brimming with radical ideas from the right.

To go with these underlying issues, the firewall incumbents find themselves with unusually daunting opponents.

Suddenly we learn that the GOP isn’t nominating a bunch of loony extremists but has found candidates who appeal to independents. For example, “Boxer faces by far her best-funded challenger yet in Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, who has been through a bruising primary and still has the GOP united behind her. So long as that unity holds, she can reach out to independents and offer the fresh look of a first-time candidate in a state where unemployment is still over 12 percent and the Democratic base is restive.”

If you get the feeling that the media are racing to catch up to political trends that have been evident for some time, I think you’re on to it.  Two years of cheerleading and concealing bad news will be forgotten — they hope — if the last month or so of the campaign approximates reality. Well, it’s long in coming, but at least the media have arrived at the conclusion the rest of us grasped long ago: all their shilling may have helped elect Obama (once), but the object of their affections has proved to be a disaster for the Democratic Party and the agenda they pined for so long.

For months and months it has seemed that the Senate was “safe” for Democrats. After all, states like Wisconsin, Illinois, and California would all have to be in play. And the Democrats who were threatening Republican seats in Ohio, Florida, and Missouri would all have to fade. Guess what? That’s where we are.

Even NPR concedes:

Democrats knew they had trouble in states where their elected incumbents had resigned (Illinois, Delaware, Colorado), retired (Indiana, North Dakota) or lost the primary (Pennsylvania). They knew they had two more incumbents staggering under terrible poll numbers (Nevada, Arkansas).

But even if all eight of these seats were to be lost, and even if they were to capture no new seats from the GOP, the Democrats reasoned they could still hold the majority. That “firewall theory” was based on the belief that the rest of the majority’s current 59 seats would remain in the hands of Democrats or affiliated independents.

But now Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, and Patty Murray are all in danger of losing their seats. NPR — after a year of parroting White House spin that Obama had “accomplished” so much — now lets on that he’s made a big old mess of things:

President Obama is still struggling to bring the economy all the way back from the near-collapse of 2008. Iraq is a smaller war, but Afghanistan is a larger one. Congress has been an unlovely mess, and the bills the Senate did manage to pass have yet to win much favor with the public. The political marketplace is brimming with radical ideas from the right.

To go with these underlying issues, the firewall incumbents find themselves with unusually daunting opponents.

Suddenly we learn that the GOP isn’t nominating a bunch of loony extremists but has found candidates who appeal to independents. For example, “Boxer faces by far her best-funded challenger yet in Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, who has been through a bruising primary and still has the GOP united behind her. So long as that unity holds, she can reach out to independents and offer the fresh look of a first-time candidate in a state where unemployment is still over 12 percent and the Democratic base is restive.”

If you get the feeling that the media are racing to catch up to political trends that have been evident for some time, I think you’re on to it.  Two years of cheerleading and concealing bad news will be forgotten — they hope — if the last month or so of the campaign approximates reality. Well, it’s long in coming, but at least the media have arrived at the conclusion the rest of us grasped long ago: all their shilling may have helped elect Obama (once), but the object of their affections has proved to be a disaster for the Democratic Party and the agenda they pined for so long.

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Democrats Balk at Raising Taxes in a Recession

It might have something to do with Obama’s falling poll numbers. Maybe they simply can’t bring themselves to defend the lunacy of raising taxes when the prospect of a double-dip recession is looming. But at least a few Senate Democrats are talking sense:

Two more Senate Democrats called for extending tax cuts for all earners—including those with the highest incomes—in what appears to be a breakdown of the party’s consensus on the how to handle the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible. … “As a general rule, you don’t want to be cutting spending or raising taxes in the midst of a downturn,” Mr. Conrad said. “We know that very soon we’ve got to pivot and focus on the deficit. But it probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes.”

Yeah, as a general rule you probably don’t want to pass a massive health-care bill with oodles of new taxes and mandates “in the midst of a downturn” either. Nevertheless, these two plus Sen. Evan Bayh are “a departure from what appeared to be an emerging unified Democratic stance.” Maybe not so unified after all.

Remember Rep. Joe Sestak bemoaning the plight of small businesses the other day? Hmm, maybe he could join the reality-based Democrats. After all, those small businesses are the ones that will be hit if the top rate rises to 39.6%. (“Republicans and many business groups favor extending all the breaks, contending that increasing tax rates will hit small businesses hard.”) But I haven’t heard any of that from him. And really, is a guy who voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8 percent of the time the lawmaker who is going to break with liberal orthodoxy? Not likely.

It might have something to do with Obama’s falling poll numbers. Maybe they simply can’t bring themselves to defend the lunacy of raising taxes when the prospect of a double-dip recession is looming. But at least a few Senate Democrats are talking sense:

Two more Senate Democrats called for extending tax cuts for all earners—including those with the highest incomes—in what appears to be a breakdown of the party’s consensus on the how to handle the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible. … “As a general rule, you don’t want to be cutting spending or raising taxes in the midst of a downturn,” Mr. Conrad said. “We know that very soon we’ve got to pivot and focus on the deficit. But it probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes.”

Yeah, as a general rule you probably don’t want to pass a massive health-care bill with oodles of new taxes and mandates “in the midst of a downturn” either. Nevertheless, these two plus Sen. Evan Bayh are “a departure from what appeared to be an emerging unified Democratic stance.” Maybe not so unified after all.

Remember Rep. Joe Sestak bemoaning the plight of small businesses the other day? Hmm, maybe he could join the reality-based Democrats. After all, those small businesses are the ones that will be hit if the top rate rises to 39.6%. (“Republicans and many business groups favor extending all the breaks, contending that increasing tax rates will hit small businesses hard.”) But I haven’t heard any of that from him. And really, is a guy who voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8 percent of the time the lawmaker who is going to break with liberal orthodoxy? Not likely.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

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Eleven Senate Seats in Play?

The Cook Report (subscription required) explains:

Republicans scored a late but important recruiting success yesterday when businessman and former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced that he would challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray. Rossi’s announcement puts another Democratic-held seat in play. The race has been in the Solid Democratic column, but is moving to Toss Up, bringing the total number of competitive Democratic seats to 11.

As more seats come into play, the problems for the Democrats multiply. Spend money on Connecticut or Washington? Forget North Dakota and Delaware — they’re gone. How much money does Barbara Boxer need? And so it will go. Eleven seats doesn’t by any means guarantee or even make probable 11 GOP gains. It does, however, greatly increase the chances of 7-8 seats. And that’s more than enough to filibuster virtually any additions to the Obama spend-a-thon — and maybe to prevent funding of ObamaCare as well.

The Cook Report (subscription required) explains:

Republicans scored a late but important recruiting success yesterday when businessman and former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced that he would challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray. Rossi’s announcement puts another Democratic-held seat in play. The race has been in the Solid Democratic column, but is moving to Toss Up, bringing the total number of competitive Democratic seats to 11.

As more seats come into play, the problems for the Democrats multiply. Spend money on Connecticut or Washington? Forget North Dakota and Delaware — they’re gone. How much money does Barbara Boxer need? And so it will go. Eleven seats doesn’t by any means guarantee or even make probable 11 GOP gains. It does, however, greatly increase the chances of 7-8 seats. And that’s more than enough to filibuster virtually any additions to the Obama spend-a-thon — and maybe to prevent funding of ObamaCare as well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

A couple of good questions (which should have been asked before the bill was passed): “Now that Congress has imposed new requirements on health insurance plans, regulators are trying to resolve another big question: Which plans must comply with the requirements? In keeping with President Obama’s promise that you can hold on to your insurance if you like it, the new law exempts existing health plans from many of its provisions. But the law leaves it to regulators to decide how much a health plan can change without giving up its grandfathered status. In other words, when does a health plan cease to be the same health plan?”

A very belated apology: Ben Smith writes, “Richard Blumenthal’s defiance got him through his first day, but his most expansive apology yet — to the Courant — indicates both that the damage isn’t controlled, and that he himself thinks he has something to apologize for.” Sort of like Bill Clinton: apologize when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

A boffo suggestion: “Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) called on the White House on Monday to detail conversations it allegedly had with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to try to convince him to drop his Senate bid. Weiner said that allegations that White House officials had offered Sestak an administration job in exchange for his dropping of his primary bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had become a growing political liability. ‘I think what the White House should do is, to some degree, say, ‘Here are the facts,’ Weiner said Monday morning during an appearance on MSNBC. ‘If there’s not a lot [to] what’s going on here, then just say what happened.'” Like be transparent?

A new stonewall in a long series of stonewalls (e.g., Fort Hood, Black Panthers): Reid Wilson writes that the GOP “is pleased” Sestak won since it can pummel the job-offer scandal. “GOPers have used the issue to raise questions about the WH’s honesty, transparency and ethics. … The stonewalling has gone to incredible lengths. On Thursday, Gibbs parried with reporters 13 times, refusing to address Sestak’s claims, referring to previous comments he made in March. The refusal to talk about Sestak at all has given GOPers an opening.”

An excellent inquiry: Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday: “President Obama spent much more time talking about this immigration law in Arizona and spent much more time talking with President Calderon of Mexico about it than with the governor of Arizona, whom he’s never had the courtesy to call and say, ‘Well, would you like to make a case for the law to me — make the case to me for the law before I go around trashing it?'” Well, he didn’t get the facts before trashing the Cambridge police in Gatesgate either. He tends to avoid getting information from those with whom he disagrees.

A savvy political calculation (subscription required): “The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obama’s coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms. Some rookies opposed Obama’s cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power. ‘You have to be an independent, no matter what,’ Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said.”

A keen insight: “Despite his newfound prominence, Todd, like his colleagues, has limited access to the man he is covering. ‘Obama himself is the one who doesn’t like dealing with the press,’ he says, exonerating the White House staff. ‘You can’t even do shouted questions.'” Now he has to actually report on that, not just offer it to Howard Kurtz in a puff piece on himself.

A near-certain pickup for the Republicans: “Governor John Hoeven now has the support of nearly three-out-of-four North Dakota voters in his bid to be the state’s next U.S. senator. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in North Dakota finds Hoeven earning 72% support, while his Democratic opponent State Senator Tracy Potter picks up 23%.” Yeah, 72 percent. (Looks like the statewide House seat is a goner for the Democrats too.)

A vote of no-confidence: “Confidence in America’s efforts in the War on Terror has fallen again this month, and, following the unsuccessful terrorist bombing attempt in New York’s Times Square, more voters than ever now believe the nation is not safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that only 31% now believe the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11, down seven points from last month and the lowest level of confidence measured in over three years of regular tracking.”

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RE: The Tax Issue Is Back

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

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Replace and Reform but First Vote

A new Rasmussen poll reveals that ObamaCare is, in fact, a winning issue — for those who want to repeal it:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, conducted on the first two nights after the president signed the bill, shows that 55% favor repealing the legislation. Forty-two percent (42%) oppose repeal. Those figures include 46% who Strongly Favor repeal and 35% who Strongly Oppose it.

And this is the message on which Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans are going to run on. Politico reports:

Refusing to concede permanent defeat on health reform, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell wants to “repeal the whole bill” and replace it with insurance reforms and other measures that could get bipartisan agreement.

“They got health care,” McConnell told POLITICO with a mischievous glint in his eye. “We’ll see whether that’s a gift worth receiving.”

McConnell said that if Republicans were to win back the Senate majority in November, “at the top of our list would be to repeal and replace this health care bill.”

Politico’s reporter concedes the Republicans aren’t going to get 67 votes needed to override an Obama veto that would greet repeal attempts, but it’s no longer inconceivable that the Senate could flip, leaving the remaining Democrats (especially those up for re-election in 2012) quaking. Republicans have excellent to good shots at picking up Pennsylvania, Delaware, Colorado, Arkansas, North Dakota, Nevada, and Illinois. Throw in Wisconsin (if former governor Tommy Thompson runs) and California as competitive states, and you see a pathway to a GOP Senate takeover. (I suspect both sides are going to be very nice to Independent Joe Lieberman, who may once again be in the catbird seat after the November election.) Certainly there will be other issues — repeal of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, unemployment, and national security. But if you have a large base of active support on one key issue — which the other side obsessively emphasizes — it’s hard to resist making that issue the central focus of the campaign.

If Republicans run and win big on a “Repeal ObamaCare” message, Democrats will once again face a choice: continue to ignore the will of the voters, or take another look at the monstrous health-care entitlement (and the additional mounds of debt accumulated by then). We know Obama’s answer — he’d rather have just one term than give up his grand achievement. But by then, Democrats may have a different answer.

A new Rasmussen poll reveals that ObamaCare is, in fact, a winning issue — for those who want to repeal it:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, conducted on the first two nights after the president signed the bill, shows that 55% favor repealing the legislation. Forty-two percent (42%) oppose repeal. Those figures include 46% who Strongly Favor repeal and 35% who Strongly Oppose it.

And this is the message on which Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans are going to run on. Politico reports:

Refusing to concede permanent defeat on health reform, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell wants to “repeal the whole bill” and replace it with insurance reforms and other measures that could get bipartisan agreement.

“They got health care,” McConnell told POLITICO with a mischievous glint in his eye. “We’ll see whether that’s a gift worth receiving.”

McConnell said that if Republicans were to win back the Senate majority in November, “at the top of our list would be to repeal and replace this health care bill.”

Politico’s reporter concedes the Republicans aren’t going to get 67 votes needed to override an Obama veto that would greet repeal attempts, but it’s no longer inconceivable that the Senate could flip, leaving the remaining Democrats (especially those up for re-election in 2012) quaking. Republicans have excellent to good shots at picking up Pennsylvania, Delaware, Colorado, Arkansas, North Dakota, Nevada, and Illinois. Throw in Wisconsin (if former governor Tommy Thompson runs) and California as competitive states, and you see a pathway to a GOP Senate takeover. (I suspect both sides are going to be very nice to Independent Joe Lieberman, who may once again be in the catbird seat after the November election.) Certainly there will be other issues — repeal of the Bush tax cuts in 2011, unemployment, and national security. But if you have a large base of active support on one key issue — which the other side obsessively emphasizes — it’s hard to resist making that issue the central focus of the campaign.

If Republicans run and win big on a “Repeal ObamaCare” message, Democrats will once again face a choice: continue to ignore the will of the voters, or take another look at the monstrous health-care entitlement (and the additional mounds of debt accumulated by then). We know Obama’s answer — he’d rather have just one term than give up his grand achievement. But by then, Democrats may have a different answer.

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Ford Runs Over Democrats

Harold Ford Jr. has decided not to run for the Senate. But — in an Evan Bayh–like  move — he’s going out with guns blazing. He aims for the liberal Democratic leadership:

Voting for health care legislation that imposes billions in new taxes on New Yorkers and restricts federal financing for abortions is not good for the people of this state. Voting against critical funds necessary to ensure the survival of the financial services industry — the economic backbone of this state — is not good for the people of New York.

I was considered out of touch with mainstream Democrats when I argued against spending more than $200 million a year to hold the Khalid Shaikh Mohammed trial in New York. I was also labeled out of touch for advocating a payroll tax cut for small businesses and for putting a jobs bill before a scaled-down health reform bill. Though much more needs to be done to create jobs, I am pleased that these ideas have now become part of the Democratic mainstream.

And then he unleashes this:

Yet the party has been too slow to change. The effects of its lack of flexibility have been clear in a series of worrisome political events: Ted Kennedy’s “safe” Senate seat was lost to a Republican; Evan Bayh of Indiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced they weren’t running for re-election; Senate seats held by Democrats in Wisconsin and Delaware now seem to be in jeopardy; New York’s state government faces even more controversy and challenge. …

Our elected officials have spent too much time this past year supporting a national partisan political agenda — and not enough time looking out for their own constituents.

New Yorkers aren’t asking for much. A jobs bill that cuts taxes for the middle class and invests in the future; a health care system that doesn’t bankrupt people when they get sick; and public schools that lay the groundwork for children to take advantage of all the future holds.

Once again we can expect the liberal punditocracy, which has rooted for the very items Ford deplores, to either ignore or attack Ford. Carpetbagger! Spoilsport! Perhaps. But his views are more in line with public sentiment than with the rest of his party and, at this point, with the White House’s agenda. If Ford is an outcast in the Democratic party and Bayh can’t take it either, that should tell the Obami that something is amiss. But I doubt that lesson will be learned. They’ve invested too much in their ultra-liberal extremism. Only defeat of their cherished signature item, and then of many of their fellow Democrats in November, I think, will register. But as Obama told us, perhaps a one-term president is all he wants to be. Ignoring Ford and Bayh, not to mention the voters, is a recipe for just that.

Harold Ford Jr. has decided not to run for the Senate. But — in an Evan Bayh–like  move — he’s going out with guns blazing. He aims for the liberal Democratic leadership:

Voting for health care legislation that imposes billions in new taxes on New Yorkers and restricts federal financing for abortions is not good for the people of this state. Voting against critical funds necessary to ensure the survival of the financial services industry — the economic backbone of this state — is not good for the people of New York.

I was considered out of touch with mainstream Democrats when I argued against spending more than $200 million a year to hold the Khalid Shaikh Mohammed trial in New York. I was also labeled out of touch for advocating a payroll tax cut for small businesses and for putting a jobs bill before a scaled-down health reform bill. Though much more needs to be done to create jobs, I am pleased that these ideas have now become part of the Democratic mainstream.

And then he unleashes this:

Yet the party has been too slow to change. The effects of its lack of flexibility have been clear in a series of worrisome political events: Ted Kennedy’s “safe” Senate seat was lost to a Republican; Evan Bayh of Indiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota announced they weren’t running for re-election; Senate seats held by Democrats in Wisconsin and Delaware now seem to be in jeopardy; New York’s state government faces even more controversy and challenge. …

Our elected officials have spent too much time this past year supporting a national partisan political agenda — and not enough time looking out for their own constituents.

New Yorkers aren’t asking for much. A jobs bill that cuts taxes for the middle class and invests in the future; a health care system that doesn’t bankrupt people when they get sick; and public schools that lay the groundwork for children to take advantage of all the future holds.

Once again we can expect the liberal punditocracy, which has rooted for the very items Ford deplores, to either ignore or attack Ford. Carpetbagger! Spoilsport! Perhaps. But his views are more in line with public sentiment than with the rest of his party and, at this point, with the White House’s agenda. If Ford is an outcast in the Democratic party and Bayh can’t take it either, that should tell the Obami that something is amiss. But I doubt that lesson will be learned. They’ve invested too much in their ultra-liberal extremism. Only defeat of their cherished signature item, and then of many of their fellow Democrats in November, I think, will register. But as Obama told us, perhaps a one-term president is all he wants to be. Ignoring Ford and Bayh, not to mention the voters, is a recipe for just that.

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Are Democrats Cooked?

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

The Cook Political Report explains (subscription required):

Now that Bayh’s seat is open, we moved the race from the Lean Democratic to the Lean Republican column. As a result, we now rate eight Democratic-held seats either in the Toss Up column, or tilting in varying degrees toward Republicans. The open seat in North Dakota where Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring is in the Solid Republican column as Democrats struggle to recruit a candidate who can compete with popular GOP Gov. John Hoeven. The open seat in Delaware, which is a special election to finish the remainder of Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate term, is now in the Likely Republican column. There are five Democratic-held seats in the Toss Up column: Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, Michael Bennet in Colorado, Harry Reid in Nevada, and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, as well as the open seat in Illinois. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and the open seat in Connecticut are in the Lean Democratic column, bringing the total to 10 seats.

Getting to 10 and flipping control of the Senate is a bit dicier, and Cook cautions that to do that, Republicans would have to put more seats in play, avoid flaky primary choices who won’t play well in the general races, improve fundraising, and maintain the political momentum they’ve been building. The bottom line: “For now, while it is theoretically possible for Republicans to gain the 10 seats they need to win a majority, it remains a very difficult task.”

With so many seats in play, the question remains how this will affect Senate Democrats in the run-up to the November elections. If Obama has his way, they’ll double down and push through his agenda. But nervous incumbents can see the trends and read the polls. For those who still have a fighting chance, the trick will be to distance themselves from their prior voting records, show they’ve heard the voters, and cast some votes that demonstrate independence and fiscal sobriety. That, however, means resisting the entreaties of their leadership and managing to get votes on legislation that will help them.

It’s not clear that incumbent Democrats who have voted in lockstep with the the Obama-Reid agenda have the moxie or skill to do that. In fact, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet joined the double-down crowd by casting their lot with not only ObamaCare but also the jam-through-on-50-votes strategy (i.e., reconciliation). That seems certain to make their precarious situations even shakier.

Democrats might retain a bare majority, provided they stop voting for legislation their constituents hate, Obama’s popularity rebounds, and unemployment begins dropping. Not all that likely? Then you can conclude that control of the Senate really might slip from the Democrats’ grasp.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.'”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”

Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”

Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”

Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ‘Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.'”

James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”

Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”

Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.

Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.

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What?! Bayh Is Out

That is right. A day before the filing date for U.S. Senate candidates, Evan Bayh has announced that he won’t be running for re-election. The why is unclear. Did the polling really spook him? Or is there some missing story here that would account for why one of the best-funded Democrats would throw in the towel, leaving his party high and dry?

Hotline reports:

Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party’s standard — and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place. Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state’s 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow. Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required 500 signatures by then, meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee.

So Democrats will then have to defend a seat with the handpicked choice of the party insiders — not a pleasant prospect in a year in which political machines are under assault. So put this seat in the endangered category for Democrats. Charlie Cook sums up: “With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.”

As inexplicable as this seems on one level, it’s merely par for the course on another. In a year in which incumbents see their political careers going up in smoke, many are heading for the exits. (Bayh may run for governor, according to reports.) That, in turn, will further frighten those incumbents clinging to office and suggests that they, too, need to take evasive measures to prevent career-ending losses. Putting distance between the Obama agenda and their own voting records might help. But that is not always easy when the Democratic leadership is whipping up votes on more big-government power grabs.

The bottom line here is that we are fast approaching the point in which a Senate takeover by the GOP is not out of the question. Delaware, North Dakota, and now Indiana are likely goners. Nevada and Arkansas are imperiled. Colorado looks dicey, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Cook rates these as “toss up” seats.) That’s eight right there. If Wisconsin, New York, California, and Washington become competitive, then look out. The Obama era may indeed prove to mark a titanic shift in the national political landscape.

Granted, it’s not exactly the one the Obami had in mind.

That is right. A day before the filing date for U.S. Senate candidates, Evan Bayh has announced that he won’t be running for re-election. The why is unclear. Did the polling really spook him? Or is there some missing story here that would account for why one of the best-funded Democrats would throw in the towel, leaving his party high and dry?

Hotline reports:

Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party’s standard — and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place. Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state’s 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow. Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required 500 signatures by then, meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee.

So Democrats will then have to defend a seat with the handpicked choice of the party insiders — not a pleasant prospect in a year in which political machines are under assault. So put this seat in the endangered category for Democrats. Charlie Cook sums up: “With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.”

As inexplicable as this seems on one level, it’s merely par for the course on another. In a year in which incumbents see their political careers going up in smoke, many are heading for the exits. (Bayh may run for governor, according to reports.) That, in turn, will further frighten those incumbents clinging to office and suggests that they, too, need to take evasive measures to prevent career-ending losses. Putting distance between the Obama agenda and their own voting records might help. But that is not always easy when the Democratic leadership is whipping up votes on more big-government power grabs.

The bottom line here is that we are fast approaching the point in which a Senate takeover by the GOP is not out of the question. Delaware, North Dakota, and now Indiana are likely goners. Nevada and Arkansas are imperiled. Colorado looks dicey, as do Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Cook rates these as “toss up” seats.) That’s eight right there. If Wisconsin, New York, California, and Washington become competitive, then look out. The Obama era may indeed prove to mark a titanic shift in the national political landscape.

Granted, it’s not exactly the one the Obami had in mind.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jim Geraghty observes: “Very few of the most memorable moments from Obama’s successful campaign involve him and another person, one-on-one or in a small group; generally it was he, alone, standing before the masses and keeping them enthralled.” Maybe one-on-one he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

What is so interesting about Robert Gibbs’s insistence that the Iraq War is one of the Obami’s greatest achievements is the new-found incredulity of the Washington press corps. The reporter asks, “Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President’s great achievements?” and then follows up, “But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.” It’s almost as if the romance is over.

Diane Ravitch cracks: “I am happy to see that President Obama is taking charge of the decision about where to site the KSM trial. I hope he will put it in Chicago, his own home town. After all, Chicago missed put on the Olympics. Why not let it have what is sure to be the trial of the century? A great place to test Eric Holder’s theory about giving these terrorists civilian trials.”

James Taranto smells a “climb down” on civilian terrorist trials: “According to Holder, the location and forum for the trial are not very important. According to the [Washington] Post, they are so important that the president of the United States is actually getting involved with policy decisions (although come to think of it, isn’t that supposed to be part of his job?). This circle is easily enough squared. The administration’s actions suggest that it not view the matter as substantively important. It is now clear that Obama and Holder didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother thinking through such obvious questions as whether a New York trial was logistically feasible or what to do in the event of an acquittal or an overturned conviction.”

Lenny Ben-David spots the J Street connection to the letter signed by 54 Democrats, which seeks a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. He also says: “The ‘word on the street’ now is that several members of Congress are disassociating themselves from their letter, much the same way members pulled out of J Street’s national conference in October 2009.”

Another at-risk Democrat: “North Dakota may be shaping up to be dangerous territory for the state’s other longtime Democratic incumbent, too. Senator Byron Dorgan has already decided not to seek reelection, and now a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Congressman Earl Pomeroy in close match-ups with two of his three likeliest Republican challengers.”

I’m not sure slamming George W. Bush is the way for Tim Pawlenty to get in the graces of the conservative base. For one thing, many of those voters remain very loyal to Bush. And even to those who were critical of him, in retrospect, he looks pretty darn good. But Pawlenty sure has been “frenetic.”

Charles Krauthammer observes: “When President [Obama] spoke earlier in the week about [uranium] enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting ‘Republic of Iran,’ leaving out ‘Islamic’ as a way of saying: We don’t want clerical rule. Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.” Well, the one explanation that makes sense: Obama thinks that the protesters, not the mullahs, are on the losing side, and wants to keep up the ingratiation gambit with the regime.

Jim Geraghty observes: “Very few of the most memorable moments from Obama’s successful campaign involve him and another person, one-on-one or in a small group; generally it was he, alone, standing before the masses and keeping them enthralled.” Maybe one-on-one he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

What is so interesting about Robert Gibbs’s insistence that the Iraq War is one of the Obami’s greatest achievements is the new-found incredulity of the Washington press corps. The reporter asks, “Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President’s great achievements?” and then follows up, “But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.” It’s almost as if the romance is over.

Diane Ravitch cracks: “I am happy to see that President Obama is taking charge of the decision about where to site the KSM trial. I hope he will put it in Chicago, his own home town. After all, Chicago missed put on the Olympics. Why not let it have what is sure to be the trial of the century? A great place to test Eric Holder’s theory about giving these terrorists civilian trials.”

James Taranto smells a “climb down” on civilian terrorist trials: “According to Holder, the location and forum for the trial are not very important. According to the [Washington] Post, they are so important that the president of the United States is actually getting involved with policy decisions (although come to think of it, isn’t that supposed to be part of his job?). This circle is easily enough squared. The administration’s actions suggest that it not view the matter as substantively important. It is now clear that Obama and Holder didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother thinking through such obvious questions as whether a New York trial was logistically feasible or what to do in the event of an acquittal or an overturned conviction.”

Lenny Ben-David spots the J Street connection to the letter signed by 54 Democrats, which seeks a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. He also says: “The ‘word on the street’ now is that several members of Congress are disassociating themselves from their letter, much the same way members pulled out of J Street’s national conference in October 2009.”

Another at-risk Democrat: “North Dakota may be shaping up to be dangerous territory for the state’s other longtime Democratic incumbent, too. Senator Byron Dorgan has already decided not to seek reelection, and now a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Congressman Earl Pomeroy in close match-ups with two of his three likeliest Republican challengers.”

I’m not sure slamming George W. Bush is the way for Tim Pawlenty to get in the graces of the conservative base. For one thing, many of those voters remain very loyal to Bush. And even to those who were critical of him, in retrospect, he looks pretty darn good. But Pawlenty sure has been “frenetic.”

Charles Krauthammer observes: “When President [Obama] spoke earlier in the week about [uranium] enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting ‘Republic of Iran,’ leaving out ‘Islamic’ as a way of saying: We don’t want clerical rule. Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.” Well, the one explanation that makes sense: Obama thinks that the protesters, not the mullahs, are on the losing side, and wants to keep up the ingratiation gambit with the regime.

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Not Just Any Candidate or Message Will Do

Stuart Rothenberg warns against Republican overconfidence:

“We certainly have the wind at our backs now,” one veteran Republican consultant told me recently. “But as Scott Brown proved, two or three weeks is a lifetime in politics. Eight months is several political lifetimes.”

Polls, pollsters are fond of pointing out, are nothing but snapshots of current sentiment. Right now, those snapshots look excellent for the GOP. But does anyone really believe that Republicans aren’t capable of screwing things up?

Well, he’s got a point there. As he observes, a dramatic uptick in the economy and employment, eccentric primary choices (e.g., Rand Paul in Kentucky, endorsed by Sarah Palin, but favoring his father’s extreme isolationism on foreign policy), and an arrogant tone can all impede Republican gains. But let’s be frank: when a party is warned about “overconfidence,” things are going pretty well. It is a rare election season when Republicans lead in the generic congressional polling. And at least two Senate seats (Delaware and North Dakota) have all but been written off as losses by the Democrats.

Republicans would do well to keep in mind what worked and what didn’t in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. In all three, the candidates ran on a conservative economic platform that opposed big-government legislation and the backroom deals that begat that legislation. But not one of these candidates engaged in harsh personal attacks on Obama himself. All three were rather polished debaters who could parry and thrust with their opponents and who were able to pin them down on specific positions on taxes and, in the case of Scott Brown, the war against Islamic fascists. Two were pro-life candidates who did not hide their records, and all three refused to be drawn into divisive, distracting arguments over hot-button issues by both their opponents and their opponents’ handmaidens in the media. And frankly, all three were cheery, likable candidates. Curmudgeons and yellers make for good cable-TV and radio talk shows, but rarely do they make effective candidates, especially in states where it is essential to draw from independents and Democrats to form a winning coalition of support.

So Rothenberg is right: there is plenty of time for Republicans to blow it. If they fail to field adept candidates or get distracted from an effective Center-Right message, Republicans will find the wave election of 2010 to be little more than a ripple.

Stuart Rothenberg warns against Republican overconfidence:

“We certainly have the wind at our backs now,” one veteran Republican consultant told me recently. “But as Scott Brown proved, two or three weeks is a lifetime in politics. Eight months is several political lifetimes.”

Polls, pollsters are fond of pointing out, are nothing but snapshots of current sentiment. Right now, those snapshots look excellent for the GOP. But does anyone really believe that Republicans aren’t capable of screwing things up?

Well, he’s got a point there. As he observes, a dramatic uptick in the economy and employment, eccentric primary choices (e.g., Rand Paul in Kentucky, endorsed by Sarah Palin, but favoring his father’s extreme isolationism on foreign policy), and an arrogant tone can all impede Republican gains. But let’s be frank: when a party is warned about “overconfidence,” things are going pretty well. It is a rare election season when Republicans lead in the generic congressional polling. And at least two Senate seats (Delaware and North Dakota) have all but been written off as losses by the Democrats.

Republicans would do well to keep in mind what worked and what didn’t in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts. In all three, the candidates ran on a conservative economic platform that opposed big-government legislation and the backroom deals that begat that legislation. But not one of these candidates engaged in harsh personal attacks on Obama himself. All three were rather polished debaters who could parry and thrust with their opponents and who were able to pin them down on specific positions on taxes and, in the case of Scott Brown, the war against Islamic fascists. Two were pro-life candidates who did not hide their records, and all three refused to be drawn into divisive, distracting arguments over hot-button issues by both their opponents and their opponents’ handmaidens in the media. And frankly, all three were cheery, likable candidates. Curmudgeons and yellers make for good cable-TV and radio talk shows, but rarely do they make effective candidates, especially in states where it is essential to draw from independents and Democrats to form a winning coalition of support.

So Rothenberg is right: there is plenty of time for Republicans to blow it. If they fail to field adept candidates or get distracted from an effective Center-Right message, Republicans will find the wave election of 2010 to be little more than a ripple.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.'”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.'”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.'”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.'”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

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Other than That, Mr. Reid, How’s the Senate?

Well, now that Beau Biden has left the playing field, it looks like Delaware has joined North Dakota on the list of  lost Democratic Senate seats: “A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Delaware voters shows longtime GOP congressman Mike Castle leading New Castle County Executive Chris Coons 56% to 27%. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and 13% are undecided.” So if you’re keeping track, the loss of those two would bring the Democrats down to 57.

Not all was bleak for the Democrats yesterday, however. Rep. Mike Pence told us he isn’t running for the Senate in Indiana. He explained why: “First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.” Well, I suppose it’s not unalloyed good news for the Democrats when Pence’s rationale is that it looks like the House is going to flip to the Republicans. Still, Michael Barone says incumbent Evan Bayh is in big trouble in polling matchups against much lesser-known figures:

Evan Bayh is running far behind the way he ran once Indiana voters had a chance to observe his performance as governor, significantly behind the way he ran in his first race for governor, significantly behind his father’s winning percentages in three Senate races and close only to the percentage his father won when he was defeated in the heavily Republican year of 1980, when Ronald Reagan was carrying Indiana over Jimmy Carter by a margin of 56%-38%. …

Evan Bayh did not win five statewide races in Indiana, a state that tends to favor the other party, by being stupid. Now the question is whether he is smart enough to get himself out of the hole Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have dug for him—and which he was willing, when the Senate had 60 Democrats, to jump in himself.

And that, I think, is the real impact of the polls and the Democratic departures/retirements: those struggling not to be swept out in the 2010 wave will increasingly look at each and every vote through the prism of their own electorate and re-election self-interest. Yes, what a novel concept! But that was not the story in 2009, when congressmen and senators were persuaded over and over again to ignore everything else (e.g., polls, town hall attendees, jammed switchboards) and adhere to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi line. That dynamic is very likely to reverse itself — leaving the “leadership” to chase after members, while members attune themselves to voters back home. In this environment, it’s unclear how, if at all, the White House can set the agenda. After all, it was Obama who got his party into this position, and his fellow Democrats may be less than amenable to taking further direction from the guy that sunk their party’s fortunes.

Well, now that Beau Biden has left the playing field, it looks like Delaware has joined North Dakota on the list of  lost Democratic Senate seats: “A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Delaware voters shows longtime GOP congressman Mike Castle leading New Castle County Executive Chris Coons 56% to 27%. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and 13% are undecided.” So if you’re keeping track, the loss of those two would bring the Democrats down to 57.

Not all was bleak for the Democrats yesterday, however. Rep. Mike Pence told us he isn’t running for the Senate in Indiana. He explained why: “First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.” Well, I suppose it’s not unalloyed good news for the Democrats when Pence’s rationale is that it looks like the House is going to flip to the Republicans. Still, Michael Barone says incumbent Evan Bayh is in big trouble in polling matchups against much lesser-known figures:

Evan Bayh is running far behind the way he ran once Indiana voters had a chance to observe his performance as governor, significantly behind the way he ran in his first race for governor, significantly behind his father’s winning percentages in three Senate races and close only to the percentage his father won when he was defeated in the heavily Republican year of 1980, when Ronald Reagan was carrying Indiana over Jimmy Carter by a margin of 56%-38%. …

Evan Bayh did not win five statewide races in Indiana, a state that tends to favor the other party, by being stupid. Now the question is whether he is smart enough to get himself out of the hole Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have dug for him—and which he was willing, when the Senate had 60 Democrats, to jump in himself.

And that, I think, is the real impact of the polls and the Democratic departures/retirements: those struggling not to be swept out in the 2010 wave will increasingly look at each and every vote through the prism of their own electorate and re-election self-interest. Yes, what a novel concept! But that was not the story in 2009, when congressmen and senators were persuaded over and over again to ignore everything else (e.g., polls, town hall attendees, jammed switchboards) and adhere to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi line. That dynamic is very likely to reverse itself — leaving the “leadership” to chase after members, while members attune themselves to voters back home. In this environment, it’s unclear how, if at all, the White House can set the agenda. After all, it was Obama who got his party into this position, and his fellow Democrats may be less than amenable to taking further direction from the guy that sunk their party’s fortunes.

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Obama vs. Political Reality

The Cook Political Report sends an e-mail, explaining:

If there was any doubt before the Democrats’ loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts last week, it’s gone now. This is a nationalized election. Look no further than the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted January 10-14 among 1,002 registered voters by veteran pollsters Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. On the generic Congressional ballot test, which measures the potential popular vote for the House, the two parties run even, 41-41. This should be troubling for Democrats because this poll question historically skews about three points in favor of Democrats. But more significantly was that among those voters with the most intense interest in this election (those who rated their interest as either a 9 or a 10), Republicans held a 15-point lead, 50-35 percent. This is the second consecutive month of huge GOP advantages among those voters most interested in the election. If this level remains constant, you can count on the Democratic majority in the House being toast this fall.

On the Senate side, Charlie Cooks joins other analysts in predicting major losses for the Democrats. (“I suspect a Republican gain of between five and seven seats, predicated on the Democrats’ being unlikely to capture any more than one, at most, of the currently toss-up Republican Senate seats. . . and not being able to hold onto more than one, at most, of the five Democratic toss-up seats [Sen. Lincoln in Arkansas, Sen. Bennet in Colorado, Sen. Burris in Illinois, Sen. Reid in Nevada and Sen. Specter in Pennsylvania]). He calls the Democratic seats in Delaware and North Dakota “goners.”

Cook doesn’t seem to have Obama’s confidence that the president’s presence on the political stage makes all the difference in the world. Or maybe it does. Maybe it is the national environment, which has emerged in response to Obama’s far-Left agenda, that’s dragging the Democrats under. Their choice: put forth a different agenda or every lawmaker for himself, distancing himself from the Obama agenda. In either case, the political reality seems to bear little resemblance to the country as envisioned from the Oval Office. That, more than anything else, must concern the Democrats, who must battle not only Republicans but their own tone-deaf president.

The Cook Political Report sends an e-mail, explaining:

If there was any doubt before the Democrats’ loss of the Senate seat in Massachusetts last week, it’s gone now. This is a nationalized election. Look no further than the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted January 10-14 among 1,002 registered voters by veteran pollsters Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. On the generic Congressional ballot test, which measures the potential popular vote for the House, the two parties run even, 41-41. This should be troubling for Democrats because this poll question historically skews about three points in favor of Democrats. But more significantly was that among those voters with the most intense interest in this election (those who rated their interest as either a 9 or a 10), Republicans held a 15-point lead, 50-35 percent. This is the second consecutive month of huge GOP advantages among those voters most interested in the election. If this level remains constant, you can count on the Democratic majority in the House being toast this fall.

On the Senate side, Charlie Cooks joins other analysts in predicting major losses for the Democrats. (“I suspect a Republican gain of between five and seven seats, predicated on the Democrats’ being unlikely to capture any more than one, at most, of the currently toss-up Republican Senate seats. . . and not being able to hold onto more than one, at most, of the five Democratic toss-up seats [Sen. Lincoln in Arkansas, Sen. Bennet in Colorado, Sen. Burris in Illinois, Sen. Reid in Nevada and Sen. Specter in Pennsylvania]). He calls the Democratic seats in Delaware and North Dakota “goners.”

Cook doesn’t seem to have Obama’s confidence that the president’s presence on the political stage makes all the difference in the world. Or maybe it does. Maybe it is the national environment, which has emerged in response to Obama’s far-Left agenda, that’s dragging the Democrats under. Their choice: put forth a different agenda or every lawmaker for himself, distancing himself from the Obama agenda. In either case, the political reality seems to bear little resemblance to the country as envisioned from the Oval Office. That, more than anything else, must concern the Democrats, who must battle not only Republicans but their own tone-deaf president.

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Spender’s Remorse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No Life Preserver for Tax-and Spend Democrats

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

Read Less




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