Commentary Magazine


Topic: Patty Murray

A Setback for Manichean Conservatives

In the end, it wasn’t close.

The House of Representatives voted in favor of the bipartisan budget deal crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray. Republicans voted in favor of it by a 169-62 margin. And fully 66 percent of the Republican Study Committee supported it (the RSC is a group of the most conservative House Republicans). This despite fierce criticism of the deal by conservative groups and Tea Party activists.

What explains the route? Several factors, I think.

The deal itself, if imperfect, was certainly defensible given the current political landscape. It’s also hard to overstate the importance of Ryan’s role in winning over so many House Republicans. Highly respected by his conference and highly trusted as a conservative, the fact that Ryan was the architect of the agreement reassured Republicans who might otherwise have broken away.

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In the end, it wasn’t close.

The House of Representatives voted in favor of the bipartisan budget deal crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray. Republicans voted in favor of it by a 169-62 margin. And fully 66 percent of the Republican Study Committee supported it (the RSC is a group of the most conservative House Republicans). This despite fierce criticism of the deal by conservative groups and Tea Party activists.

What explains the route? Several factors, I think.

The deal itself, if imperfect, was certainly defensible given the current political landscape. It’s also hard to overstate the importance of Ryan’s role in winning over so many House Republicans. Highly respected by his conference and highly trusted as a conservative, the fact that Ryan was the architect of the agreement reassured Republicans who might otherwise have broken away.

Another factor in passage was removing the possibility of another government shutdown, which blew up in the faces of the GOP when it was tried in October. Those on the right (like Senator Ted Cruz) who predicted wonderful things that would emerge from a shutdown–up to and including defunding ObamaCare–were embarrassed. Only a foolish party, having been clubbed once, would return for more. But something else seems to be going on as well: Apocalypse fatigue.

To be sure, thoughtful people on the right opposed the budget agreement. But libertarians and conservatives who portrayed this deal as a “cave in” and a “shame” and an example of “a party that has lost its principles and bearings” look rather silly.

This budget deal (which now heads to the Senate) may be a marginally good one or it may be a marginally bad one; but it was hardly a dramatic or defining moment in the history of modern conservatism. It’ll be forgotten in a few weeks (and maybe in a few days). Yet there are some on the right who insist on turning every debate into a battle between liberty and tyranny, pitting the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness. For them it’s Def Con 1 all the time. It’s the American Revolution all over again.

This approach can be entertaining up to a point, but it grows old and stale after a time; and a party that follows its Manichean Wing ends up battered and damaged.

One senses that the vote yesterday was a small step away from the suicide caucus, toward governing maturity, and toward a liberation of sorts.

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Why the Budget Deal Deserves Conservative Support

Good grief. 

Reacting to the budget deal agreed to by Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, Senator Rand Paul referred to it as “shameful.” Senator Ted Cruz informed us he found it to be “deeply concerning.” And Senator Marco Rubio said it would “make it harder for Americans to achieve the American dream.” 

So the geniuses who engineered the disastrous budget shutdown are now attacking an agreement that is  substantively defensible and politically wise.

To be sure, the budget deal is far from perfect. It doesn’t address the structural fiscal problems we face. But of course achieving such a thing is impossible so long as Barack Obama is president and Harry Reid is Senate majority leader. The issue is whether the deal is, on the margins, better than no deal. Answer: It is.

Basically the Ryan-Murray agreement allows minor increases in domestic discretionary spending in exchange for minor mandatory cuts in entitlement programs. To be specific: the deal gives back $63 billion over the next two years in domestic discretionary spending (including half of which goes for defense) in exchange for $85 billion in modest entitlement reforms over 10 years. The cuts are not as immediate as the spending increases–but they are cuts that are very likely to materialize and would not be easy to reverse. 

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Good grief. 

Reacting to the budget deal agreed to by Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, Senator Rand Paul referred to it as “shameful.” Senator Ted Cruz informed us he found it to be “deeply concerning.” And Senator Marco Rubio said it would “make it harder for Americans to achieve the American dream.” 

So the geniuses who engineered the disastrous budget shutdown are now attacking an agreement that is  substantively defensible and politically wise.

To be sure, the budget deal is far from perfect. It doesn’t address the structural fiscal problems we face. But of course achieving such a thing is impossible so long as Barack Obama is president and Harry Reid is Senate majority leader. The issue is whether the deal is, on the margins, better than no deal. Answer: It is.

Basically the Ryan-Murray agreement allows minor increases in domestic discretionary spending in exchange for minor mandatory cuts in entitlement programs. To be specific: the deal gives back $63 billion over the next two years in domestic discretionary spending (including half of which goes for defense) in exchange for $85 billion in modest entitlement reforms over 10 years. The cuts are not as immediate as the spending increases–but they are cuts that are very likely to materialize and would not be easy to reverse. 

My Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Yuval Levin, writing on NRO, makes the following points: Mandatory spending out-year cuts actually tend to go into effect, unlike discretionary spending out-year cuts, because mandatory programs remain in place since they are on auto-pilot. The Ryan-Murray deal would say that about 30 percent of the sequester over the next two years will be replaced with modest (and much more sensible) longer-term entitlement savings and other small reforms. Fully 70 percent of the sequester remains in place in this two years, and after those two years the entire sequester remains in place. And this is important to note, too: this proposed deal would put discretionary spending in 2014 and 2015, even with the temporary two-year increase in spending, below that of the first House Republican budget, which was passed in 2011 to the praise of conservatives. In addition, this deal prevents additional deep cuts to the Department of Defense, it doesn’t involve any increase in tax rates, and it restores the normal appropriations process (which will allow Congress to set priorities). And just for the sake of context: the $63 billion increase over two years amounts to less than nine-tenths of one percent of projected federal spending over that period.

Where Ryan did a huge favor for the GOP politically is striking a deal that avoids a government shutdown, which (as we saw last October) would only damage the Republican Party and the conservative cause, in part by deflecting attention away from the rolling disaster of ObamaCare.

The deal also takes into account political reality: It’s quite possible House Republicans–in part because of Republicans who are worried about deep cuts in defense, in part because of Republicans who want to spend more–might not have had the votes in their own conference to have kept the sequester in place. Ryan, knowing this, pushed for the best deal he could to keep limits on spending rather than have the whole thing fall apart later.

On substance this budget deal, even if one supports it, isn’t worth getting all that excited about. (Similarly, if one opposes it, it isn’t worth getting all that excited about.) But the GOP and the conservative cause are better served with it than without it. Which is why it deserves support.

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The New Paul Ryan Is the Old Paul Ryan

Following the release of the budget deal Paul Ryan agreed to with Patty Murray, there will be talk of a shift in Ryan’s political principles. The deal is being framed by its authors as a model of pragmatism, which is a good indication that it will conform to the belief that a fair deal is one from which both sides come away equally unhappy.

Policywise, it certainly deviates from Ryan’s past budgets, and in fact there is plenty in this deal for conservatives to dislike–so much, in fact, that it gives us a clue as to why a seemingly pointless deal would be struck by the right’s generally bold reformer. The Politico story on the deal, headlined “The new Paul Ryan,” offers an opening set of paragraphs that manage to get virtually everything wrong, aside from the one kernel of truth smothered by the confusion:

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Following the release of the budget deal Paul Ryan agreed to with Patty Murray, there will be talk of a shift in Ryan’s political principles. The deal is being framed by its authors as a model of pragmatism, which is a good indication that it will conform to the belief that a fair deal is one from which both sides come away equally unhappy.

Policywise, it certainly deviates from Ryan’s past budgets, and in fact there is plenty in this deal for conservatives to dislike–so much, in fact, that it gives us a clue as to why a seemingly pointless deal would be struck by the right’s generally bold reformer. The Politico story on the deal, headlined “The new Paul Ryan,” offers an opening set of paragraphs that manage to get virtually everything wrong, aside from the one kernel of truth smothered by the confusion:

The new Paul Ryan emerged this week.

The House Budget Committee chairman, who has spent years penning budgets fit for conservatives’ dreams, has morphed into a man willing to take modest steps.

The two-year budget agreement he rolled out with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Tuesday evening is striking for its simplicity: It cuts the deficits by $23 billion, sets new higher spending levels for the next two years and replaces automatic spending cuts set to take effect in 2014.

But in abandoning his years-long quest to re-imagine American society and settling for a bipartisan deal, the Wisconsin Republican took the first steps to emerge as a House power center — a Republican willing to take baby steps to curb the nation’s trillions in debt, normalize the budget process and protect a Pentagon pilloried by cuts.

This is not a “new Paul Ryan,” but the kernel of truth is buried in that fourth paragraph in reference to Ryan emerging as a “House power center.” He is in fact far from the only “Republican willing to take baby steps to curb the nation’s trillions in debt, normalize the budget process and protect a Pentagon pilloried by cuts”–a fact that explains why conservatives have been so frustrated with their congressional representatives.

More importantly, however, these were absolutely not the “first steps” Ryan is taking toward becoming an institution within an institution, rather than a prospective conservative candidate for president. Ryan may still run for president, of course; though if he wants to do so as a moderate from Wisconsin he’ll have to compete with Chris Christie and Scott Walker, the presumptive favorites of the centrists (Christie) and Wisconsinites (Walker)–who are both superior retail politicians.

The truth is, most of Ryan’s career suggests he wants the gavel, not the veto pen. Such a career path, by definition, requires staying put. So the clearest evidence of Ryan’s aspirations was when he passed on running for the open Senate seat from Wisconsin long before he was asked to join the Romney campaign as vice presidential nominee:

“What matters to me is not the title. It’s my ability to impact policy,” Ryan said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It would take me, you know, 12 to 16 years in the Senate to get where I am in the House. I don’t want to be in Congress for the rest of my life.”

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has gained national prominence in recent months as the budget has become a central issue in Washington. In the last few days, he was contacted by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn about a possible Senate run.

But Ryan told the Journal Sentinel that he was able to make a quick decision because he never wanted to run for Senate. He is in a strong position to become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 2013.

He is not chairman of Ways and Means, but he is quite obviously still the GOP’s point man on budgetary issues as chairman of the Budget Committee. His comment that he wants to impact policy and not be in Congress forever clearly left the door open to other jobs that fit that description–the presidency certainly among them. But Ryan was catapulted to the national stage in 2012 when he joined Romney’s ticket. He did not run for president himself that year, despite numerous entreaties from supporters on the right.

Yet his presence on that ticket did raise the prospect of having to make a choice. He was popular among conservative voters and donors, and had a certain claim to first-tier status as a presidential candidate if he wanted it since he served as the vice presidential nominee in the last cycle. Suddenly, he was presented with the opportunity to claim inheritance of the party’s “standard-bearer” designation, if not the next in line (which used to be an advantage in the GOP, but the very concept now raises suspicion on the right for its presumption of entitlement–and rightly so).

This budget deal was not negotiated by the New Paul Ryan. It was a natural step for the Old Paul Ryan to take because while it wasn’t in line with his other recent budgets, it follows his desire to shape the country’s fiscal course, which he likely considered the first casualty to the prevailing congressional stalemate. It was, however, his first such move since the 2012 presidential election. There is much consistency to Ryan’s compromise, which suggests his heart was with the gavel all along.

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Ideologues Shouldn’t Torpedo Budget Truce

The first reviews are in on the budget deal agreed to by Republican House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, and people on both the left and the right have found plenty not to like about it. This is no grand bargain or long-term settlement of the great divide over how to achieve fiscal sanity.  It neither reins in spending nor does it provide for what Ryan has always said was most needed for the government to get its fiscal house in order: fundamental entitlement reform. That’s more than enough reason for many conservatives and Tea Partiers to reject it out of hand as an inadequate compromise that merely keeps feeding the government leviathan that they rightly believe needs to be cut back rather than maintained.

But, if, like the those on the left who will vote against it because it makes some cuts and doesn’t give them their wish list items like an expansion of unemployment benefits, conservatives manage to torpedo Ryan’s efforts, they will be making a huge mistake. After a three-year standoff between the parties on the budget, it was time for a truce. The modest deal restores certainty to the economy and eliminates some of the most painful sequester cuts, including those involving defense. Though it falls far short of anything that might be called reform, it does establish a principle that is necessary to it: any discretionary spending increases are offset by mandatory spending cuts. That is a step toward fiscal sanity that should be taken.

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The first reviews are in on the budget deal agreed to by Republican House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, and people on both the left and the right have found plenty not to like about it. This is no grand bargain or long-term settlement of the great divide over how to achieve fiscal sanity.  It neither reins in spending nor does it provide for what Ryan has always said was most needed for the government to get its fiscal house in order: fundamental entitlement reform. That’s more than enough reason for many conservatives and Tea Partiers to reject it out of hand as an inadequate compromise that merely keeps feeding the government leviathan that they rightly believe needs to be cut back rather than maintained.

But, if, like the those on the left who will vote against it because it makes some cuts and doesn’t give them their wish list items like an expansion of unemployment benefits, conservatives manage to torpedo Ryan’s efforts, they will be making a huge mistake. After a three-year standoff between the parties on the budget, it was time for a truce. The modest deal restores certainty to the economy and eliminates some of the most painful sequester cuts, including those involving defense. Though it falls far short of anything that might be called reform, it does establish a principle that is necessary to it: any discretionary spending increases are offset by mandatory spending cuts. That is a step toward fiscal sanity that should be taken.

Those on the right who are dismayed about the abandonment of the sequester have a point. Only by insisting on mandatory and draconian across-the-board cuts have Republicans been able to make any kind of an impact on the fiscal debate. But as useful as the sequester has been, it is too imprecise an instrument to become a permanent part of the process. As our Max Boot has repeatedly pointed out, the cuts that have been imposed on defense are damaging national security and must, sooner or later, be eliminated.

Many on the right are also denouncing Ryan’s deal not just because it doesn’t give them what they want on taxes and spending but because they don’t see the need to compromise at this moment. They see President Obama’s poll numbers falling and think the time is right to push hard again for the kind of reform that is needed, not an agreement that merely kicks the can down the road. But this is the same kind of faulty thinking from groups like Heritage Action and Freedom Works that led conservatives to shut down the government as part of a vain effort to defund ObamaCare. Apparently they’ve learned nothing from that debacle.

This is exactly the wrong time for the GOP to go back to a scenario where they can be depicted as impeding efforts to keep the government working. Doing so would distract the country from the ongoing worries about the devastating impact of ObamaCare on individuals and the economy.

Tactics aside, the deal is necessary because it reflects the reality of divided government that both President Obama and the Tea Party have been butting heads over ever since the 2010 midterms. Under the current circumstances there is simply no way for either the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives or the Democrats running the White House and the Senate to get their way. The accord reached between Ryan and Murray is simply an acknowledgement of this fact and an effort to keep the nation on an even keel until we can have another election to try and resolve this mess next November.

Avoiding compromise and setting off another cataclysmic fight over the budget or the debt ceiling (the latter is not part of this deal, leaving both parties free to set off another confrontation sometime in 2014 if they wish) satisfies the conservative impulse to draw a line in the sand over an ever-expanding government. But, as Ryan has said, Congress must deal with the world as it is rather than merely operate on the basis of how they’d like it to be. The only hope of getting closer to real entitlement reform is for the GOP to win the 2014 midterms. Some on the right are still laboring under the delusion that staging another shutdown or threatening a default is the right way to make their case to the country. But only someone utterly insensitive to the mood of the country would think that is either good politics or good public policy. If they go back to those tactics, Republicans will be forfeiting any chance of winning back the Senate in the coming year.

There’s little doubt that Republicans worried about primary challenges from the right or thinking about running for president in 2016 will be inclined to eschew any such compromise. But passing this budget will give their party a shot at winning in the midterms and take the wind out of the Democratic effort to paint them as irresponsible. Compromise is often the coward’s way out and leads to more trouble. But in this case, it is simply good sense. Though the cuts it imposes are no more than a rounding error, Republicans will do well to take what they can rather than to seek the impossible and thus render more progress less likely.

A truce is something you embrace when it will enable you to go back into the fray better prepared to prevail. Ryan is smart enough to know this, even if some of his colleagues don’t. It’s time for the GOP to keep its powder dry and come back to the table when they’ve got the votes and the seats to pass the kind of reform budget that Ryan and the rest of his party would prefer.

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Lieberman May Drop Out of 2012 Race

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

The Hartford Courant’s website is reporting that Senator Joseph Lieberman is poised to announce that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Lieberman will announce his 2012 plans Wednesday in his hometown of Stamford, at an event where he will be surrounded by longtime supporters, adding to speculation that he will speak of the end of his political career in the place where he grew up. The decision not to wait is being linked to the announcement by Susan Bysiewicz, a popular Democrat who has served as Connecticut’s secretary of state and was ruled off the ballot last year for state attorney general by a technicality, that she will run for Lieberman’s seat.

The Courant speculates that the reason Lieberman is not waiting until later in the election cycle to pull out is because he wants to make his statement “while there’s still speculation that he could still win if he chose to run.” Maybe. But the only reason Lieberman is bailing now is because he knows he has no chance to win in 2012.

I wrote last month that indications that Linda McMahon was going to make another try for the Senate in 2012 made a repeat of Lieberman’s 2006 win as an independent virtually impossible because he would need the GOP to more or less not show up the way they did in that race. In response, some readers contended that if Connecticut Democrats nominated an unpopular hard-core left-winger, Lieberman could still squeak through. But given that the Democratic field is already shaping up as one populated by highly electable candidates like Bysiewicz and Rep. Joseph Courtney, who has also indicated interest, this is an extremely unlikely scenario. Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports that Patty Murray, the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has told Lieberman that her group might back him in a primary if he returned to the Democrats. But that seems like an empty promise, since even more Democrats are angry with Lieberman today than they were when he lost his party’s primary in 2006. With party activists in both parties dead set against Lieberman, he has no chance to win either party’s nomination, and if faced with two strong opponents rather than just one, which now seems to be a given, he has no chance to win.

Lieberman has had a remarkable run in elected office. He started out as a stereotypical liberal Democrat when he first ran for the State Senate from New Haven (the young Bill Clinton was a campaign volunteer). Lieberman later became state attorney general and then turned conventional wisdom on its head by running to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988. Once in office, he became enormously popular, striking a balance between conventionally liberal economic stands while also articulating centrist stands on foreign policy and social issues. Lieberman came within a few hanging chads of becoming vice president in 2000, but the moral tone and foreign policy stands that helped win him that nomination would ultimately alienate him from fellow Democrats. His principled support for the Iraq war was the turning point for him, and it ultimately ensured that he would be the last of the Scoop Jackson Democrats in the U.S. Senate. While he wasn’t always right on all the issues, his is a voice that would, come 2013, be greatly missed.

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Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

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Recap

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami – Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

What happened? First the body count. The GOP picked up 64, lost three, and has a net pickup so far of 61. However, about a dozen seats are still undecided. The final total is likely to be in the high 60s. In the Senate, the GOP has six pickups, no losses. Lisa Murkowski seems headed for the win to hold Alaska for the GOP. (Those wily insiders in the Senate were perhaps wise not to dump her from her committees; she will caucus with the GOP.) Ken Buck is deadlocked in Colorado, with Denver all counted. Patty Murray is leading by fewer than 15,000 votes, but much of King County, a Democratic stronghold, is only 55 percent counted. The GOP will have six to seven pickups. In the gubernatorial races, the GOP nearly ran the table. So far, it has picked up seven and lost two (in California and Hawaii), is leading Florida by about 50,000 votes and in Oregon by 2 percent, and is trailing narrowly in Illinois and Minnesota.

Did Obama help anyone? Probably not. He fundraised for Barbara Boxer, but the race turned out to be not close. California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy). He made multiple visits to Ohio, and Democrats lost the Senate, the governorship, and five House seats. He went to Wisconsin. Russ Feingold lost, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and two House Democrats. A slew of moderate Democrats who walked the plank for him and his agenda also lost. Those House and Senate candidates who managed to avoid the tsunami – Joe Manchin, for example — will be extremely wary of following Obama if the president continues on his leftist jaunt.

What does it mean? This is a win of historic proportions, the largest in the House since World War II. There is no spinning this one; Nancy Pelosi presided over the destruction of her Democratic majority because she failed to appreciate that not every place is San Francisco. The Senate results should signal to the GOP that picking candidates who can win is not the same as picking candidates who have the least experience and the hottest rhetoric. As one GOP insider said to me last night of Nevada and Delaware, “Thanks very much, Tea Party express.” But before the GOP establishment gets too full of itself, it should recall that the Tea Party ginned up enthusiasm and made many of those big House and gubernatorial wins possible. And finally, the story of the night that had largely evaded discussion before the election is the sweep in gubernatorial races. Key battleground states in 2012 will have Republican governors. About 10 more states will now probably experience what GOP reformist government looks like, and a whole bunch of states may now opt out of the individual mandate in ObamaCare. Oh, and redistricting just got a whole lot easier for the GOP.

You’ll hear that this was a throw-the-bums-out year. But only a few Republicans were tossed. You’ll hear that this is good for Obama; don’t believe it. He and his aggressive, left-leaning agenda have been rebuked. And you’ll hear that Obama is a goner in 2012 and that the GOP has rebounded; that part is poppycock, too. Obama can rescue himself, if he is able and willing. The Republicans can do themselves in if they are not smart and disciplined. And finally,  we are remined that politics is a serious game played by real candidates in actual races. And that’s what makes it so unpredictable and so wondrously fun.

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A Straw in the Wind?

One of the best predictors of elections over the years has been the mock elections held in schools. Most school kids only reflect what their parents think and, unlike parents avoiding pollsters and unwanted telephone calls, have no reason to either lie or clam up.

Michael Barone reports that in Washington state, 15,400 K-12 students voted, and Republican Dino Rossi won the Senate race 53 percent to 47 percent over Democratic incumbent Patty Murray. That’s comfortably beyond the margin within which Washington’s political establishment could fiddle with the votes to produce a favored outcome, which might well have happened in Rossi’s first, whisker-close run for governor in 2004.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the job-killing proposal to tax the incomes of the rich, ending Washington’s income-tax-free status, passed in the mock election. Pushed by Bill Gates and his father (like they care about an additional few percentage points in taxes), the main force behind it has been the teachers’ unions, whose members will be the prime beneficiaries. Let’s hope, for the state of Washington’s economy, that the kids were more influenced by their teachers than their parents will be on Tuesday.

One of the best predictors of elections over the years has been the mock elections held in schools. Most school kids only reflect what their parents think and, unlike parents avoiding pollsters and unwanted telephone calls, have no reason to either lie or clam up.

Michael Barone reports that in Washington state, 15,400 K-12 students voted, and Republican Dino Rossi won the Senate race 53 percent to 47 percent over Democratic incumbent Patty Murray. That’s comfortably beyond the margin within which Washington’s political establishment could fiddle with the votes to produce a favored outcome, which might well have happened in Rossi’s first, whisker-close run for governor in 2004.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the job-killing proposal to tax the incomes of the rich, ending Washington’s income-tax-free status, passed in the mock election. Pushed by Bill Gates and his father (like they care about an additional few percentage points in taxes), the main force behind it has been the teachers’ unions, whose members will be the prime beneficiaries. Let’s hope, for the state of Washington’s economy, that the kids were more influenced by their teachers than their parents will be on Tuesday.

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Where Is Obama Going?

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

Obama is now politically toxic in many states. So where is he going on the campaign trail? The White House schedule is telling. He’s going to Delaware, where the Democrat is already running away with the race. He’s going to Massachusetts, the bluest state until the voters disregarded his advice and elected Scott Brown. He’s going to California and Nevada, but for fundraisers, not big public events. He’s going to Rhode Island (Rhode Island?), where one supposes he can do no harm.

The number of competitive races in which he is holding public events is limited to Washington (Patty Murray), Minnesota (gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton), and Ohio (Gov. Ted Strickland). That’s it. And he better be careful in both Washington (where a large plurality think his economic policies have hurt more than they’ve helped) and Ohio (where his approval rating has plummeted). Oh, and he’s going to Oregon for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who had this to say:

Oregon’s Democratic candidate for governor said Tuesday that President Obama’s health care reform bill will be a “toxic” issue in 2012 unless states are given the opportunity to address the problem of rising medical costs. …

“I supported the passage of the bill but I think we need to recognize that this was really health insurance reform and not health care reform,” he said in an interview over coffee at a Portland diner. “What it’s done is provided most people in the country financial access to medical care by 2014. The problem is it didn’t deal with the underlying cost drivers, and those are embedded in the delivery system.”

Should be a fun campaign trip.

It’s tricky finding places where Obama won’t do damage to the candidates he’s supposed to be helping. The White House seems to think gubernatorial races are “safer” for Obama than the Senate contests, where all those unpopular votes on the stimulus, ObamaCare, etc., are sure to come up. But the reality of a 24/7 news environment is that wherever Obama goes, he makes the news — and Republican Senate and House candidates have the benefit of free media to remind voters across the country whose agenda they are opposed to and who has been making all those silly promises (e.g., ObamaCare will save money). Unfortunately for the Dems, you really can’t hide the president of the United States.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

Nothing in common with Shakespeare except comic genius.

Nothing matches the Joe Sestak campaign for sheer incompetence. Now he’s changing his tune on a $350,000 earmark. Boy, must Arlen Specter be grinding his teeth. There is an art to flip-flops, you know!

Nothing is leaning Democratic these days: “In 10 matchups this year by Rasmussen Reports between three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi, the two have never been further than 4 points apart. Now, with Rossi moving to a 2 point lead, the pollster has changed its rating of the race from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘toss-up.’ … Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has calculated a 46 percent probability that the Democrats will lose the seat.”

Nothing but bad news for the Democrats from Charlie Cook: “[A] look at the 37 Senate races on the ballot shows some deterioration for Democrats in some of the 19 seats they are defending, while Republicans’ prospects have stayed the same or improved slightly in their most competitive seats. As such, it is now likely that Republicans will score a net gain of between seven and nine seats.”

Nothing but Red in California: SurveyUSA shows Meg Whitman up by seven and Carly Fiorina up by two.

Nothing in doubt in this race: “Robert Hurt (R) now leads [Virginia Democrat] Perriello by a whopping 61% to 35%.”

Nothing like a mosque at Ground Zero to wake up New York Jews. “As the fight over the center escalated from a zoning dispute into a battle in the culture wars, it has splintered New Yorkers along party lines. Seventy-four percent of Republicans are opposed; Democrats are split, with 43 percent for and 44 percent against. … More than half, 53 percent, of city residents with incomes over $100,000 back the center; only 31 percent of those with incomes under $50,000 agree. Protestants are evenly divided, while most Catholics and Jewish New Yorkers oppose the center.”

Nothing like a Cliff May piece on Muslim terror — and excoriating Fareed Zakaria. Read the whole thing — a few times.

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Democrats Fade

Virtually every pollster has remarked upon the growing erosion in Democrats’ midterm election prospects. Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook, and many political reporters have noticed that things are getting worse for the Democrats. So we shouldn’t be surprised any longer to see polling results like these:

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Republican challenger Dino Rossi attracting 48% of the vote while Democratic Senator Patty Murray earns support from 46%. Three percent (3%) prefer a different candidate, and three percent (3%) are undecided.

Earlier this month, Murray had a slight edge. However, the race has been very close all along.

Listen, if that is Washington State — think about Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, and other less-Blue states. I think “wipeout” is a distinct possibility at this stage.

Virtually every pollster has remarked upon the growing erosion in Democrats’ midterm election prospects. Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook, and many political reporters have noticed that things are getting worse for the Democrats. So we shouldn’t be surprised any longer to see polling results like these:

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state shows Republican challenger Dino Rossi attracting 48% of the vote while Democratic Senator Patty Murray earns support from 46%. Three percent (3%) prefer a different candidate, and three percent (3%) are undecided.

Earlier this month, Murray had a slight edge. However, the race has been very close all along.

Listen, if that is Washington State — think about Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, and other less-Blue states. I think “wipeout” is a distinct possibility at this stage.

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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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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.

The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.

A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress ”explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”

You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”

Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.

Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”

I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.

The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.

The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.

A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress ”explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”

You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”

Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.

Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”

I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Clueless. Tom Friedman has made a career — a lucrative one — ignoring the less-flattering side of certain regimes. So the obvious is always a revelation (“here he is, sojourning among the Turks again, explaining to us, in case we, too, have shunned the news, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined the radical jihadi camp”).

Exasperated. From the Huffington Post: “I am really not entirely sure what the point to this Oval Office address was! Were you looking for something that resembled a fully-realized action plan, describing a detailed approach to containment and clean up?”

Fretful. From the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown: “His reinforcement of a six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling for safety checks reprised my conviction, that Obama, for all his brilliance, has no real, felt understanding of management structures or of business.” Reprised? Funny, she hasn’t made a big deal of this before.

Hopeful (Republicans, that is). From Fred Barnes: “Dino Rossi is the 10th man. Republicans need to pick up 10 Democratic seats in the midterm election to take control of the Senate. And they probably can’t do it without Rossi, a top-tier challenger in Washington to three-term Democrat Patty Murray.”

Lunacy. At the UN, of course, and confirmation we have no business being on the Human Rights Council: “Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought. ‘People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalisation,’ an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary. And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council’s special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism ‘especially in Western societies.’” Let’s have an investigation of sexism and racism in Arab countries, shall we?

Disgusting. From Josh Rogin: “The U.S. taxpayer-funded Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, led by former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is giving out its annual award for public service Thursday, and the winner is … Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu! … The Turkish foreign minister has been in the news a lot lately, such as when he said the Israeli incident aboard the Gaza flotilla ‘is like 9/11 for Turkey.’ He was also a key figure in the Brazilian-Turkish drive to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran by striking an 11th-hour fuel-swap deal, an agreement the Obama administration has dismissed as inadequate and unhelpful.” The runner-up was Ahmadinejad?

Welcomed (but overdue). The AJC calls for the removal of the UN Human Rights Council permanent investigator for his anti-Israel venom. But if that’s the standard, wouldn’t the council have to disband?

Wow. Chris Christie – again — impressive. Note how he can pull off both the “jovial warrior” against the media and liberals and the down-to-earth conversations with voters.

Clueless. Tom Friedman has made a career — a lucrative one — ignoring the less-flattering side of certain regimes. So the obvious is always a revelation (“here he is, sojourning among the Turks again, explaining to us, in case we, too, have shunned the news, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined the radical jihadi camp”).

Exasperated. From the Huffington Post: “I am really not entirely sure what the point to this Oval Office address was! Were you looking for something that resembled a fully-realized action plan, describing a detailed approach to containment and clean up?”

Fretful. From the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown: “His reinforcement of a six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling for safety checks reprised my conviction, that Obama, for all his brilliance, has no real, felt understanding of management structures or of business.” Reprised? Funny, she hasn’t made a big deal of this before.

Hopeful (Republicans, that is). From Fred Barnes: “Dino Rossi is the 10th man. Republicans need to pick up 10 Democratic seats in the midterm election to take control of the Senate. And they probably can’t do it without Rossi, a top-tier challenger in Washington to three-term Democrat Patty Murray.”

Lunacy. At the UN, of course, and confirmation we have no business being on the Human Rights Council: “Delegates from Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Egypt, told the United Nations Human Rights Council that treatment of Muslims in Western countries amounted to racism and discrimination and must be fought. ‘People of Arab origin face new forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance and experience discrimination and marginalisation,’ an Egyptian delegate said, according to a U.N. summary. And Pakistan, speaking for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the council’s special investigator into religious freedom should look into such racism ‘especially in Western societies.’” Let’s have an investigation of sexism and racism in Arab countries, shall we?

Disgusting. From Josh Rogin: “The U.S. taxpayer-funded Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, led by former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is giving out its annual award for public service Thursday, and the winner is … Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu! … The Turkish foreign minister has been in the news a lot lately, such as when he said the Israeli incident aboard the Gaza flotilla ‘is like 9/11 for Turkey.’ He was also a key figure in the Brazilian-Turkish drive to head off new U.N. sanctions on Iran by striking an 11th-hour fuel-swap deal, an agreement the Obama administration has dismissed as inadequate and unhelpful.” The runner-up was Ahmadinejad?

Welcomed (but overdue). The AJC calls for the removal of the UN Human Rights Council permanent investigator for his anti-Israel venom. But if that’s the standard, wouldn’t the council have to disband?

Wow. Chris Christie – again — impressive. Note how he can pull off both the “jovial warrior” against the media and liberals and the down-to-earth conversations with voters.

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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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Is the California Senate Seat in Play?

You betcha! A Democratic polling outfit — Public Policy Polling – shows:

Barbara Boxer, California’s junior senator, leads all three of her potential Republican opponents by single digits a little over five months before the November election. Boxer is ahead of leading Republican candidate Carly Fiorina by the slimmest margin of the three GOP contenders, 45-42.

Tom Campbell does the the worst, trailing Boxer by seven points. Perhaps that is why Obama keeps flying to California to fundraise and cheerlead for Boxer. Even that may not help; the same poll shows that less than a majority of Californians approve of his performance. Yeah, in California.

As Mark Halperin put it, with Dino Rossi now in the race against Patty Murray in Washington and Boxer within the margin of error, a “GOP Senate majority is truly possible on the current trajectory.”

You betcha! A Democratic polling outfit — Public Policy Polling – shows:

Barbara Boxer, California’s junior senator, leads all three of her potential Republican opponents by single digits a little over five months before the November election. Boxer is ahead of leading Republican candidate Carly Fiorina by the slimmest margin of the three GOP contenders, 45-42.

Tom Campbell does the the worst, trailing Boxer by seven points. Perhaps that is why Obama keeps flying to California to fundraise and cheerlead for Boxer. Even that may not help; the same poll shows that less than a majority of Californians approve of his performance. Yeah, in California.

As Mark Halperin put it, with Dino Rossi now in the race against Patty Murray in Washington and Boxer within the margin of error, a “GOP Senate majority is truly possible on the current trajectory.”

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Another Competitive Senate Race

This report explains that Patty Murray now has a popular and well-funded challenger in the Washington Senate race: “Two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi will announce, likely Wednesday, that he is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, sources close to Rossi said Monday. It will mark Rossi’s third statewide run in six years.”

He’s lost two gubernatorial races (in 2004 by only 133 votes, and in 2008 by a much larger margin), but he is well known and is polling close to Murray. (In the last poll, he trails Murray by only four points.)

In order to maximize their options in the Senate races, the GOP must put into play races that usually aren’t — California, New York, and Washington. Two of those will now require that the Democrats expend time and money to keep afloat two of their more liberal senators who have dutifully rubber-stamped Obama’s agenda. New York is the exception — although Kirsten Gillibrand is no rock star, the GOP has yet to field a high-profile and popular candidate. You can’t win, even in the best of political times for your side, without attractive, well-financed, and well-suited candidates. Fortunately for the Republicans, there are many seats where they have precisely that.

This report explains that Patty Murray now has a popular and well-funded challenger in the Washington Senate race: “Two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi will announce, likely Wednesday, that he is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, sources close to Rossi said Monday. It will mark Rossi’s third statewide run in six years.”

He’s lost two gubernatorial races (in 2004 by only 133 votes, and in 2008 by a much larger margin), but he is well known and is polling close to Murray. (In the last poll, he trails Murray by only four points.)

In order to maximize their options in the Senate races, the GOP must put into play races that usually aren’t — California, New York, and Washington. Two of those will now require that the Democrats expend time and money to keep afloat two of their more liberal senators who have dutifully rubber-stamped Obama’s agenda. New York is the exception — although Kirsten Gillibrand is no rock star, the GOP has yet to field a high-profile and popular candidate. You can’t win, even in the best of political times for your side, without attractive, well-financed, and well-suited candidates. Fortunately for the Republicans, there are many seats where they have precisely that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Patty Murray may be in trouble, especially if Dino Rossi gets into the Washington senate race.

At least one pro-Israel group is going after the Obami: “Activists for the Zionist Organization of America lobbied Congress to consider military action against Iran. In more than 100 meetings with members of Congress on Wednesday, the ZOA said hundreds of its activists also asked the lawmakers to defund the Palestinian Authority, press the U.S. embassy issue and enshrine anti-Jewish discrimination safeguards in education legislation.”

Read all of P.J. O’Rourke’s latest. A sample: “The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. . . . America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: ‘A students work for B students.’”

No surprise from Mahmoud Abbas: “Mr. President (Barack Obama) and members of the American administration, since you believe in this (an independent Palestinian state), it is your duty to take steps toward a solution and to impose this solution.” After all, Abbas has no incentive to do anything else.

Douglas Schoen keeps trying to save Democrats from themselves. Forget cap-and-trade and immigration reform, he says: “Instead, what the Democrats should be doing is taking up the issue of jobs, then jobs and then jobs once again. With the unemployment rate still hovering perilously close to 10 percent, the only way congressional Democrats and the administration can improve their eroding political position is by taking on the jobs issue systematically — not sporadically and spasmodically. Every approach should be put on the table: tax incentives for job creation, a payroll tax holiday and even infrastructure investment — if only to demonstrate the party’s commitment to doing everything possible to stimulate employment.”

Works for me: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that he will be ‘unable to move forward’ with the upcoming climate and energy bill he’s crafting if Democratic leaders push ahead with plans to move immigration legislation. Graham’s declaration could halt or unravel the months-long effort to craft a compromise climate measure he has undertaken with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The measure is slated to be unveiled Monday.”

Dana Milbank is whining about Republican “leaders,” claiming that Charlie Crist is being drummed out of the party. Nonsense. Voters don’t like him and he’s losing. He’s threatening to bolt to keep his pathetic senate race alive. (By the way, you’ll recall Joe Lieberman never got a single mainstream column pleading for the Democrats’ sanity when he ran as an independent.)

Alan Dershowitz pushes J Street: “Do you believe that if America fails to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and if the Israeli government makes a considered decision that it must use military action, as a last resort, to prevent Iran from being able to deploy nuclear weapons, that Israel would have the right to engage in preventive self defense by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? I am not asking whether Israel should or should not consider such attack, since I lack the military expertise to make that decision, as do you. I am asking whether Israel should have the right to make that decision. And I’m asking whether you believe the United States should seek to prevent Israel from acting on that decision as an absolute last resort?” More important, what does Obama think?

Patty Murray may be in trouble, especially if Dino Rossi gets into the Washington senate race.

At least one pro-Israel group is going after the Obami: “Activists for the Zionist Organization of America lobbied Congress to consider military action against Iran. In more than 100 meetings with members of Congress on Wednesday, the ZOA said hundreds of its activists also asked the lawmakers to defund the Palestinian Authority, press the U.S. embassy issue and enshrine anti-Jewish discrimination safeguards in education legislation.”

Read all of P.J. O’Rourke’s latest. A sample: “The secret to the Obama annoyance is snotty lecturing. His tone of voice sends us back to the worst place in college. . . . America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects. This is why good businessmen have always adhered to the maxim: ‘A students work for B students.’”

No surprise from Mahmoud Abbas: “Mr. President (Barack Obama) and members of the American administration, since you believe in this (an independent Palestinian state), it is your duty to take steps toward a solution and to impose this solution.” After all, Abbas has no incentive to do anything else.

Douglas Schoen keeps trying to save Democrats from themselves. Forget cap-and-trade and immigration reform, he says: “Instead, what the Democrats should be doing is taking up the issue of jobs, then jobs and then jobs once again. With the unemployment rate still hovering perilously close to 10 percent, the only way congressional Democrats and the administration can improve their eroding political position is by taking on the jobs issue systematically — not sporadically and spasmodically. Every approach should be put on the table: tax incentives for job creation, a payroll tax holiday and even infrastructure investment — if only to demonstrate the party’s commitment to doing everything possible to stimulate employment.”

Works for me: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that he will be ‘unable to move forward’ with the upcoming climate and energy bill he’s crafting if Democratic leaders push ahead with plans to move immigration legislation. Graham’s declaration could halt or unravel the months-long effort to craft a compromise climate measure he has undertaken with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The measure is slated to be unveiled Monday.”

Dana Milbank is whining about Republican “leaders,” claiming that Charlie Crist is being drummed out of the party. Nonsense. Voters don’t like him and he’s losing. He’s threatening to bolt to keep his pathetic senate race alive. (By the way, you’ll recall Joe Lieberman never got a single mainstream column pleading for the Democrats’ sanity when he ran as an independent.)

Alan Dershowitz pushes J Street: “Do you believe that if America fails to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and if the Israeli government makes a considered decision that it must use military action, as a last resort, to prevent Iran from being able to deploy nuclear weapons, that Israel would have the right to engage in preventive self defense by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? I am not asking whether Israel should or should not consider such attack, since I lack the military expertise to make that decision, as do you. I am asking whether Israel should have the right to make that decision. And I’m asking whether you believe the United States should seek to prevent Israel from acting on that decision as an absolute last resort?” More important, what does Obama think?

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Did ObamaCare Help the Democrats?

ObamaCare is the law of the land (for now), the president is out selling it to a skeptical public, and the Democrats are still heading for an election wipeout. The supposed cure-all for the Democrats’ electoral woes — the passage of ”historic” legislation that the country was going to learn to love – has proven to be anything but. Hotline reports:

Today, 4 of the 10 most vulnerable Senate seats are open seats held by Democrats, while just 2 are GOP-held open seats. At least 2 of those Dem seats (DE and ND) are leaning toward a GOP pickup. New polling suggests that Dems have a better shot at winning in OH than MO, but these polls simply reflect the current environment. Once the candidates and campaigns begin to engage, we may see those numbers start to bounce around a bit more. At this point, Democrats hold 8 of the top 10 most vulnerable seats, with the potential — should former HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson jump into the WI race or ex-state Sen. Dino Rossi challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — for the GOP to expand the playing field even further. Our expectation at this point: a GOP pickup of 5-8 seats.

And the same factors that pointed to a wave election — antipathy toward an ultra-liberal agenda, a brewing populist uprising, Democrats’ ethics problems, a tepid economy, high unemployment, and the nagging enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans — persist or have intensified. As The Hill notes: “Almost every Democratic strategist acknowledges the party will lose seats in Congress this fall. The question is whether the loss will be moderate or severe, or even enough to give Republicans control of the House.” So far, generic polling suggests the Democrats haven’t been helped at all by ObamaCare.

Just as many of us predicted, passage of ObamaCare did not end the health-care debate. The debate instead has continued to rage and spread to states as governors and attorneys general decide whether to sue to block its imposition and how to handle the crushing costs it will impose if the courts do not invalidate it. The discussion has now embroiled private industry, which is engaged in a fight with the Obami over write-downs. ObamaCare’s passage has continued to fuel the Tea Party movement, which is finding new respect among the mainstream media. And we can expect that with each sweetheart deal that is uncovered, and with news of continued premium increases, there will be another round of  recriminations, adding fuel to the anti-Democrat furor.

We won’t know if the Democrats would have been worse off had ObamaCare failed. But for now there’s little evidence that it’s helped them.

ObamaCare is the law of the land (for now), the president is out selling it to a skeptical public, and the Democrats are still heading for an election wipeout. The supposed cure-all for the Democrats’ electoral woes — the passage of ”historic” legislation that the country was going to learn to love – has proven to be anything but. Hotline reports:

Today, 4 of the 10 most vulnerable Senate seats are open seats held by Democrats, while just 2 are GOP-held open seats. At least 2 of those Dem seats (DE and ND) are leaning toward a GOP pickup. New polling suggests that Dems have a better shot at winning in OH than MO, but these polls simply reflect the current environment. Once the candidates and campaigns begin to engage, we may see those numbers start to bounce around a bit more. At this point, Democrats hold 8 of the top 10 most vulnerable seats, with the potential — should former HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson jump into the WI race or ex-state Sen. Dino Rossi challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) — for the GOP to expand the playing field even further. Our expectation at this point: a GOP pickup of 5-8 seats.

And the same factors that pointed to a wave election — antipathy toward an ultra-liberal agenda, a brewing populist uprising, Democrats’ ethics problems, a tepid economy, high unemployment, and the nagging enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans — persist or have intensified. As The Hill notes: “Almost every Democratic strategist acknowledges the party will lose seats in Congress this fall. The question is whether the loss will be moderate or severe, or even enough to give Republicans control of the House.” So far, generic polling suggests the Democrats haven’t been helped at all by ObamaCare.

Just as many of us predicted, passage of ObamaCare did not end the health-care debate. The debate instead has continued to rage and spread to states as governors and attorneys general decide whether to sue to block its imposition and how to handle the crushing costs it will impose if the courts do not invalidate it. The discussion has now embroiled private industry, which is engaged in a fight with the Obami over write-downs. ObamaCare’s passage has continued to fuel the Tea Party movement, which is finding new respect among the mainstream media. And we can expect that with each sweetheart deal that is uncovered, and with news of continued premium increases, there will be another round of  recriminations, adding fuel to the anti-Democrat furor.

We won’t know if the Democrats would have been worse off had ObamaCare failed. But for now there’s little evidence that it’s helped them.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

With the death of John Murtha, the Cook Political Report moves his seat to a “toss-up.”

From Florida: “The Brevard County GOP held a straw poll Friday night that arguably is more reflective of the overall GOP electorate than other GOP straw polls in recent months, where voting was limited to executive committee members. In Brevard’s case, we’re told only about one in four voters were executive committee members. The results only include the top two vote-getters; U.S. Senate Marco Rubio: 321, Charlie Crist: 45.”

In Washington State: “Long-time WA state Sen. Don Benton (R) will challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), giving GOPers their strongest challenger yet as he hopes to take a page from Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).”

Obama’s approval drops to 44 percent, a new low, in the Marist poll. Also of concern for Obama: 57 percent of independents disapprove of his performance, and by a 47 to 42 percent margin, voters say he has fallen below their expectations. That helped push Obama’s overall RealClearPolitics approval to a new low — 47.9 percent, just a smidgen above the disapproval rating average of 47 percent.

Is this a good idea? “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday he’ll chair the Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alexi Giannoulias as he takes on a better-funded and more experienced Republican foe.” Seems like a big risk for both. Giannoulias is already tagged with being too insidery, and Durbin, who’s gunning for Harry Reid’s job, will take a hit if he can’t drag Giannoulias across the finish line.

Matt Continetti thinks Obama gets points for reaching out, and the congressional Republicans may score a win in the proposed health-care summit, while congressional Democrats come out the losers. (Sounds Clintonian, doesn’t it?). “If Obama hasn’t been able to convince the public his way is the right way by now, one more event won’t make a difference. Nor will a single C-SPAN broadcast alter the political dynamic that is preventing Democrats from passing a final bill. What’s more, Republicans will have an opportunity to present their ideas to lower the cost of individual health insurance and increase consumer choice.”

The most vilified male Republican is also the most effective, as “political and security realities are forcing Mr. Obama’s antiterror policies ever-closer to the former Vice President’s. … As long as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were responsible for keeping Americans safe, Democrats could pander to the U.S. and European left’s anti-antiterror views at little political cost. But now that they are responsible, American voters are able to see what the left really has in mind, and they are saying loud and clear that they prefer the Cheney method.” Well, we’ll see how close Obama gets to Cheney’s policy preferences. For now, Guantanamo is open, and it looks likes there will be no civilian KSM trial, at least in New York.

The Obama hangover sets in: “A year ago, Barack Obama’s true believers were euphoric. The huge and jubilant gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night 2008 gave way to almost 2 million people on the Mall for the president’s inauguration. He took office as the most popular incoming president in a generation. A movement had become a mandate of nearly 70 million votes. People hoped the new president would bring change to Washington, the hallmark claim of his historic candidacy. Now, the mood through much of the nation seems restive, even sour. It is almost jarring to look at the photographs from Grant Park, to study those upturned beaming faces, many streaked with tears. Was that a movement? Or just a moment?”

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