In early returns, 14-term Democrat Rick Boucher, who voted for cap-and-trade, is trailing by 12 points. This is coal country, and his vote on the mammoth energy bill, which never came to a vote in the Senate, may well be his political death knell. Chalk up another victim for Nancy Pelosi.
Topic: Rick Boucher
Wondering where the American Jewish community is on Obama’s Israel-bash-a-thon? Well, being a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, whose fidelity, financial and electoral, all Dem administrations can and do take fully for granted” has its drawbacks.” But perhaps, just perhaps, some in the community are starting to notice “the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office.”
Wondering why the House hasn’t voted on ObamaCare yet? “House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Democrats don’t have the House votes to pass the healthcare bill. ‘If she had 216 votes this bill would be long gone,’ Boehner said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’” (Rep. James Clyburn admitted that they don’t yet have the votes.)
Wondering if the Obama terror policy is losing steam? David Axelrod seemed less than vigorous about closing Guantanamo. (“We have made good progress. You know, when we got there, the legal status of many of the people there was unclear. We had to go through a process of really sorting all of these cases out. We are beginning to work those cases.”) Boehner was blunt: “I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.”
Wondering if Virginia Democrats are nervous about going down with the Obama ship? “U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Friday he could not support health care reform legislation that includes heavy cuts to Medicare, a position he has held since his first vote against the package and his party’s move to push legislation through Congress.” Boucher, an at-risk Democrat, seems unwilling to sacrifice himself for the greater glory of Obama.
Wondering why the media and Democrats are so anxious to discredit the Tea Partiers? Michael Barone says there’s their ”energy, political creativity and enthusiasm into a moribund and dejected political party, like the Democrats of 1968 and the Republicans of 2008.” And also this: “The Republicans for the last two decades have been a party whose litmus tests have been cultural issues, especially abortion. The tea partiers have helped to change their focus to issues of government overreach and spending. That may be a helpful pivot, given the emergence of a millennial generation uncomfortable with crusading cultural conservatism.”
Wondering just how inane the Obami’s argument is against political free speech? Axelrod: ”Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, `If you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.’ And that is a threat to our democracy.” Threatening legislators with ads! What’s next — citizen protests?
Wondering how that “Republican civil war” is going? It isn’t. At the GOP state convention, Carly Fiorina: “Conservatives, independents, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians – all of us now belong to one party: The ‘Had Enough Party.’ We have had enough, and we are at a critical point in history – in Ronald Reagan’s words: ‘a time for choosing.’ You and I will choose to make a difference this year. Not separately but together.” That was how Bob McDonnell did it. But Fiorina has a primary first.
Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”
Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”
Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”
And Democrats pulled the bill.
Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”
The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”
Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”
Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”
Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”
JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”
Yesterday in the Washington Post was a story that didn’t get much attention — but that is the kind of story that causes Democratic politicos in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and in the political establishment to lose sleep. According to the Post:
The anger at Washington that is seeping across the country registered a while back in the high ridges of Appalachia, a once-indomitable Democratic stronghold where voters turned away from President Obama in 2008 just as overwhelmingly as they embraced him most everywhere else. Voters in Virginia’s 9th Congressional District are mad that the government has spent hundreds of billions to fix an economy that seems only to deteriorate around them. They’re fearful of a federal takeover of health care. They’re petrified that proposed emissions limits would destroy the coal industry that provides most of the region’s jobs. And they want no part of a president they view as elitist and unlike them.
That anger, combined with the area’s traditional Democratic ties, makes this mountainous region — and a wider, rural arc from southern Ohio to Arkansas — a prime battleground in this year’s congressional elections. …
Even Rep. Rick Boucher, a 14-term incumbent who hasn’t faced a strong challenger since the Reagan years, is in peril, prompting him to shift into campaign mode months earlier than usual and before Republicans have chosen his opponent. Whether he — and other Democrats like him — can hold on will probably determine whether his party can continue to control Congress. In the “Fightin’ 9th,” Boucher’s support of the coal industry and efforts to modernize the local economy give Democrats their best chance to hold a seat they can’t afford to lose.
Democratic seats that have been safe for decades are now vulnerable. Republicans are trying to nationalize their races; Democratic incumbents are trying to localize them.
Developments like these are significant straws in the wind. They are the kinds of things you see when an epic election is in the making.
This report suggests that the Democrats are in for some trouble in Virginia and other conservative congressional districts that had been voting Democratic of late:
The anger at Washington that is seeping across the country registered a while back in the high ridges of Appalachia, a once-indomitable Democratic stronghold where voters turned away from President Obama in 2008 just as overwhelmingly as they embraced him most everywhere else.
Voters in Virginia’s 9th Congressional District are mad that the government has spent hundreds of billions to fix an economy that seems only to deteriorate around them. They’re fearful of a federal takeover of health care. They’re petrified that proposed emissions limits would destroy the coal industry that provides most of the region’s jobs. And they want no part of a president they view as elitist and unlike them.
The politician who is going to feel the brunt of this is a 14-term (yes, 14) congressman, Rick Boucher, who made the error of voting for cap-and-trade while representing a district in coal country. They’re angry with him but furious with Obama:
Residents talk often of their “pridefulness” and independence. But they feel like criminals when politicians try to take their guns away, like children when they’re told they need health care and like villains when coal is blamed for destroying the environment although it provides most of the region’s jobs and half of the nation’s power. They assume that Obama doesn’t get any of this — or doesn’t care.
The report hastens to accuse the residents of racism and to make the utterly unsubstantiated claim that race is also hampering Boucher, who is white. “Race adds another challenge for Boucher, who enthusiastically endorsed Obama early in the 2008 Democratic primary.” Got that?
Boucher is, however, going to have to explain his embrace of Obama’s agenda, and that’s trickier. On cap-and-trade, he’ll have to do better than “there is real misunderstanding on my role and what the bill was designed to do.”
More generally, he will have to respond to the visceral distaste that residents — like this retired coal miner — express toward those in power now: “The Republicans gave the Democrats the majority — why? Because they didn’t know how to keep their hands out of the till. … But the Democrats, they’re trying to push all these things on the American people. And we don’t want it.” That is what many Democratic incumbents will be hearing this year and why, I suspect, there will be fewer of them around next year.
Not a report the Obami want to read: “The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted. Those forecasts are little changed from projections the Fed released in late November. But they suggest unemployment will remain elevated heading into this year’s congressional elections and the presidential election in 2012. A more normal unemployment rate would be between 5.5 percent and 6 percent.”
Not a poll they want to see: “Just 28% of U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This marks the lowest level of voter confidence in the nation’s current course since one year ago and appears to signal the end of a slight burst of confidence at the first of this year.”
Not a view they want to hear (from Victor Davis Hanson): “Given that the people apparently don’t want bigger deficits, more stimulus, statist health care, cap and trade, or ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform, and given that the most influential members of the Obama administration think the people either do or should want those things, we are apparently left with blaming George Bush, or self-righteously blaming the people for their stupidity, selfishness, brainwashing, or racism. Yet all of those assumptions only exacerbate the problem, and if continually voiced will turn a mid-term correction into an abject disaster for Democrats.”
Not a prediction they want to consider: “If the midterm election was held tomorrow, Republicans would retake control of Congress, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said Wednesday. … Voters are angry about the economy and the Democrats’ infighting in Congress, Greenberg said. ’Right now they are just interested in punishing Democrats for not getting the job done, and in some cases getting it done badly. They [are] relishing an opportunity to bloody the Democrats.’”
James Capretta doesn’t think much of the debt commission. For starters, ObamaCare is still on the table. (“The primary reason for long-term budgetary imbalance is out-of-control spending on health-care entitlements. And so what would the Democratic health-care bills do? Stand up another runaway health-care entitlement, of course.”) Moreover, the “fundamental problem here is lack of presidential leadership. If the president thinks the long-term budget outlook is a serious threat to economic prosperity, he needs to do more than talk about it and punt the solution to a commission.”
Former GOP congressman and election statistical guru Tom Davis says there is a potential for four Republican House seat pickups in his home state of Virginia: “He noted that an internal poll in his old congressional district shows Connolly running neck-and-neck with Republican Pat Herrity, a Fairfax County supervisor, one of the leading candidates to win the GOP nomination. Davis also pointed to Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) as an enticing target, asserting that he put his seat in play by supporting a cap-and-trade energy bill that is highly unpopular with constituents in his coal-producing district.”
Zachery Kouwe resigns from the New York Times in a plagiarism scandal. Maureen Dowd keeps chugging along.
Democratic senatorial campaign committee chairman Bob Menendez is getting blamed for the Democrats’ tailspin. But is it really his fault? Well, “no one claims Menendez is entirely to blame for Martha Coakley’s humiliating defeat in Massachusetts, the retirements of Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Beau Biden’s decision to skip the Delaware Senate race. They cite any number of external factors that have dimmed the party’s prospects: the tanking popularity of President Barack Obama and his policies, the inevitability of Democratic letdown after four years of historic successes and, above all, the lousy economy.” But he’s going to get slammed because the alternative is blaming Obama.
The weekend before the Virginia gubernatorial election, I spoke with former Rep. Tom Davis. Sensing a victory in the offing, he told me that an immediate effect of a big GOP win would be recruiting for 2010. In 1994, a majority of the GOP’s successful recruiting, which enabled the Republicans to regain the House, took place after gubernatorial wins that year in New Jersey and Virginia.
It seems that Davis is right. The GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey are accelerating a trend that was already well under way. As this report notes:
Several Democratic candidates have decided to drop out of tough races, while Democratic members of Congress who rarely face serious challenges are finding themselves with their toughest re-elections in years. … But in 2010, defense is the name of the game for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is defending several dozens vulnerable freshmen and second-term members, while also protecting veteran members who could find themselves in newfound trouble. It will be a lot more challenging for a first-time candidate running in a tough district to get financial support from the DCCC when the party is worried about defending its own.
This is not to say that highly influential and venerated fixtures such as Reps. Ike Skelton (MO-04), John Spratt (SC-05), Bart Gordon (TN-06), John Tanner (TN-08) and Rick Boucher (VA-09) are goners next year. Their eventual vulnerability is highly dependent on the quality of GOP nominees and the discipline of their “time for change” messages. But if these party elders decide to seek reelection rather than retire, the underlying dynamics of their districts suggest at least several will need to fight to survive.
All this suggests that 2010 is shaping up to be a potential “wave” year in which there are more opportunities for pickups than in a run-of-the-mill year. If we learned anything in the past year, it’s that political prognostication is a dicey business. The GOP is now challenging in places it was considered dead (e.g. New England) and has recaptured momentum on key issues. But much can change, and the Democrats — if they can figure out what to do with it — have the power of incumbency.