Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rob Portman

Rubio Won’t Chair NRSC, Eyes on 2016?

As I mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is facing some changes after last night’s defeats. RealClearPolitics reports that Senator Marco Rubio — who was considered a top prospect to replace outgoing NRSC chair John Cornyn — has turned down the spot:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

The sources, who are familiar with Rubio’s decision, said the junior senator had mulled the leadership role for some time. As he often points out, however, being the father of four young children sometimes keeps him away from the campaign trail.

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As I mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is facing some changes after last night’s defeats. RealClearPolitics reports that Senator Marco Rubio — who was considered a top prospect to replace outgoing NRSC chair John Cornyn — has turned down the spot:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

The sources, who are familiar with Rubio’s decision, said the junior senator had mulled the leadership role for some time. As he often points out, however, being the father of four young children sometimes keeps him away from the campaign trail.

It’s easy to see why McConnell would want someone like Rubio revamping the NRSC and shielding it from some of the grassroots criticism, but there wasn’t much in it for Rubio if he’s looking at 2016. Not only would it have put him right in the middle of some of the goriest establishment-Tea Party fights for the next two years, but most of the big donors he’d meet through NRSC duty would already want to meet with him anyway. A lot to lose and little to gain.

The slot seems better suited for someone with longer-term Senate ambitions. Some other names being tossed around are Senators Roy Blunt, John Thune, Jerry Moran and Rob Portman. But Rubio’s rejection seems like a sign he sees the Senate as a path to bigger things rather than a place to build a career.

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David Axelrod Offers Romney VP Advice

Mitt Romney received some advice from an unusual source this afternoon, the National Journal reports:

“If I were picking, I’d pick Pawlenty,” Axelrod told National Journal. “You shouldn’t write that, because everybody will think I’m trying to bait [Romney] into picking Pawlenty.” …

Opposition research, of course, is at the ready for everyone thought to be on Romney’s short list. But the psychological preparations at Obama’s Chicago headquarters seem geared almost entirely toward a Romney-Pawlenty ticket.

“That’s my influence,” Axelrod told NJ. “I’ve been saying Pawlenty for four months. The reasoning, as a strategist, would be: He is acceptable to the right and the evangelicals, but he’s not scary to moderates. He’s good on television. He’s been through this.”  …

Axelrod also seems to have taken stock of Pawlenty’s TV chops and emerged with grudging professional admiration.

“Of all of those you have heard of, he’s got a pretty good TV style,” Axelrod said.  “He’s cool. He’s casual. He can be colloquial. I would be surprised if they didn’t pick him. And I think Romney’s kind of not looking for risk.”

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Mitt Romney received some advice from an unusual source this afternoon, the National Journal reports:

“If I were picking, I’d pick Pawlenty,” Axelrod told National Journal. “You shouldn’t write that, because everybody will think I’m trying to bait [Romney] into picking Pawlenty.” …

Opposition research, of course, is at the ready for everyone thought to be on Romney’s short list. But the psychological preparations at Obama’s Chicago headquarters seem geared almost entirely toward a Romney-Pawlenty ticket.

“That’s my influence,” Axelrod told NJ. “I’ve been saying Pawlenty for four months. The reasoning, as a strategist, would be: He is acceptable to the right and the evangelicals, but he’s not scary to moderates. He’s good on television. He’s been through this.”  …

Axelrod also seems to have taken stock of Pawlenty’s TV chops and emerged with grudging professional admiration.

“Of all of those you have heard of, he’s got a pretty good TV style,” Axelrod said.  “He’s cool. He’s casual. He can be colloquial. I would be surprised if they didn’t pick him. And I think Romney’s kind of not looking for risk.”

I can’t imagine this is some clumsy attempt by Axelrod to sway the VP pick in his favor, as he knows his advice isn’t going to have any influence one way or the other. It seems more like Axelrod is trying to set the messaging tone against Paul Ryan or Rob Portman, on the assumption that Pawlenty is a less likely pick.

If Ryan gets the nod, the initial Democratic talking point will be that Romney capitulated to the extreme right instead of choosing a more moderate, reasonable Republican like Pawlenty (although, if Pawlenty does get chosen, don’t expect Axelrod to call him a moderate ever again). And as Axelrod notes in the article, Rob Portman will get tied to President Bush’s economic policies.

There are others who also seem skeptical that Pawlenty will get the nod. Byron York reported this morning that Pawlenty will make an appearance on the Sunday shows, which seems to suggest he isn’t the choice:

Other VP possibilities, notably Rob Portman and Paul Ryan, turned down invitations to appear on the Sunday shows.

People in the extended Romney circle view the Sunday appearances as a sign that Pawlenty is less likely to be the vice presidential pick. They feel certain that Pawlenty would not appear unless his appearances were cleared by the Romney campaign. And they also believe that Romney does not want his soon-to-be-announced pick all over the airwaves in the run-up to Romney’s big announcement; no reason to risk a possible mistake or put the contender in an awkward situation. Therefore, if Pawlenty is appearing, it suggests he’s not the guy.

That could mean nothing, but it makes sense that the Romney camp wouldn’t want its running mate selection getting grilled on high-pressure talk shows so soon before the announcement.

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Veep Tea Leaves of the Day

TechPresident.com notes that Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia page was edited more than 100 times in the five days leading up to John McCain’s running mate announcement. While none of this year’s likely VP contenders have seen a spike in edits that dramatic, Paul Ryan leads with the most changes during the past few days:

None of Wikipedia entries for the current candidates being bandied about by Romney-watchers — Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte or Tim Pawlenty — are currently showing anything like the spike in edits that Cyveillance spotted on Palin and Biden’s pages back in 2008. But most of those came in the 24 hours prior to the official announcement. That said, if Wikipedia changes offer any hint of what’s coming, then today might be a good day to bet on Ryan. On the other hand, his page is hardly the most popular in terms of views, or watchers, as you can see:

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TechPresident.com notes that Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia page was edited more than 100 times in the five days leading up to John McCain’s running mate announcement. While none of this year’s likely VP contenders have seen a spike in edits that dramatic, Paul Ryan leads with the most changes during the past few days:

None of Wikipedia entries for the current candidates being bandied about by Romney-watchers — Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte or Tim Pawlenty — are currently showing anything like the spike in edits that Cyveillance spotted on Palin and Biden’s pages back in 2008. But most of those came in the 24 hours prior to the official announcement. That said, if Wikipedia changes offer any hint of what’s coming, then today might be a good day to bet on Ryan. On the other hand, his page is hardly the most popular in terms of views, or watchers, as you can see:

It’s not a sure predictor, especially because Romney’s campaign (and his VP choice) will probably be more careful to avoid tipping off the media through Wikipedia changes this year. But at least it beats analyzing the contents of Romney’s grocery cart.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is prepping for Rob Portman as Romney’s VP choice, reports Politico. The president’s team sent out this email to Ohio supporters:

“Very soon, we’ll know if Mitt Romney is choosing our own Senator Rob Portman as his running mate. So Ohioans have a job to do. While Portman’s name has been floating around as a potential pick for Romney for a while now, most Americans don’t know anything about him. If and when Romney does select him, we need to be able to tell the full story about his record on Day One, which could very well be in the next few days. Share what you think Americans need to know about Senator Portman… It’s our responsibility to make sure he isn’t elevated to a position where he can do it again, this time, as vice president.”

No news yet about whether the Obama campaign is sending out similar blasts to supporters in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Florida.

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Ryan-for-VP Rumors Heat Up

Mitt Romney’s VP announcement could come any day now, and a lot of the latest chatter has focused around Rep. Paul Ryan, who has made some moves lately that ignited speculation. Politicker reports:

Mr. Ryan was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington tonight, but he cancelled the appearance. …

Organizers told us they were unsure why Mr. Ryan pulled out of the planned speech. …

The cancelled speech isn’t the only thing that caused speculation to swirl around Mr. Ryan this afternoon. Eagle-eyed Politico reporter Ken Vogel also noted Mr. Ryan’s political action committee, Prosperity PAC, filed amended versions of its three most recent monthly fundraising reports today.

“Preparing for big announcement w FEC cleanup?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Mr. Seifert said the reports had to be amended when Mr. Ryan’s staff noticed a donation made in April was accidentally counted for both the Prosperity Action Committee and the congressman’s joint action committee, a mistake which carried over into subsequent reports.

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Mitt Romney’s VP announcement could come any day now, and a lot of the latest chatter has focused around Rep. Paul Ryan, who has made some moves lately that ignited speculation. Politicker reports:

Mr. Ryan was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington tonight, but he cancelled the appearance. …

Organizers told us they were unsure why Mr. Ryan pulled out of the planned speech. …

The cancelled speech isn’t the only thing that caused speculation to swirl around Mr. Ryan this afternoon. Eagle-eyed Politico reporter Ken Vogel also noted Mr. Ryan’s political action committee, Prosperity PAC, filed amended versions of its three most recent monthly fundraising reports today.

“Preparing for big announcement w FEC cleanup?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Mr. Seifert said the reports had to be amended when Mr. Ryan’s staff noticed a donation made in April was accidentally counted for both the Prosperity Action Committee and the congressman’s joint action committee, a mistake which carried over into subsequent reports.

Both the FEC cleanup and the cancelled speech could be completely unrelated and innocuous, but at this point, any unusual activity by any of the VP possibilities is going to be heavily analyzed. Knowing that, it’s interesting Ryan decided to amend its fundraising reports at this time, when he could have waited until next month and aroused far less interest. Why choose this time to do it?

Ryan, Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman appear to be the three most likely picks at this point. At National Review, Jay Nordlinger makes the case for Portman, defending him against charges that he’s too “vanilla”:

I don’t know whether he’s the right choice for VP this year. I could argue for about five of them. I could probably bump that up to about eight. But the idea that Portman’s not a real conservative — the genuine article, a child of Reagan — is nuts. “He doesn’t excite me,” people say. Well . . . different people are excited by different things. A superb conservative leader who can help keep this country from swirling down the drain? Not unexciting.

Portman’s perceived dullness may be one problem, but his association with the Bush administration’s economic policies seems to be a far bigger one. The Obama administration is dying to turn this into an argument between President Clinton’s economic policies (as ridiculous as that is, considering Obama has been in office nearly a full term), and the supposed “failed policies of the Bush years.” Why else was Clinton tapped as the keynote for the Democratic National Convention? They’d love nothing more than to tie Romney to the “policies that got us into this mess in the first place,” as Team Obama is fond of saying.

And while Tim Pawlenty positioned himself as a Tea Party type during the last year or so, he still lacks the charisma to really excite the base. He has the experience on the campaign trail and clearly knows how to give a stump speech. But does he have the fire in his belly to take what the Obama campaign is going to throw at him? Remember, he choked at last summer’s debate when he couldn’t bring himself to say “Obamneycare” to Romney’s face. More than that, choosing Pawlenty could end up demoralizing a party that is looking for a gloves-off fight between conservative small-government principles and Obama’s nanny-statism.

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes make the case for either Ryan or Marco Rubio:

It’s become conventional wisdom that Ryan and Rubio would be “bold” picks, while other choices like Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty are “safe.” Perhaps. But what looks safe can be risky. Portman, a good man and respected public servant, was George W. Bush’s budget director. Pawlenty’s presidential campaign was a disaster. The 2010 election was the best for Republicans in a long time. Ryan and Rubio embody the spirit of 2010. Pawlenty and Portman don’t.

But beyond all of the calculations—beyond demography, geography, and the polls—is the most compelling reason for Romney to pick Ryan or Rubio: Doing so would signal that Romney understands the magnitude of the problems facing the country and would demonstrate that he has the will to solve them. It would suggest that Romney knows this is a big moment, and that he’s willing to run a big campaign. And at a time when the country so desperately needs real leadership, Romney would make clear that he’s ready to provide it by picking either Ryan or Rubio.

If Romney is looking for someone who can tap into the energy of the 2010 Tea Party and make this an election about change, he can’t go wrong with Rubio or Ryan.

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Pawlenty’s Stock Rises Amid Veep Rumors

Reading the coverage of the potential vice presidential picks is like reliving the worst days of last summer. We’re told, for a variety of arbitrary reasons, that all of the exciting possibilities (Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie) are long-shots. Each day it seems more likely that the VP pick will be impossibly boring; either Tim Pawlenty with his midwestern blandness or the smart but sleep-inducing Rob Portman.

Just this morning, the New York Times caused Pawlenty’s inTrade veepstakes stock to spike with yet another article speculating about his chances:

The vetting of possible vice-presidential candidates is approaching an end. It has been a deeply secretive process, but several Republicans close to the campaign believe Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Portman stand out among those being considered.

In 2008, as Mr. McCain was narrowing in on a running mate, several aides recommended Mr. Pawlenty. Others pushed for a bolder choice, a candidate who would create more enthusiasm among Republican activists.

Four years later, being passed over for Sarah Palin may work in Mr. Pawlenty’s favor. “In a lot of ways, he’s the anti-Palin,” said Steve Schmidt, a strategist to Mr. McCain who expressed regret for her selection. “Here’s a guy who is prepared to be president on Day 1. In any normal year, he would have been the pick.”

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Reading the coverage of the potential vice presidential picks is like reliving the worst days of last summer. We’re told, for a variety of arbitrary reasons, that all of the exciting possibilities (Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie) are long-shots. Each day it seems more likely that the VP pick will be impossibly boring; either Tim Pawlenty with his midwestern blandness or the smart but sleep-inducing Rob Portman.

Just this morning, the New York Times caused Pawlenty’s inTrade veepstakes stock to spike with yet another article speculating about his chances:

The vetting of possible vice-presidential candidates is approaching an end. It has been a deeply secretive process, but several Republicans close to the campaign believe Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Portman stand out among those being considered.

In 2008, as Mr. McCain was narrowing in on a running mate, several aides recommended Mr. Pawlenty. Others pushed for a bolder choice, a candidate who would create more enthusiasm among Republican activists.

Four years later, being passed over for Sarah Palin may work in Mr. Pawlenty’s favor. “In a lot of ways, he’s the anti-Palin,” said Steve Schmidt, a strategist to Mr. McCain who expressed regret for her selection. “Here’s a guy who is prepared to be president on Day 1. In any normal year, he would have been the pick.”

Pundits often point to the maxim “Do No Harm” as the Golden Rule of choosing a VP. It may seem like Pawlenty fits that bill, as he’s pre-vetted, comfortable on the campaign trail, folksy and inoffensive.

But this is also someone who was barely eking by at 3 percent in the primaries last August, despite his outsized media coverage. There was absolutely no energy there. While conservatives want Obama out of office, Romney can’t sit back and expect that alone to get them out to the polls. Conservatives have already struggled to come around in support of Romney. How much more “enthusiasm” will they be able to muster up for a Romney-Pawlenty ticket?

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Has Romney Made His Choice?

Mitt Romney showed guts today when he spoke to the NAACP and, as Roger Simon noted at Politico, neither groveled nor pandered to a hostile African-American audience. He may show even more nerve soon naming his running mate well in advance of the Republican National Convention. That’s the way Reuters is interpreting a comment made yesterday at an appearance in Colorado when the GOP candidate was asked whether he would name the person who will fill out his ticket before such announcements are normally made. Rather than shoot down the suggestion or not answer, Romney simply said he hadn’t decided.

The article says Romney and his advisers are considering moving up the pick in order to help raise even more money for their campaign war chest. The suggestion is also made that naming his vice presidential candidate will help distract the public from the scathing attacks the president and his surrogates are making on Romney’s wealth and business career. But if he does pick early — which is still merely speculation — the thinking here is that it will not be in order to gain some temporary advantage that would soon be dissipated. Rather, it would be because Romney had completed the systematic evaluation of his potential running mates and thought there was no point in prolonging the process. If the talk about moving up the announcement is real it is because Romney has made up his mind.

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Mitt Romney showed guts today when he spoke to the NAACP and, as Roger Simon noted at Politico, neither groveled nor pandered to a hostile African-American audience. He may show even more nerve soon naming his running mate well in advance of the Republican National Convention. That’s the way Reuters is interpreting a comment made yesterday at an appearance in Colorado when the GOP candidate was asked whether he would name the person who will fill out his ticket before such announcements are normally made. Rather than shoot down the suggestion or not answer, Romney simply said he hadn’t decided.

The article says Romney and his advisers are considering moving up the pick in order to help raise even more money for their campaign war chest. The suggestion is also made that naming his vice presidential candidate will help distract the public from the scathing attacks the president and his surrogates are making on Romney’s wealth and business career. But if he does pick early — which is still merely speculation — the thinking here is that it will not be in order to gain some temporary advantage that would soon be dissipated. Rather, it would be because Romney had completed the systematic evaluation of his potential running mates and thought there was no point in prolonging the process. If the talk about moving up the announcement is real it is because Romney has made up his mind.

Those who believe Romney is going to make a decision based on the ephemeral political advantages to be gained are forgetting that the Republican is the ultimate numbers-cruncher and specialized in mining the data exhaustively to make the right choice in business. He is probably conducting the veep search in the same manner he has made every other important business and political decision in his life, which makes the notion of moving up the pick merely in order to give him a couple of positive news cycles laughable. This is a man who is obsessed with long rather than short-term gains.

That is why it is likely that whoever he chooses will be someone he thinks can help him govern rather than someone who is, no matter how impressive, unlikely to be the difference in the fall election.

That is also why speculation on the identity of the choice is almost certainly worthless. Pundits who ponder the edges that people like Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan would provide the GOP ticket are probably not on Romney’s radar screen, as he is almost certainly viewing the question from a completely different frame of reference. Though most of the recent talk about the choice has centered on Portman, the only person who knows whether that is correct is Romney.

But whatever the outcome of the methodical process that Romney is pursuing on this question, it may be that once he has come up with his answer, the former business executive will probably not see much point in engaging in more public theater on the question. If so, then it is easy to imagine him just making his pick in a way that would allow him to get on to the substantive campaign work ahead with his ticket intact.

Whether that will help or hurt him, or as is most likely, have no effect at all on the outcome in November, is uncertain. But the guess here is that if he is thinking at all about naming his running mate in the upcoming weeks rather than waiting for the prelude to the convention, it will be because he has already made up his mind. As Romney showed today when he did not give an inch while speaking to the most hostile group possible to his candidacy, the Republican is going to stick to the plan he has set in his own head and won’t be asking the media for any help in narrowing down the field.

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Ayotte Veep Speculation Mounts

VP buzz around Sen. Kelly Ayotte was already growing before she joined the Romney clan on vacation in New Hampshire yesterday. But Ann Romney has thrown fuel on it by telling CBS the campaign has been considering a female VP pick:

Ann Romney says her husband is considering a woman for the ticket—and admitted she’s been playing a big role in the VP search, too, according to an interview with CBS News.

“We’ve been looking at that,” Ann Romney replied, when asked if her husband should pick a female as his No. 2. “I’d love that option as well. So, you know, there’s a lot of people that Mitt is considering right now.”

While she had previously suggested she wasn’t playing a major role in the VP search, Ann Romney admitted she’s been giving the process “a lot of thought, actually” and has been offering her husband advice on his choice.

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VP buzz around Sen. Kelly Ayotte was already growing before she joined the Romney clan on vacation in New Hampshire yesterday. But Ann Romney has thrown fuel on it by telling CBS the campaign has been considering a female VP pick:

Ann Romney says her husband is considering a woman for the ticket—and admitted she’s been playing a big role in the VP search, too, according to an interview with CBS News.

“We’ve been looking at that,” Ann Romney replied, when asked if her husband should pick a female as his No. 2. “I’d love that option as well. So, you know, there’s a lot of people that Mitt is considering right now.”

While she had previously suggested she wasn’t playing a major role in the VP search, Ann Romney admitted she’s been giving the process “a lot of thought, actually” and has been offering her husband advice on his choice.

Ann Romney doesn’t specify, but who else could she be referring to other than Ayotte? The chatter about Condoleezza Rice never seemed serious, and a Tea Party favorite like Nikki Haley would draw instant comparisons to Sarah Palin. Speculation about NM Gov. Susana Martinez also seems to have tapered down after this email flap. Ayotte is still a first-term senator, but she’s already impressed the party establishment, and she’s been a prominent and effective surrogate for Romney. That said, it would still be a bit surprising if she’s being considered seriously. If Marco Rubio’s lack of experience supposedly kept him off the short list, then why would it be any different with Ayotte? They’re both freshman senators, and both very capable on the campaign trail. Maybe this is a sign there was a deeper issue plaguing Rubio?

It’s also possible that Ayotte is being vetted as a possibility (as Rubio is) but hasn’t made it onto the short list. That’s what Erin McPike surmises at RCP:

Mitt Romney may be tight-lipped about his vice presidential short list, warning that only he and longtime aide Beth Myers know who is on it, but a close examination of the campaign’s activity suggests four contenders have risen through the ranks: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell may be considered wild cards, and Romney has said he’s thoroughly vetting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, though the first-term lawmaker’s status appears unchanged.

That’s an interesting top four. Portman and Pawlenty are obviously very different picks than Ryan and Jindal. The first two are the safe and bland route, the second two would be far more exciting but riskier. Ryan in particular would be a game-changing choice, instantly turning the race into a referendum on his Path to Prosperity plan. Conservatives would love the opportunity to have that debate, but it would also be an uncharacteristically bold decision for Romney. Then there’s the question of whether Ryan would accept.

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Romney Laughs Off Reports on Rubio

Mitt Romney is laughing off the reports that Marco Rubio isn’t being vetted for a VP spot. But also isn’t denying it (and neither are any anonymous campaign sources), which is telling:

Mitt Romney responds to an ABC News report that said his campaign was not vetting Sen. Marco Rubio as a possible running mate.

“I get a kick out of some of the speculation that goes on,” Romney said. “I’m not going to comment on the process, of course, but I can tell you this: Only Beth Myers and I know who’s being vetted.”

The speculation is tripping up the Romney campaign’s messaging on the last leg of its economic bus tour, which obviously isn’t ideal for them. One minor consolation is that it also seems to have squashed a lot of the media interest in his immigration plan.

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Mitt Romney is laughing off the reports that Marco Rubio isn’t being vetted for a VP spot. But also isn’t denying it (and neither are any anonymous campaign sources), which is telling:

Mitt Romney responds to an ABC News report that said his campaign was not vetting Sen. Marco Rubio as a possible running mate.

“I get a kick out of some of the speculation that goes on,” Romney said. “I’m not going to comment on the process, of course, but I can tell you this: Only Beth Myers and I know who’s being vetted.”

The speculation is tripping up the Romney campaign’s messaging on the last leg of its economic bus tour, which obviously isn’t ideal for them. One minor consolation is that it also seems to have squashed a lot of the media interest in his immigration plan.

Still, it’s an inconvenience — and one that, oddly enough, was leaked directly from Romney campaign sources, according to WaPo’s report. Why would Romney’s own aides do this? There are a few possibilities, but it could be they were unhappy that the campaign wasn’t vetting Rubio, and wanted to generate some outside pressure from conservatives. If so, it worked. Not only is Romney getting slammed for this by conservative pundits, his campaign is probably fielding calls from fuming supporters and donors. And with this list of less-than-tantalizing possibilities, who can blame them:

Other vice presidential candidates, including Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, are undergoing a more intensive review, according to two Republicans close to the campaign.

Romney campaign spokespeople, as well as top aides to Rubio, declined to comment on the vice presidential candidate search, which has been under way for two months.

Rob Portman is as boring as a rice cake, but his lack of name recognition at least gives him some mystery with the Republican base that the Romney campaign can try to stir up into excitement. Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, would be a bizarre choice. Is there anyone out there who would be persuaded to vote for Romney because Pawlenty was on the ticket? During the primaries, Pawlenty basically ran as Romney-without-Romneycare, and Republican voters still rejected him. He would also emphasize all of Romney’s personality flaws that the Obama campaign is trying to highlight — and that’s before you even get to the inconvenient ObamneyCare issue.

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The GOP’s Under-the-Radar Veep Candidate

With half a year left in the presidential election, the intrigue surrounding Mitt Romney’s eventual selection of a running mate has given political prognosticators an outlet for their energy that doesn’t require analyzing much polling data. It’s a human-interest story set against the background of the 2008 election, in which the GOP’s vice presidential nominee was a genuinely fascinating political personality and the Democratic nominee was an avuncular, gaffe-prone senator the president is constantly being encouraged to drop from the ticket this November.

But it is highly unlikely the public will be treated to such a spectacle this time around. Romney is pretty much defined by his aura of caution and his devotion to data and analysis, and has never shown a desire to make splashing headlines if he can avoid it. Even when he seems to be dipping his toes in the water of identity politics, there is an empirical approach to it. For example, if he were to select a woman for the ticket, the name that has come up the most has been that of Condoleezza Rice, and the most common Latino name suggested for the vice-presidential nod is that of Marco Rubio–a swing-state senator. But another distinct possibility is Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and the Washington Post profile of Portman calls attention to just how surprisingly under-the-radar Portman has flown throughout his career:

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With half a year left in the presidential election, the intrigue surrounding Mitt Romney’s eventual selection of a running mate has given political prognosticators an outlet for their energy that doesn’t require analyzing much polling data. It’s a human-interest story set against the background of the 2008 election, in which the GOP’s vice presidential nominee was a genuinely fascinating political personality and the Democratic nominee was an avuncular, gaffe-prone senator the president is constantly being encouraged to drop from the ticket this November.

But it is highly unlikely the public will be treated to such a spectacle this time around. Romney is pretty much defined by his aura of caution and his devotion to data and analysis, and has never shown a desire to make splashing headlines if he can avoid it. Even when he seems to be dipping his toes in the water of identity politics, there is an empirical approach to it. For example, if he were to select a woman for the ticket, the name that has come up the most has been that of Condoleezza Rice, and the most common Latino name suggested for the vice-presidential nod is that of Marco Rubio–a swing-state senator. But another distinct possibility is Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and the Washington Post profile of Portman calls attention to just how surprisingly under-the-radar Portman has flown throughout his career:

A young trade lawyer steeped in Republican politics, he honed policy ideas for the administration of George H.W. Bush as an associate White House counsel. Soon, he rose to become the president’s chief liaison to Congress, as director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.

In no small part since, he has ascended on the strength of his connections to two different Bush administrations. During the 2000 presidential campaign, the staff for then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush asked him to play the part of Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman in mock debates that the Bush team had arranged for Richard B. Cheney, its desired running mate. Portman proved so formidable that, before the last of Bush’s three debates, he found himself in the dining room of the Texas governor’s mansion, playing Al Gore against Bush. He had prepared for the practice session by watching tapes of virtually every Gore debate he could find….

In 2008, Portman served as a sparring partner for John McCain during a presidential debate practice, playing the role of Barack Obama. A Portman friend recalls receiving a phone call from a glum McCain aide shortly after a mock debate ended. “Portman just annihilated our guy,” the aide said. Adds former McCain strategist Steve Schmidt, who also watched the practices: “Anybody who saw Rob Portman in the role of Barack Obama during debate preps has no doubt about his ability to compete, debate and campaign effectively at the highest levels.”

Portman comes across as intensely prepared, steady, and creative. He has been an ideas man for much of his career—though that may well be a double-edged sword as it calls attention to his ties to the Bush administration.

The full profile is worth a read, and is notable for the absence of what has become something of a staple for the Post’s profiles on up-and-coming Republicans: bizarre, unfounded accusations of bigotry or crude, obsessive investigations that turn up nothing but are published along with a headline claiming something the story never proves. It is, in other words, a piece of serious journalism about a serious public servant.

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How Boring Must the GOP Veep Be?

It is a given that the Romney campaign knows it must not repeat the mistakes made by John McCain’s staff during his failed effort to head off a Barack Obama presidency. Of course, at the top of the list of McCain’s blunders was his choice of a largely unvetted vice presidential candidate who proved to be unready for the scrutiny of the liberal mainstream press. Thus, according to Politico, Romney advisers are determined that their man will choose someone who will be the polar opposite of Sarah Palin. But if, as Politico claims, they are really convinced the ideal Romney running mate will be “an incredibly boring white guy,” they will be doing him a disservice. Like generals obsessed with winning the last war rather than the one they are currently fighting, the GOP standard bearer’s staff may be learning the wrong lessons from 2008.

For those picking a vice president, a desire to “do no harm” is probably as apt a guiding principle for politics as it is for medicine. But the idea that the Republicans are best served by a vice presidential candidate who will neither provoke controversy nor give the Democrats anything to criticize is equally as wrongheaded as McCain’s desperate attempt to catch lightening in a bottle with Palin. It’s one thing to try and avoid a flashy clunker. To deliberately seek a dud who provides no excitement or buzz is to ask for a completely different kind of trouble. Even more to the point, the Politico story makes it appear as if some people in the Romney campaign are leaking this information in an attempt to head off the possibility that one of a few brilliant but possibly controversial veep candidates is squelched before the vetting process is even completed.

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It is a given that the Romney campaign knows it must not repeat the mistakes made by John McCain’s staff during his failed effort to head off a Barack Obama presidency. Of course, at the top of the list of McCain’s blunders was his choice of a largely unvetted vice presidential candidate who proved to be unready for the scrutiny of the liberal mainstream press. Thus, according to Politico, Romney advisers are determined that their man will choose someone who will be the polar opposite of Sarah Palin. But if, as Politico claims, they are really convinced the ideal Romney running mate will be “an incredibly boring white guy,” they will be doing him a disservice. Like generals obsessed with winning the last war rather than the one they are currently fighting, the GOP standard bearer’s staff may be learning the wrong lessons from 2008.

For those picking a vice president, a desire to “do no harm” is probably as apt a guiding principle for politics as it is for medicine. But the idea that the Republicans are best served by a vice presidential candidate who will neither provoke controversy nor give the Democrats anything to criticize is equally as wrongheaded as McCain’s desperate attempt to catch lightening in a bottle with Palin. It’s one thing to try and avoid a flashy clunker. To deliberately seek a dud who provides no excitement or buzz is to ask for a completely different kind of trouble. Even more to the point, the Politico story makes it appear as if some people in the Romney campaign are leaking this information in an attempt to head off the possibility that one of a few brilliant but possibly controversial veep candidates is squelched before the vetting process is even completed.

If Romney wants boring, then some on his putative short list are definitely out. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a lot of things but boring isn’t one of them. He would attract a lot of attention and the press would dote on his every word during the campaign. Marco Rubio is also not boring. Having him on the ticket would also be interpreted as an appeal to the Hispanic vote much in the way Palin was seen as a token woman. Also not boring is Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s ideas maven on entitlement reform. According to the logic of the Politico piece, he’s out because he would be a lightening rod for Democratic attacks.

That leaves Romney to choose between the likes of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, former Minnesota governor and erstwhile Romney rival turned campaign surrogate Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Ohio Senator Rob Portman. All are sound individuals and none could be accused of generating much excitement. Indeed, Pawlenty, who flopped on the presidential campaign trail, and Daniels, who stayed out of the presidential race in order to avoid media attacks on his family, pretty much define the word boring.

But none, not even these men, are without drawbacks. In particular, Portman’s presence on the ticket will allow President Obama to continue running against George W. Bush because he worked in his administration. But if this story was leaked in order to boost his chances or that of any other boring contender, I doubt it will work.

Instead of worrying about avoiding another Palin, what Romney needs to do is to find someone whom he finds compatible and thinks is a plausible president who would help him govern. And if that person has some political or personal appeal that might excite the voters, that should not be considered a drawback.

The circumstances of 2008 are radically different from those of 2012. Romney is not running against a historic challenger who seeks to succeed a two-term Republican incumbent. In Palin’s defense, it should be noted that it isn’t likely any other running mate would have made any difference to McCain’s chances. Nor should her presence be considered purely negative. She did excite the GOP base, though the former Alaska governor probably chased as many independents away from the Republicans as the number of conservatives she attracted.

Romney is running even with Obama, not way behind and looking for a Hail Mary pass to even the score. That should inspire some caution on Romney’s part, but it shouldn’t mean he ought not to consider men like Christie and especially Ryan, with whom he is said to have some affinity. The plan ought to be to avoid a mistake-prone person who doesn’t have the background to be a potential president, not an exciting personality who might help Romney get elected.

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Rubio’s No Cheney, But He’s Also Not Palin

Mitt Romney’s unopposed sweep of the five primaries yesterday brought him that much closer to the Republican presidential nomination that is already his in all but name. But it also will turn up the heat on the search for his running mate. With nothing else to discuss — other than the issues, that is — anyone whose name is under consideration can expect the sort of examination that has, up until now, been restricted to presidential contenders.

The chief recipient of this intense scrutiny will undoubtedly be the man many believe is the frontrunner for the number two spot on the GOP ticket: Marco Rubio. Along with the other main contenders, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman and Chris Christie, his career and life is going to get a going over with a fine tooth comb not just from Romney’s vetting team but from a press corps that no longer has a nomination battle to cover. One of the first shots at Rubio’s credentials came yesterday from John Dickerson at Slate, who attempted to tag the Florida senator as being another version of 2008 GOP veep pick Sarah Palin, which is about the most unflattering comparison possible.

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Mitt Romney’s unopposed sweep of the five primaries yesterday brought him that much closer to the Republican presidential nomination that is already his in all but name. But it also will turn up the heat on the search for his running mate. With nothing else to discuss — other than the issues, that is — anyone whose name is under consideration can expect the sort of examination that has, up until now, been restricted to presidential contenders.

The chief recipient of this intense scrutiny will undoubtedly be the man many believe is the frontrunner for the number two spot on the GOP ticket: Marco Rubio. Along with the other main contenders, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman and Chris Christie, his career and life is going to get a going over with a fine tooth comb not just from Romney’s vetting team but from a press corps that no longer has a nomination battle to cover. One of the first shots at Rubio’s credentials came yesterday from John Dickerson at Slate, who attempted to tag the Florida senator as being another version of 2008 GOP veep pick Sarah Palin, which is about the most unflattering comparison possible.

According to Dickerson, Rubio is similar to Palin in that he hasn’t any executive experience. Therefore, because Romney is running on the issue of competence, Rubio’s presence on the ticket will undermine the Republican campaign. Of course, it should be pointed out that Palin actually had a lot more executive experience (both as mayor of Wasilla and her 19 months on the job as governor of Alaska when John McCain tapped her for the nomination) than Rubio. But the problem with this argument is the issue with Palin was not so much her relatively thin resume (though not when compared to Barack Obama) but her lack of comfort discussing the major issues of the day in depth and at length. Rubio is a relative newcomer, but he is not someone who will flame out and play the fool in a one-on-one interview with Katie Couric.

Rubio may not be the second coming of Dick Cheney — a man who was picked to run with George W. Bush because of his extensive Washington resume and ability to govern — but he is ready to debate on the national stage, something that, for all of her considerable political gifts, Sarah Palin was not prepared to do in 2008.

But Dickerson is on to something when he hones in on Romney’s obvious desire to have someone run with him who has executive experience or at least possesses the ability to approach the issues with the same systematic method Romney prized during his business career. If that is what Romney is looking for — and Cheney is right when he says the priority should not be on superficial political advantages that might attach to possible running mates — then the edge will go to the only sitting governor on the presumed short list: Chris Christie.

However, the other two main contenders also bring something to the table in this regard that should not be discounted. As the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the architect of the Republican proposals for entitlement reform, Ryan clearly has the vision and the understanding of how the federal government works to help Romney govern. And Portman, who currently sits in the Senate but was George W. Bush’s budget director, has the same sort of credential. But both also have negatives attached to their resumes. Ryan is considered radioactive to some because of the way Democrats have demonized his proposals, and Portman’s service in the last administration will link Romney to Bush.

Dickerson is also right to discount the edge that Rubio would bring with Hispanic voters. As I wrote yesterday, most of what is assumed by pundits about that is probably untrue.

As for Rubio, the jury is still out on whether his efforts to tamp down speculation about his candidacy were genuine. He had me convinced when he repeatedly said that “it wasn’t going to happen,” which sounded like he had a reason why he didn’t want to run (or why Romney shouldn’t pick him) rather than the usual coyness that we expect from vice presidential contenders. But his recent efforts aimed at self-promotion as well as a memorable Freudian slip about the subject have left me thinking maybe he wants it after all.

In the first century of the history of this republic, it was customary for presidential contenders to pretend they weren’t candidates and bad form to do anything that could be construed as campaigning for the job. But though that silly masquerade is no longer part of the presidential election process, it is retained for would-be vice presidents. But we’d all be better off if there was more candor about the veep search.

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How Vanilla Are the GOP Veep Hopefuls?

Now that the Republican presidential nomination is no longer in doubt, attention is starting to focus on the next big question to be answered in 2012: who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? The main candidates for the job are well known: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels and Bob McDonnell. But the only thing we know for sure is that unlike in 2000 when George W. Bush ultimately tapped the person running the job search —Dick Cheney — for the position himself, Romney won’t be asking his longtime advisor Beth Myers to put her own name at the top of the list she will be vetting.

With months to go before we find out the answer, anybody’s guess is good as any other as to the identity of the GOP veep. But Michael Barone points out that those expecting any great contrast between Romney and his choice or an attempt at balance are probably barking up the wrong tree. Romney would probably be best off picking someone like himself: a competent moderate conservative who would give the Republicans a “double vanilla” ticket. He’s probably right about that, but the only argument I have with this view is that one of the quintet of most likely candidates is anything but vanilla. If Romney were to choose Paul Ryan, he would be adding one of the most dynamic and ideas-oriented politicians in the country.

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Now that the Republican presidential nomination is no longer in doubt, attention is starting to focus on the next big question to be answered in 2012: who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? The main candidates for the job are well known: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Mitch Daniels and Bob McDonnell. But the only thing we know for sure is that unlike in 2000 when George W. Bush ultimately tapped the person running the job search —Dick Cheney — for the position himself, Romney won’t be asking his longtime advisor Beth Myers to put her own name at the top of the list she will be vetting.

With months to go before we find out the answer, anybody’s guess is good as any other as to the identity of the GOP veep. But Michael Barone points out that those expecting any great contrast between Romney and his choice or an attempt at balance are probably barking up the wrong tree. Romney would probably be best off picking someone like himself: a competent moderate conservative who would give the Republicans a “double vanilla” ticket. He’s probably right about that, but the only argument I have with this view is that one of the quintet of most likely candidates is anything but vanilla. If Romney were to choose Paul Ryan, he would be adding one of the most dynamic and ideas-oriented politicians in the country.

Analyzing this list, I agree with Barone that Marco Rubio should be taken at his word. If Rubio says that running with Romney “isn’t going to happen,” I assume that is going to be the case. Moreover, as Barone points out, the idea that Romney must have a Hispanic on the ticket to win is overblown. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but it won’t make the difference between winning and losing.

Looking at the other four, both Daniels and McDonnell bring a lot of competence and intelligence to the ticket but not much in the way of charisma. Despite being as dull as dishwater, Daniels remains the idol of many conservative ideologues, but the same reasons that caused him to stay out of the presidential race are likely to keep him off of Romney’s ticket. McDonnell would help the Republicans take back Virginia, a key swing state, which will be a not insignificant factor in his favor.

In recent weeks, there’s been something of a boomlet for Portman. The senator from Ohio has the perfect background to appeal to a technocrat like Romney. As a former budget director and trade representative, he has the knowledge of key areas of economics that will be Romney’s priority if he gets to the White House. And though it’s not clear that he could ensure a Republican victory in Ohio, anything that would put that state back in the GOP column would weigh heavily on his behalf.

Paul Ryan also should appeal to Romney’s inner policy wonk. Ryan is his party’s leader on budget and tax issues and a powerful voice for reform of entitlements. Barone thinks his role, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, is so essential to the passage of any future legislation in a Romney administration that it constitutes the most powerful argument against him being picked to run for vice president.

But Ryan’s leadership on issues of substance also makes him something of a lightening rod for Republicans. Whether or not he winds up on the ticket, he will be an issue in the general election. Democrats will seek to demonize his reformist agenda and brand Romney as being as willing to destroy Medicaid as they claim Ryan is. To some that constitutes a powerful reason not to choose him, but if Romney is looking for a game changing choice for vice president, Ryan is the man.

For those who recall the last time a GOP candidate picked a “game changing” vice presidential nominee, rest assured that Ryan is no Sarah Palin. He’s among the smartest people in Washington and used to the give and take of debate in the big leagues of American politics.

Though all of the other potential veeps bring a lot to the table, Ryan is the top ideas person in his party and a perfect foil to Romney in the sense that he can’t be accused of flip-flopping on his principles. Far from hiding him in a congressional corner, Republicans would be well advised to put him center stage where he can wage the battle for conservative principles in the limelight. Ryan may be controversial, but he’s anything but vanilla, and that may be exactly what Romney needs.

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Searching

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories. Read More

As I noted on Friday, the GOP could use some unifiers who can fuse the Tea Party’s enthusiasm and small-government devotion with the mature street smarts of conservative stalwarts who possess bipartisan appeal. It is not an easy task. The media envision (and egg on) a competition for the soul of the GOP, and the battle for the 2012 nomination — Sarah Palin vs. everyone else. That sort of standoff may play out, but it’s not a useful paradigm if the Republicans hope to capture the White House.

The midterm results illustrate this vividly. Sarah Palin’s Tea Party favorites Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell all went down to defeat, as did independent Tom Tancredo, whom she backed in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Her critics cite this as evidence that while potent within the conservative movement, she lacks the appeal and political judgment required for the GOP to win in 2012. Her defenders will remind us that she also backed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Nikki Haley, who all won. The argument for Rubio is not all that persuasive, of course; Rubio didn’t need Palin to win. The concern remains among conservatives: in a presidential race, you need to win not just deep Red States but also ones that are in play in competitive years.

There is another model. If Palin has reinforced doubts about her electability, Haley Barbour has some crowing to do. As head of the hugely successful Republican Governors’ Association, he can claim fundraising prowess and a role in the remarkable sweep in gubernatorial races from Maine to Florida to Wisconsin to New Mexico. The number of e-mails sent out touting his fundraising totals and electoral successes strongly suggests that he is getting his resume in order for a presidential run. But Barbour himself may not be the man to meld the two halves of the party. The image of an older, white Southern male with a successful lobbying career risks alienating the Tea Party contingent, whose enthusiasm and ideological zest led to many of those victories.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who on paper might seem well-suited to the times (businessman, successful governor), is hobbled, maybe fatally, by his authorship of a health-care plan that bears a striking resemblance to the one which both Republican insiders and Tea Party activists are determined to obliterate. This is no small handicap.

So what’s the formula for success? Republicans supported and emerged victorious with serious-minded conservative candidates – Rob Portman in Ohio, Dan Coats in Indiana, and John Boozman in Arkansas – while finding new faces (Rubio, Ron Johnson) who avoided the hot-button rhetoric that derailed a number of the Tea Party candidates. Although ideologically not all that different from the Tea Party–preferred candidates, the GOP victors demonstrated how to meld fiscal conservatism with a more accessible brand of populism. They hardly disappointed the Tea Party crowd; but neither did they alienate independent voters.

Are there GOP hopefuls in 2012 who can fuse Tea Party populism with sober conservative governance? Many in the conservative intelligentsia pine for Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a rock star on YouTube; he won in a Blue State and now is battling against the Trenton insiders. And he’s doing it with showmanship that only Palin can top. But he joked that apparently only “suicide” would convince us that he wasn’t interested. I’m thinking he might be serious about not running.

Then there is Rep. Paul Ryan, soon to take over the chair of the Budget Committee. He excites many conservatives in and outside the Beltway. He’s brainy and articulate, with a shake-up-the-status-quo approach to entitlement and budget reform. He already matched up well against Obama, arguably winning a TKO in the health-care summit. And he will be front and center in the key legislative battles, in some ways the face of the GOP House majority, for the next two years. While he’s said he’s not interested in a 2012 run, he’s not been Christie-esque in his denials. As for the “rule” that House members can’t make viable presidential candidates, I think the rulebook was shredded in the last few years.

Of course, there is Marco Rubio, the party’s genuine superstar (with an immigrant story and deep belief in American exceptionalism), who proved to be an especially effective messenger of conservative principles. However, both he and his most fervent supporters seem to agree: it’s too soon.

So the search goes on. The good news for the GOP is that they have a slew of new governors (e.g., John Kasich) and senators and some retiring ones (Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels) who understand how to forge the center-right coalition needed to get elected. A few faces familiar to political junkies (Mike Pence, John Thune) are also considering a run, which will test whether a Washington insider can nevertheless take on the mantle of reformer/outsider. Can any from this group of Republicans — who frankly lack magnetic personalities – also engage Tea Partiers? We will see.

So conservatives keep looking and trying to persuade the reluctant pols to throw their hats into the ring. Those who imagine they can win back the White House without full engagement of the 2010 winning formula (Tea Partiers plus traditionalists) should think again. A plan by half of the Republican alliance to overpower the other half is a formula for a second Obama term.

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Dems and GOP Both Have Their Issues

Democrats and Republicans each have their problems. On the Democratic side, the head of the party cannot fathom that there is a link between his statist agenda (and the red ink and anemic growth that accompanies it) and the voters’ insistence on dumping those responsible for the agenda’s passage. As the Washington Post‘s editors delicately put it:

[W]e would have preferred to see more in the way of a presidential acknowledgement that voters’ reaction might be more than simple misperception on their part or failure to communicate adequately on his. Certainly, Mr. Obama’s description of his new administration coping with a flurry of emergencies does not extend to his decision to launch an ambitious health-reform agenda in the midst of the maelstrom. Mr. Obama said voters were understandably disappointed that the change in atmosphere he had promised had failed to materialize. But the examples he cited — the “ugly mess” of getting health reform passed, or the fact that he, “in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them” — involved hard-headed decisions on the part of administration strategists to do what it took to achieve their ends.

Or, if you prefer the bluntness of Charles Krauthammer:

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor — subdued, his closest approximation of humility — but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The “folks” are apparently just “frustrated” that “progress” is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he’d been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

In short, the Democrats are in denial, the worst culprits responsible for the leftist jag remain in the House (the lucky possessors of the Bluest districts one could gerrymander), and the country is in no mood to see them defend the Obama agenda that voters just rejected en masse. Read More

Democrats and Republicans each have their problems. On the Democratic side, the head of the party cannot fathom that there is a link between his statist agenda (and the red ink and anemic growth that accompanies it) and the voters’ insistence on dumping those responsible for the agenda’s passage. As the Washington Post‘s editors delicately put it:

[W]e would have preferred to see more in the way of a presidential acknowledgement that voters’ reaction might be more than simple misperception on their part or failure to communicate adequately on his. Certainly, Mr. Obama’s description of his new administration coping with a flurry of emergencies does not extend to his decision to launch an ambitious health-reform agenda in the midst of the maelstrom. Mr. Obama said voters were understandably disappointed that the change in atmosphere he had promised had failed to materialize. But the examples he cited — the “ugly mess” of getting health reform passed, or the fact that he, “in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them” — involved hard-headed decisions on the part of administration strategists to do what it took to achieve their ends.

Or, if you prefer the bluntness of Charles Krauthammer:

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

The president, however, remains clueless. In his next-day news conference, he had the right demeanor — subdued, his closest approximation of humility — but was uncomprehending about what just happened. The “folks” are apparently just “frustrated” that “progress” is just too slow. Asked three times whether popular rejection of his policy agenda might have had something to do with the shellacking he took, he looked as if he’d been asked whether the sun had risen in the West. Why, no, he said.

In short, the Democrats are in denial, the worst culprits responsible for the leftist jag remain in the House (the lucky possessors of the Bluest districts one could gerrymander), and the country is in no mood to see them defend the Obama agenda that voters just rejected en masse.

As for the Republicans, their problem is in recognizing that two component parts of the GOP — the Tea Partiers and the establishment (i.e., professional pols) — are dependent on one another. It might satisfy some would-be leaders of the Tea Party contingent to attack Karl Rove or Ed Gillespie, but is that what building a governing majority is all about? The Tea Party brought energy, ideological firmness, and grassroots organization to a moribund Republican Party. But the Republican Party provided many of the most electable, sober conservatives (e.g., Rob Portman, Dan Coats, John Boozman) who can translate the Tea Party agenda into legislation. If the party had run only Sharron Angles and Christine O’Donnells, there would have been no “shellacking”; without the Tea Party, there would have been no unifying theme and no electoral wave to put those seasoned conservatives into office.

The GOP, therefore, could use some unifiers — namely those who understand that the name of the game is not to spend time poking their fingers in the eye of half of the conservative coalition. The challenge now is to devise a strategy that first stops the Obama onslaught and then offers a thoughtful conservative alternative. The GOP is badly in need of such unifying figures — both to navigate the next two years and to lead the party in 2012. Those who find it personally satisfying to bicker with their allies do damage to their cause — and ultimately their own career objectives.

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Adults Like Us

Dana Milbank, like so many other liberals oscillating between gloom and self-delusion, thinks the GOP needs more “grown-ups.” By that I suspect he means a flock of Lindsey Grahams eager to diss their own party and showboat for the mainstream media. But the GOP will have plenty of sober, sophisticated pols, if that is the definition of “adult”: Rob Portman, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Mark Kirk, John Boozman. In the House, you can’t get more adult that Paul Ryan, whose mastery of the budget and entitlements is second to none.

I think Milbank’s concern for adult supervision might better be directed at the White House, which has yet to make the jump from campaign attack-dog mode to chief executive. But I think “adult” is really another word absconded by the left. “Sanity” is another. To those like Milbank, these words simply mean “liberal like us!”

Dana Milbank, like so many other liberals oscillating between gloom and self-delusion, thinks the GOP needs more “grown-ups.” By that I suspect he means a flock of Lindsey Grahams eager to diss their own party and showboat for the mainstream media. But the GOP will have plenty of sober, sophisticated pols, if that is the definition of “adult”: Rob Portman, Roy Blunt, Dan Coats, Mark Kirk, John Boozman. In the House, you can’t get more adult that Paul Ryan, whose mastery of the budget and entitlements is second to none.

I think Milbank’s concern for adult supervision might better be directed at the White House, which has yet to make the jump from campaign attack-dog mode to chief executive. But I think “adult” is really another word absconded by the left. “Sanity” is another. To those like Milbank, these words simply mean “liberal like us!”

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The Worst-Case Scenario for the GOP Is Pretty Darn Good

Nate Silver provides a helpful picture of the worst-case scenario for Republicans. He certainly is not, and does not claim to be, neutral in his observations and is not a pollster himself. But he’s about the most intellectually honest analyst on the Dem side. So what’s he say about the House?

FiveThirtyEight’s forecast now projects the most likely composition of the House to be 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats. This is a one-seat improvement for the Republicans from yesterday’s forecast, and would mean that they’d gain a net of 52 seats over all.

Consider 52 seats the floor for the GOP House pickups. As the Hill sums up:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party.

As for the Senate, here is some very useful analysis of the differences between the House and Senate races:

If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority! …

By comparison, in the House, where everyone is up for re-election every two years, Republicans appear most likely to win something like 53 percent of available seats. The fraction could conceivably approach 60 percent if they have a really terrific night, or it could be a bit below 50 if the Democrats overperform their polls and hold the House. But the Republicans almost without doubt will win a higher fraction of the available Senate seats (and probably also the available governors’ seats, although that could be a lot closer) than they will in the House.

And he is honest enough to point out that there is a candidate quality-control problem on both sides of the aisle:

My hunch is that Shelly Berkely would probably be crushing Ms. Angle in Nevada were she on the ballot in place of Mr. Reid; Lisa Madigan would probably have a clear lead over Mark Kirk in Illinois; there are even states like Arizona — where John McCain’s approval ratings are actually quite poor — in which an absolutely top-tier Democratic nominee might have made a competitive race. And meanwhile, the Republicans have some strong candidates, including both establishment choices like Rob Portman in Ohio and John Hoeven in North Dakota, and antiestablishment ones like Marco Rubio in Florida (a Tea Partier), and probably even Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (another Tea Partier), who has run a really smart campaign, although he’s not quite out of the woods yet against the incumbent, Russ Feingold.

To sum up, there is precious little good news for the Democrats. They are on track to lose the House, scads of Senate seats, and their Senate majority leader. (Even pre-programming some voting machines in Nevada isn’t likely to save Harry Reid.) The notion that the Tea Party has handicapped the GOP is belied by the facts, which Silver’s liberal colleagues would do well (at least for the sake of their intellectual integrity) to stop ignoring.

Nate Silver provides a helpful picture of the worst-case scenario for Republicans. He certainly is not, and does not claim to be, neutral in his observations and is not a pollster himself. But he’s about the most intellectually honest analyst on the Dem side. So what’s he say about the House?

FiveThirtyEight’s forecast now projects the most likely composition of the House to be 231 Republicans and 204 Democrats. This is a one-seat improvement for the Republicans from yesterday’s forecast, and would mean that they’d gain a net of 52 seats over all.

Consider 52 seats the floor for the GOP House pickups. As the Hill sums up:

The Hill 2010 Midterm Election poll, surveying nearly 17,000 likely voters in 42 toss-up districts over four weeks, points to a massive Republican wave that, barring an extraordinary turnaround, will deliver crushing nationwide defeats for President Obama’s party.

As for the Senate, here is some very useful analysis of the differences between the House and Senate races:

If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority! …

By comparison, in the House, where everyone is up for re-election every two years, Republicans appear most likely to win something like 53 percent of available seats. The fraction could conceivably approach 60 percent if they have a really terrific night, or it could be a bit below 50 if the Democrats overperform their polls and hold the House. But the Republicans almost without doubt will win a higher fraction of the available Senate seats (and probably also the available governors’ seats, although that could be a lot closer) than they will in the House.

And he is honest enough to point out that there is a candidate quality-control problem on both sides of the aisle:

My hunch is that Shelly Berkely would probably be crushing Ms. Angle in Nevada were she on the ballot in place of Mr. Reid; Lisa Madigan would probably have a clear lead over Mark Kirk in Illinois; there are even states like Arizona — where John McCain’s approval ratings are actually quite poor — in which an absolutely top-tier Democratic nominee might have made a competitive race. And meanwhile, the Republicans have some strong candidates, including both establishment choices like Rob Portman in Ohio and John Hoeven in North Dakota, and antiestablishment ones like Marco Rubio in Florida (a Tea Partier), and probably even Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (another Tea Partier), who has run a really smart campaign, although he’s not quite out of the woods yet against the incumbent, Russ Feingold.

To sum up, there is precious little good news for the Democrats. They are on track to lose the House, scads of Senate seats, and their Senate majority leader. (Even pre-programming some voting machines in Nevada isn’t likely to save Harry Reid.) The notion that the Tea Party has handicapped the GOP is belied by the facts, which Silver’s liberal colleagues would do well (at least for the sake of their intellectual integrity) to stop ignoring.

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Senate Sliding Toward GOP

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

A new batch of Senate polls are out. There’s not much good news for the Democrats:

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll. … [A]fter a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

Sharron Angle clings to a two-point advantage over Harry Reid, and Dino Rossi is one point up on Patty Murray. Meanwhile, the most stark indication of the president’s declining fortunes comes from Ohio:

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters. … But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

The only positive note for the Democrats: Christine O’Donnell is trailing by double digits. It seems Karl Rove was right. Nevertheless, if McMahon continues to cut into Blumenthal’s lead and Rossi and Angle hold on, Delaware will not matter. It does and will continue to serve as a warning that the GOP is fully capable of shooting itself in the foot in 2012; not every Republican can win in the Obama era.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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You Want a Bellwether?

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

There is no better predictor of electoral fortunes than Ohio. It is the best microcosm of the electorate we have. In 2008, Ohio told us that Obama had captured the votes of working-class whites and independents. In 2010, Ohio tells us that the president and his party are in very big trouble. The Quinnipiac poll reports:

Republican Rob Portman holds a 55 – 35 percent lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher among likely voters in the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat, while President Barack Obama has a 60 – 38 percent disapproval rating, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. By a 58 – 37 percent margin, likely Ohio voters want a U.S. Senator who opposes President Obama’s policies, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey, conducted by live interviewers, finds. And by 49 – 31 percent, voters want Republicans rather than Democrats to control the U.S. Senate.

“Among the likely Ohio electorate for this November, President Barack Obama is not a popular fellow. Independent likely voters disapprove 65 – 31 percent of the job he is doing. With the president such a heavy weight around the neck of Democratic candidates, it will be hard for one to win such a high-profile office this year in Ohio,” Brown said.

One reason for the president’s poor rating, at least in Ohio, is his health care overhaul plan. Likely voters disapprove of it by a 65 – 30 percent margin.

“White House senior advisor David Axelrod says Americans will come to like the health insurance plan, but it sure doesn’t look like that will be the case in Ohio by Nov. 2,” said Brown.

Overall, Ohio voters disapprove of Obama’s performance by a stunning 60 to 38 percent margin. In 2008, Obama carried the state by a 52 to 47 percent margin. That is about as stunning a reversal in political standing as you will find in American politics.

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