Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rob Portman

Bad News Gets Worse for Dems

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

Nate Silver breaks the bad news to the Gray Lady’s readers:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. … Of late, the source of the Democrats’ problems has not necessarily been in high-profile Senate races where the Republicans have nominated inexperienced but headline-grabbing candidates, like  Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky (although the model regards both Ms. Angle and Mr. Paul as slight favorites). Instead, it has been in traditional swing states like  Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So in other words, Kentucky and Nevada aren’t problems at all, notwithstanding the “headling-grabbing nominees.” And it gets worse. Those sneaky Republicans have also nominated “members of the G.O.P.’s establishment. … Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former Republican Minority Whip, and in Ohio, Rob Portman, the former congressman who served as trade representative and budget director in the Bush administration. And so far, the Democrats’ strategy of Bush-bashing does not seem to be resonating in these states.”

To sum up, GOP establishment candidates are doing well. GOP insurgent candidates are doing well. The favorite Democratic strategy is a bust. One can imagine that this is the most optimistic version of events Silver can credibly present. (And he throws in a security blanket for panicky readers: “It could also be that the polling somewhat overstates the degree of danger that Democrats face.”) In fact, it is entirely possible that Silver’s outlook is unduly optimistic. After all, he doesn’t think much of Republican chances in Wisconsin and California, but both of those races are dead heats. And besides, many more of these kinds of columns and the Democrats will become more morose than they already are, further depressing turnout and tipping the playing field in the GOP’s favor.

All in all, the Obama era is proving to be quite a downer for liberals.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not like the Constitution says “informed advice and consent.” The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Elena Kagan, even though many (Lindsey Graham for one) complained they didn’t know much about her.

It’s not like Ohio is an important bellwether state, or anything. “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio finds Republican candidate Rob Portman with 45% of the vote while Democrat Lee Fisher earns 39% support this month. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 11% more are undecided.”

It’s not like the administration listens to Israelis about Israel or businessmen about business, but still, even they should find this (from Jackson Diehl) compelling: “Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island’s dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week. Noting the ‘manifest willingness of some European countries’ to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed ‘an approval of this measure,’ because ‘the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country.’”

It’s not like a Democratic polling outfit wants to pour gasoline on the fire: Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen writes: “With Barack Obama’s polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination. We’re not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn’t expect it to be very interesting.”

It’s not like we’re really going to talk to North Korea. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained (well, not explained, but said): “We’re always prepared to talk. But there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that, you know, there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we’ll consider having a follow-on conversation.”

It’s not like Obama has been great for Democrats in Virginia: “A new survey of Virginia’s 5th district race paints a tough reelection picture for freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is leading the incumbent, 58 percent to 35 percent, according to the survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for WDBJ News in Roanoke.”

It’s not like this is a bad thing for Democrats — or for the country: “Senate climate legislation appeared to be on life support Tuesday after two key advocates said they were skeptical of reaching a quick deal on a controversial bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants.”

It’s not like the Constitution says “informed advice and consent.” The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Elena Kagan, even though many (Lindsey Graham for one) complained they didn’t know much about her.

It’s not like Ohio is an important bellwether state, or anything. “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio finds Republican candidate Rob Portman with 45% of the vote while Democrat Lee Fisher earns 39% support this month. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 11% more are undecided.”

It’s not like the administration listens to Israelis about Israel or businessmen about business, but still, even they should find this (from Jackson Diehl) compelling: “Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island’s dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week. Noting the ‘manifest willingness of some European countries’ to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed ‘an approval of this measure,’ because ‘the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country.’”

It’s not like a Democratic polling outfit wants to pour gasoline on the fire: Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen writes: “With Barack Obama’s polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination. We’re not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn’t expect it to be very interesting.”

It’s not like we’re really going to talk to North Korea. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained (well, not explained, but said): “We’re always prepared to talk. But there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that, you know, there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we’ll consider having a follow-on conversation.”

It’s not like Obama has been great for Democrats in Virginia: “A new survey of Virginia’s 5th district race paints a tough reelection picture for freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is leading the incumbent, 58 percent to 35 percent, according to the survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for WDBJ News in Roanoke.”

It’s not like this is a bad thing for Democrats — or for the country: “Senate climate legislation appeared to be on life support Tuesday after two key advocates said they were skeptical of reaching a quick deal on a controversial bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants.”

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Falling Further Behind

The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:

Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.

There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.

There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.

The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:

Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.

There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.

There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

At one time, this was thought to be a seat at risk for Republicans: “Former Congressman Rob Portman continues to have the edge on both his chief Democratic rivals in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.”

Charlie Cook has the Massachusetts Senate race as a toss-up, too: “Coakley has run an overly-cautious, somewhat clumsy campaign, only recently hitting the panic button. Some astute political observers note that even in attacking Brown, her campaign’s ads have been less impressive than the attacks on Brown launched by other entities. … To the extent Coakley may still have a tiny advantage, it appears not to meet the normal standard we have for a ‘lean’ rating: a competitive race but one in which one party has a clear advantage. We see no clear advantage.” This is Massachusetts, folks.

Why is it so close in Massachusetts? “Massachusetts politicos said that while anti-Washington sentiment is an element of what is happening in their state, they also blame state political dynamics in combination with presumption by the Democrats and the party’s candidate — Attorney General Martha Coakley — that the seat would be theirs without much of an effort. The Kennedy-anointed Coakley took nearly a week off from the campaign around Christmas. ‘A lot of Democrats in Massachusetts and certainly the Coakley campaign and myself thought this was going to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be,’ said David Kravitz, a Boston lawyer and opera singer who runs a liberal political blog called bluemassgroup.com.”

It’s all a “political smear campaign,” he says: “Former UN weapons inspector turned Iraq war critic Scott Ritter has been caught in a police sex sting.” And his arrest (the charge was subsequently dismissed) in a 2001 Internet sex scandal was just a coincidence, I suppose.

Fred Barnes thinks ObamaCare isn’t a done deal yet in the House: “Republicans have a target-rich environment of 39 Democrats who voted in favor of Obamacare last year as possible defectors. Republicans will try to persuade as many of them as possible to switch, forcing Pelosi to find new Obamacare backers or see the health care bill die. … The 39 possible switchers include 11 pro-life Democrats who voted for Obamacare after a tough anti-abortion amendment was added. The compromise with the Senate bill isn’t likely to have as strong a provision barring the use of public funds to pay for abortions. Thus some of the pro-lifers could defect.”

Ben Nelson got booed at a pizza parlor. It seems his health-care vote has made him quite unpopular at home: “He used to be a popular figure back home, a Democrat who served eight years in the governor’s office and was elected twice to the Senate by a state that’s as red as the ‘N’ on football helmets. But Nelson has seen his approval ratings tumble in the wake of his wavering over the historic health care bill, his deal cutting with other Senate Democrats and, ultimately, his support to break a GOP filibuster and send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.” Do other Red State Democrats think they’re immune from this reaction back home?

Elections have consequences: “The man once described by teachers’ union leaders as “the antithesis of everything we hold sacred about public education” was chosen to serve as state education commissioner by Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie on Wednesday. The nomination of Bret D. Schundler to the post underscored the governor’s determination to press ahead with his push for school vouchers, more charter schools and merit pay for teachers.”

Israel is helping in Haiti relief, though you won’t see much reporting on it.

Harry Reid is tanking: “36% approval to 58% disapproval, a 51-41 deficit against Sue Lowden, and a 50-42 one against Danny Tarkanian.” I suspect he’ll be joining Chris Dodd in retirement. You’d have thought that Democrats would have figured out how to dump him in the flap over his “Negro dialect” comments. But maybe it’s not too late. The Democratic Public Policy Polling outfit helpfully polls Democratic alternatives to Reid and finds that the Las Vegas mayor does best against GOP challengers.

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A New Ballgame, Perhaps

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

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Bush Is Back

In addition to the plummeting support for ObamaCare, that Public Policy Polling survey had this nugget:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that’s somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country’s difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President.

Everything in politics is relative, we see once again. It’s only when presented with an “un-Bush” — the elite, Ivy Leagued cool guy who made media pundits swoon like schoolgirls — that the public, it seems, has come to appreciate George W. Bush: the decider, the man who teared up in the wake of 9/11, the president who frankly couldn’t stand the Israel and America bashers at the UN, and the conservative who may have frustrated conservatives with insufficient frugality but who understood and appreciated the limits of the federal government. Bush’s stalwart position on the war on terror (pro–enhanced interrogations, anti–Guantanamo closing) is shared by a majority of voters. And Obama? The public doesn’t agree with him on KSM, enhanced interrogations, or his signature domestic initiative.

The pollsters’ observation about 2010 is a telling one. Obama and the Democrats have been running on and speechifying about being “not George Bush” for some time. It’s old, and Bush is no longer so unpopular. They’ll have to get a new line and run on their own records. No wonder they’re nervous.

In addition to the plummeting support for ObamaCare, that Public Policy Polling survey had this nugget:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that’s somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country’s difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President.

Everything in politics is relative, we see once again. It’s only when presented with an “un-Bush” — the elite, Ivy Leagued cool guy who made media pundits swoon like schoolgirls — that the public, it seems, has come to appreciate George W. Bush: the decider, the man who teared up in the wake of 9/11, the president who frankly couldn’t stand the Israel and America bashers at the UN, and the conservative who may have frustrated conservatives with insufficient frugality but who understood and appreciated the limits of the federal government. Bush’s stalwart position on the war on terror (pro–enhanced interrogations, anti–Guantanamo closing) is shared by a majority of voters. And Obama? The public doesn’t agree with him on KSM, enhanced interrogations, or his signature domestic initiative.

The pollsters’ observation about 2010 is a telling one. Obama and the Democrats have been running on and speechifying about being “not George Bush” for some time. It’s old, and Bush is no longer so unpopular. They’ll have to get a new line and run on their own records. No wonder they’re nervous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.’” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.’” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

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Silly Season for McCain

There are several stories today about John McCain’s possible vice-presidential picks. This is absurd for many reasons. Here are a few:

1) It is a 95 percent certainty that McCain will not announce his pick until, at the earliest, a few days before the convention. There is no upside whatever to an early announcement. If it provokes excitement, the excitement will dissipate, leaving the campaign with nothing. If there are any problems, it will be the only subject of discussion surrounding McCain for weeks and weeks and weeks, with the worrisome subtext — Look, here is McCain’s first major decision, and it isn’t going well.

2) There is literally no way of knowing whether most of the people on the supposed short list –  Sanford, Pawlenty, Ridge, Crist, Rob Portman, John Kasich — can actually pass muster. The cardinal rule of the VP pick is — First, do no harm. The vetting process for a VP candidate is brutal. Any personal problem — any — might prove disqualifying. Too many speeding tickets? Too much money spent at the track? A friendship with someone who was later indicted? Marital troubles? A wife with too many speeding tickets? A son caught on a YouTube video sucking on a bong? A daughter who got drunk during Spring Break and is in the background of a YouTube dirty dancing?

Once one of these short-listers becomes acquainted with the horribly intrusive nature of the vetting process, he might just drop out. I know one case of someone who was practically offered the slot many cycles ago who realized an unhappy period in a close relative’s life would surely come to light and therefore turned it down.

The only really vetted people are the ones who have run for president — Romney and Huckabee particularly (though I’m not sure I would entirely count out either Sam Brownback or Duncan Hunter, though they did badly in the primaries). But here we bump up against McCain’s own character. He is a very personal politician. He likes people he likes, and has contempt for people he doesn’t. He really seems not to like Romney, and though Romney would be the most conventional choice, McCain is unlikely to make a choice entirely based on convention and prudence when he has to pick someone with whom he is going to work closely for months and maybe years.

I’ve been joking that McCain might feel differently if Romney were to pony up $75 million for the general-election run. But this too raises the problem with a Romney candidacy — wouldn’t there be intense speculation of precisely this kind of quid pro quo, that McCain effectively sold the VP slot to Romney because of his great wealth?

In the end, the process to pick the Veep will take months, not weeks. There’s a reason people don’t name their pick early. McCain won’t do it either.

There are several stories today about John McCain’s possible vice-presidential picks. This is absurd for many reasons. Here are a few:

1) It is a 95 percent certainty that McCain will not announce his pick until, at the earliest, a few days before the convention. There is no upside whatever to an early announcement. If it provokes excitement, the excitement will dissipate, leaving the campaign with nothing. If there are any problems, it will be the only subject of discussion surrounding McCain for weeks and weeks and weeks, with the worrisome subtext — Look, here is McCain’s first major decision, and it isn’t going well.

2) There is literally no way of knowing whether most of the people on the supposed short list –  Sanford, Pawlenty, Ridge, Crist, Rob Portman, John Kasich — can actually pass muster. The cardinal rule of the VP pick is — First, do no harm. The vetting process for a VP candidate is brutal. Any personal problem — any — might prove disqualifying. Too many speeding tickets? Too much money spent at the track? A friendship with someone who was later indicted? Marital troubles? A wife with too many speeding tickets? A son caught on a YouTube video sucking on a bong? A daughter who got drunk during Spring Break and is in the background of a YouTube dirty dancing?

Once one of these short-listers becomes acquainted with the horribly intrusive nature of the vetting process, he might just drop out. I know one case of someone who was practically offered the slot many cycles ago who realized an unhappy period in a close relative’s life would surely come to light and therefore turned it down.

The only really vetted people are the ones who have run for president — Romney and Huckabee particularly (though I’m not sure I would entirely count out either Sam Brownback or Duncan Hunter, though they did badly in the primaries). But here we bump up against McCain’s own character. He is a very personal politician. He likes people he likes, and has contempt for people he doesn’t. He really seems not to like Romney, and though Romney would be the most conventional choice, McCain is unlikely to make a choice entirely based on convention and prudence when he has to pick someone with whom he is going to work closely for months and maybe years.

I’ve been joking that McCain might feel differently if Romney were to pony up $75 million for the general-election run. But this too raises the problem with a Romney candidacy — wouldn’t there be intense speculation of precisely this kind of quid pro quo, that McCain effectively sold the VP slot to Romney because of his great wealth?

In the end, the process to pick the Veep will take months, not weeks. There’s a reason people don’t name their pick early. McCain won’t do it either.

Read Less




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