Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sherrod Brown

Post-Debate Polls Show Senate Back in Play

A week is a lifetime in politics. Just seven days ago, even some Republicans were writing off Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected president. But as the latest polls taken since his victory in Wednesday’s debate show, the race is up for grabs again. Even more significant, the altered political environment that stems from the puncturing of the Obama balloon of inevitability may be having some effect on other races as well.

The first polls after the debate showed a dramatic movement toward Romney in swing states. The national tracking polls also showed either a reduced margin for Obama, as in the case of Gallup, or an Obama lead being turned into one for Romney, as Rasmussen reported. But the key swing state of Ohio showed not only movement in the top ballot race but in the one below it. Rasmussen’s latest survey of the Ohio Senate race between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Josh Mandel indicates that this crucial battle has changed from one in which Brown had a strong lead into a flat-footed tie. That not only alters the odds about that seat, but with Ohio moving from leans-Democratic to tossup on the national Senate map, it means control of the upper house may once again be back in play this year. While the youthful Mandel has been running a surprisingly strong underdog effort, it can only be supposed that a surge for him is not unconnected to the boost Romney got in Ohio in the days after the debate.

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A week is a lifetime in politics. Just seven days ago, even some Republicans were writing off Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected president. But as the latest polls taken since his victory in Wednesday’s debate show, the race is up for grabs again. Even more significant, the altered political environment that stems from the puncturing of the Obama balloon of inevitability may be having some effect on other races as well.

The first polls after the debate showed a dramatic movement toward Romney in swing states. The national tracking polls also showed either a reduced margin for Obama, as in the case of Gallup, or an Obama lead being turned into one for Romney, as Rasmussen reported. But the key swing state of Ohio showed not only movement in the top ballot race but in the one below it. Rasmussen’s latest survey of the Ohio Senate race between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Josh Mandel indicates that this crucial battle has changed from one in which Brown had a strong lead into a flat-footed tie. That not only alters the odds about that seat, but with Ohio moving from leans-Democratic to tossup on the national Senate map, it means control of the upper house may once again be back in play this year. While the youthful Mandel has been running a surprisingly strong underdog effort, it can only be supposed that a surge for him is not unconnected to the boost Romney got in Ohio in the days after the debate.

It’s possible Romney’s post-debate bounce may not last. Liberal efforts to spin the contradictory results of Friday’s federal jobs report may spin the needle back in the president’s direction in the next few days. But it is also possible that all the debate has done is correct the post-convention Obama surge that turned what had been a tight race all year into one in which he had a small edge.

Romney’s September swoon hadn’t just hurt him but also lowered the chances of the Republicans taking back the Senate this fall, as many had assumed they would earlier in the year. The problem wasn’t just Missouri, where Todd Akin’s idiotic comments about pregnancy and rape turned a sure GOP victory into a likely loss to Claire McCaskill. In the past few weeks, some races that had been thought to be easy GOP victories, like the ones in Indiana, Arizona, Montana and North Dakota, became toss-ups. Scott Brown also lost ground to liberal icon Elizabeth Warren.

But the past few days have shown that just as Romney has gotten himself back in the game, he may be helping Senate candidates too. While Democrats will scream that Rasmussen is a Republican outlier, if Mandel is tied with Brown now that has to be seen as an indication that Republicans are on the upswing in Ohio. While Brown, like Obama, must still be considered the favorite, the idea that Ohio has drifted from a toss-up to a Democratic leaner must now be thrown out. With Democratic seats like the one in Connecticut and Ohio now looking better for the GOP, Romney can now look forward to a stretch run in which he not only has given himself a chance to win, but also allowed his party to dream of a sweep of both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

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Can Mandel be the GOP’s Majority Maker?

Pundits who are quick to write off the Republicans’ chances of gaining the four Senate seats they need to take back the upper chamber after the Todd Akin fiasco in Missouri need to remember that the GOP has more opportunities for gains than they thought earlier in the year. The assumption that Claire McCaskill’s Missouri seat will easily fall into the GOP’s hands was blown up last week by Akin’s idiocy about pregnancy and rape. But it turns out that the Ohio seat held by liberal stalwart Sherrod Brown, which many Republicans weren’t counting among their potential pickups, is now very much in play. Republican candidate Josh Mandel, whose youth and relative lack of experience has been widely mocked by the Democrats, could replace Akin as the GOP’s majority maker.

That’s the only reasonable interpretation of the Columbus Dispatch survey of the Buckeye state that shows the Brown-Mandel race as being as much of a dead heat there as the one between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The Senate race is a 44-44 tie, while the Ohio presidential matchup is deadlocked at 45-45. That’s significant because when the same numbers in the Senate contest were posted by Rasmussen earlier in August, they were dismissed as inaccurate or inconsistent with other results. But with the Dispatch poll and a University of Cincinnati poll released last week that showed Brown leading Mandel 48-47, it’s now clear a race that was long judged to be an easy hold for the Democrats is now a tossup. After a summer during which the Brown camp has pounded Mandel with negative ads, Democrats have to be scratching their heads about these numbers.

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Pundits who are quick to write off the Republicans’ chances of gaining the four Senate seats they need to take back the upper chamber after the Todd Akin fiasco in Missouri need to remember that the GOP has more opportunities for gains than they thought earlier in the year. The assumption that Claire McCaskill’s Missouri seat will easily fall into the GOP’s hands was blown up last week by Akin’s idiocy about pregnancy and rape. But it turns out that the Ohio seat held by liberal stalwart Sherrod Brown, which many Republicans weren’t counting among their potential pickups, is now very much in play. Republican candidate Josh Mandel, whose youth and relative lack of experience has been widely mocked by the Democrats, could replace Akin as the GOP’s majority maker.

That’s the only reasonable interpretation of the Columbus Dispatch survey of the Buckeye state that shows the Brown-Mandel race as being as much of a dead heat there as the one between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The Senate race is a 44-44 tie, while the Ohio presidential matchup is deadlocked at 45-45. That’s significant because when the same numbers in the Senate contest were posted by Rasmussen earlier in August, they were dismissed as inaccurate or inconsistent with other results. But with the Dispatch poll and a University of Cincinnati poll released last week that showed Brown leading Mandel 48-47, it’s now clear a race that was long judged to be an easy hold for the Democrats is now a tossup. After a summer during which the Brown camp has pounded Mandel with negative ads, Democrats have to be scratching their heads about these numbers.

Mandel was thought by some political observers to be too green and untested to defeat an entrenched incumbent like Brown. His list of political accomplishments is thin. He has less than two years as Ohio’s treasurer and two terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. Despite Brown’s designation as the “most liberal member of Congress” by the National Journal, the incumbent, who has also has seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives under his belt, was assumed to have an easy opponent in Mandel. But despite that modest resume, it’s now apparent that voters seem to like the Republican. The 34-year-old may not look old enough to shave but there is something about the Marine veteran’s smart, youthful persona and upbeat style that attracts voters.

Back in June, Politico alleged that the only thing that was keeping Mandel’s hopes afloat was support from super PACs like American Crossroads. But in the intervening months, Mandel was carpet-bombed by labor PACS and other liberal big spenders who lambasted his candidacy and record. Rather than letting this Democrat counter-punch floor the GOP hopeful, Mandel has actually gained ground over the summer.

That has got to worry the Democrats, since it shows that the more the voters see of Mandel, the more they like him. And with Brown running slightly behind President Obama, he’s going to need a surge at the top of the ticket in order to be carried over the finish line. That means a Senate seat that Democrats believed they were likely to keep is very much up for grabs this fall. Akin’s collapse was a blow to the GOP’s plans to win the Senate. But since a Mandel win should no longer be considered a long shot, they can easily make up for a loss in Missouri with an unexpected triumph in Ohio.

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Obama Was Champion of WARN Act in ’07

Yesterday, I wrote about how President Obama’s Department of Labor issued guidelines for dealing with the job losses from sequestration. The guidelines told employers not to provide workers with 60 days minimum notice of pending layoffs, as required by federal law. We don’t know what prompted the DOL’s unusual directive, but Obama most likely wants to avoid a scenario in which mass layoff notices are sent out just days before the presidential election.

It’s interesting that the Obama administration is suddenly so blase when it comes to enforcing employee protection laws, particularly because he was a champion of the 60-day minimum notice law — also known as the WARN Act — back in 2007.

“For too long, employers have failed to notify workers that they’re about to lose their jobs due to mass layoffs or plant closings even though notice is required by the WARN Act,” then-Sen. Obama said in a July 17, 2007  press release. “The least employers can do when they’re anticipating layoffs is to let workers know they’re going to be out of a job and a paycheck with enough time to plan for their future.”

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Yesterday, I wrote about how President Obama’s Department of Labor issued guidelines for dealing with the job losses from sequestration. The guidelines told employers not to provide workers with 60 days minimum notice of pending layoffs, as required by federal law. We don’t know what prompted the DOL’s unusual directive, but Obama most likely wants to avoid a scenario in which mass layoff notices are sent out just days before the presidential election.

It’s interesting that the Obama administration is suddenly so blase when it comes to enforcing employee protection laws, particularly because he was a champion of the 60-day minimum notice law — also known as the WARN Act — back in 2007.

“For too long, employers have failed to notify workers that they’re about to lose their jobs due to mass layoffs or plant closings even though notice is required by the WARN Act,” then-Sen. Obama said in a July 17, 2007  press release. “The least employers can do when they’re anticipating layoffs is to let workers know they’re going to be out of a job and a paycheck with enough time to plan for their future.”

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama also railed against loopholes that allowed employers to avoid complying with the law — which is basically what his DOL seems to be advising now.

“Now, I believe we must act at the federal level to close the loophole that allows employers to disregard the WARN Act without penalty,” he said in statement to the Toledo Blade.

As senator, Obama even cosponsored the 2007 FOREWARN Act, which would have extended the minimum notice to 90 days and increased both the penalties for violating the law and the government’s ability to enforce it.

Oddly enough, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown reintroduced the FOREWARN Act less than two months ago. Will Obama — who advocated for it during his last presidential campaign — express his support for it again? And will he tell his DOL to stop encouraging employers to dodge the WARN Act, which he insisted was so important when he was serving in the Senate?

Nobody wants employers and workers to worry about layoffs that may never happen. But the way to ensure that warning notices don’t go out unnecessarily is by dealing with sequestration before November and before the 60-day minimum window — not by telling employers to ignore the WARN Act and assume sequestration will be taken care of after the election.

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Mandel Rising on His Merits, Not Just Cash

For those who assume the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending means elections can be bought, the Ohio Senate race is a classic example of a bad candidate being kept afloat by cash. That’s the conceit of a Politico feature today about Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican who is confounding his critics by staying within striking range of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. According to the piece, Mandel ought to have been run out of the race due to a string of bad headlines. However, he has not only saved his candidacy but actually has a shot at winning  due, as Politico tells it, to the infusion of out-of-state contributions and ad buys by super PACs that have duped the state’s voters into considering voting for him. But while there is no question that the efforts of the pro-GOP Crossroads America PAC and others like it have helped Mandel, Politico is exaggerating both the impact of money and Mandel’s supposed weakness.

As Politico notes, even Mandel has acknowledged that the support from national conservatives groups is a shot in the arm to his candidacy. Money can buy visibility and get a candidate’s message out to the public, especially when a politician has been pigeonholed as not ready for prime time–a problem the youthful Mandel has encountered. But campaign contributions and television ads can’t buy credibility. All the money in the world couldn’t have won a Christine O’Donnell a Senate seat or put Newt Gingrich in the White House. Though Mandel has had his share of negative stories during his short tenure as Ohio State Treasurer (he was first elected in 2010), the baby-faced Iraq War veteran has demonstrated the sort of intelligence and character that would give any politician a chance, especially against a liberal like Brown in a moderate/conservative state.

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For those who assume the post-Citizens United world of campaign spending means elections can be bought, the Ohio Senate race is a classic example of a bad candidate being kept afloat by cash. That’s the conceit of a Politico feature today about Josh Mandel, the Ohio Republican who is confounding his critics by staying within striking range of Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. According to the piece, Mandel ought to have been run out of the race due to a string of bad headlines. However, he has not only saved his candidacy but actually has a shot at winning  due, as Politico tells it, to the infusion of out-of-state contributions and ad buys by super PACs that have duped the state’s voters into considering voting for him. But while there is no question that the efforts of the pro-GOP Crossroads America PAC and others like it have helped Mandel, Politico is exaggerating both the impact of money and Mandel’s supposed weakness.

As Politico notes, even Mandel has acknowledged that the support from national conservatives groups is a shot in the arm to his candidacy. Money can buy visibility and get a candidate’s message out to the public, especially when a politician has been pigeonholed as not ready for prime time–a problem the youthful Mandel has encountered. But campaign contributions and television ads can’t buy credibility. All the money in the world couldn’t have won a Christine O’Donnell a Senate seat or put Newt Gingrich in the White House. Though Mandel has had his share of negative stories during his short tenure as Ohio State Treasurer (he was first elected in 2010), the baby-faced Iraq War veteran has demonstrated the sort of intelligence and character that would give any politician a chance, especially against a liberal like Brown in a moderate/conservative state.

It could have been argued that Mandel was too young and inexperienced to jump so quickly into the Senate race, especially as he had only come from out of nowhere to win state office for the first time less than two years ago. Politico assumes the missteps he has made in office would have sunk a candidate prior to Citizens United. But it should be understood that none of the string of damaging stories rise to the level of a scandal or the sort of egregious error that would normally end a career or a candidacy. However, the fact that he has risen above them, albeit with the help of a well-funded campaign, also shows he has enough on the ball and has made enough of a connection with the voters to allow them to either forgive or overlook them.

Just as important is that the “carpet bombing” of Brown by the super PACs wouldn’t be having an effect on the race if Mandel was really regarded by the public as a fool or if Brown was not the one many in the state consider out of touch with their opinions. Moreover, because Democratic PACs have been spending heavily on ads trashing Mandel, it’s not as if there isn’t a competing narrative available to the public. If Mandel is holding his own in the race — the last poll taken at the end of May by Rasmussen shows Brown leading by only five points — it is because he has convinced a critical mass of voters that he is credible.

Brown must still be considered the clear favorite in Ohio and can count on favorable coverage from mainstream media around the state. Though Mandel has shown enough promise to merit the investment from Republicans around the country, he must overcome being labeled as an upstart who has gotten ahead of himself. But Mandel is a bright young political talent who has already exceeded the expectations of his party and the media more than once. If this race stays close heading into the fall it will be because the voters like what they see in him, not because of the super PAC support.

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Turnout Blues for Democrats

Hotline has some more bad news for the Democrats:

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

How bad?

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ’06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents. Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters — or 18% of all registered Dem voters — who turned out in ’04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term. And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ’02 and the 304K who turned out in ’06.

It looks like ObamaCare didn’t do much to rev up the base. Well, maybe people are just turned off politics, cynical, and disgusted with all politicians. Uh — no. The GOP is fired up and ready to go:

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ’04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ’06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ’06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

It is reminiscent of the 2008 race. Then, too, Obama drove hordes of voters to the polls. This time, it just happens to be hordes of voters for the other party who want to check the radical agenda Obama hid in 2008.

Hotline has some more bad news for the Democrats:

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

How bad?

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ’06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents. Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters — or 18% of all registered Dem voters — who turned out in ’04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term. And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ’02 and the 304K who turned out in ’06.

It looks like ObamaCare didn’t do much to rev up the base. Well, maybe people are just turned off politics, cynical, and disgusted with all politicians. Uh — no. The GOP is fired up and ready to go:

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ’04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ’06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ’06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

It is reminiscent of the 2008 race. Then, too, Obama drove hordes of voters to the polls. This time, it just happens to be hordes of voters for the other party who want to check the radical agenda Obama hid in 2008.

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Bayh the Way, You Guys Haven’t Done Anything

Try as they might to spin the Evan Bayh retirement as a sign of the generic failure of the political system or the nation’s ungovernability, the Democrats are seething. They aren’t thrilled that as gave the media yet another “Democrats in Distress!” headline, Bayh also handed the Republicans a pre-made political ad campaign. Politico reports: “In explaining his decision not to seek reelection, the Indiana Democrat has complained publicly about legislative gridlock, saying that Congress hasn’t done enough to prop up the economy and hasn’t created a single private-sector job in the past six months.”

Oops. Well, that’s certainly not going to help matters. Indeed, Democrats can’t understand why Bayh is dumping on them, as opposed to, you know, blaming the minority party for the nation’s woes:

“I just have no idea what he’s doing,” said one Democratic senator, whose face turned red as he threw up his hands after being asked about Bayh.

“We get some of the blame; we moved a little too slowly on health care,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “My only disappointment, and the only thing I’ll say about Sen. Bayh, is that I think a more accurate portrayal by him was how Republicans have tried to block everything that we’ve done.”

“It almost seems like he’s siding with” Republicans, said one top Democratic aide.

There are a few explanations for why Bayh is twisting the knife. Some think he’s out to build support for a 2012 primary challenge. Blaming Obama and the unpopular congressional leadership is one way to establish his challenger credentials. Yes, yes, Bayh was part of the Beltway establishment, but criticizing the leadership and the president is one way to establish a rationale for his own candidacy. A more immediate explanation for the dump-on-the-Democrats gambit is that Bayh is enjoying the limelight, relishing the media’s focus on the “Why is Obama failing?” storyline. He supplies a good answer: because they haven’t addressed voters’ most pressing issue.

But the real explanation, I think, is that Bayh is now free to speak his mind and tell the truth. It must be liberating not to have to spin the unspinnable tale of the stimulus plan’s success in creating all those jobs. After all the Democrats’ huffing and puffing, Bayh walked back his comment that if Obama could “create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months.” But there is no walking back his central message — this president and the Democratic Congress haven’t gotten much done on the issue that matters most to voters. (“South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in GOP leadership, said Bayh’s comments were a ‘validation of what we’ve been saying’ — that the economic stimulus package and the Democratic Congress have failed to create jobs.”) And indeed, Bayh again stomped on his colleagues’ message, declaring that “some Democrats’ comments about the legislature’s productivity ‘show a major disconnect [between] what goes on in Washington and what goes on in the rest of the country.'”

Republicans are likely licking their chops, with visions of that Evan Bayh commercial whacking the Democrats. But really, Bayh is simply saying what pretty much every non-Kool-Aid drinker knows: the Democrats have been spectacularly unsuccessful in doing what voters want them to do, and instead have spent their time on something — a monstrous health-care bill — that voters don’t want. Bayh or no Bayh, Democrats are going to have a hard time making the case that voters should send them back to do more of the same.

Try as they might to spin the Evan Bayh retirement as a sign of the generic failure of the political system or the nation’s ungovernability, the Democrats are seething. They aren’t thrilled that as gave the media yet another “Democrats in Distress!” headline, Bayh also handed the Republicans a pre-made political ad campaign. Politico reports: “In explaining his decision not to seek reelection, the Indiana Democrat has complained publicly about legislative gridlock, saying that Congress hasn’t done enough to prop up the economy and hasn’t created a single private-sector job in the past six months.”

Oops. Well, that’s certainly not going to help matters. Indeed, Democrats can’t understand why Bayh is dumping on them, as opposed to, you know, blaming the minority party for the nation’s woes:

“I just have no idea what he’s doing,” said one Democratic senator, whose face turned red as he threw up his hands after being asked about Bayh.

“We get some of the blame; we moved a little too slowly on health care,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “My only disappointment, and the only thing I’ll say about Sen. Bayh, is that I think a more accurate portrayal by him was how Republicans have tried to block everything that we’ve done.”

“It almost seems like he’s siding with” Republicans, said one top Democratic aide.

There are a few explanations for why Bayh is twisting the knife. Some think he’s out to build support for a 2012 primary challenge. Blaming Obama and the unpopular congressional leadership is one way to establish his challenger credentials. Yes, yes, Bayh was part of the Beltway establishment, but criticizing the leadership and the president is one way to establish a rationale for his own candidacy. A more immediate explanation for the dump-on-the-Democrats gambit is that Bayh is enjoying the limelight, relishing the media’s focus on the “Why is Obama failing?” storyline. He supplies a good answer: because they haven’t addressed voters’ most pressing issue.

But the real explanation, I think, is that Bayh is now free to speak his mind and tell the truth. It must be liberating not to have to spin the unspinnable tale of the stimulus plan’s success in creating all those jobs. After all the Democrats’ huffing and puffing, Bayh walked back his comment that if Obama could “create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months.” But there is no walking back his central message — this president and the Democratic Congress haven’t gotten much done on the issue that matters most to voters. (“South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in GOP leadership, said Bayh’s comments were a ‘validation of what we’ve been saying’ — that the economic stimulus package and the Democratic Congress have failed to create jobs.”) And indeed, Bayh again stomped on his colleagues’ message, declaring that “some Democrats’ comments about the legislature’s productivity ‘show a major disconnect [between] what goes on in Washington and what goes on in the rest of the country.'”

Republicans are likely licking their chops, with visions of that Evan Bayh commercial whacking the Democrats. But really, Bayh is simply saying what pretty much every non-Kool-Aid drinker knows: the Democrats have been spectacularly unsuccessful in doing what voters want them to do, and instead have spent their time on something — a monstrous health-care bill — that voters don’t want. Bayh or no Bayh, Democrats are going to have a hard time making the case that voters should send them back to do more of the same.

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Re: Maybe He Should Get Down to Work

There seems to be no letup in the criticism from Democrats over Obama’s lack of leadership on health care. Sam Stein reports:

Despite urging Democratic senators on Wednesday to forge ahead on health care reform, President Obama and his aides have been largely hands-off in guiding the legislative process, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post. And on Thursday a leading Senate progressive called out the White House publicly for abandoning the leadership role that is needed to get legislation passed.

“The president was weighing in pretty heavily on the discussions between the House and Senate before the Massachusetts special [Senate] election,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Huffington Post. “It’s dried up since.”

Brown is not alone. (“Brown’s lament was echoed in conversations with several high-ranking Senate aides this past week, many of whom agreed that the administration’s involvement in health care negotiations has declined since Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.”) What isn’t clear is whether the White House is simply incapable of exercising leadership and clueless about what a bipartisan, passable piece of legislation might look like, or whether Obama is making a tactical move to throw rhetorical crumbs to the netroots but leave the whole mess to Congress, knowing it will amount to nothing.

Either explanation is plausible. Obama isn’t known for delving into  details  of legislation, so he might well be out of ideas and interest in the finer points of what was to be his signature issue. But it is also possible that the White House has figured out that ObamaCare is a loser with the general electorate. In that case, if Obama is to stabilize his own approval ratings, it would be better for the country to avoid more uproar over a hugely unpopular bill. Not giving direction to the Reid-Pelosi duo is tantamount to killing the bill.

Whichever theory is right, the result is the same. We won’t see anything passed approximating the massive ObamaCare bill. In the end, that’s a good thing for the country and probably for incumbents, who in their heart of hearts have probably always understood that you can’t pass a bill on a strict party line vote that 70 percent of the country hates and expect to “sell it” to them later. Well you can, but you’ll be thrown out of office.

There seems to be no letup in the criticism from Democrats over Obama’s lack of leadership on health care. Sam Stein reports:

Despite urging Democratic senators on Wednesday to forge ahead on health care reform, President Obama and his aides have been largely hands-off in guiding the legislative process, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post. And on Thursday a leading Senate progressive called out the White House publicly for abandoning the leadership role that is needed to get legislation passed.

“The president was weighing in pretty heavily on the discussions between the House and Senate before the Massachusetts special [Senate] election,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Huffington Post. “It’s dried up since.”

Brown is not alone. (“Brown’s lament was echoed in conversations with several high-ranking Senate aides this past week, many of whom agreed that the administration’s involvement in health care negotiations has declined since Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.”) What isn’t clear is whether the White House is simply incapable of exercising leadership and clueless about what a bipartisan, passable piece of legislation might look like, or whether Obama is making a tactical move to throw rhetorical crumbs to the netroots but leave the whole mess to Congress, knowing it will amount to nothing.

Either explanation is plausible. Obama isn’t known for delving into  details  of legislation, so he might well be out of ideas and interest in the finer points of what was to be his signature issue. But it is also possible that the White House has figured out that ObamaCare is a loser with the general electorate. In that case, if Obama is to stabilize his own approval ratings, it would be better for the country to avoid more uproar over a hugely unpopular bill. Not giving direction to the Reid-Pelosi duo is tantamount to killing the bill.

Whichever theory is right, the result is the same. We won’t see anything passed approximating the massive ObamaCare bill. In the end, that’s a good thing for the country and probably for incumbents, who in their heart of hearts have probably always understood that you can’t pass a bill on a strict party line vote that 70 percent of the country hates and expect to “sell it” to them later. Well you can, but you’ll be thrown out of office.

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