Saturday, April 12, 2014

Crazy stuff Republicans said at this year's CPAC

By Richard K. Barry

In March, American Bridge, a Democratic PAC, put together a short video of some of more obnoxious things leading conservatives said at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which took place earlier this year.

This clearly speaks for itself.



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On the Hustings

(Politico): "Obama: GOP wants to stop Democrats from voting"

(Roll Call): "Tom Petri announces retirement"

(Real Clear Politics): "Rand Paul: Bush immigration remarks "well-intentioned"

(Wall Street Journal): "Miss. Senate hopeful Chris McDaniel riffed on ‘mamacita,’ reparations"

(Reuters): "With new leader for Obamacare, White House shifts to election mode"


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Behind the Ad: Slinging the mud in Florida's 19th Congressional District

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Lizbeth Benacquisto campaign (special election)

Where: Florida's 19th Congressional District

What's going on: GOP freshman Trey Radel resigned back in January after being arrested for purchasing cocaine from an undercover agent. The GOP primary to fill this very safe Republican seat will take place on April 22nd. In the running are state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, businessman Curt Clawson, and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.

Earlier in the week, Benacquisto came out with a new ad, spending "nearly six figures," according to a campaign source, the entire remaining television budget for her campaign.

In the ad she says "[m]y opponents and liberals are spending millions smearing my name, even attacking my family, with false, negative ads. But I won’t back down from this fight.”

According to one media source:
The race for the Republican nomination for the 19th Congressional District seat has turned into a decidedly negative affair, with hyperbolic accusations and character assassination floated freely in television ads, mailers and news stories bombarding Southwest Florida voters.

They also say that there is little difference on the issues, so the race has become a personality contest. 

Another assessment  indicates that:
Benacquisto, Clawson and Kreegel have all attacked each other, with Benacquisto attacked for being "liberal" and an ex-Democrat; Clawson as an uncaring businessman who laid off workers and drove his company into bankruptcy; and Kreegel as a "win-at-all-costs conniver" who has violated election laws.

Smart money suggests it will be either Benacquisto or Clawson, and then whoever wins the GOP primary will surely win the general election on June 24th.

David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report writes that it could "easily be nominated for the ugliest race of the year," although the year is young. 

Grade: This is one of those ads that is difficult to assess out of context. Roll Call describes it as both positive and defensive, which I think is accurate. The interesting thing is that it brings up the question of how to respond to attacks without repeating them and also without necessarily climbing into the gutter. Again, without a complete sense of how ugly things have become, I'd say it's as effective as possible. It's interesting that her campaign spent its remaining television budget on this piece. I'm not completely sure it will do the job if her opponents have some late attacks in mind that would need to be countered. B-

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A.M. Headlines

(Bloomberg): "NSA said to exploit Heartbleed bug for intelligence for years"

(The Hill): "Union threatens retribution for House Dems opposing Keystone"

(John Paul Stevens): "The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment"

(New York Times): "Sebelius’s slow-motion resignation from the Cabinet"

(The Hill): "Democrats defend Holder from GOP"


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Bill Clinton on the Democratic National Committee's Voter Expansion Project

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Things start close in New Hampshire Senate race

By Richard K. Barry

A new poll in New Hampshire has former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) within striking distance of incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. If you haven't been keeping up, Brown lost his Massacusetts U.S Senate seat to Elizaberth Warren (D) in 2012, and has decided that maybe things would go better for him if he drove his pick-up truck over to New Hampshire for the 2014 midterms.
The WMUR Granite State Poll shows Shaheen leading Brown by 6 percentage points, 45 to 39 percent. In its last poll of the race, conducted in January, Shaheen led by 10, 47-37.

Curiously, as the Washington Post reports, the "close race belies the fact that Shaheen remains much better-liked in her home state than Brown is."

Shaheen is seen favorably by 49 percent of New Hampshire voters and unfavorably by 35 percent. Thirty-nine percent have an unfavorable view of Brown, while 29 percent have a favorable one.

Sometimes polling can be is so confusing. Perhaps we should just agree at this point that this race appears to be competitive going in.

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On the Hustings

(The Hill): "Sen. Pryor might yet have a fighting shot"

(Washington Post): "Tillis leads in Crossroads poll, will get Chamber endorsement"

(Providence Journal): "Brown poll finds Taveras and Raimondo in statistical tie for governor’s race"

(Real Clear Politics): "Senate hopeful Brown: Obamacare costs liberty"

(New York Times): "Group says it has raised over $1.7 million for Hillary Clinton"


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Kathleen Sebelius resigns amidst triumphant success of Obamacare

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Emphases mine:

-- The New York Times: "Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act."

-- The Wall Street Journal: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who led the government's troubled rollout of the 2010 health-care law, will step down, her spokeswoman confirmed Thursday, capping a rocky five years in the Obama cabinet.

-- USA Today: "After a difficult five years shepherding President Obama's signature health care law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has tendered her resignation, according to two senior administration officials."

-- Politico: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning six months after a disastrous rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health law, according to administration sources.

See what's going on here? From how the story is being reported in the media (and these are but four major examples), you'd think Sebelius was a disaster as HHS secretary because the Obamacare rollout, which is apparently all that matters about Obamacare, was a disaster. End of story.

Were there early tech glitches that stalled the rollout and delayed sign-ups and made it seem as if Obamacare was in trouble (at least because that's how the media were treating it)? Sure. But, first, I just don't think that Sebelius should be held singularly responsible for what happened. Furthermore, second, the rollout was not the only thing that happened during her tenure; aside from any number of other HHS matters, there has also been the entirety of Obamacare development and implementation to date. And, third, the glitches were fixed, the rollout was smoothed out, and Obamacare has gone on to be, thus far, a huge success.

Yes, a huge success.

Read more »

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Behind the Ad: How not to make an attack ad

By Richard K. Barry

Who: House Majority PAC (Democratic super-PAC), in support of Rep. Nick Rahall.

Where: West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District.

What's going on: Nick Rahall was first elected to the House in 1976, and while it's always hard to unseat a long-term incumbent, this is going to be a real race. In fact, The Hill calls him one of the most vulnerable incumbents. Evan Jenkins (R), a well-connected state senator who can raise a lot of money, is the challenger.

The ad attacks Jenkins, claiming that he tried to "delay a water safety bill meant to prevent a chemical spill similar to the one that recently devastated parts of the state":
The spot goes on to tie Jenkins to the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have poured millions into competitive House and Senate races — including hundreds of thousands into Rahall's district — hammering vulnerable Democrats.

It says that Freedom Industries, which caused the spill, is a "corporate partner" of the Koch brothers and suggests after Jenkins opposed the water safety bill, his Koch support increased.

Recently there was quite a bit of back-and-forthing that Rahall was contemplating retirement due, apparently, to attacks by the right, including from the Koch brothers. The story, reported by CNN's John King, included the claim that Rahall agreed to stay in the race on the basis of increased support from the Democratic national leadership. Rahall has denied he was thinking about walking away, but that's what you would expect him to say.

A recent poll has Rahall trailing Jenkins by a margin of 54 to 40 percent (conducted March 3-5). That'd depress me. A nasty race is expected:
"It's going to be quite ugly," said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report — a national non-partisan political publication that currently lists the state's Third District as one of seven "toss up" Congressional districts across the country.

"The Congressman is facing a reelection race like he's never faced before," said Gonzales who characterized the campaign between the likely nominees, Rahall and state Senator Evan Jenkins (R-5, Cabell), as a "race to bottom," with the opposing candidates – and the groups that support them – spending a lot of money to tell voters why the other guy is a bad choice. 

Grade: Much as I dislike the Koch brothers, the logic of this ad is strained. Something about the Republican candidate "delaying" aid money after an environmental disaster - and having ties to the Koch brothers who had something to do with, I think,  some other environmental disaster. And they have given him lots of money to run in campaigns, suggesting that they are buying his support to do things that harm West Virginians. 

In a sense, it doesn't matter. The Koch brothers are the bad guys, and connecting them to bad things that happen to ordinary people is going to be a major part of the Democrats campaign in the midterms. I like the approach, but not this ad, which seems dishonest to me, and might well appear that way to others. The bad guys are bad enough. Don't help them by making them objects of sympathy. By the way, I'm not saying there's no case here, just that the ad doesn't make it. D+

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A.M. Headlines

(National Journal): "House barely passes Paul Ryan's budget, with 12 Republicans voting no"
(New York Times): "Sebelius resigns after troubles over health site"

(The Hill): "The renewable fuel standard: Not as "green" as you think"

(Roll Call): "‘Nuclear’ fallout slows Senate, briefly delays recess"

(ABC News): "Colbert hosting 'late show' raises questions, hope"


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

On the Hustings

(The Hill): "King may switch sides and join the Republicans after midterms"

(Gallup Politics): "No improvement for Congress' job approval rating"

(Pew Research): "More Republicans see health care stance as ‘very important’ to midterm vote"

(Washington Post): "Hillary Clinton book due out June 10"

(National Journal): Will Marco Rubio be the last establishment man standing?"


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Imagine if he had a gun

By Carl

That stabber yesterday in Pennsylvania

After a 16-year-old allegedly went on a 5-minute stabbing spree at a Pennsylvia[sic] high school, hurting nearly two dozen people, stories of heroism amid the chaos are coming to light.

The school’s assistant principal is credited with tackling the attacker, ending the bloody Wednesday morning rampage at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrsyville [sic], Penn., about 18 miles west of Pittsburgh.

In five minutes, he went running down the halls, stabbing at random, and injured 20 people – but didn’t kill a single one. Because the assailant had only a knife, rather than cower behind barricades or behind doors, another student, along with the assistant principal (who likely would have chased a gunman down as well because, you know, it’s sadly part of his job), grabbed the attacker and quickly disarmed and immobilized him for the police.

Quick, over, and while too many people got hurt, many of those likely were hurt in the mass confusion trying to flee the scene, rather than by actual stab wounds (official estimates have not been made, but the fact that four students were critically injured and one might still die, we can assume at least that many stabbing victims.)

It would be irresponsible to speculate on the whys and wherefores here, altho a picture is being drawn of a student who was victimized by bullies, and who may have had some emotional problems to begin with.

Of course, “irresponsible” is the middle name of conservatives

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo) in an ad supporting same-sex marriage

By Richard K. Barry

If you haven't seen this, it's worth a look. Huffington Post calls it the Republican case for same-sex marriage. Seems like a pretty compelling case to me, however you want to describe it.
Last month, Simpson joined a group of Republicans in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the 10th Circuit in support of the freedom to marry. The 10th Circuit took up the issue after federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma struck down the states' constitutional bans on marriage equality.

Some social conservatives are clearly going to fight this to the end, as we can see by Mike Hukabee's recent idiotic comments, but it's over. 

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): ""Again, Obama offers comfort at Fort Hood after soldiers are killed"

(Wall Street Journal): "Small slice of doctors account for big chunk of Medicare costs"

(Washington Post): "Committee votes to refer ex-IRS official Lois Lerner for criminal prosecution"

(ABC News): "House defeats bipartisan fix to 'Obamacare'"

(Politico): "Vance McAllister’s new problem: His own party"


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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

On the Hustings

(Talk Business Arkansas): "Pryor holds small lead on Cotton in high-profile U.S. Senate race"

(Mississippi Republican Primary Polling): "Senator Thad Cochran continues to lead his Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel"

(Mark Leibovich): "How not to seem rich while running for office"

(NBC News): "Eyeing 2014, Democrats take aim at gender gap again"

(Washington Post): "Democrats seek Obama administration’s help with agency decisions to boost reelection bids"


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Third way looks out for corporate base

You may know about Third Way. It is a supposed centrist party that doesn't fall into the trap of the supposed extremist Democratic and Republican parties. The problem is that when they talk about policy, it turns out that it is what the Democratic Party establishment already supports. Now this is an indictment of the Democratic Party, because it shows that it is not liberal, at least on economic issues. But the reason that Third Way doesn't just get behind the Democratic Party is that they aren't really for centrist policy. Instead, they are professional centrists who get their gravitas by pretending to be the mean between the two extremes. They have never been able to explain how the modern Democratic Party is extreme, except in that the Republicans say it is and that they disagree in some small ways.

Over the weekend, the top two people at Third Way, Jonathan Cowan and Jim Kessler, wrote an OpEd in The New York Times, Capitalize Workers!They argue that low wage workers don't need no stinkin' minimum wage increase. What is really behind income inequality is that low wage workers aren't vested in the stock market. So they propose forcing employers to pay 50¢ per hour into a private investment account for employees. They claim this will result in an annuity worth $790 per month at retirement.

Note first how they frame the debate in a way that appeals to their base: the business interests. Raising the minimum wage would actually move money from corporate profits to worker wages. But forcing employers to add 50¢ to every hour worked would end up getting taken out of the employee wages. So this is a way of just forcing workers to invest some part of their earnings and not requiring anything from employers. Note also: all of the proposals to raise the minimum wage are a lot more than 50¢ so even at its best, this proposal is yet another attempt by economic conservatives to do as little as possible to help low wage workers.

But it's much worse than this. Dean Baker goes through all the numbers and shows that the annuity would be far less—perhaps only half as much. And it is a huge giveaway to Wall Street. It represents between $25 and $50 billion per year in fees for the investments. And then another $25 to $50 billion for turning the investments into annuities at retirement.

Last December, the same two men were at The Wall Street Journal arguing,Economic Populism Is a Dead End for Democrats. So they are very much aware that Obama and the Democratic establishment push policies that are effectively identical to their own. And they are afraid that populism of the Warren and de Blasio type might break out—because they would be bad for their corporate base. So it is clear where they are coming from.

Sadly, the media generally treat Third Way as though it had something useful to say. But this goes back to a point I've argued for a long time. Elite media figures are upper class urbanites. They see their interests represented by third way: economic conservatism and social liberalism. Of course the actual people of the country are the opposite; they are economic liberals and social conservatives. And that's why the Third Way boys push this investment nonsense: it's a great way to confuse people into thinking that the government is doing something for the working poor, when it is actually just stealing money from them.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Behind the Ad: Babies, so many babies

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The David Perdue campaign for the U.S. Senate

Where: Georgia

What's going on: I've written a lot recently about the U.S. Senate election campaign in Georgia herehere, and here, so I won't cover familiar territory. I will just say that a bunch of GOP candidates are vying for the seat that will become vacant when Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) retires. Michelle Nunn is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Those in the know are saying this will be a close fight, at least in the general.

Businessman David Perdue is one of those running for the GOP nomination. He is a cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue. Purdue is mostly using his own money to talk about his business experience, while berating his fellow Republicans for having "too much" political experience, which seems to be something we are seeing a lot of from certain Republicans.

In that vein, Perdue has some very unusual ads, in which he points to the "childish behaviour" of politicians, specifically his GOP primary opponents, who, he says,  would already have solved our problems if they understood anything about the free enterprise system - a system Perdue almost claims to have invented.

The most recent ad begins with a bunch of computer generated babies in the foreground of the Capitol building. Perdue then comes on to give us his pitch without ever mentioning the babies.
Presumably, we are all supposed to know that the babies were introduced in earlier ads citing the aforementioned childish behaviour. 

It's all very confusing. 

Grade: Aside from baby fiasco, I find David Perdue very smarmy, though I suspect he finds himself extremely charming. I know, however, that with certain conservatives the lack of political experience is exactly what they want in their politicians. And it is the one thing Perdue has that his rivals lack. On the thought that one must turn weaknesses into strengths, I'll say this is not an awful ad, but it's not great. And that whole thing about running businesses being good training for running government didn't work all that well for Mitt. C

(I will do Mr. Perdue the favour he has not done us, by posting the ads back-to-back so it all makes sense, sort of. For the record, there is a second ad that is almost exactly the same as the first ad. Got it? Keep in mind that a lot of people would have seen the most recent ad with the babies in front of the Capitol with nary a mention by Perdue as to why they are in the ad at all. That must have been a moment.)

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "For Obama Presidency, Lyndon Johnson looms large"

(Main Justice): "David Wildstein meets with prosecutors in Christie bridge scandal"

(The Hill): "Defectors likely to make margin on Ryan budget vote razor thin"

(Politico): "GOP solution to 'war on women': Women"

(Paul Krugman): "Rube Goldberg survives"


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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

On the Hustings

(Esquire): "Christie prosecutor gets its star witness start talking"

(ABC News): "Hillary Clinton’s speaking frenzy: 4 days, 3 states and $$"

(Peter Beinart): "Mega-donors are now more important than most politicians"

(CNN Politics): "Democrats highlight equal pay in political push"

(Washington Post): "How one race — in December or even January — could determine who controls Senate"


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It is better to be feared than loved, or not

By Richard K. Barry 

Ryan Lizza has a fascinating piece in The New Yorker on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's political style. For the piece he interviewed former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, who clearly has issues with Christie:

"He doesn't always try to persuade you with reason," Kean said. "He makes you feel that your life's going to be very unhappy if you don't do what he says." He added that one of Christie's flaws "is that he makes enemies and keeps them. As long as you're riding high, they'll stay in the weeds, because they don't want to get in your way. But you get in trouble, they'll all come out of the weeds, and come at you." 

I couldn't help thinking about a passage in Machiavelli's Prince (Chap. XVII), in which he discusses a particular aspect of political style:

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Perhaps Gov. Christie has read his Machiavelli and believes it is best to keep everyone around him in a constant state of fear that he could do them harm if inclined.

But Kean's comments are instructive. If those surrounding the leader are loyal only as long as he is powerful enough to hurt them, they may happily "come out of the weeds" when they sense he is no longer "riding high." If there is real respect and affection, however, it is possible those around him may remain on side when times are tough.

I'd like to think Machiavelli got this one wrong, and that Christie will suffer for it. 

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Obamacare is working. Period.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Certainly there are a number of different ways to measure Obamacare's success (or failure, according to Republicans, for whom no empirical evidence will ever convince them otherwise), including health care cost control, a key to America's future fiscal health, but the most important one, to me, is access to affordable health insurance for millions upon millions of uninsured Americans (together with more affordable health insurance for some who already had it).

And in that regard, Obamacare is already proving to be an enormous success, according to Gallup:

The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18.0% in the third quarter -- a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare," appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage. Even within this year's first quarter, the uninsured rate fell consistently, from 16.2% in January to 15.6% in February to 15.0% in March. And within March, the rate dropped more than a point, from 15.5% in the first half of the month to 14.5% in the second half -- indicating that enrollment through the healthcare exchanges increased as the March 31 deadline approached.

And that's just the start. The fact is, for all the outreach efforts (and after all the early online glitches), a lot of Americans didn't know about the March 31 deadline, or what it meant, and so didn't sign up, despite the individual mandate. But while open enrollment is currently closed, it will start up again, for 2015, in November, and so one can expect the number of uninsured Americans to drop further, likely much further, as Obamacare becomes more widely understood and more deeply embedded as a core component of America's overall health care system. In other words, this wasn't just a one-time thing. Millions of people signing up will generate awareness and interest, leading to more and more people signing up.

It's still early, and this initial success will beget more success. (Republicans know this, which is why they've been fighting so hard to stop Obamacare before it could catch on.) And as costs go down, as the number of uninsured goes down, as affordable health insurance becomes more and more widely available, and as this new system becomes more and more a part of people's lives, easy to sign up for and a significant improvement over what they had before, if anything, there will be no denying the clear and overwhelming evidence that Obamacare is working brilliantly. (Except to Republicans, of course, for whom ideology trumps reality.)

And that Americans are so much better off because of it.

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Behind the Ad: Former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown comes to New Hampshire (and not for a vacay)

By Richard K. Barry

Who: End Spending Action Fund

Where: New Hampshire (on WMUR TV and cable sports networks).

What's going on: The End Spending Action Fund is a group backed by billionaire Joe Ricketts, which, as the name suggests, is a Republican advocacy group. This ad is in support of former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown, who has been toying with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. Now comes word via the Boston Globe that he will in fact take the plunge, and make his intentions clear this Thursday.

The incumbent is Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, who was first elected in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote, defeating then-GOP Sen. John Sununu. As you will recall, 2008 was a particularly good year for Democrats, which is likely why Brown is thinking he can poach the seat in this year's midterm, when Republicans have done well more recently.

Scott Brown won, I'm sure you'll remember, an upset special election in 2010 in Massachusetts to fill the remainder of Ted Kennedy's term, but was than unseated in 2012 by Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

As for polling in New Hampshire, HuffPollster's trend line has Shaheen ahead of Brown by a margin of 49.8 percent to 40.3 percent, though this was done before it was clear he was running. The most recent poll (March 13-16) has Shaheen up 50 percent to 38 percent. Still, if Democrats
want reason to worry, they can direct themselves to President Obama's job approval rating in the state. Just 31 percent say they like the job he is doing, while 56 percent disapprove.

As we've seen in the past, all bets seem to be off in the midterms.

The ad in question features a clip of Brown criticizing Obamacare in his victory speech after the 2010 special election in Massachusetts. “It will raise taxes; it will hurt Medicare; it will destroy jobs and run our nation deeper into debt,” he states. And then the announcer intones: “Scott Brown was right on ObamaCare then. He’s right for New Hampshire now.”

Grade: While Republicans running hard against ObamaCare makes sense now, it is hard to tell how the issue will play in November. Maybe it will still work. Maybe not. In a state where Obama's favourability is seriously underwater, health care reform has to be a part of that. The funny thing about Brown is that he campaigned in Massachusetts as a moderate, as you would expect, but became a Tea Party favourite as they dreamed of swiping Ted Kennedy's seat. It will be interesting to see how he plays his candidacy in New Hampshire, especially as outside money designs a message that may not be very moderate at all. The ad is effective for now, to the extent that ObamaCare is a negative proxy for President Obama, but that may change. In fact, the more popular ObamaCare becomes, the more likely Republicans are to start calling it the Affordable Care Act. B

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A.M. Headlines

(Politico): "Michael Hayden under fire for Dianne Feinstein comment"

(Jonathan Chait): "The colour of his presidency"

(Reuters): "Supreme Court declines free speech, gay marriage case"

(The Hill): "When will Obama make call on Keystone?"

(ABC News): "Obamacare: What could go wrong next?"


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Another "family values" Republican gets caught with his pants down

By Michael J.W. Stickings

These right-wing theocrats are just an endless source of hypocrisy, aren't they?

Freshman GOP Rep. Vance McAllister of Louisiana -- who ran for office as a principled conservative Christian -- has been caught on video in a romantic encounter with a woman believed to be on his congressional staff just before Christmas.

The Ouachita Citizen, a newspaper based in West Monroe, La., posted a Dec. 23 surveillance video purportedly from inside McAllister's district office in Monroe.

The video shows McAllister kissing a woman identified by the newspaper as a congressional staffer for the first-term lawmaker. Federal payroll records show she is a part-time aide who began working for McAllister the day after he won his seat last year.

McAllister won a special election on Nov. 16 to replace Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.). McAllister won in the heavily Republican district by playing up his conservative credentials, including his Christian faith and his 16-year marriage.

Yes, that's right, as the Citizen reports:

Throughout last fall's congressional campaign, McAllister, a Republican from Swartz, touted his Christian faith and in one television commercial, he asked voters to pray for him. At least two other campaign television commercials featured McAllister walking hand in hand with his wife, Kelly, while their five children walked along. One television commercial captured the McAllister family in the kitchen of their home preparing breakfast before attending church.

By the way, in this case, "principled conservative Christian" (as Politico put it), means Duck Dynasty-loving anti-gay bigot (euphemism: "traditional marriage" enthusiast), flag-waving scoundrel-patriot, and shameless (until caught) hypocrite.

But of course it usually does as far as Republicans are concerned.

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Monday, April 07, 2014

On the Hustings

(The Branford Seven): "Kennedy Jr. to run for state senate, announce Tuesday"

(New York Times): "Jeb Bush talks strategy if he runs for president"

(Washington Post): "In the ‘credentials caucus,’ GOP’s 2016 hopefuls study policy and seek advisers"

(Mark Halperin): "Christie still has 'the clearest path to the nomination'"

(Roll Call): "Democrat drops out of race to replace Moran in Virginia"


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2014: Turbulence ahead for the Democrats

By Richard K. Barry

Well, here's some bad news for Democrats, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted between March 20-24:
Thirty-seven percent in the poll last month chose Republicans, compared to 36 percent who said they would rather see Democrats in charge, with the November general elections seven months away.


[R]egistered voters, who are most strongly interested in politics, favored the Republicans by 14 percentage points -- 51 percent to 37 percent. In January, they were about evenly split, with 42 percent preferring Democrats and 45 percent the Republicans.

Just to help us unpack the obvious, former senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod tweeted this:

I do wish progressives would figure out that all elections matter, not just the ones with a rock star at the top of the ticket.  

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Behind the Ad: Cleveland vs. Cleveland? Really?

Who: Mississippi Conservatives PAC (a pro-Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss) group)

Where: Mississippi

What's going on: As I said last week, Cochran is seen by many as the most vulnerable Republican
incumbent facing a primary challenge. State Sen. Chris McDaniel has received the support of every national conservative group expressing an opinion on the matter. He is running to the right of Cochran with the argument that Cochran is a Washington insider who deserves to be defeated.

Cochrane has been trumpeting his conservative bona fides in response. It's already silly season in Mississippi.

Now a pro-Cochran PAC has launched an ad charging that McDaniel has "taken both sides" on some key issues.  The ad charges that he has "both been in favor of and against tort reform, for and against Common Core educational standards and “on both sides” on earmarks."

We'll be following closely some of these GOP primaries in which the issue of what it means to be a real conservative are front and centre. Not a hell of a lot of light between both sides as far as I can see. 

Noel Fritsch, a McDaniel's team spokesman, pushed back against the ad saying this:
Sen. Cochran and his lobbyist friends will say anything to try to distract voters from Sen. Cochran’s record of voting for bailouts, debt ceiling increases, tax increases and taxpayer-funded abortion...The truth is, Sen. Cochran has been one of the biggest proponents of wasteful government spending while state Sen. Chris McDaniel has been a conservative leader in Mississippi. No wonder Sen. Cochran’s campaign is so afraid."

I'm not in a postion to unpack all of Fritsch's claims about Cochran's record, but it's a pretty nasty hit list if you're a Republican.

Grade: The ad attacking McDaniel is pretty standard fare. If McDaniel is going to claim purity, Cochran is going to push back. Okay. I like the point that McDaniel didn't want to support funding for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, but voted to give ten times more to the Grammy museum in Cleveland, Mississippi. Well, that's confusing. Anyway, the ad is nothing special, but makes a point. C

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A.M. Headlines

(The Hill): "Obama moving again on equal pay"

(New Republic): "Stark raving Rahm: Tell us what you really think, Mr. Mayor"

(U-T San Diego): "Former San Diego mayor's confinement comes to end"

(Real Clear Politics): "Obama weekly address: Republican budget 'shrinks opportunity'"

(Variety): "Mickey Rooney, legendary actor, dies at 93"


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Sunday, April 06, 2014

On the Hustings

(Michael Kinsley): "The solution to money in politics"

(The Hill): "Report: Rep. Nick Rahall considered retirement"

(CBS News): "How should Democrats deal with Obamacare in 2014?"

(The Hill): "For Dems, a problem with seniors"

(Los Angeles Times): "Republican senators dig in against primary challenges from tea party"


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The Koch brothers are about to become even more famous, and that's a good thing

By Richard K. Barry

In yesterday's New York Times, writers Jeremy W. Peters and Carl Hulse note that Democrats have begun to attack the Koch brothers with a tactic they successfully used against Mitt Romney in the 2102 campaign. This is to say that they are attacking the "brothers' sprawling business conglomerate as callous and indifferent to the lives of ordinary people while pursuing profit and power. "
By drawing public attention to layoffs by subsidiaries of Koch Industries across the country — a chemical plant in North Carolina, an oil refinery in Alaska, a lumber operation in Arkansas — Democrats are seeking to make villains of the reclusive billionaires, whose political organizations have spent more than $30 million on ads so far to help Republicans win control of the Senate.

Obviously, the parallel with Romney is that he was effectively painted as a Mr. Burns-type far more concerned with his own bottom line than with the well-being of his employees.

Some Republicans are claiming that the approach won't work, that taking shots at the Koch brothers will deplete resources and energy Democrats would be smarter to use elsewhere, presumably in efforts to challenge actual candidates.

For example, Tim Phillips, head of Americans for Prosperity, a pro-Republican political advocacy group, says that "Mitt Romney was the candidate for president of the United States...That's the big difference. David Koch (one of the two brothers) isn't running for anything. This just points to what bad shape they're in."

Okay. That's an interesting perspective.  But many voters tend to see shadowy influences pulling the strings of elected officials. And though the Supreme Court may have equated money with speech, many Americans understand that money buys things it shouldn't be able or allowed to buy. In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, which will have the effect of pouring even more money into the electoral process, I would not be so sure the Koch brothers will be an ineffective target for Democratic attacks. 

Perhaps the most important feeling to be exploited in politics is the feeling of powerlessness. The right has, albeit illegitimately, created and then exploited a sense of powerless among certain elements of the electorate when it comes to Obamacare. 

In contrast to Tim Phillip's argument, the fact that the Koch brothers aren't running for anything, but working in the shadows, is what makes then so salient an image of corruption in the process, and powerlessness for the electorate. 

Release the hounds. 

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John Roberts' balls and strikes

By Frank Moraes

Balls and Strikes. That's what John Roberts said about being a judge. During his confirmation hearing, he said, "I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat." At the time, I was appalled. Never in my life had I ever heard someone say such a nakedly dishonest thing during a confirmation hearing. It was pure rhetoric of the conservative variety. What he meant was, "I'm not like those liberal activist judges, I just apply the law." The only thing that could be worse than Roberts lying about this is if he is so delusional as to actually believe it.

It's been a bad couple of weeks. And this week's Supreme Court decision inMcCutcheon vs FEC was the worst of it. You can read my thoughts on the case in, Supreme Court Strikes Blow for Oligarchy. It isn't so much what it means on a practical level, because the truth is that our political system was already a mess. It's owned by the wealthy. If you have any question, just look at what happened to Proposition 37 in 2012. But the truth is that the Supreme Court could have decided to make a stand for democracy, but the conservatives rushed to the conclusion that the best thing is for us to have an oligarchy.

What the Supreme Court is really doing is deciding between competing interests. This is what the court should be doing. And McCutcheon provided an amazingly clear choice. On the one side, there are several hundred extremely rich people who already have undemocratic levels of political power. On the other side, you have well over 300 million people who have an interest in not having their democracy manipulated. Five of the justices felt the interests of the few hundred were most important. Four of the justices felt the interests of the entire nation were most important.

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "Hiring rises, but number of jobless stays high"

(Los Angeles Times): "Is Obamacare too big to fail?"

(The Hill): "Pelosi rebuffs Gibbs on O-Care prediction"

(National Journal): "Ohio will recognize same-sex marriages, adding to national momentum"

(New York Times): "Afghan turnout is high as voters defy the Taliban"


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