Political Highlights October 31, 2010: Last Full Week Campaigning, Obama Vs. Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton & Kendrick Meek, Sarah Palin for President in 2012?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

October 23: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks during the  Republican 2010 Victory Fundraising Rally in Orlando, Florida

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Scenarios: Election trends could be evident early: The battle for control of the Congress on Tuesday promises to stretch deep into the night or beyond, but some of the earliest results could give big clues about the eventual outcome…. – Reuters, 10-29-10
  • Midterms Q&A: what’s at stake and who might win A guide to the most crucial midterms since at least 1994: On Tuesday, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for grabs, along with 37 seats in the Senate, 37 governorships, and the usual multitude of state and local positions, including everything from state legislatures to judges to city mayors. There are no elections for “town dogcatcher”, the post sometimes used to illustrate the lowest reach of American electoral politics – though the evidence suggests there once were…. – Guardian UK, 10-29-10
  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. Latinos detect bias, poll find: Nearly two-thirds of Latinos in the United States think they are being discriminated against, and a plurality view the backlash over illegal immigration as the central driver of such bias, according to a poll by the Pew Hispanic Center. The poll also found that 70 percent of foreign-born Latinos think they are being held back by discrimination, and half of all Latinos think the United States has become less welcoming toward immigrants than it was just five years ago…. – 10-28-10
  • Factbox: Elections for Congress, state, local offices: Voters across the United States go to the polls next Tuesday to elect senators and representatives to Congress in Washington, as well as state governors and lawmakers and local officials. While President Barack Obama is not on the ballot, the midterm election is in many ways a referendum on his presidency, which is under pressure from voters unhappy with his handling of the weak economy and high unemployment. Thousands of communities will elect mayors and city and county officials, judges, sheriffs and fill other local offices. In many areas, voters will also voice their opinions on specific initiatives — from raising or cutting state and local taxes to California’s question of whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed.
    Here are the numbers…. – Reuters, 10-27-10
  • Parts of Obama Coalition Drift Toward G.O.P., Poll Finds: Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents; all of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls…. – NYT, 10-27-10
  • Early Voting On Track To Set Midterm Election Record 9.4 Million Americans Have Already Cast Ballots; Both Parties Claim Advantage: With less than a week to go until Election Day, more than 9.4 million Americans have already cast their ballots in what experts say could be a banner midterm election season for early voting. More than 1.5 million people have voted early in California, 1.2 million in Florida, 237,000 in Iowa and 266,000 in Nevada. Those numbers are likely to be lowball estimates, since some counties have been slow to report early voting statistics. Local newspaper headlines from around the country tell the story. It’s shaping up to be a record-breaking year in places like Polk County, Iowa; Kanawha County, West Virginia; Tazewell County, Illinois and Travis County, Texas. In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, where early voting ended on Tuesday, the line to cast a ballot stretched out the door…. – CBS News, 10-27-10
  • Should Obama run again? More voter enthusiasm than for Reagan in ’82: Nearly half of today’s voters say they would like to see President Obama run for reelection in 2012, according to a new poll.
    President Obama might feel like a prisoner heading for the gallows, as voters prepare to give his Democratic Party a major midterm drubbing next Tuesday over his performance thus far. But it could be a lot worse. Mr. Obama could be President Reagan in August 1982, when voters were even less enthusiastic about the prospect of having the commander in chief running for reelection in two years. Nearly half of today’s voters – 47 percent – say they would like to see Obama run for reelection in 2012 versus 36 percent who said in August 1982 that Mr. Reagan should run again, according to the latest Pew Research Center/National Journal Congressional Connection poll.
    Reagan went on to win reelection by a whopping 18 points. President Clinton also had a rough first midterm election in 1994, and he faced reelect numbers similar to Obama’s at the time – 44 percent. Mr. Clinton, too, won reelection easily in 1996. For Obama, the polling on “should he run for reelection” is about the same as job approval, which is at 46 percent in the latest Pew survey. For Reagan, the job-approval numbers were better than the reelect numbers, but eventually they were the same. According to Gallup, 42 percent approved of Reagan’s job performance in August 1982. By February 1983, Reagan’s job approval had sunk to 35 percent – the same percentage of voters who thought he should run for reelection, compared with 57 percent who thought he should not…. – CS Monitor, 10-26-10
  • By slim margin, Ask America voters agree with GOP: Fully extend Bush tax cuts: Election Day is just a week away, and while politicians are focusing on issues like unemployment and health care in their campaigns, lawmakers will still have to deal with the expiring Bush tax cuts after voters hit the polls.
    The tax breaks are set to expire at the end of the year, and Congress has put the issue on the back burner until after the midterm elections. Meanwhile, as the economy hobbles out of the recession, an increasing number of Democrats in Congress are joining Republicans in favor of extending all tax breaks. President Obama supports locking in the tax cuts for the middle class but strongly opposes extending tax cuts for individuals making $200,000 or more and couples making $250,000 or more.
    The tax cuts are a popular issue on Ask America, the Yahoo! News informal polling forum. We asked if people would like to see the tax cuts extended just for the middle class or for higher-income Americans as well. So far, more than 62,000 votes have come in, and the question has generated more than 4,000 comments.
    The vote is close. So far, 54 percent of responses were in favor of extending the tax cuts to both middle- and upper-class Americans, while 46 percent favor only applying the cuts to the middle class…. – AP / Yahoo News, 10-26-10
  • NEWSWEEK Poll: Obama Approval Rating Jumps, Democrats Close ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ As the president’s numbers climb sharply, results suggest that Democrats may be succeeding in firing up their base: Despite doom-saying about Democrats’ chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK Poll (full results) shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared with 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK Poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). President Obama’s approval ratings have jumped substantially, crossing the magic halfway threshold to 54 percent, up from 48 percent in late September, while the portion of respondents who disapprove of the president dropped to 40 percent, the lowest disapproval rating in a NEWSWEEK Poll since February 2010. However, his approval rating, which is notably higher than many recent polls of the president’s popularity, may be evidence of a closing “enthusiasm gap” more than a sea change in voter attitudes, and may not substantially affect Democrats’ fortunes come Election Day. In 1994, NEWSWEEK Polls showed a similar steep climb in President Clinton’s approval between late September and late October, but Democrats still suffered a rout in the midterms…. – Newsweek, 10-22-10
  • Republicans poised to win House and gain in Senate: Republicans enter the final week of a bitter U.S. election campaign as heavy favorites to win control of the House of Representatives and score big Senate gains, dealing a severe blow to President Barack Obama two years after he entered the White House. A thirst for change in Washington and worries about the stumbling economy appear likely to break the Democrats’ grip on Congress next Tuesday in a rout that would topple House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from power…. – Reuters, 10-26-10
  • Democrats off to good start in early voting: Democrats are off to a stronger than expected start in early voting despite months of dire predictions about their lack of enthusiasm for the November 2 midterm elections. More Democrats than Republicans cast early ballots in a handful of key states, although more Republicans took advantage of the early voting process than in 2008 when President Barack Obama led a Democratic election sweep. “The early voting numbers are favorable for Democrats, but here’s the caution — they are not as favorable as in 2008,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University professor who tracks early voting statistics around the country…. – Reuters, 10-26-10
  • Election 2010: Where Things Stand with One Week to Go: The CBS News Critical Contests analysis continues to point to GOP gains – but just how many? Enough for House control? Here’s what to watch in the final week:
    House: Republicans need 39 net pickups to get control and they can get there with a combination of the seats in which they are favored, plus just a few of the remaining tossups races. We show a net 33 seats they’re now favored to gain, PLUS 25 more tossup races in Democratic seats remaining up for grabs. So if Republicans win in 6 of 25 tossups, and they also net the 33 where we see them favored today, that would give the GOP the House. More broadly, the battle in final week hinges on many of the districts the Democrats took in ’06 and ’08 and on the gains they made with suburban and some rural independents in the last two cycles. If, come Election day, the GOP can roll back most of those gains, they would be in good position to win at least a narrow majority. If the Republicans see even more pickups than that, that scenario would probably be marked by a national two-party House vote of greater than 52%…. – CBS News, 10-25-10
  • Early voting data: beware any conclusions: Democrats are looking at early voting data from several key states and suggesting that Election Day might not be too bad for them. But experts say the data are unclear. Election Day is tantalizingly close, and, like children a week before Christmas, some political junkies can’t wait till the real returns are in to open their “presents.” So they’re taking an early peek, thanks to the advent of early voting in many states. Election officials don’t actually start tallying the votes until Election Day, but they can tell us how many people have already voted and, in states that register voters by party, their partisan breakdown. The problem is, there are so many ways to slice and dice the numbers, it’s possible to show just about anything. But for Democrats, fighting hard against strong evidence that they will do badly in the Nov. 2 midterms, any glimmers of hope in early voting are worth a shout, if only to keep their side from getting discouraged and staying home altogether. On Monday, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) put out a memo touting numbers in a handful of crucial states that – surprise, surprise – purport to show the Democrats competitive or even doing well…. – CS Monitor, 10-25-10

THE HEADLINES….

West Wing Week 

  • Palin gives strong indication of 2012 presidential run: Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin gave the strongest indication yet that she is preparing a 2012 White House bid, saying Thursday she would run for president “if there is nobody else to do it.” The former Republican vice presidential candidate, who was lampooned in the media for her political naivety in the hard-fought final weeks of the 2008 campaign, is now among the most popular conservative politicians in America. Palin, who left office midway through her first term in office as governor of Alaska, told Entertainment Tonight it would take someone willing “to make the tough choices and not care what the critics are going to say about you. “It’s going to entail a discussion with my family (and) a real close look at the lay of the land, to consider whether there are those with that common sense, conservative, pro-Constitution passion…. – AFP, 10-28-10
  • GDP rises slightly to 2% in sign that economy remains sluggish: The third-quarter growth is in line with analysts’ forecasts but isn’t enough to spur momentum or bring down the jobless rate. In one positive sign, consumer spending grows 2.6%…. – LAT, 10-29-10
  • NJ governor shifting focus to state road projects: A day after Gov. Chris Christie killed the nation’s largest public works project, an underwater rail tunnel linking New York City to its populous New Jersey suburbs, he said Thursday that it’s time to focus on badly needed improvements to the state’s roads and bridges. The Republican governor, who burnished a national reputation for cost-cutting by putting his foot down on the $9 billion-plus tunnel, told 200 people at a town hall meeting in Moorestown it’s time to pay for improvements to state infrastructure, sometimes rated among the worst in the country.
    “We need to start investing money in that and improving that first,” Christie said. “And if we find partners in the future like the city and state of New York, like Amtrak, like the federal government, who want to partner with us on the tunnel, I’m happy to listen to them. But if it’s to benefit the region, then the region has to pay not just New Jersey.”… – AP, 10-29-10
  • Will the Rally to Restore Sanity actually restore sanity?: We’re pretty sure that on Sunday, Democratic and Republican candidates will still be running attack ads. But it’s possible the Rally to Restore Sanity could have some effect on the national conversation…. – CS Monitor, 10-29-10
  • Democratic Messaging Diluted as Obama Pleads With Base: President Obama still has a series of campaign events this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s Election Day, but it’s his appearances off the campaign trail that has Washington watchers wondering whether he’s trying to shed his coattails before an expected Democratic drubbing at the polls. The choice of non-political events the president has selected this campaign season doesn’t appear to be doing hopeful Democrats any favors. And with the House expected to lose anywhere from 45-60 Democratic seats to Republicans and the Senate likely to turn a handful or more seats to the GOP, according to the latest polling prognosticators, the president already is setting the bar low for the next two years.
    “I’m president and not king,” Obama said Wednesday night in a meeting with bloggers meant to shore up what’s left of his support. “And so I’ve got to get a majority in the House and I’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate to move any legislative initiative forward.”… – Fox News, 10-28-10
  • Why has GOP found health care law such a potent weapon?: The specter of “Obamacare” has become a powerful weapon for Republicans this campaign season, as the GOP uses the new health care law as its favorite symbol of big government gone amok.
    “Health care reform is the signature accomplishment of the Obama administration,” said Republican strategist Neil Newhouse. “For a lot of people, it epitomizes big government and wasteful spending. It’s everything they hate about government rolled into one.” The message appears to be resonating, even though polls repeatedly show people like many provisions of the new health care law.
    Nevertheless, the “Pledge to America,” the House Republicans’ book of promises, gets right to the point: “We now know the new health care law will mean more financial pain for seniors, families and the federal government,” it says, and urges repeal of the landmark law President Barack Obama signed seven months ago…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 10-28-10
  • Analysis: Republican win could revive U.S. trade deals: Three long-delayed trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia could jump to the top of the U.S. congressional agenda if Republicans win control of the House of Representatives next week. While the fate of those deals rests primarily with President Barack Obama, U.S. business leaders say trade is one area of potential compromise between the White House and Republicans in 2011.
    “Trade has been at the back of the bus for last two years and I think there’s a real opportunity for trade to be in the front seat next year,” said Christopher Wenk, senior director for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Republicans are expected to pick up enough seats in Tuesday’s congressional elections to take control of the House, which they lost to Democrats in 2006. Democrats are likely to hold onto the Senate, but the party’s opposition to trade agreements traditionally has been strongest in the House…. – Reuters, 10-28-10
  • Sarah Palin Offers Herself for 2012 Bid: Sarah Palin cracked open the door to a presidential bid just a little bit wider Thursday, telling “Entertainment Tonight” that she would run in 2012 “if there’s nobody else to do it.” Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, spoke with Mary Hart of “Entertainment Tonight” from her home is Wasilla and told her, “I still have not decided what I’m going to do in 2012.”
    “For me, Mary, it’s going to entail a discussion with my family — a real close look at the lay of the land, and to consider whether there are those with that common sense, conservative, pro-Constitution passion, whether there are already candidates out there who can do the job and I’ll get to be their biggest supporter and biggest helpmate if they will have me,” Ms. Palin said. “Or whether there’s nobody willing to do it, to make the tough choices and not care what the critics are going to say about you, just going forward according to what I believe the priorities should be. If there’s nobody else to do it, then of course I would believe that we should do this.”… – NYT, 10-28-10
  • White House declares ‘Daily Show’ interview a success Obama wasn’t expecting softball questions from Stewart, his spokesman says: The White House on Thursday declared President Obama’s interview with Jon Stewart “a success,” though others have questioned whether the appearance may have backfired. At his daily briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs faced more questions about the president’s “Daily Show” interview than any other topic. He defended the White House’s decision to schedule it, repeating that it was a way of speaking directly to voters who may not watch traditional news outlets.
    “I think Jon Stewart is about as good an interviewer as there is in the public domain,” Gibbs said. “We didn’t walk into that interview thinking we were going to be asked a list of softball questions.” “When the president gets to talk about what he’s done, and sift through what people may or may not have heard, it’s a positive benefit,” he said. “I would think of it as a success.”… – LAT, 10-28-10
  • Republicans, heading for big gains, ready agenda: Republican leaders, ever more confident of their chances of winning control of the House and possibly even the Senate, have begun plotting a 2011 agenda topped by a push for more than $100 billion in spending cuts, tax reductions and attempts to undo key parts of President Barack Obama’s health care and financial regulation laws. The question is how much of the GOP’s government-shrinking, tax-cutting agenda to advance, and how fast. It’s certain that Republicans want to capitalize quickly on tea party-fueled anger and the antiestablishment fervor that they believe will provide momentum to accomplish an activist to-do list. It’s equally clear, however, that the outsized expectations of a fed-up electorate and a crop of unruly newcomers could complicate the plans. So could Obama and fellow Democrats who will still be around after Tuesday’s elections.
    GOP lawmakers are publicly mum about much of what they intend to do if they prevail in midterm congressional contests. Many say privately they want to avoid appearing to “measure the drapes” for new leadership offices before winning any majority. But especially in the House — where Republicans have a clear shot at scoring the 40-seat gain they would need for control — they are in intense internal talks about how a GOP-driven agenda would work. Rep. John Boehner, in line to become speaker under that scenario, and Rep. Eric Cantor, his No. 2, have had initial discussions to ensure a plan is ready, a spokesman said…. – AP, 10-27-10
  • White House prepares for foreign policy challenges — from Congress: If, as expected, the GOP wins control of the House and makes gains in the Senate, it is expected to challenge the Obama administration’s foreign policy in a number of key areas, including Afghanistan and foreign aid. With voters focused on the U.S. economy, President Obama’s foreign policy agenda has been largely overlooked in the midterm campaigns, but it will come under harsh scrutiny in the Congress that emerges after election day, say Republican and Democratic strategists. Republicans, considered likely to win control of the House and to pick up seats in the Senate on Tuesday, are expected to challenge the White House on its policies involving Afghanistan, nuclear arms control, Russia, China and foreign aid spending, to name a few…. – LAT, 10-27-10
  • Health Law Unpopular in Key House Districts: A majority of likely voters in the most competitive House districts support repealing the Democrats’ health overhaul, according to recent polling data. The figures are one of the sharpest signals yet that Democrats are unlikely to translate their signature legislative achievement into success inside the voting booth. The health bill passed in March is particularly unpopular in the districts that matter most in the Republicans’ effort to retake the House. Some of the most embattled House Democrats are the five moderates who voted “yes” on the final health-care bill after voting “no” on the House version in November 2009…. – WSJ, 10-27-10
  • Obama courts young voters as election looms: Less than one week before key US elections, President Barack Obama courted young voters Wednesday with an unorthodox appeal from the set of the popular “Daily Show” satirical television show. Obama was to become the first sitting president to appear on the program hosted by Jon Stewart, whose nightly skewerings of political hypocrisy and US media shortcomings have endeared him to young Democrats. With the party fearing a rout at the hands of fired-up Republicans in the November 2 elections, including the loss of at least the House of Representatives, the White House described the outreach as no laughing matter.
    “I think obviously you’ve got a constituency of younger voters that watch that show, and it’s a good place to go and reach them,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday.
    “The president hasn’t been shy about going to the places where people are getting their information and trying to make his case. And I think that’s what he’ll do on the show,” said Gibbs. The move came as new polls let downcast Democrats breathe a small sigh of relief, notably surveys showing the party’s candidates in California holding healthy leads over their well-funded Republican rivals…. – AFP, 10-27-10
  • Stewart, Colbert say it’s not a political rally, but fans say otherwise: Despite the Comedy Central hosts’ insistence, many attending their ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’ in Washington and satellite gatherings in other cities see the events as a catalyst for the liberal political movement…. – LAT, 10-27-10
  • 2012: How Sarah Barracuda Becomes President: Why do you think Barack Obama is being so nice to Michael Bloomberg?…. – NY Mag, 10-24-10
  • 2012 Republican hopefuls head to Iowa for final ’10 campaign swing: Leading GOP candidates for president are getting an early start on 2012 in the last days of the 2010 campaign season. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), for instance, plans campaign stops this week on behalf of Republican candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which just happen to host the first three contests for nominating a Republican presidential candidate. But the perceived GOP front-runner for 2012 is hardly alone. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will all make stops this week in Iowa, which hosts the first-in-the-nation caucuses in January 2012…. – The Hill, 10-26-10
  • McCain: Too early to endorse Sarah Palin for 2012: Sen. John McCain is calling Sarah Palin an “outstanding candidate” for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but says it’s too early to endorse her. McCain told CBS’s “The Early Show” Tuesday that “I don’t think Sarah would want me to, before she’s even able to make a decision” about running. The Arizona Republican said “it’s very early to start picking winners and losers.” He said he still holds his 2008 running mate “in high regard” and said he’s been amused by the former Alaska governor’s confrontations with “the liberal media.” Palin has been active in the campaign, raising money, throwing her support behind a host of tea party-backed conservative Republicans and giving speeches around the country…. – AP, 10-26-10
  • Michelle Obama Deployed in Turnout War: Democrats are pulling out all the stops to get their voters to cast ballots early this year. Today, the party’s official apparatus is hoping to convince as many people as possible to change their Twitter icon to an “I voted early” picture. But another effort is a new video of Michelle Obama that Democrats will release online this morning. In it, the First Lady urges voters not to wait until election day next Tuesday to cast a ballot. NYT, 10-26-10
  • Palin makes more endorsements: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has endorsed eight more GOP candidates on her Facebook page in the past week, including four today. On Oct. 21, Palin put her social-networking support behind Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (who’s running for re-election), Sean Bielat (who’s challenging Rep. Barney Frank in Massachusetts), Stephen Fincher (running for an open congressional seat in Tennessee), and Randy Hultgren (who’s challenging Rep. Bill Foster in Illinois).
    And today, she backed Dick Muri (challenging Rep. Adam Smith in Washington state), Rob Steele (taking on Rep. John Dingell in Michigan), Ilario Pantano (facing off against Rep. Mike McIntyre in North Carolina), and Chuck Wilkerson (who’s challenging Rep. Henry Waxman in California)…. – MSNBC, 10-26-10
  • Obama votes by mail in Illinois: President Barack Obama on Tuesday cast an absentee ballot for races in his adopted home state of Illinois, a week before key midterm elections, his spokesman said.
    Obama, who has a home in Chicago, Illinois, “just voted absentee in the West Wing,” his spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. Asked about Obama’s choices, with a US senator’s seat and the state governor’s mansion at stake on November 2, Gibbs said “I did not ask. I assume that’s a private decision.”… – AP, 10-26-10
  • Obama to Rally for Perriello in Virginia: President Obama has added a surprise stop to his campaign schedule, heading to Central Virginia on Friday in a last- minute bid to help Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat in the House who has been an unapologetic backer of the president’s agenda. That has cost Mr. Perriello support in Virginia’s sprawling Fifth District and made him a prime target for Republicans. His opponent, former state Senator Robert Hurt, has led in most polls for much of the fall. But Mr. Obama must believe that a visit to Charlottesville, the most Democratic part of the district, can help close that gap. White House officials confirmed a report in the local newspaper, The Daily Progress, that the president would rally there with Mr. Perriello on Friday. The visit for Mr. Perriello is unusual for Mr. Obama, who has spent most of the last month holding large rallies for statewide candidates or attending private fund-raisers…. – NYT, 10-26-10
  • Chicago is Clinton’s latest stop to rally Dems: Former President Bill Clinton is rallying Democrats to turn out for close races for Illinois governor and President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. A downtown Chicago hotel Tuesday marked Clinton’s latest stop to bolster the party faithful. He’s urging Democratic activists to get out the vote Nov. 2, saying the goals they hoped to achieve by electing Obama two year ago are at stake. Rally-goers say Clinton’s presence means the party still thinks the races are winnable…. – AP, 10-26-10
  • Mississippi Democrat’s vote for McCain starts Internet furor: Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi caused something of a minor sensation in political circles Monday when a comment he made to the Sun Herald of Biloxi, Miss. — that he had voted for GOP nominee John McCain instead of Democratic standard-bearer Barack Obama in 2008 — went viral on the web. The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, queried the Sun Herald and wrote a story, which was matched by one in Politico and linked on various websites, including the Washington Post’s website. The NBC Nightly News and CBS Early Show also mentioned the vote — an unusual act of party treason. Taylor, for his part, in an interview Tuesday downplayed the episode and said that only national reporters were reacting with surprise. “Locally, they know,” said Taylor of his constituents and media. However, a search of the Sun Herald archives did not turn up any revelation about Taylor’s vote, which is by secret ballot. Taylor said that at the time of the 2008 election, die-hard Democrats in the Magnolia State confronted him about his choice and he said he told them: “I know John McCain. I don’t know Barack Obama.” Taylor complained Tuesday that Republicans were trying to jump on the admission for the 2010 election. “They’re trying to make it a sign of desperation,” he said…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 10-26-10
  • Obama touts job creation as midterm elections near: U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday touted his administration’s job-creation efforts just eight days before elections in which voters’ economic anxiety threatens his Democrats’ grip on Congress. Making a campaign stop in the tiny state of Rhode Island, Obama acknowledged some of his policies were not popular and that Americans were frustrated by the weak economic recovery. But the steps he took averted a second Great Depression, he stressed.
    “It took us a long time to get us into this economic hole that we’ve been in. But we are going to get out and I am absolutely convinced there are brighter days ahead for America,” Obama told workers after touring the American Cord & Webbing plant in Woonsocket, outside Providence.
    It was the start of the last full week of campaigning before the November 2 elections, with polls showing Obama’s Democrats at risk of losing control of the House of Representatives and headed for a slimmed-down majority in the Senate.
    U.S. voters will elect 435 members to the House of Representatives and fill 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Projected Republican gains could put the brakes on Obama’s legislative agenda…. – Reuters, 10-25-10
  • Obama: Republicans Playing Politics With Nation’s Challenges: President Barack Obama on Monday accused Republicans of playing politics with the nation’s biggest challenges. In a 10-minute speech at American Cord & Webbing Co., a small travel-gear and sporting-goods maker in Rhode Island, Obama said that he hopes Republicans will deliver on ideas to help put the American jobless back to work…. – WSJ, 10-25-10
  • Obama Gets a Caustic Welcome in Rhode Island: Welcome to Rhode Island, where Democratic politics are so quirky that the party’s nominee for governor welcomed President Obama on Monday by declaring, on live radio, that the president could “take his endorsement and really shove it.”
    Later, as if to drive home his point, the Democrat, Frank T. Caprio – miffed that Mr. Obama is refusing to endorse him in the governor’s race – was a no-show when the president toured a local factory here, although he had an invitation from the White House to attend.
    “This has been a very topsy-turvy, some people call it a “through-the-looking glass” election year,” said M. Charles Bakst, a veteran, now-retired, political columnist for The Providence Journal. Mr. Bakst, seeking to explain Monday’s curious turn of events, said he did not view Mr. Caprio’s remark as “a slap” at the president, but rather “a lashing out at Obama, at the last minute, from a guy who said he would welcome the endorsement.”
    Slap or not, Mr. Caprio’s unconventional greeting and subsequent snub overshadowed Mr. Obama’s message as he opened the critical, final, week of the election – a week in which his White House is sending Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and First Lady Michelle Obama across the country to deliver a closing argument to Democrats in a desperate effort to get them to the polls.
    More than a political sideshow, the Rhode Island intra-party spat was a stark reminder that the president is willing to go to great lengths to keep his party in power on Capitol Hill – even if it means stepping into a hornet’s nest of local politics and getting stung…. – NYT, 10-25-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

Kendrick Meek, Bill Clinton

Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek listens as former President Bill Clinton addresses supporters during a rally last week at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. (John Raoux, Associated Press / October 20, 2010)

  • Can the tea party deliver voters on Election Day?: Come Tuesday, can the tea party deliver the votes to turn a campaign of fiery enthusiasm into actual members of Congress?… – WaPo, 10-29-10
  • GOP Claims Democrats Trying to Steal the Election: Republicans are ramping up their efforts to make the case that Democrats are trying to steal the midterm elections, despite little evidence to support such claims. The strategy appears designed to fire up the Republican base, potentially depress Democratic turnout and set the stage for possible legal challenges to Democratic victories. The Republican National Committee has launched a website called “No More Frankens” that is grounded in the notion that Democratic Sen. Al Franken essentially stole the Minnesota Senate election in 2008 from Norm Colman thanks to “lawyers, big labor, left wing shadow organizations and the illegal votes of convicted felons.” It took eight months of legal battles before Coleman conceded the race in June 2009, following a decision in Franken’s favor by the Supreme Court of Minnesota. The “No More Frankens” site argues that “we have to win BIG” to overcome Democratic malfeasance, and requests donations of up to $5,000 to fund a GOP “get out the vote” effort…. – CBS News, 10-29-10
  • Joe Miller Gets in the Halloween Spirit: It’s the season for bewitching political ads, and now, just in time for Halloween, Joe Miller, the Republican Senate nominee in Alaska, has released a spooky Web video of his own, attacking his rival, Senator Lisa Murkowski, without ever mentioning her name…. – NYT, 10-29-10
  • NC Rep. Shuler considers run for House Speaker: North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler said Thursday he would consider running for speaker of the U.S. House if he’s re-elected because the chamber needs a more moderate leader. The Democratic lawmaker, though, may not get the chance if Republicans gain control of the House next week. And the former University of Tennessee football star is locked in his own re-election campaign, facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads that accuse him of working for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s agenda.
    Shuler told The Associated Press that he will run against Pelosi if there are no viable alternatives. And he said he would not vote for her to remain in charge. “I feel very strongly that a moderate in the House can bring the political parties together,” Shuler said. “The only way that’s going to happen is to put a moderate as speaker of the House.” AP, 10-29-10
  • O’Donnell calls blog posting shameful, sexist: Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell says an anonymous website posting from a man claiming a romantic encounter with her several years ago is another example of sexism facing women candidates. The gossip blog Gawker posted a story Thursday that it paid for from a man saying he and O’Donnell drank beer and spent the night together on Halloween in 2007, but did not have sex…. – WaPo, 10-29-10
  • Kendrick Meek-Bill Clinton Controversy Gives GOP Fresh Ammo in Final Days Marco Rubio Calls Report Example of Washington’s Backroom Dealing: The controversy over whether former President Bill Clinton urged Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Florida Senate race to help an Independent win has given a last minute issue to Republicans, who called the report an example of Washington’s penchant for backroom deals. Meek, the Democratic Senate contender from Florida, is denying that he ever agreed to get out of the race or that Clinton encouraged him to drop out and endorse Charlie Crist, former Republican turned independent candidate. It was Crist who called both Meek’s campaign and Clinton to ask the Democratic candidate to drop out, the Democratic congressman said.
    Clinton’s aides however contrast Meek’s claims and say the former president asked the Democrat twice to drop out while campaigning for him in the Sunshine state last weekend, as Politico first reported.
    Clinton was coy when asked about the conversation. “He was trying to decide what to do and I talked to him and I told him that, we went through everything, we talked about it a couple of times, and I said in the end, you know, you would have to do what you thought was right,” Clinton told CNN. “I would have to let him say whatever he wants to say about the conversation. It would be wrong of me to discuss it.”… – ABC News, 10-29-10
  • Bill Clinton Tried to Get Meek to Drop Out: Former President Bill Clinton last week tried to convince Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Florida, to drop out of the race – but Mr. Meek changed his mind at the last minute, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton said Thursday evening.
    Matt McKenna, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, said the former president believed that Mr. Meek would not win on Tuesday and was urging him to drop out and endorse Charlie Crist, the state’s governor, who is running for the Senate as an independent.
    The back-channel efforts by Mr. Clinton, which were first reported by Politico, were apparently an effort to prevent the state’s Senate seat from falling into the hands of Marco Rubio, the Republican who is leading both of his rivals in the polls…. – NYT, 10-28-10
  • Tea Party Candidates Get Some Surprising Help Strange Political Bedfellows: Democrats Help Tea Party Candidates in Some Key Races: In a handful of hotly-competitive races, Tea Partiers are running as third-party candidates. As CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, Democrats are doing what they can to help them – hoping they’ll siphon votes away from the Republican. Never perhaps have there been stranger political bedfellows. In Nevada, a pro-Harry Reid group — he’s the Senate’s lead Democrat — promotes a little-known Tea Party candidate running against Reid: Scott Ashjian…. – CBS News, 10-28-10
  • Giannoulias and Kirk swing away in final Senate debate: Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk acted amicably at the beginning and end of their last debate in the U.S. Senate campaign Wednesday, but filled the rest of the hour with innuendo and suggestions of guilt by association. Both men traveled well-covered ground they’ve exploited repeatedly in expensive TV attack ads. But the venue, a live broadcast on WTTW-Ch. 11, allowed them to confront each other directly…. – Chicago Tribune, 10-28-10
  • Bill Clinton, Andrew Cuomo’s Former Boss, Is Also an Admirer: Bill Clinton appeared on Wednesday at a rally in Brooklyn for Andrew M. Cuomo, who served as his housing secretary from 1997 to 2001. Mr. Clinton had faith after Mr. Cuomo exited the race for governor in 2002. Eight years ago, Bill Clinton stood alongside Andrew M. Cuomo, bucking him up as Mr. Cuomo made a humbling exit from the primary for governor of New York with assurances from Mr. Clinton that his political career was far from over.
    On Wednesday, the former president and his onetime housing secretary, their grins real and broad, pumped fists, clasped hands and embraced — exulting in what, come Tuesday, could well mark the completion of Mr. Cuomo’s arduous comeback.
    “If you really want him to be effective, give him a whopping victory,” Mr. Clinton urged a crowd in a Downtown Brooklyn college gym, as Mr. Cuomo nodded approvingly. “Send him to Albany with a massive majority.” For the two men, the rally was a reminder not just of that 2002 gesture, which one Cuomo aide recalled as deeply touching, but also of the closeness they forged during Mr. Clinton’s two terms in the White House, and the similarities they share as political animals…. – NYT, 10-27-10
  • GOP Targets Senate Control Republicans See Alliance With Cuomo: Republicans, trailing badly in the gubernatorial race, are setting their sights on reclaiming the state Senate. And, if they do, they expect to find a friend in the governor’s mansion, even if it’s Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Two years ago, the prospects were grim for Senate Republicans, an aging conference that lost its four-decade grip on the chamber as their leader, Sen. Joseph Bruno, was tarred with scandal and a tide of Democratic voters swept to the polls to vote for President Barack Obama. Along with broader economic trends, voter anger over legislative chaos in Albany and a fresh barrage of Democratic ethics scandals have given Senate Republicans and their current leader Sen. Dean Sklelos a new lease that once seemed permanently out of reach. With Republicans needing to gain two seats, the battleground is concentrated around fewer than a dozen seats, about half of which are held by Democrats. The GOP is targeting Democrats in Upstate and suburban areas where tea-party activism is higher, including Sens. Brian Foley on Long Island, Suzi Oppenheimer in Westchester, and Darrel Aubertine in the North Country…. – WSJ, 10-27-10
  • California Senate hopeful Fiorina hospitalized: California GOP Senate challenger Carly Fiorina was sidelined Tuesday from the campaign trail in the final week of a close race to be treated for an infection associated with her reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. The former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive was admitted to a Los Angeles-area hospital, forcing her to cancel campaign appearances in Riverside and Coachella just as polls suggested she was starting to gain momentum in her race against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. According to Deborah Bowker, the campaign’s chief of staff, Fiorina was being treated with antibiotics.
    “While this will impact her campaign schedule today, Carly is upbeat and her doctors expect her to make a quick and full recovery and be back out on the campaign trail soon,” Bowker said in the statement.
    Boxer’s campaign sent their well wishes. “We wish Carly Fiorina a speedy recovery and hope she is able to return to her normal schedule soon,” Boxer campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said in a statement…. – AP, 10-26-10
  • Records: GOP’s Miller admits to computer use, lies: Alaska Republican Senate hopeful Joe Miller admitted to improperly using three government computers over a lunch break to participate in a political poll, then cleaning the caches to try to cover up the activities. Miller’s admission is included in records released Tuesday under court order following an open records request by The Associated Press and other media organizations…. – AP, 10-26-10
  • Rand Paul supporter who stomped MoveOn activist’s head is not just volunteer but a campaign donor: The man apologizing for stomping on a MoveOn activist’s head in Kentucky isn’t just a Rand Paul volunteer, he’s a donor. Tim Profitt told the Associated Press this afternoon that he didn’t mean to hurt Lauren Valle when he and others knocked her to the ground and Profitt tromped on her head.
    “I’m sorry that it came to that, and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful, but I was concerned about Rand’s safety,” Profitt told the AP. Police interviewed Profitt, and let him go. And they told the Daily News that Paul’s campaign was not involved. Still, Profitt was a leading volunteer for Paul until today, when the campaign fired him as its coordinator in Bourbon County…. – NY Daily News, 10-26-10
  • Sharron Angle ad: Is it racist?: Sharron Angle, the Republican Senate candidate from Nevada, has released a hard-hitting new ad on illegal immigration. But Hispanic groups say the ad is racist and accuse Sharron Angle of running ‘one of the ugliest anti-illegal immigrants ad campaigns in history.’… – CS Monitor, 10-26-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Fla. Democrat Meek denies he’ll quit 3-way Senate race: The congressman goes on national TV news shows to counter reports that Bill Clinton told him to drop out to improve Gov. Charlie Crist’s chances of defeating Republican Marco Rubio.
    “Gov. Crist talked to me about getting out of the race. I recommended to the governor that he should consider getting out of the race,” Meek said on CNN’s “American Morning.”
    “I told him I didn’t have any thoughts about getting out of the race. He didn’t encourage me to get out of the race,” Meek said on ABC’s “Good Morning America”… – AP, 10-29-10
  • President Obama on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: UPDATE: Watch the entire interview. – WH, 10-27-10
  • Sarah Palin for president? It’s possible, she says: Sarah Palin says if nobody else is up to the job, she could run for president. But her political clout is on the line in Alaska with the flagging US Senate campaign of tea party favorite Joe Miller. Is Sarah Palin just toying with us about running for president in 2012? Or did she really mean it when she told “Entertainment Tonight” she could run. Interviewed at her home in Wasilla, Alaska, for a segment to be broadcast Thursday evening, Ms. Palin told the show’s Mary Hart:
    “I think, still, it is too early for anybody to get out there declaring what their intentions are. For me, Mary, it’s going to entail a discussion with my family, a real close look at the lay of the land, and to consider whether there are those with that common sense, conservative, pro-Constitution passion – whether there are any candidates out there who can do the job.”
    But then she added, “If there’s nobody else to do it, then of course I would believe that we should do this.” (It was unclear whether she was using the collective “we,” the editorial “we,” or the royal “we.”)… – CS Monitor, 10-28-10
  • Life after the White House: What’s on the president’s iPad?: Doing the dishes, making coffee for his wife, and reading the Wall Street Journal on his iPad. That’s what day-to- day life is like these days for former President George W. Bush, according to his wife, Laura.
    In an exclusive interview with Deborah Roberts for Yahoo! News and ABC News at the Women’s Conference 2010, former first lady Laura Bush talked about life post-White House and her husband’s upcoming book, “Decision Points.”… – Yahoo News, 10-27-10
  • Gingrich: No Tax Increases: Should Republicans takes the House, Gingrich urges them, in the “very first week,” to pass a ‘no tax increase on any American during the recession’ bill and send it to the president in January. “Maybe the liberals felt this way about Nixon during Watergate, but I have never seen this level of conservative anger at somebody, the way [they’re angry] with the president.” “Radical elites are in such denial about reality right now, whether it’s the president, Speaker Pelosi, or Senate Majority Leader Reid,” Gingrich says. The frustration with Democrats, he says, is “bigger and deeper than in 1994.”… – The Atlantic, 10-26-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • After Midterm Elections, Congress Faces Likely Legislative Gridlock: “Both parties don’t like to work with each other. We keep seeing that over and over,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University professor of history and congressional expert. “It’s like Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football.”
    Zelizer said an alternative approach would be for the GOP to focus on issues that “Democrats are going to have trouble saying no to,” such as extending tax cuts for wealthy Americans.
    Would-be House Speaker Boehner and Obama could try to work together on deficit reduction. For Republicans, part of it would be symbolic leading up to the ’12 elections, Zelizer said. “But part of it is to see if there is enough Democrats to work on it,” he added… – Fox News, 10-28-10
  • Polls Gone Wild: Political Gripes In Internet Age: When a widely publicized poll showed Republican John Kasich with a commanding, 10-point advantage in Ohio’s governor’s race, aides to Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland fought back hard. Against the poll.
    “With just two weeks until Election Day, it is our opinion that the Quinnipiac polls are irresponsible, inaccurate and completely removed from the reality of the Ohio governor’s race,” the campaign said in a statement that noted other private and public surveys were showing a much closer contest.
    The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, an organization with an unchallenged reputation for nonpartisanship, responded mildly. “We stand by our numbers and our overall record for reliability,” said Doug Schwartz, the organization’s polling director. The flare-up underscored a widely held view among both politicians and pollsters that polls, once used largely to help a candidate shape strategy, increasingly can affect the outcome of political campaigns in the Internet Age. Candidates and their allies instantly disseminate bare-bones results, seizing on those that reflect well on their own prospects, ignoring the rest and generally skipping over details that might caution people about reading too much into them…. – AP, 10-28-10
  • Rupert Cornwell: Yes we can, Obama said. But can he? US gets ready for a new kind of presidency: For Barack Obama, the past is mere prologue. From January 2011, the President will be part of an entirely new political play in Washington. Unless every poll in these last days of the mid-term election campaign is wrong, next week’s vote will force him to deal with a world in which Republicans have a majority in the House and near- parity in the Senate – and in which his plans for the presidency will have to take quite a different tack. For Mr Obama’s first term, at least, the time of sweeping political change is at an end. And yet, just possibly, a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections could be the making of the President…. – Independent UK, 10-29-10
  • KARL ROVE: Signs of the Democratic Apocalypse: Midterms are tough for presidents, but party leaders aren’t usually in trouble. Next Tuesday Democrats will receive a crushing rebuke. More to the point, voters will be delivering a verdict on the first two years of the Obama administration. Midterm elections are almost always unpleasant experiences for the White House, especially when the economy is weak. But key races that should have been safe for the party in power demonstrate the extent to which President Obama and his policies have nationalized the election. In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a huge war chest in a state Mr. Obama won in 2008 by 12 points. Mr. Reid trails Sharron Angle by four points in the latest Rasmussen poll…. – WSJ, 10-28-10
  • Gil Troy: Obama at Midterm – Grading on a Presidential Curve: The United States has traveled a long way from the euphoria of Election Night, 2008 to the crankiness of the 2010 midterm elections. Even President Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters agree that the turnaround in popular support he has experienced has been dramatic, unprecedented, unnerving, The “Yes We Can” Candidate of 2008 – who seemingly could do no wrong – is now seen by millions as the President who can do no right leading a sobered “No We Can’t” citizenry, many of whom have lost jobs, lost hope for the future, and lost faith in the man who seemed so promising as a leader just two years ago. Here is Barack Obama’s challenge. He is not only confronting two wars, one ongoing economic mess, and countless other cultural, social, diplomatic, ideological and political crises. He is not only being measured against the Presidents who preceded him, some of whom are encased in legend, setting stratospheric standards for any worthy successor. He is also competing against himself and the impossibly high hopes his election unleashed…. – Institute for Research on Public Policy’s “Policy Options”, Oct. 2010
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why Democrats are hurting: With the midterm elections just a week away, many Democrats are scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong.
    After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, many in the party thought that they were on the cusp of a new era in American politics. Republicans, and the conservative philosophy that had shaped their party for several decades, seemed to be in retreat.
    Yet less than years later, Republicans are on the verge of recapturing control of the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate. President Obama’s approval ratings have slid since his first year, while Republicans are now looking forward to the election of 2012.
    The most conventional argument about what went wrong for Democrats is that Obama moved too far to the left in a country that is center-right. But this argument is not supported by a recent study by The Washington Post, Henry Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.
    The study found that Americans are philosophically conservative but operationally liberal…. 

    Conservatives have also done very well at playing the politics of the media by staying on message and framing Obama and his policies in a negative light. They have been able to turn the president’s legislative victories into political defeats. Obama and his supporters have spent the last few months trying to explain all that he has done. But when a president has to do so much explaining, that means that he has already lost the battle.
    Whatever the outcome of the midterms, Democrats will need to regroup in the coming months. Rather than focusing on allegations of foreign money flowing into the campaign or embarking on some wholesale philosophical shift to the right, Democrats would do better to look at the specific strategic mistakes that they have made along the way and make sure that they don’t repeat them on the road to 2012. – CNN, 10-25-10

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama dropped ball on campaign reform: President Obama has recently blasted the influx of money from undisclosed donors flowing into the midterm campaigns. He repeated a claim, which major media outlets have not been able to substantiate, that foreign funds may have been used in the United States.
    At a recent rally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the president said “American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections.”
    “You don’t know: It could be the oil industry. It could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose.”
    In making these attacks Obama is returning to a central theme that animated his 2008 campaign: the need to change the campaign finance system. As a candidate, Obama railed against the way that money influenced politics. He reiterated a long-standing theme of reform-candidates that unless the political process changed, policies would remain the same and Americans would never gain confidence in their government.
    But Obama broke from these principles almost as soon as he made the argument. During the campaign, Obama disappointed many campaign reform advocates when he announced that he would not use public funds in the general election campaign so that he could raise an unlimited amount of money in his race against Sen. John McCain….
    Until presidents and congressional leaders decide to make campaign finance reform a priority issue the relationship between money and politics won’t change. This is unfortunate since the way that politics works profoundly influences the type of policies that government can produce.
    The power of money in politics was there for all to see when interest groups were able to gut key cost control measures during the health care debate.
    Like most presidents before him, both Democrats and Republicans, Obama is now witnessing the consequences of accepting the status quo, and the flow of money is only likely to grow. As Jan Baran, a former general counsel for the Republican National Committee told The New York Times, “This year is practice for 2012.”… – CNN, 10-18-10
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