Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget heading to Congress (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2010, file photo President Barack Obama delivers the first State of the Union address of his presidency on Capitol Hill in Washington. To the joint session of Congress Obama said, 'So, as temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed...  if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know... I'm eager to see it.' Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are seen in the background.  (AP Photo/Tim Sloan, Pool, File)AP – President Barack Obama’s proposed budget predicts the national deficit will crest at a record-breaking .6 trillion in the current fiscal year, then start to recede in 2011 to .3 trillion, a congressional official said Sunday.

MA-Sen: Looking to 2012

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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Either outcome of January 19’s special election would have left us wondering what Democrat would step up to challenge the junior senator from Massachusetts. The fact that Scott Brown won, while unfortunate in every other way, probably produces a stronger field than would have been willing to primary a sitting senator, however clearly she needed to be primaried. As it is, the entire party will be looking to unseat Brown.

Brown had two pretty clear paths to choose from: he could legislate as he campaigned, as a teabagger senator, then cash in Palin-style after a certain 2012 loss; or he could try to get reelected. The strong indications are that he’s chosen the latter path: the Boston Globe reports that he’s hired at least one of Ted Kennedy’s constituent services staffers, and he’s emphasizing that he told Senate Republican leadership that he’s going to “vote how I want to vote.”

There’s plenty of time for him to screw up massively, but as we learned a couple weeks ago, we should never underestimate Scott Brown. A strong Democratic candidate is necessary, and that candidate should come loaded for bear.

Massachusetts typically has a deep but boring Democratic bench, consisting largely of Irish-American men. In 2006, Deval Patrick vaulted over all the candidates of whom it could be said that it was “their turn,” coming from nowhere with an exciting campaign. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as good at governing as he was at campaigning, which could have a dampening effect on voters’ willingness to go for another mold-breaking candidate. On the other hand, it was pretty much Martha Coakley’s turn, and we saw how that turned out.

Any of the candidates defeated by Martha Coakley in December could run again, of course.

Rep. Michael Capuano came in second in that primary, with 28%, and remains a viable possibility. As I noted in previewing December’s primary, Capuano has strong legislative ratings from a range of progressive organizations, from the AFL-CIO to the League of Conservation Voters to Planned Parenthood. He campaigned last fall as a strong populist.

Capuano is only one of a few possible challengers coming from the House, though in a regular election, of course, any of them would have to give up their House seats.

Ed Markey is another House member with a strong, across-the-board progressive record whose name is always mentioned in relation to Senate seats opening up. Markey is 63 years old now, however, and while 66 is not old to be in the Senate, it is old to enter the Senate; that may play in his thinking or his prospects. (That said, it’s not as though most of the possibilities mentioned here are wee young’uns — most are in their 50s.)

Stephen Lynch considered running for Kennedy’s seat, but did not do so amidst speculation that his hesitation to support a health care reform bill with a public option was hurting him with unions. That was particularly significant since Lynch, a former Ironworker, has always had strong union support. Running statewide, he’d be weakened by his anti-abortion stance, though if he got through a primary that would obviously be no issue against Scott Brown.

If, after the Coakley example, statewide elected officials were interested in testing their luck, Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin would be a logical “it’s his turn” kind of candidate. He’s been Secretary since 1994, so his name recognition should be high, in an innocuous way.

Hope springing eternal, expect one or more Kennedys to be mentioned: That could be Victoria Reggie Kennedy, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II (Robert Kennedy’s eldest son), or even, among the real dreamers, Joe Kennedy III. Many people had hoped that Joe II would run this time around, and had he done so, most of the primary field would have cleared. Joe III is young — just 29 now — but has amassed the kind of public service record that, when combined with the Kennedy name, well prepares one for getting elected.

Of course, it’s possible that one or more outside the box candidates could emerge. Two such candidates ran in the December primary: Steve Pagliuca, a wealthy self-funder with a history of Republican campaign contributions; and City Year founder Alan Khazei, who was endorsed by the Boston Globe in the primary.

One name that’s already been floated for 2012, in a Boston Globe op-ed, is that of Elizabeth Warren:

If all this made Warren a household name among progressives, it was the economic crisis that catapulted her onto the national stage. As chairwoman of the TARP Oversight Committee, she’s been responsible for examining the bank bailouts and the regulatory response. Warren has vocalized the concerns of many Americans – but not many politicians – who are outraged by the rampant greed that led to the crisis, and the refusal of Wall Street to take responsibility. “I think the problem has been all the way throughout this crisis, that the banks have been treated gently and everyone else has been treated really pretty tough,” said an exasperated Warren last fall, echoing what so many others – in both parties – have come to believe.

These people need someone of Warren’s stature. The timing is perfect: her term at TARP Oversight will come to an end in the spring of 2011, just as a Senate candidate would have to be ramping up.

First-time candidates running for major office can struggle with gaffes as they adjust to having their words and actions under a microscope for the first time; Warren, at least, has significant experience in the media and as a public spokesperson.

There’ll be no shortage of candidates, possible and actual, for the seat. But whoever enters the primary had damn well better be prepared to fight to the end.


IL-SEN: Alexi Giannoulias

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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On Friday, we published the first part of my email interviews with the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination to the United States Senate from Illinois.  Today, here’s the rest.

[Ground rules: There were none, really.  I didn’t tell either candidate of a recommended length for their answers, and I have not edited their answers or otherwise added any links — what you see, they provided.  You’ll see that I asked some of the same questions of each candidate, not that either knew which.  The interviews were spread out for both candidates over a two-week period, given that they do lead busy lives right now, and I appreciate the time they’ve given us.]

Alexi Giannoulias, 33, is the State Treasurer of Illinois, a position to which he was elected in November 2006.  

Q: Given that the state of EFCA is in flux, especially given the Massachusetts special election results (I’m writing this on Tuesday morning), what are the core reforms that you believe are needed to expand labor organizing rights?

Giannoulias: As Wall Street continues to make billions in profit while wages remain stagnant, its more important than ever that we elect Senators who aren’t afraid to stand up for working families.

I strongly support the Employee Free Choice Act and I am frustrated that it has faded from the legislative agenda.

EFCA simply levels the playing field for American workers, and it gives them a chance to collectively bargain with management for the wages and benefits that they deserve.

Employers now have the ability to delay the process of forming a union, and they often use intimidation or harassment to dissuade workers from joining.  EFCA would add meaningful penalties for employers who violate the law and make important reforms to the collective bargaining.

I would like to highlight one measure in the bill that I don’t think gets discussed enough: binding arbitration. Under current law, if a newly formed union does not come to a contractual agreement with an employer within the first year of the union’s existence, employees must hold a second election to keep the union. In that second election, a majority of employees must vote in favor of keeping the union in order for the employees to remain unionized.  Binding arbitration would ensure that workers who wish to form a union are able to obtain a contract and that their first vote is honored.

Beyond EFCA, there are a number of things the Senate should act on immediately to protect labor rights. The National Labor Relations Board is an independent government body that investigates and remedies unfair labor practices. Since January 2008, it has operated with only two members. It is supposed to have five.

President Obama’s three nominees have yet to be confirmed, while the two remaining members of the board have gone on to make over 400 rulings. The Senate should act immediately to confirm President Obama’s nominees.

We need Democrats who are willing to speak up for American workers in the U.S. Senate. I am proud to have the support of over two-dozen unions in this election including the two largest in the state, the AFL-CIO and SEIU.  They all recognize that I’m the only candidate in this race that’s created jobs, that’s saved jobs, and that has a detailed economic plan to get our economy back on track again.

On a final note, if elected, I will fight to increase the minimum wage to .50 by 2011 and peg further increases to inflation.  And I’ll fight just as hard as Senator for the people of Illinois as I have as State Treasurer.

Q: Many in our community have been frustrated at what they see both as the slow pace of change in Washington and how the Senate seems to water down the best proposals along the way — that it is the most conservative members of our party rather than its core who seem to control policy decisions.  What would you do to change things as a freshman Senator, and are there structural problems with the Senate itself which need fixing?

Giannoulias: When President Obama was running for President, he said that Washington is to the place good ideas go to die.  There’s no bigger killer of good ideas in the U.S Senate than the modern-day filibuster. I will be a vocal advocate for filibuster reform in the Senate.

What was a tool originally conceived to make it difficult to close debate until every member was given full opportunity to express their thoughts has turned into a weapon wielded in a way that inflicts legislative paralysis. The process clearly needs to be reformed.

The current system allows Senators to block progress with the mere threat of a filibuster.  That’s undemocratic, and it’s unacceptable.  Whatever the solution, it should include an end to the silent filibuster.  I believe that if 40 Senators oppose a bill, the citizens of this nation deserve to witness that opposition in full form, just as votes for or against a bill are of public record.

There are several intriguing solutions, from complete abolishment of the filibuster to lowering the threshold to a graduated filibuster that requires fewer and fewer votes to break as days go on.  The specific remedy is not as important as the need to fix the broken status quo; we should put all options on the table and come to agreement on a way to restore sanity to the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Finally, while a freshman Senator may not wield much power in the U.S. Senate, if the people of Illinois honor me with that post, I will be a fierce advocate for the principle that, on whatever the issue, we must begin with the strongest bill possible.  I will also be guided by the core idea that, while we must compromise as bills go through the chamber, we must never compromise our principles.

Q: What do you consider to be a signature accomplishment you can point to that’ll tell voters something about how you handle difficult situations?

Giannoulias: Often in politics, you’re expected to keep your head down, follow the treaded path, and not make waves.  As anyone who’s ever ran for or held elected office can tell you, the pressure by establishment interests and others to simply not make waves is enormous.

But I think political courage is a necessity for any person honored to serve in public office.

As State Treasurer, I have a record of exhibiting that political courage, and no accomplishment best demonstrates my approach to public service than when Wells Fargo tried to shut down Hartmarx, a century-old suit manufacturer in Illinois.   I wrote about Hartmarx last year on Daily Kos here.

Wells Fargo, one of a handful of Wall Street banks that accepted billions in bailout money, turned around and tried to shutter Hartmarx, an Illinois institution that was going through its own financial troubles because of the economy.  Some of the workers at Hartmarx, like Marina, have worked there their entire lives.

For many politicians, it could have been just another statistic, another fatality of the recession.  But I, along with a handful of other elected officials in Illinois, including Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman Phil Hare, refused to acquiesce to the pressure to do nothing.

I firmly believe that if you’re elected to public office, you should use all the tools at your disposal to help the working families that form the backbone of our economy and national character.

So, as State Treasurer, I stood up to Wells Fargo.  I told them that if they decided to use the American taxpayer as an ATM, if they thought they could get a citizen bailout one day and shutter the doors of a landmark business the next, then the State of Illinois would pull its business from Wells Fargo.

I know to some it may seem like that’s an easy stance to take.  Let me assure you that it’s not.  It is not an easy thing to shift billions of state dollars away from an institution like Wells Fargo.  There is an enormous amount of planning and there are financial consequences to doing something like this.

Because we stood up for Illinois workers, Wells Fargo stood down.  Hartmarx was sold to a company that kept the business open, and today, they’re adding even more jobs to the payroll.

Here is a video highlighting our fight for Illinois families.

We need Senators who have a record of standing up for families against the pressure to stand with corporate special interests.  It’s why I’m the first Senate candidate in Illinois history to refuse contributions from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs, and it’s why I’ll continue to speak up for working families if I’m privileged enough to serve in the United States Senate.  

Q: Final question:  other than your possible future colleague Dick Durbin, what Senators do you most admire and hope to work with in DC?

Giannoulias: First, while I can’t pick Dick Durbin, I have to say I cannot wait to work with him in the U.S. Senate.  I especially admire his tireless efforts for real bankruptcy law reform that benefits working families, something I’ve posted about repeatedly here on Daily Kos.

If I’m elected, I look forward to working with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.  I admire Senator Schumer’s tenacious advocacy of progressive principles and his focus on how legislation impacts families outside of the beltway.  

I am fortunate to know and have spoken with Senator John Kerry. I admire his recent efforts to hold the line on strong bills for health care reform and climate change.  He has taken principled stands, something we need more of in the U.S. Senate.  He has proven that, in the face of adversity, you can still make a tremendous difference and I would seek his counsel in the U.S. Senate.


IL-SEN: David Hoffman

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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On Friday, we published the first part of my email interviews with the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination to the United States Senate from Illinois.  Today, here’s the rest.

[Ground rules: There were none, really.  I didn’t tell either candidate of a recommended length for their answers, and I have not edited their answers or otherwise added any links — what you see, they provided.  You’ll see that I asked some of the same questions of each candidate, not that either knew which.  The interviews were spread out for both candidates over a two-week period, given that they do lead busy lives right now, and I appreciate the time they’ve given us.]

David Hoffman, 42, is the Inspector General of Chicago.  Before that, he served from 1997-2005 as an Assistant United States Attorney, where he was appointed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as Deputy Chief of the Narcotics and Gangs Section.

Q: Implicit in the last part of that [previous] answer is that voters shouldn’t trust your rivals in the primary.  Is that what you’re saying?

Hoffman: What we are saying is voters should consider the records and make their own decisions about who they can trust.

Q: Many in our community have been frustrated at what they see both as the slow pace of change in Washington and how the Senate seems to water down the best proposals along the way — that it is the most conservative members of our party rather than its core who seem to control policy decisions.  What would you do to change things as a freshman Senator, and are there structural problems with the Senate itself which need fixing?

Hoffman: There are some problems that are driven by political ideology, like the Stupak Amendment, but the larger problem that I see is the amount of money being spent by special interest groups to water down good legislation.  If we want to see the passage of more progressive legislation, we are going to have to address the issue of how money is used to influence the political process.

Before I go into the discussion about the corrosive influence of money in politics, I want to share my experience working on very good legislation here in Illinois that was watered down and passed under the banner of “reform.”

Prior to putting my name on the ballot to run for this seat, I was asked by then Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn to join the Illinois Reform Commission.  The commission was tasked with putting forward recommendations to the Illinois General Assembly that would end the pay-to-play system in Springfield and clean up the contracting and hiring processes in Illinois.  You can read the full report here.

After submitting this comprehensive report, a proposal that would have created sweeping political reforms, the Illinois General Assembly wrote their own, watered down version of the bill.  We learned of the watered down version only hours before it was to be voted on.  Members of the Illinois Reform Commission had to scramble in the dead of night to read the bill as we were packing our bags and driving down to Springfield.  Ultimately, Illinois voters got much less than they deserved because those in power wanted to protect that power.  This business of protecting each other and rewarding campaign contributors, often the clouted and connected, is what has to change.

One issue that Kossacks are familiar with is the ongoing debate over healthcare reform.  Like many of you, I have watched the bill deteriorate dramatically once it reached the Senate.  Everyone here knows that the people who are opposed to a public option in the healthcare reform bill are opposed because they are being lobbied hard by a healthcare industry that is spending millions of dollars to prevent change.  On December 20, 2009, the Chicago Tribune released a report that detailed how the healthcare industry spent upwards of 5 million over the past two years to shape the healthcare bill.  I hope you have time to read the entire report as it describes, in detail, the network of former members of congress and their aides who worked hard to shape this bill in favor of the industries that want to maintain a status quo, broken healthcare system.

This is why I say that it is the money that is the epicenter of the problem when it comes to pushing for the progressive issues that we all believe in.  As an Assistant United States Attorney and independent Inspector General of Chicago, I learned to follow the evidence and follow the money.  As a U.S. Senator, I intend to apply these same guiding principles to my work in Washington, and I will also raise the bar on myself by conducting business in an open and transparent manner.

Here are some things that I am already doing, as a candidate, to restore public trust in our political system.

In addition to my work on the Illinois Reform Commission, I have taken a pledge that I will reject all Political Action Committee (PAC) money and all money from lobbyists as a means of funding this campaign for U.S. Senate.  Some of my opponents have limited themselves to taking some PAC money, but I have made it clear that I will reject all PAC and lobbyist money.

Although it is not in this clip of the endorsement from liberal icon, Judge Abner Mikva, during the endorsement, Mikva said, “nobody sent David Hoffman.” This is true and to restore public trust, we have to distance ourselves from the past culture of corruption in Illinois politics, and how we conduct the very operation of running a campaign.

Along the same lines of political reform, but not necessarily legislative in nature, I have pledged to post my Senate schedule online so voters know who I am meeting with and the topic of discussion.  That way, anyone who may have different views on the same issue can schedule an appointment with my office.  This is an added layer of transparency that can help rebuild public trust and I hope that many of my colleagues follow my lead.

I also intend to publish on-line, any earmark requests that I have submitted along with a written explanation for that earmark request. I know that we need to appropriate money to repair Illinois’ crumbling infrastructure, but I think it should be done in a very open and transparent manner.

Beyond my campaign and how I plan on running my Senate office, we need to talk about what can be done legislatively.  The Illinois Reform Commission looked at several states like Arizona, Maine and Connecticut that have passed meaningful campaign finance rules.  I believe that the U.S. House and Senate need to adopt some of these more aggressive measures and move towards publicly financed campaigns.  .

In addition to publicly funded political campaigns, I will be a champion for other political reforms in the senate.  Perhaps most significant to this community is my belief that every piece of legislation should be posted, in its final form, on-line and made available to the general public for a 48-hour period before any votes are cast in the house or senate.  I trust that many of the readers and bloggers here at DailyKos would then play a significant role in researching those bills and contacting their legislators before votes are cast.  The internet is a powerful tool that can have a positive impact on the political process and this is one way that we can use technology to create greater transparency and engage the public.

I will remain open to other good ideas offered by the KOS community and other communities, who have a commitment to the fight for reform and the progressive change we need in this country.

Q: You mentioned Judge Mikva, which leads to something I have to ask about — our shared alma mater, The University of Chicago Law School, which he attended and where he taught my Legislative Process class, and where you now teach a course on Public Corruption and the Law.  As law schools go, it’s a pretty conservative place.  What attracted you to it, and how did it shape you?

Hoffman: It was and remains one of the top law schools in the country and I was excited about coming home to Illinois.  I loved the academic rigor of the law school and found it to be a much more balanced place than its reputation suggested.  Some of the country’s leading liberal-leaning professors were there and I was honored to be taught by all of them — David Currie, Elena Kagan, Larry Lessig, Geoff Stone, David Strauss, and Cass Sunstein, to name some.  I was the head of the Law School Democrats and brought leading Democrats to the law school as speakers.  I also became very involved in the Woodlawn community just to the law school’s south, forming a new community-service group called Neighbors, which still exists.  By the end of my second year, 100 law students were going to Woodlawn once a week to volunteer in tutoring programs, and at the Head Start program, at the YWCA, at the children’s hospital, among others.

Q: What do you consider to be a signature accomplishment you can point to that’ll tell voters something about how you handle difficult situations?

Hoffman: Transforming the Chicago Inspector General’s Office into a truly independent and effective anti-corruption office, which required standing up to a powerful City Hall that did not appreciate independence.

Q: Other than your possible future colleague Dick Durbin, what Senators do you most admire and hope to work with in DC?

Hoffman: They would include Senators Russ Feingold and Jim Webb.


Midday Open Thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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  • Can you tell if someone is a Democrat or a Republican, just by looking at them? Shockingly, a new study says that it may be possible to do just that.
  • In another example of the fairly strange recent phenomenon of people dropping out of races on the doorstep of an election (see: Scozzafava, DeDe), Illinois Senate candidate Jacob Meister dropped out of the Democratic primary and endorsed state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. The election is this Tuesday, and Meister was well behind in the polls, so the impact of his endorsement is a bit murly.
  • Speaking of the Illinois primaries, Adam B began a series looking at those races on Friday night that is definitely worth a read. The series continues later today, so check back.
  • DS kicks off a multi-parter on the changes at NASA with installment one, which concludes with some entertaining political conflicts forced on Texas conservatives.
  • Talk about a frosty welcome! Parker Griffith is getting smacked around by county committees back home. He is facing a Republican primary from which he may not emerge. On top of all that, Congressional Republicans have been “too busy” to cobble together some committee assignments for their newest member.
  • In a week where one of his Congressional teammates declared his career “done”, Nevada’s preeminent political analyst, Jon Ralston, examines the landscape. He sees an opening for the Senate Majority Leader, but not a huge one.
  • More on the subject of Harry Reid, from the keyboard of Greg Sargent:

    Zinger of the day: Frank Rich says Harry Reid is the “face of Democratic fecklessness in the Senate.” Again: Pass the health bill, and Dems get a thousand articles about the new law. Fail to pass it, and they get a thousand columns about how feckless they are.

  • Some might make an argument for Tiger Woods (although fewer people might after his November escapades), but an argument can easily be made that the most dominant athlete in his/her discipline in the contemporary era is none other than Roger Federer. Federer scored his 16th Major title today with an impressive straight-sets victory over Britain’s Andy Murray at the Australian Open.
  • Today is the deadline for campaigns to submit their Year-End fundraising reports to the FEC. One eye-popper already in the books: embattled GOP incumbent Anh Joseph Cao actually spent more than he took in during the final quarter of 2009. His cash-on-hand is just barely over 0K, which will mean that whomever emerges from the Democratic primary will not have much ground to make up.
  • As plans for a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York have apparently gone awry, WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wanted to make clear on CNN today that Mohammed would “meet his maker” nevertheless, though he was less clear about whether it would occur in a civilian trial or a military tribunal.

    CNN, during the same program, announced that Candy Crowley will be the replacement for John King on their Sunday morning State of the Union program.

  • Chuck Todd, Political Director of NBC News, uses Twitter to define the term bipartisanship in the modern era:

    Defining “bipartisanship.” WH believes it’s about legis w/something for BOTH parties; GOP argues for passage of JUST what THEY agree with.

    Given the recent interviews with GOP luminaries that make it clear that the only health care reform they’ll support is a wholesale capitulation of the Democrats to a Republican bill, it is hard to dispute Todd’s assertion here.


Obama pushes nuclear energy to boost climate bill (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2010 file photo, Energy Secretary Steven Chu addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington.  In an effort to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation, President Barack Obama is endorsing nuclear energy like never before, calling for a new generation of nuclear power plants to be built around the country.  (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)AP – President Barack Obama is endorsing nuclear energy like never before, trying to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation.

Sen.-elect Brown says he supports abortion rights (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2010, file photo Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown speaks during an interview at the Statehouse in Boston.  On ABC's 'This Week' Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, Brown said he opposes federal funding for abortions, but thinks women should have the right to choose whether to have one. He went on to say that he disagrees with his party's position that the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion should be overturned.  (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl, File)AP – Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts says he opposes federal funding for abortions, but thinks women should have the right to choose whether to have one.

Wave Watching and the 2010 Election Cycle

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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By this point in the 2010 cycle, it is not a surprise to anyone that the forecasts for Democrats in this cycle are pretty dire. One quick tour around the websites for the leading election/horserace pundits tells you all you need to know about their perceptions of the current electoral landscape:

The End of Hope? — Larry Sabato

Midterm Momentum is All GOP’s — Charlie Cook

28 House Seats Move Towards GOP — Stu Rothenberg

Let’s stipulate two things. One, all three of these gentlemen could well be correct. Our own Daily Kos Tracking Poll has data points that ought to give any Democrat indigestion, especially on voter intensity. Two, I am willing to give all three gentleman a pass on partisan motive. The fact that folks on both sides of the ideological fence have been quick to throw all three of these men under the “in the tank for the other side” bus tells me that they probably hit it down the fairway more often than not.

That said, the glum projections of all three prognosticators regarding the 2010 election cycle stands in stark contrast to the last two elections, including the last mid-term cycle.

Make no mistake–some of the tools used in forecasting elections in 2006 and 2008 painted a picture that was just as dire for the Republicans, if not more so, as 2010’s trends appear to be for the Democrats.

Consider just two of those factors, often cited in the traditional media of signs of impending Democratic doom.

One is the relative popularity of the President. To be certain, our own tracking poll makes clear that President Obama’s favorables took a sizeable hit after he took office. Not that this is unusual (the honeymoon inevitably ends), but the downward trend over the course of the year was real and substantial. That said, President Obama remains, even at the present trough in his approval numbers, more popular than President Bush was in January of 2006. Consider the stats: the most recent Pollster average job approval for the president is between 47-48%. Bear in mind, that includes Rasmussen, a pollster whose GOP House effect and prolific nature tends to skew the numbers a bit. Going back to 2006, there were (according to Polling Report) a total of sixteen polls measuring the job approval of President Bush. His average for the month of January? 42.3%. In 2008, of course, those numbers were even more pessimistic for the incumbent president.

Another instrument for election forecasting is the “generic ballot test” looking at voter intentions in the midterm elections. In the current election cycle, even with Rasmussen putting their thumb on the scale here (of the 43 generic ballot test polls in the 2009-2010 showing a Republican lead, all but nine of them were Rasmussen polls), Republicans have a lead of 2.9% in the Pollster average. In January of 2006, there were five generic ballot tests recorded by Polling Report. The average Democratic lead was 9.4%.

Nevertheless, the 2010 election cycle is being forecasted as being more one-sided than either the 2008 or 2006 election cycles, and these forecasts are coming at a much earlier point than ever before.

Consider, in 2008, the Cook Report had a relatively even split between Democratic and Republican vulnerabilities in the House of Representatives, with 21 GOP seats rated as “leaning” to the incumbent party, or worse. This compared to 14 Democratic seats in the same designation.

Eventually, of course, the one-sided nature of the election cycle was duly noted. By November of 2008, the gap at the Cook Report was considerably wider (51 GOP to just 12 Dems).

In 2010, that comparison is much, much more stark, despite it being still comparably early in the cycle: with 50 Democrats in similar designations, versus just ten for Republicans.

The other members of the pundit class are equally pessimistic: Larry Sabato forecasts Republicans gains of seven seats in the Senate, and 27 seats in the House. And Stuart Rothenberg lists 72 seats in the House as “in play”. 58 of them are Democratic, while 14 are Republican.

The confidence of the pundit class in Republican ascendancy in 2010 has occasionally produced eye-popping prognostications. Just this past week, the news that Beau Biden was not seeking the Senate seat in Delaware led the Cook Report, for example, to rate the seat as “Safely Republican” in the hands of GOP candidate Mike Castle.

However, in 2008, the same distinction was never granted to the open Senate seat in Virginia, despite the fact that Democrat Mark Warner was blasting former GOP Governor Jim Gilmore by a two-to-one margin (which wound up being close to the final margin of victory).

So, there is at least some evidence that those that set the conventional wisdom on elections and campaigns are a lot quicker to call the tsunami in this election cycle than they were in either 2006 or 2008.

What is the harm in that?

There actually is some harm in that. There is no question that the early calls of a Republican wave (or a Democratic undertow, whichever you prefer) have had huge effects on both candidate recruitment and fundraising. While Democrats and Republicans have roughly similar numbers of open seats to defend, it is indisputable that the districts abandoned by the Democrats are tougher to defend than the ones, by and large, being abandoned by the GOP.

Not only that, news of GOP competitiveness are going to have a clear impact on fundraising efforts. Campaign donors are cautious bettors, and they like their money to pay off. Scott Brown’s massive fundraising effort in Massachusetts tells us that Republican donors don’t believe right now there is such a thing as a Republican longshot. Their confidence level, buoyed by such election forecasting, has not been this high in three cycles, or more.

Therefore, there is certainly the danger present that these kind of dour forecasts become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the conventional wisdom says that Democrats are in trouble. Then, the recruiting gets easier for the other side (although both the DCCC and DSCC deserve a lot of credit for creating a rough parity in recruiting for this cycle), and the money starts flowing on the other side. Next thing you know, when it comes time for votes to be cast, the Democrats could actually be in exactly the kind of trouble projected a year earlier.

Perhaps Democrats are victims of their own success in this regard. When Charlie Cook was writing about the 2006 election cycle in April of that year, he said the following:

“A hurricane does seem likely to hit the GOP this November,” said Charlie Cook, an independent congressional handicapper who analyzed the field recently for National Journal magazine.

“But the … structural barriers in the House and Senate are protecting the Republican majorities like seawalls and would likely withstand the surge from a category 1, 2, or 3 storm,” Cook wrote in reference to the natural advantages of incumbency such as name recognition, ability to raise money and favorably drawn districts.

The ability of Democrats to penetrate those “seawalls” in 2006, and then to do so once again in 2008, have eroded the once-common conventional wisdom that most Congressional races are foregone conclusions, and shifts are only possible in a very limited playing field. There was a time when election forecasters scoffed at the notion that more than 20-40 seats could be in play in any given cycle.

They are believers now. Unfortunately for Democrats, however, they are believers that it will be Republicans that put the races into play.


War spending surges in 2011 budget (Politico)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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Politico – It’s far more than Obama had hoped to spend when elected, only modestly less than during Bush’s last years.

US to consider local views on 9/11 trial location (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-01-2010-05-2008

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This 2003 handout photo shows Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described chief organizer of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Closing Guantanamo is emerging as a never-ending nightmare for President Barack Obama after he bowed to pressure and backed down from plans to try the accused 9/11 plotters in the heart of New York City.(AFP/HO/File)AP – The Obama administration said Sunday it would consider local opposition when deciding where to hold Sept. 11 trials and pledged to seek swift justice for the professed mastermind of the attacks.