POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 5/11

Taxes at Lowest Level Since 1950

USA Today: “Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.”

Gillibrand Leads Despite Low Approval

Despite a dismal 27% approval rating, a new Marist Poll finds Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) leading her relatively unknown Republican challengers.

Gillibrand leads Bruce Blakeman (R), 52% to 28%, tops Joseph DioGuardi, 50% to 30%, and beats David Malpass (R), 52% to 28%.

Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “The political adage, ‘You have to beat somebody with somebody,’ still holds true, and that somebody hasn’t emerged.”

Cuomo Holds Massive Leads for Governor

A new Marist Poll in New York finds Andrew Cuomo (D) still crushing his possible Republican opponents for governor.

Cuomo leads Rick Lazio (R), 65% to 25%, beats Steve Levy (R), 63% to 25%, and tops Carl Paladino (R), 67% to 22%.

Democrats Close on Burr in North Carolina

A new Public Policy Polling survey in North Carolina finds Elaine Marshall (D) and Cal Cunningham (D) have both gained ground on Sen. Richard Burr (R) after building up their exposure during the Democratic primary campaign.

Burr leads Marshall, 43% to 42%, and tops Cunningham, 44% to 39%.

Interesting: Burr is now in a weaker position than Elizabeth Dole was at the same point in the election cycle two years ago. Dole led Kay Hagan (D), 48% to 43%, immediately after the primary in 2008, and went on to lose the election.

DeMint Takes On His Own Party

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) “is becoming something of a tea party hero, even a potential conservative kingmaker, a status that is not making the freshman senator many friends among fellow Republicans in Congress,” the Washington Post reports.

“His efforts, highly unusual for a freshman, have upset senators on Capitol Hill, where he’s viewed by many as an ideologue willing to purge centrist veterans.”

Said DeMint: “I feel a sense of urgency that some of my colleagues don’t. The Republican Party, at least a segment of it within Washington, has increasingly joined the big-government, big-spending, earmarking ranks.”

Election Could Return a Carter to Politics

Jason Carter (D) — grandson of former President Jimmy Carter — is running for a vacant state Senate seat in a special election today, the AP reports.

“If he wins, the 34-year-old lawyer would be the first in his family to hold elected office since his grandfather left the White House in 1981.”

Candidate Has Over 100 Traffic Tickets

Louisiana state legislative candidate James Perry (D) “has piled up more than 100 traffic violations over the past four years, including some for driving without insurance, a valid drivers license or no license at all that resulted in arrests in 2003 and 2008,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Said Perry: “What can I say? I have a bad driving record.”

Republican Heading Toward Hawaii Victory

A new Merriman River Group poll in Hawaii shows Charles Djou (R) on his way to winning the House special election with 39.5% support. The two Democrats in the race — Ed Case (D) and Colleen Hanabusa (D) — split the remaining vote and each get 25.5%.

The vote-by-mail special election has no primaries and ballots are counted on May 22.

Hatch May Get Primary Challenge

With the defeat of Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) over the weekend, tea party activists are now turning their attention to other GOP primary elections in Utah.

In fact, rumors have been swirling that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) may face a 2012 primary challenge from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) — something Chaffetz “did little to shoot down” when talking to Fox News.

Said Chaffetz: “It’s a possibility, I’m not taking anything off the table. This anti-incumbent sentiment is a tsunami that isn’t going away… I respect everything Senator Hatch has done, but the question is whether 36 years in the US senate might be enough. Orrin will be 78 in 2012.”

Fact of the Day

The most consistent Republican criticism of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is that she’s never been a judge. However, Media Matters notes that 40 of the 111 Supreme Court justices had no prior judicial experience — including 2 of the last 4 Chief Justices.

Fossella Mulls Comeback Bid

Former Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY), “who opted not to seek re-election in 2008 after a DWI arrest exposed the married father of three as having a second family in Virginia, is seriously considering entering the race for his old seat,” Politico reports.

“According to sources familiar with his thinking, in recent weeks Fossella has been weighing a run for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Mike McMahon, with the kickoff for ballot petitions fast approaching and the political climate unsettled nationwide.”

The Organization Woman

David Brooks hits upon the one line of criticism that could work against Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan: That she is a “prudential, deliberate and cautious” careerist.

“What we have is a person whose career has dovetailed with the incentives presented by the confirmation system, a system that punishes creativity and rewards caginess. Arguments are already being made for and against her nomination, but most of this is speculation because she has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out… She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.”

Big Field for Michigan Governor

“Michigan’s race for governor is shaping up as a historic scramble — perhaps the most wide open state contest ever, political experts say — as the final two Republicans filed Monday to run and one Democrat pulled out,” the Detroit Newsreports.

“The matchups for chief state executive promise a raft of choices for voters, exciting August primaries and heightened attention on the political process at an important point in Michigan history. There should be candidates to match just about any voter’s political philosophy, and everyone will be barraged with TV and radio ads. For the candidates, the tight, multicandidate gubernatorial race means fierce competition for scarce donor dollars and a strain on a meager pot of earmarked public funding the Legislature tapped in previous years to help balance the state budget.”

Another Incumbent Fights for His Political Life

“It’s election day in West Virginia, and all eyes are on one congressional race,” theAP reports.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is facing his “first serious threat in more than a decade” as Michael Oliverio (D) battles him in the 1st congressional district Democratic primary.

Fox News: “Mollohan chairs the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. He’s served 14 terms in the House, including winning an uncontested 2008 election. Mollohan hasn’t faced a primary challenger since 1992. But he now finds himself in the race of his life as West Virginia Democrats have soured on the veteran lawmaker.”

Poll close in West Virginia at 7:30 pm.

Sestak Keeps Lead Heading Into Final Week

The latest Muhlenberg/Morning Call tracking poll in Pennsylvania finds Rep. Joe Sestak (D) leading Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, 47% to 43%.

The primary is next Tuesday.

Oil Spill Politics

Public Policy Polling: 28% of Republicans said the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made them more likely to support drilling off the coast to an equal 28% who said it made them less likely to be supportive.

Campbell Maintains Lead Over Fiorina

A new SurveyUSA poll in California shows Tom Campbell (R) continues to lead Carly Fiorina (R) for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, 35% to 24%, with Chuck DeVore (R) trailing at 15%.

Judicial Experience Matters — Except When it Doesn’t

“I mean, one reason I felt so strongly about Harriet Miers’s qualifications is I thought she would fill some very important gaps in the Supreme Court. Because right now you have people who’ve been federal judges, circuit judges most of their lives, or academicians. And what you see is a lack of grounding in reality and common sense that I think would be very beneficial.”

– Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), quoted by Salon, on the lack of judicial experience of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, October 27, 2005.

“Ms. Kagan is likewise a surprising choice because she lacks judicial experience. Most Americans believe that prior judicial experience is a necessary credential for a Supreme Court Justice.”

– Cornyn, earlier today on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me.”

– California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), quoted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, at a graduation speech at Emory University.

Sestak Runs Much Stronger Against Toomey

A new Rasmussen survey in Pennsylvania shows Pat Toomey (R) beating Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in a Senate match up, 50% to 38%.

However, when Toomey is matched against Rep. Joe Sestak (D), he leads by just two points, 42% to 40%.

Whitman’s Lead Disappears in California

A new SurveyUSA poll in California shows Meg Whitman’s (R) once formidable lead in the Republican race for governor collapsing. Whitman now leads Steve Poizner (R) by just two points, 39% to 37%.

Less than three weeks ago, Whitman’s lead in a similar poll was 22 points.

Almost no one believed a memo put out by Poizner’s pollster last week that showed Whitman’s lead at just 10 points, 38% to 28%.

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