POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 6/27

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Quite flattering and a little surreal.”

— Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, quoted by the AP, when asked how it felt to be mentioned as a potential running mate for Sen. Barack Obama.

Courts Strikes Down “Millionaires Amendment”

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, “overturned a key section of campaign finance law that sought to level the playing field for congressional candidates facing wealthy, self-funding opponents,” CQ Politics reports.

“The provision nullified by the high court allows congressional candidates to collect more than the normal contributions per donor when they face wealthy opponents who pour hundreds of thousands of their own dollars into a race.”

CQ analysis suggests the verdict “is not expected to have much of an impact on federal elections, although it could force a handful of this year’s congressional candidates to rethink their game plans.”

Nonetheless, Rick Hasen is not pleased with the decision since “there is no good reason to allow disparities in wealth to be translated into disparities in political power.”

Debate Formats Proposed

Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama “would sit at a table at two of three presidential debates this fall, according to a formal proposal unveiled Thursday, which, perhaps unintentionally, would neutralize Obama’s height advantage,” according to McClatchy Newspapers.

“The Commission on Presidential Debates proposed the less formal, more conversational talk-show format for two of three 90-minute debates it’s seeking this fall. The third debate would be a town hall-style session in which the candidates would be free to get up from high stools and walk around the stage.”

The two candidates haven’t yet responded to the commission’s proposal.

In Texas, Cornyn in Tight Race for Re-Election

A new Texas Lyceum poll shows Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and challenger Rick Noriega (D) in a statistical dead heat for U.S. Senate. 

Cornyn edges Noriega, 38% to 36%, but within the poll’s 4.5 point margin of error.

Key findings: 70% of Texans believe the country is on the wrong track and only 23% say “things are moving in the right direction.”

Quote of the Day

“I bit my tongue many times. Many times. I bit my tongue many times during this campaign.”

— Sen. Barack Obama, quoted by The Hill, to colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Guns No Longer an Issue

Political Insider: With it’s decision, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively took the gun issue out of the fall campaign.

Lautenberg Looks Likely to Hold Senate Seat

According to a new Public Mind Poll, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is way ahead of rival Dick Zimmer (R) in the New Jersey U.S. Senate race, 44% to 29%.

Key finding: “Even among self-identified Republican voters, Zimmer is not known: A majority (62%) say they don’t have an opinion of him or have never heard of him at all.”

Said pollster Peter Woolley: “If three quarters of the public know nothing about the Republican nominee for the United States Senate, then he’s certainly got a long climb.”

Oregon Senate Race Very Competitive

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — a group philosophically allied with Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) — released a survey warning that Smith “is clearly quite vulnerable” in his re-election race against Jeff Merkley (D), according to the Oregonian

Smith currently leads Merkley, 38% to 34%.

Quinnipiac: Obama Leads in Key Battleground States

A new Quinnipiac poll finds that an “emerging Democratic coalition of women, minorities and younger voters is propelling” Sen. Barack Obama to leads of five to 17 percentage points over Sen. John McCain among likely voters in four key battleground states.

Overall results show:

  • Colorado: Obama 49%, McCain 44%
  • Michigan: Obama 48%, McCain 42%
  • Minnesota: Obama 54%, McCain 37%
  • Wisconsin: Obama 52%, McCain 39%.

Interesting finding: “Democrats would like Obama to pick Sen. Hillary Clinton as his running mate, but voters overall reject the idea. Independent voters oppose Sen. Clinton by 16 to 29 percentage points.”

The Motive Behind Obama’s 50 State Strategy

Marc Ambinder: “Never will a campaign predict a landslide, but if only, say, half of the assumptions that guide Obama’s general election strategy are true, his campaign is, in essence, preparing for a landslide in the popular vote. There’s no way that 10,000 Obama volunteers in Texas won’t influence his vote totals there even if he doesn’t win.”

McCain Takes Off Weekends

“Since effectively capturing the Republican nomination when Mitt Romney dropped out of the race on Feb. 7, John McCain has held just one public campaign event on a weekend,” according to Politico.

“Instead, after workweeks full of fundraisers, town hall meetings and interviews, McCain has been, in campaign parlance, down’ on nearly every Saturday or Sunday for 20 weeks, largely sequestered away from the news media.”

Powell Moves Closer to Backing Obama

Robert Novak sees the possibility of former Secretary of State Colin Powell breaking from Republican ranks and supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president, saying “Powell probably will enter Obama’s camp at a time of his own choosing.”

Powell’s “tenuous 13-year relationship with the Republican Party, following his retirement from the Army, has ended. The national security adviser for Ronald Reagan left the present administration bitter about being ushered out of the State Department a year earlier than he wanted. As an African American, friends say, Powell is sensitive to racial attacks on Obama and especially on Obama’s wife, Michelle.”

Obama, Clinton Continue Delicate Talks to Unify Party

Weeks ago  Political Insider  told you who would play a key role in negotiating between the Obama and Clinton campaigns. Now the New York Times confirms that superlawyer Robert Barnett “is working to hash out questions large and small as the two camps work toward a political merger.” 

The “thicket of complicated issues” include how to repay Clinton’s campaign debt and her role at the Democratic convention. However, “perhaps the thorniest question — what to do about Bill Clinton, who friends say continues to refight the bitter primary fight — has yet to be raised by either side.”

“The talks were described by aides on both sides as complicated, but not hostile.”

F&M Poll: Economy Becoming Top Issue

A new nationwide Franklin & Marshall poll finds Sen. Barack Obama leading Sen. John McCain, 42% to 36%.

The poll found the economy was becoming the most important issue for voters, with Obama holding a large advantage, 48% to 30%, “among voters who are struggling compared to last year and also winning among the staggeringly high 78% who think the country’s on the wrong track.”

Said pollster Terry Madonna: “Between 10 to 20 percent of the voters are starting to feel real pain, and that is starting to transform the presidential campaign.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Without him we would not be in the majority… He votes with us on virtually every issue except for the war and, of course, his support for Senator McCain. There is disappointment, for sure, and many people have expressed concern about his role, but he’s going to have to make that decision.”

— Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), quoted by Time, on Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

The Collapse of the Campaign Finance System

Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance ReformSen. Barack Obama’s groundbreaking decision to reject public financing was widely criticized by good government groups and reform-minded lawmakers in both parties. However, a new book by Ray La Raja, Small Change: Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform, predicted this would be a direct result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law — the same law supported by most of those now blasting Obama’s decision.

La Raja notes that by cutting off soft money donations, McCain-Feingold dramatically weakened political parties and created a more decentralized and chaotic political system with candidates, parties and interest groups operating independently of each other. The unintended consequences of the law has been greater polarization of the political parties, the rise of independent 527 groups and candidates like Obama that seek their own sources of funding.

La Raja’s brief review of reform laws over the past several decades is also very enlightening. He shows how nearly every reform effort called for restricting donations for the main purpose of giving an advantage to a specific party or faction within a party. Rarely was the intent improving our democratic system.

Ultimately, La Raja favors a series of reforms that strengthen the political parties, including higher contribution limits to the national parties and allowing greater party coordinated spending. These proposals acknowledge that past reforms efforts to limit campaign money were doomed to fail and that no one should be surprised of the campaign finance system that resulted.

It’s an interesting book, very timely and highly recommended

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