POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/10

Bunning Refuses to Release Poll Results

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) conducted a private poll on his 2010 bid for re-election but he refused to make the results public, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

Said Bunning: “Let’s say I did the polling… That means it’s none of your god damn business. If you paid the 20 grand for the poll, you can get some information out of it.”

Senate Democrats Wait for Minnesota Courts

There will not be an attempt to seat Al Franken (D) in the U.S. Senate until all legal challenges to his slim 250-vote lead over Norm Coleman (R) have been exhausted in MinnesotaCQ Politics reports.

The 8:45 Call

Democrats are starting to flex their political muscles. Today, we learned about the creation of a new policy war room and efforts to mobilize the grassroots in support of President Obama’s ambitious agenda.

Now, Ben Smith reports on the “8:45 A.M. call” — as it’s referred to by various Democratic groups who take part — which “began three weeks ago, and it marks a new level in coordination by the White House’s allies at a time when the conservative opposition is struggling for a toe-hold and major agenda items like health care reform appear closer than ever to passage.”

According to one participant, the call “springs from a recognition of what was lacking in the Clinton years.”

Democrats Ramp Up Policy War Room

The Center for American Progress — “which has emerged as perhaps Washington’s most influential idea factory in the age of Obama — is launching a major new war room, to be staffed by nearly a dozen people, that will focus on driving the White House’s message and agenda,” Greg Sargent reports.

“The new war room — which is called Progressive Media — represents a serious ratcheting up of efforts to present a united liberal front in the coming policy wars. The goal of the war room will be to do hard-hitting research that boils down complex and thorny policy questions into usable talking points and narratives that play well in the media and build public support for the White House’s policy goals.”

Quote of the Day

“Remember, the Republican Party right now is in the shadow of the Bush administration. We’re in the last stage of digesting the tummy ache of having bad Congressional leadership; the worst Treasury Secretary in history; a bad economy. The Republican Party got fired for good reason; it deserved it.”

— Newt Gingrich, in an interview with Essence magazine.

Vote Scheduled on Kirk Nomination

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a Thursday vote for Ron Kirk’s nomination as U.S. trade representative, Dow Jones reports.

According to CQ‘s Cabinet Tracker, Kirk is one of three nominees not yet confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The others are Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health and Human Services and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke to be Commerce secretary.

Castle Leads Biden in Possible Delaware Race

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Delaware finds that Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) would lead Attorney General Beau Biden (D), 44% to 36%, in a possible 2010 U.S. Senate contest.

Key finding: “Castle is winning the head to head match up because of a 53-20 advantage with independents and because he pulls 22% of the Democratic vote. Biden’s core problem at this point is that even though 67% of the voters who have a positive opinion of both him and Castle are Democrats, he has only a 42-40 lead with that group. That’s likely a function of voters knowing Castle better after nearly 30 years in statewide office.”

However, Castle has given no indication he is interested in running.

Going Hungry at the White House?

Heard in the CQ newsroom… 

Members of Congress from both parties are grumbling about the “tiny little portions” of food served at White House functions. While some speculate the lack of food could be due to money constraints, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was overheard saying it might be about President Obama’s love of exercise and keeping fit.

Republicans Seek to Drag Out Minnesota Fight

According to Time magazine, Sen. Amy Kobuchar (D-MN) is having doubts the disputed U.S. Senate race in her home state will be decided soon.

Key point: “Elections law experts say that Coleman has been laying the groundwork for an appeal… Indeed, it’s not rare these days to hear Coleman’s attorneys claim the ruling violated the equal protections clause of the U.S. Constitution… Tellingly, both sides appear to be girding for more legal battles.”

Reuters quotes professor David Schultz, who nails the Republican strategy: “For the GOP a vacancy is as good as electing Coleman.”

Schultz predicts the legal dispute will not be settled until late summer.

CQ Poltiics: What about a do-over in Minnesota?

Steele’s Fate Rests on NY-20 Special Election

According to “multiple former high-level RNC staffers familiar with the dynamics involved,” Sean Quinn reports than RNC Chairman Michael Steele “is unlikely to survive in the post” if Jim Tedisco (R) loses the March 31 special election to fill the House seat vacated by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). 

Recent polls and the party make up of the district suggest Tedisco is heavily favored.

Is Obama Ready to Mobilize His Base?

David Corn sees evidence that President Obama and the Democratic National Committee are beginning to “awaken” millions of voters to apply political pressure on Congress to pass his legislative proposals.

“It appears that the Obama political machine is rebuilding its activist base — rather than presuming it is there — and renewing their list of millions. They are prospecting and looking to see who among Obama’s campaign supporters are still out there and ready to do political battle on his behalf. And they are easing Obama’s base into the conflict. After all, it doesn’t take much to sign an on-line pledge and promise to jawbone friends and relatives.”

Romney Stands Out Among Republicans

With a “more statesmanlike bearing and some measured criticisms of the Obama administration,” the Boston Globe says Mitt Romney (R) “suddenly seems like the only adult left standing among the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls.”

“It’s early, of course — ridiculously early — for anyone except potential candidates to be thinking about the next presidential race. But there’s been plenty of positioning going on in the nowleaderless GOP, including a head-scratching debut by one promising contender, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and a parade of speeches by some others at the Conservative Political Action Conference late last month.”

Congress Dances Around Pay Raise

CQ Politics: “The economy is tanking, unemployment is at 8.1 percent and most workers — even some in the White House — are enduring wage freezes this year. But Congress? When it comes to lawmakers’ paychecks, watch the legislative tangos on the Senate floor this week.”

Shuler Will Not Challenge Burr

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), “thought to be strongly considering a run for U.S. Senate, will not challenge Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in 2010,” the Asheville Citizen-Timesreports.

Said Shuler: “I was flattered to have been asked by so many people across North Carolina to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010. However, with our nation facing the most difficult economic times in generations, I feel my efforts are better utilized focusing on solutions to these challenges rather than campaigning across the state.”

More Bad News for Coleman

Norm Coleman (R) “had hoped an inspection of hundreds of secrecy envelopes holding rejected absentee ballots would yield enough additional votes to help him cut into Al Franken’s (D) 225-vote lead. But it turned out that only 89 of them had valid registrations,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

“That means Coleman’s pool of 1,725 ballots that he has said should be counted probably has shrunk by several hundred — at least for now — making it more difficult for him to overtake Franken.”

Poll Shows Dodd Vulnerable in Re-election Race

A new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut shows former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) edging Sen. Christopher Dodd, 43% to 43%, in a possible 2010 U.S. Senate race.

However, Connecticut voters approve of the job Dodd is doing, 49% to 44%, compared to a negative 41% to 48% approval rating February 10.

Said pollster Douglas Schwartz: “These numbers have to worry Sen. Christopher Dodd. Former Congressman Simmons is not well known outside his district, yet he is running neck and neck with Dodd at this point. Simmons easily wins his former district. The good news for Dodd is that this is the first poll in a long time where Dodd’s job approval hasn’t dropped. It appears that Dodd’s slide may have ended.”

In other possible match ups, Dodd leads State Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R), 47% to 34%, and tops CNBC host Larry Kudlow (R), 46% to 34%.

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