POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 4/6

Mongiardo Lines Up Support to Challenge Bunning

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo (D) announced he has raised more than $420,000 for an expected challenge to Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), the AP reports.

A couple weeks ago, Mongiardo won the key endorsement of Gov. Steve Beshear (D), according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

However, at least three Democrats — Attorney General Jack Conway, state Auditor Crit Luallen and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY) — have said they are interested in the race and might challenge Mongiardo in a primary.

Stay tuned: A new poll is expected on Wednesday on Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race.

Chafee Takes Next Step

Last week, we noted that former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI) sounded like a candidate for Rhode Island governor in 2010.

Today, the Providence Journal reports Chafee filed papers to open an “exploratory campaign” for the job. He also confirmed that he would run as an independent.

Dylan on Obama

In an interview with the London Times, Bob Dylan says he found Barack Obama so compelling mainly because of his autobiography, Dreams from My Father.

Said Dylan: “His writing style hits you on more than one level. It makes you feel and think at the same time and that is hard to do. He says profoundly outrageous things. He’s looking at a shrunken head inside of a glass case in some museum with a bunch of other people and he’s wondering if any of these people realize that they could be looking at one of their ancestors.”

But he also saw nothing in the book that indicates Obama would be a good politician.

Dylan: “If you read his book, you’ll know that the political world came to him. It was there to be had.”

Gillibrand Building a War Chest

“Facing the prospect of a tough primary in 2010, appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is doing her best to discourage any and all comers, and she’s got the bankroll to prove it,” The Hill reports.

In an email to supporters, Gillibrand announced that she raised more than $2.3 million in the two months since she was appointed.

“The number is one of the biggest quarters turned in by any Senate candidate in recent election cycles and serves notice that taking on Gillibrand will not be cheap — or easy.”

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Gillibrand still trails Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) in a Democratic primary match-up, 33% to 29%.

Palin Blasts Johnston

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) blasted the father of her grandson, Levi Johnston, after he appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, reports People magazine.  In the interview, he talked about his sexual relationship with Palin’s daughter, Bristol.

Said a Palin spokeswoman: “Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We’re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship.”

Johnston was flown to the Republican National Convention last year after reports of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy became public.

Partisan Divide Grows Under Obama

For all of his hopes about bipartisanship, President Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades, Pew Researchfinds. 

The 61-point partisan gap in Obama’s job performance ratings is the result of a combination of high Democratic ratings for the president — he has a stunning 88% job approval among Democrats — and relatively low approval ratings among Republicans (27%).

White House Increases Transparency

Heard in the CQ newsroom: For the first time, reporters and just about anyone else will be able to access the personal financial disclosure reports of senior White House officials and employees without having to take a trip to downtown Washington to look through paper documents. Just fill out an online request.

Spitzer is Back

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) makes another foray into the limelight with an interview on NBC’s Today Show. Considering the record low approval of his successor, it’s clear he’s testing the waters for a public comeback of some sort.

The interview is defintely worth watching.

Bailout Cost Rises

U.S. congressional budget analysts “raised their estimate of the net cost to taxpayers for the government’s financial rescue program to $356 billion, an increase of $167 billion from earlier estimates,” Reuters reports.

The new TARP cost projection “was raised due to changes in financial market conditions, new transactions and a shift in expected timing of payments.”

Bloomberg Attaches Himself to Obama

The New York Post notes that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) “has become such a fervent champion of Obama in recent weeks that it sometimes seems that he — not Bill Thompson — is the Democrat in the race.”

“The mayor’s campaign last week unleashed robo-calls to remind voters that Bloomberg and Obama are on the same page when it comes to health-care reform.”

“Insiders say the mayor’s strategy is to Velcro himself to a popular president and to blunt a possible appearance by Obama on behalf of the comptroller, which would certainly boost Thompson’s chances of becoming the city’s second black mayor.”

Meanwhile, Politicker NY reports Bill Clinton is jumping on the Bloomberg bandwagon.

Quote of the Day

“President Bush has behaved like a statesman. And as I’ve said before, here and elsewhere, I just don’t think the memo got passed down to the vice president.”

— Obama adviser David Axelrod, in an interview on CNN, blasting former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Obama’s Political Machine Sputters

President Obama “vowed that his 13 million-strong grass-roots network built during his presidential campaign would play a ‘crucial role’ in enacting his agenda from the White House… But in its first big test, the group dubbed Organizing for America (OFA) had little obvious impact on the debate over President Obama’s budget, which passed Congress on Thursday with no Republican support and a splintering of votes among conservative Democrats,” the Washington Post reports.

“The capstone of the campaign was the delivery of 214,000 signatures to Capitol Hill, which swayed few, if any, members of Congress, according to legislative aides from both parties.”

Related: Is Obama’s grass roots effort working?

Paterson Scores Record Low Approval Rate

New York voters disapprove 60% to 28% of the job Gov. David Paterson is doing, the lowest approval ever for a New York Governor, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. In addition, 63% say that he does not deserve to be elected to a full four-year term.

Paterson’s approval is so low that 53% say he should announce now that he won’t run for election to a four-year term next year, while 39% say he can restore his reputation and should run next year. 

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, with a near-record high 75% to 14% approval rating, crushes Paterson in a Democratic primary 61% to 18%.

Said pollster Maurice Carroll: “The slide started with the Caroline Kennedy flap and deepened with the humongous state budget passed last week. The budget was an opportunity for Paterson to reverse his slide, but voters disapprove almost 4-1 of the way he handled it.”

Northern Virginia May Wield Clout in Governor’s Race

CQ Politics: “The populous Washington, D.C., suburbs in northern Virginia have a major say this year in the election that will determine the successor to Democrat Tim Kaine , the state’s term-limited governor.”

Axelrod Sells Interest in Companies

White House advisor David Axelrod, the founder of Chicago based political and public affairs firms, took a $3 million buyout — spread over five years — when he joined the Obama administration, reports the Chicago Sun Times.

“On top of that, last year, when Axelrod was the top advisor to the Obama presidential campaign, he hauled in a total of $1.5 million in salary and partnership income from the two companies.”

Culver Not a Solid Bet for Re-Election

A new Des Moines Register poll “revealed some reservations” by Iowans about Gov. Chet Culver (D) as he looks toward mounting a 2010 campaign for a second term. 

Just 35% said they would definitely vote to re-elect Culver, while 28% said they would consider an alternative and 18% said they would definitely vote for someone else.

By comparison, in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, 47% said they would definitely vote for Sen. Charles Grassley next year, with 29% saying they would consider an alternative, and 8% definitely voting for someone else.

Tight Race for Florida Governor

A new Mason-Dixon poll shows that Florida CFO Alex Sink (D) and Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) are essentially tied in a potential race for Florida Governor in 2010. Sinks gets 35% support and McCollum gets 36%. 

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race, 67% percent of Florida voters would ‘consider’ or ‘definitely’ vote for Gov. Charlie Crist (R) if he decides to run.

Obama Seeks Nuclear Free World

Speaking in Prague, President Obama on Sunday “launched an effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons, calling them ‘the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War’ and saying the U.S. has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation to ever use one,” the AP reports.

“In a speech driven with fresh urgency by North Korea’s rocket launch just hours early, Obama said the U.S. would ‘immediately and aggressively’ seek ratification of a comprehensive ban on testing nuclear weapons. He said the U.S. would host a summit within the next year on reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, and he called for a global effort to secure nuclear material.”

The BBC estimated the crowd for Obama’s speech at more than 20,000.

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