POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 5/4

Sessions Will Take Specter’s Spot on Judiciary

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will take over as ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee “after striking a deal with his more senior colleagues over the weekend,” sources confirm to The Hill.
Under terms of the deal, Sessions will serve as ranking member until the 112th Congress, when he will take over the ranking member post on the Senate Budget Committee. Current Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-NH) is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress.

Most New Yorkers Would Prefer Spitzer to Paterson
New York Gov. David Paterson’s (D) approval continues to sink like a stone with just 19% saying he is doing either an excellent or good job in office, according to a new Marist Poll. That is a seven point drop since March. 
In fact, voters are so dissatisfied with the governor’s performance that a majority — 51% — say they would prefer his sex scandal-plagued predecessor, Eliot Spitzer (D), be in office than he.

The End of Base-Style Campaigns
GOP pollster Neil Newhouse on the rapidly declining numbers of people who identify themselves as Republicans:
“For Republicans, this data reinforces the need to put aside the outdated targeting recipe for victory (95% of R’s, 55% of I’s, 10% of D’s) and replace it with one that calls for more cross-party partisan support in order to achieve victory (95% of R’s, 60% of I’s, 15%-20% of D’s). The current partisan affiliation data is the clear death knell for the ‘base-style’ campaigns favored by some in the early part of this decade.”

First Read: “That’s right folks — that was the phrase that Arlen Specter uttered after a tough round of questioning from NBC’s David Gregory on Meet the Press. It’s a phrase that if someone in Pennsylvania seriously challenges Specter in the Dem primary — Joe Torsella, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy — we’ll hear over and over again.”

Bush Raises $100 Million for Library
Longtime financial backers of President George W. Bush have raised more than $100 million for a presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas that will house his official papers, reports Time magazine
“Unburdened by campaign finance regulations, former presidents traditionally raise money for their libraries the old fashioned way: by meeting or telephoning a few dozen, very wealthy, benefactors and asking for large sums, often on the order of $5 million to $10 million each.”

Quote of the Day
“Do you want to be in a church that’s chasing out heretics, or do you want to be in a church that’s trying to bring in converts?”
— James Carville, on Good Morning America, discussing his new book, 40 More Years.

Only Ridge Could Challenge Specter
A new Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania shows Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) would crush former Republican rival Pat Toomey, 53% to 33%, in the 2010 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, but if former Gov. Tom Ridge (R) becomes the Republican candidate, Specter’s lead is cut to three points, 46% to 43%.
Said pollster Clay Richards: “A former Republican Senator running as a Democrat against a popular former Republican governor seeking to make a political comeback would be a battle royal in Pennsylvania… Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money.”

History Suggests Supreme Court Vote Before August
CQ Politics: It’s hard to predict exactly when President Obama might announce his nominee to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court. But if recent history is any guide, expect a Senate confirmation vote before Congress leaves for its August recess.

House Republicans Turn to Bush Aides
Politico notes that Republicans “looking to recover from Bush-era defeats are turning to an unlikely source for advice: top aides to former President George W. Bush.”
“Former White House press secretary Dana Perino, former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie and former White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto are among those set to provide words of wisdom to House Republican press secretaries at their annual workshop this Friday.”
Fleeing Moderates Caused Specter to Switch
The Philadelphia Inquirer has details from the internal poll that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) took before deciding to switch parties last week.
The survey found Specter trailing Pat Toomey in a Republican primary by 15 points in a three-way matchup with antiabortion candidate Peg Luksik. 
Said a source familiar with the poll: “The numbers reflected the exodus of moderates from the party in the eastern part of the state.”

Feds Launch Investigation of Edwards Campaign
Federal investigators “are sifting through the records of money that helped John Edwards’ presidential campaign to determine if any was used to keep quiet his affair with Rielle Hunter,” the Charlotte Observer reports.
“Records show that Hunter was paid by a political action committee aligned with Edwards. She received $114,000 to film Edwards as he hopscotched the nation to rally crowds in the fight against poverty.”
Edwards acknowledged the investigation to the Raleigh News and Observer: “I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly. However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter. We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of those involved and look forward to a conclusion.”
Who broke the story? Once again, it was the National Enquirer.

Louisiana Voters Lukewarm on Vitter

A new Southern Media & Opinion Research survey found that Louisiana voters are “markedly ambivalent” about Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).
Though 58% of likely voters say he’s doing at least a good job, only 30% said they would definitely vote to reelect him while 28% percent said they would vote for someone else, and 35% said they would consider an alternative.
The bottom line: If Vitter gets a credible opponent next year, voters seem quite willing to think about a change.

Berlusconi Claims to be World’s Most Popular Leader
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has compared himself to Jesus Christ and Napoleon, boasted that he was the world’s most popular leader, Reuters reports.

Quote of the Day
“The problem isn’t that Americans are less conservative. It’s that our credibility with them is shot. It’s that we left them along the side of the road on our way to drinking that Potomac River water, getting high on power and influence and forgetting how we got where we are.”
— RNC Chairman Michael Steele, quoted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Early House Retirements Come From One Sided Districts
CQ Politics notes that nine House Republicans have decided to forgo re-election in 2010, compared to just four Democrats.
But unlike the previous two cycles which showed a similar partisan skew, this isn’t necessarily bad news for Republicans. The nine open Republican districts all voted for McCain and gave him a robust average of 61% of the vote. 
Likewise, of the four Democrats who are not seeking re-election, Barack Obama won their districts with an average of 71 percent of the vote.
For more, see CQ’s Members in Transition chart.
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