POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 7/22

Politics Driving Opposition to Health Care Reform

In an interview on CNBC, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) admits that at least half the opposition to health care reform is about scoring political points against President Obama rather than substantive policy disagreements.

Said Voinovich: “I think it’s probably 50/50.”

Read more…


Not Invited to the Meeting

Ben Smith points out possible evidence of a small crack in the White House political team from a just published New York Times Magazine profile of Obama adviser and friend Valerie Jarrett.

“Evidently Axelrod does not see in her the utility that Obama does. A weekly Wednesday-night gathering at Axelrod’s house — to discuss what one participant describes as ‘hard-core politics’ — pointedly excludes Jarrett. Otherwise, she attends pretty much whatever she wishes.”


Staying on Message

Dana Millbank shows how RNC Chairman Michael Steele essentially copied — sometimes line for line — a memo written by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos in his health care speech yesterday.

“In the back of the room sat the ventriloquist, admiring his work. Castellanos used the word ‘experiment’ six times to criticize Obama’s plan; Steele, the eager pupil, used it 30. Only one thing would have made the performance more impressive: if Castellanos had been able to drink a glass of water while Steele was talking.”

Tausch Will Not Run in New Hampshire

New Hampshire businessman Fred Tausch (R) will not run for U.S. Senate next year, helping clear the path for Kelly Ayotte (R), the Hotline reports.

“Tausch, wealthy but a political neophyte, was viewed as a variable in the primary contest — given his willingness to spend his own money. He was already on the air and had enlisted at least one well-known and respected consultant, Mike Dennehy, a veteran of several GOP WH campaigns.”

The Concord Monitor notes that “even though he became the biggest-spending figure in New Hampshire politics this year, very few people in the state know any of this – or anything at all – about Tausch.”

However, Ayotte could still face a competitive primary against Ovide Lamontagne (R), who won her party’s gubernatorial nomination in 1996.

“Playing to the Wackos”

On Hardball last night, Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) tried to defend his bill to “clarify” the citizenship requirements to be President of the United States. 

It’s an amazing clip that you have to see to believe.

First Read: “Speaking of the conservative base, is anyone else stunned that a member of the United States Congress wouldn’t unequivocally say that Barack Obama was born in the United States? … Why are elected officials feeding this conspiracy theory? As the Morning Joe crew noted today, what do these conspiracy theorists think — a single mother, 47 years ago, secretly had the president in Indonesia and then hours later decided to get a Hawaii birth announcement because she thought he’d be president?”

Read more…

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I think the risk of failure goes up consequentially if we don’t get it done by the August break… you’ve got a bill hanging out there for weeks for every special interest to shoot at and to tear apart — and for a lot of members to have to defend without the advantage of having the momentum that we have right now.”

— Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), quoted by the Wall Street Journal, on the importance of getting a health care bill through the Senate Finance Committee by the August recess.

On Taxes

First Read: “One of the bigger, but more under-reported, sea changes in American politics is how any kind of tax increase — whether in war or peace, good economic times or bad ones — has become absolutely unacceptable. After all, Ronald Reagan raised taxes. So did every modern American president involved in war, until George W. Bush. But not anymore. Indeed, as one of us pointed out on Nightly News last night, only 29% (or 157) of the 535 and House members and senators serving in Congress were around the last time — 1993! — the federal government raised taxes, and that was on gasoline. Think about that for a moment: Congress hasn’t really had a TOUGH vote in 16 years, if one defines a ‘TOUGH’ vote as the government asking for a financial sacrifice from the American people. This is the political climate that President Obama faces in trying to pay for health reform. Republicans and some Democrats are opposed to a tax on the wealthy, and unions and Obama’s political strategists are against taxing health benefits.”

Quote of the Day

“Well, the truth is, when you’re president you’re never really on vacation. The whole apparatus travels with you”

— President Obama, in an interview on CBS News, defending his vacation plans next month.

Read more…

Daily Pulse on Health Care Politics

President Obama “is significantly raising his personal stake in the effort to overhaul America’s health-care system,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “After weeks of allowing allies in Congress to shape the emerging bills, the White House signaled its intention to start spending more of Mr. Obama’s political capital.”


Said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “We’re going to have to wade in a little deeper into the nitty-gritty to keep the process going. We know that and accept that.”

The president will hold a prime time news conference today to once again make his case to the American people.

Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that bipartisan negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee vowed “to continue pressing for a deal on health care reform, insisting that the escalating war of words between President Obama and Congressional Republicans will not derail their efforts,” 

They hope to have agreement by the August 7 Senate recess.

“The process in the Senate calls for ultimately merging the Finance package with the bill recently passed out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The House has its own package, which is facing challenges overcoming objections from the conservative Blue Dog Democrats over the costs and other issues.”

CQ Politics says the Blue Dogs want 10 changes made to the House bill — including greater cost containment, a more generous exemption for small businesses from requirements that they provide insurance, and changes to the government-run plan that Democrats want to create to compete with private insurers.

Kennedy Now Eyeing Illinois Governor’s Race

With a strong candidate already in the Democratic U.S. Senate race, Christopher Kennedy (D) “is now debating whether to jump into the 2010 Democratic primary for Illinois governor,” the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Said a spokeswoman: “Chris is keeping all his options open.”

Christie Holds 15 Point Lead Over Corzine

Political Wire got an early look at a new Strategic Vision poll in New Jersey that shows Chris Christie (R) leading Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in the state’s gubernatorial race, 53% to 38%.

Corzine has been unable to move the needle and appears stuck at between 37% to 39%. He is losing badly among Independents.


Specter’s Lead Vanishes in Pennsylvania

A new Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania finds Sen. Arlen Specter’s (D-PA) lead over challenger Pat Toomey (R) has disappeared.

Specter now barely edges Toomey, 45% to 44%, and by a 49% to 40% margin, voters say Specter does not deserve reelection. 

Less than three months ago, Specter had a 20 point lead.

In another possible match up, Toomey would beat Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), 39% to 35%, if he were to prevail in a Democratic primary.

Rell’s Approval Rate Stays Very High

Despite a sagging economy and a state budget stalemate, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell’s (R) approval rating has dropped to 65% to 30% her lowest overall score ever but still much higher than most other governors, according to a Quinnipiac poll

Said pollster Douglas Schwartz: “Rell’s honeymoon with Connecticut voters just won’t end, despite a recession and a budget stalemate. She has defied political gravity for five years by almost always topping 70% in job approval, and enjoying high marks not only among Republicans and Independents but Democrats as well. The love affair with Democrats is wearing thin, but she’s still in very good shape.”


Sanford Digs In

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) “said it was time for the state to move on from the weeks-long debate about whether should stay or resign following admission of an extramarital affair,” reports The State

“Sanford said he had apologized for his mistake and said it was time to move on.”

In a video shot on his first day back from a vacation with his wife, Sanford refuses to answer questions about why he’s no longer wearing his wedding ring.

Read more…


Palin Implicated in Probe

An independent investigator has found evidence that Alsaka Gov. Sarah Palin (R) “may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts,” Associated Press.

The investigator says that “there is probable cause to believe Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of a trust as the ‘official’ legal defense fund.”


Giannoulias Will Announce for Senate This Weekend

llinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) will formally enter the race for the U.S. Senate this weekend, reports the Chicago Tribune, “already having raised raised more than $1.8 million through an exploratory committee.”

Giannoulias, a wealthy family banking heir who helped President Barack Obama develop seed money for Obama’s winning 2004 Senate race, instantly becomes the leading contender in February’s Democratic primary — though others are weighing a bid.”

Byrd Returns to Work

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) returned to the Capitol this week, after being sidelined by illness for nearly two months, Roll Call reports.

During his absence — and with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) still not at work — the Democrats’ 60 vote majority was effectively reduced to 58.


Vitter Leads in Louisiana

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Louisiana finds just 38% of voters say Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) deserves to be reelected with 47% saying it’s time to give someone else a chance. 

However, when you match Vitter against a generic Democratic opponent, he leads 44% to 38%. And when you test him specifically against Charlie Melancon (D), that advantage rises to 44% to 32%.

Analysis: “Vitter really is in a pretty similar situation to where Mary Landrieu found herself a couple years ago. She polled in the 40s in a lot of early surveys against John Kennedy, raising Republican hopes that she could be defeated. But she still ended up winning by a solid if not spectacular margin.”

An interesting side note: WWL-TV suggests Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) could challenge Vitter next year if polls show him losing.

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