POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 12/7

Gore Visits With Obama

The White House announced that former Vice President Al Gore will meet with President Obama this afternoon in Oval Office.

Ben Smith: “That meeting, Obama’s later Copenhagen visit, and a series of other symbolic moves to focus on climate — at time when the political operation really wants to focus on jobs — seem to signal a fairly real commitment to pushing legislation through the Senate next year, midterms or not.”

A Different McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “still strikes his signature pose as war hero and scourge of special interests, but in other ways McCain is cutting a very different profile than he did before he ran for president in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Gone is the maverick bridge-builder who bucked his party on high-voltage issues such as immigration, climate change and campaign finance reform. As the GOP has settled on a strategy of unremitting opposition to the Obama agenda, McCain has been front and center on the attack.”

Democrats Likely to Take Delaware House Seat

Rep. Mike Castle’s (R-DE) decision to run for the U.S. Senate put into play his House seat and a new Public Policy Polling survey shows Democrats likely to take it over.

Former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) leads Fred Cullis (R) by an overwhelming 47% to 24% margin and also tops potential challenger Charlie Copeland (R), 44% to 32%.

Political Book Throwdown!

In a new web video, David Plouffe issued a challenge to Obama supporters to see if his new book, The Audacity to Win, can outsell Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue on at least one day.

Read more…

Gay Marriage Battle Begins in New Jersey

The gay marriage debate moves to New Jersey, CNN reports, with the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee debating the bill today.

The timing is important since Gov.-elect Chris Christie (R), “who takes office next month, says he would veto the bill.” However, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) “says he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk before he leaves office.”

Secret Service Details Security Breakdowns

The Washington Post reports that the Secret Service has internally tracked 91 breakdowns in its security measures since 1980, all detailed in a secret presentation obtained by the paper. The 2003 document and its subsequent updates serves to internally train agents and officers.

Including the recent “Crashergate,” unauthorized individuals have directly reached the person under Secret Service protection eight times, including the same man reaching three different presidents on four separate occasions.

Tea Party More Popular Than Republican Party

A new Rasmussen Reports survey asked respondents to assume that the “Tea Party movement” was organized as an actual political party.

In a three-way generic ballot test, Democrats lead with 36%, followed the Tea Party at 23% and Republicans at 18%.

Among independent voters, the Tea Party comes out on top with 33%, followed by 30% undecided, 25% for the Democrats and just 12% for the Republican.

Much of Health Care Plan Opposition Comes from Left

Nate Silver looks at a recent Ipsos/McClatchy poll that found 34% favored “the health care reform proposals presently being discussed”, versus 46% opposed, and 20% undecided. These results are in line with many other recent polls on health care.

However, “it turns out that a significant minority of about 25% of the people who opposed the plan — or about 12% of the overall sample — did so from the left; they thought the plan didn’t go far enough.”

“But the conventional wisdom — and certainly my assumption — has been that people oppose the plan because it’s too liberal. In fact, some of the opposition seems to stem from the fact that the plan is not liberal enough. This would help to explain, for example, why polls show majorities (sometimes fairly sizable ones) in favor of the public option, but also pluralities or majorities opposed to the overall plan.”

Obama as Reagan

We noted before how closely President Obama’s approval rate has tracked that of Ronald Reagan at the same point in his first term.

Charles Franklin likes the comparison. “Both replaced deeply unpopular predecessors. Both enjoyed significant gains for their party in both houses of Congress. Both faced ‘worst since the depression’ economic circumstances. And each in his own very different ways attempted to reshape government in the early months in office… The similarity of approval trajectories is striking for Reagan and Obama. Reagan started lower, but since the 3rd month of office the two have moved along quite similar paths.”

“Whether Obama continues to look like Reagan seems to me more likely to be driven by the same force — the economy. While health care reform and Afghanistan will surely play a role in the public’s view of Obama, I think the economy remains the most crucial driver of opinion.”

Public Option Fades in Senate

“Senate Democrats in search of a health reform compromise Sunday zeroed in on a new alternative to a government-run insurance plan — signaling that the chances a final bill will include a pure public option are diminishing,” reports Politico.

“The new idea — for the government to create a national health insurance plan similar to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan — seemed to gather momentum as the weekend went on, and the differences between liberals and moderates on the public option became even clearer.”

Jonathan Cohn notes that Democrats have majority support for a public option, just not the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster. He asks, “If liberals give yet more ground on the public option, what should they ask in return?”

Clinton Backs Coakley in Massachusetts

With voters heading to the polls in Massachusetts tomorrow to select U.S. Senate nominees in a special election, Bill Clinton has endorsed Martha Coakley (D) in arobocall used to target Democratic primary voters, the Boston Globe reports.

The Fix: “Clinton’s support is consistent with his recent pattern of rewarding political loyalty — Coakley was an early endorser of then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential bid. Bill Clinton is the most high profile endorser to make his preference known in the special and his support of Coakley may well be aimed at stifling any last minute momentum for Rep. Mike Capuano who was endorsed by former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey over the past week.”

DNC Weighs Changes To Superdelegate Rules

The Democratic Change Commission will soon submit a recommendation to the DNC advocating for changes to the nominating timeline, the caucus process, and the influence of unpledged delegates, according to The Hotline.

“Members largely agree that presidential nominating contests need to begin later, and that caucus states need to group together to establish best practices. But disagreement over unpledged delegates remain after ’08, when the nominating process between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton focused largely on those super-delegates. Dem members of Congress, governors and DNC members are given automatic votes at national conventions, making up nearly 20% of voting delegates — enough to have given either Clinton or Obama a winning majority after pledged delegates were allocated.”

Why Did Palin Leave Hawaii?

From a New Yorker review of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue and Sarah from Alaska by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe:

“Palin, though notoriously ill-travelled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. ‘Hawaii was a little too perfect,’ Palin writes. ‘Perpetual sunshine isn’t necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls.’ Perhaps not. But Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: ‘They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.'”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I mentioned that I was in Asia on this trip thinking about the economy, when I sat down for a round of interviews. Not one of them asked me about Asia. Not one of them asked me about the economy. I was asked several times about had I read Sarah Palin’s book. (Laughter.) True. But it’s an indication of how our political debate doesn’t match up with what we need to do and where we need to go.”

— President Obama, quoted by Time, about the American television network correspondents who interviewed him while in Asia.

NV-3 is a Dead Heat

A new Mason-Dixon poll in Nevada’s third congressional district shows former state Sen. Joe Heck (R) — “who never topped 1% in the polls during a brief gubernatorial campaign” — in a dead heat with Rep. Dina Titus (D) at 40%.

Despite Heck running neck-and-neck with her in the poll, Titus still has an advantage in the race due to the Democratic party’s 18.4 percentage point registration advantage over Republicans in the district.

Hotline On Call: “But considering the tightening in the Congressional Generic ballot, and anecdotal polling evidence, Titus is surely not alone in feeling the heat. There’s still 11 months to go until Election Day, but the early signs are very favorable for GOPers.”

Mixed Messages on Exit Strategy

The White House is having a very hard time staying on message about the exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Robert Gibbs (12/2/09): “The policy is — let me be clear, let me be clear, because the President was clear — our forces, in July of 2011, will transition out of Afghanistan. Again, understand what he said: This is a conditions-based drawdown.”

Later that day, Chip Reid reported: “After the briefing, Gibbs went to the president for clarification. Gibbs then called me to his office to relate what the president said. The president told him it IS locked in – there is no flexibility. Troops WILL start coming home in July 2011. Period. It’s etched in stone. Gibbs said he even had the chisel.”

But then this morning…

Hillary Clinton on Meet the Press (12/6/09): “We’re not talking about an exit strategy or a drop dead deadline. What we’re talking about is an assessment that in January 2011, we can begin a transition. A transition to hand off — responsibility to the Afghan forces.”

The $700 Billion Man

Neel Kashkari, a top official under then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, helped develop the $700 billion TARP last year. He went from consulting with the top financial experts in the world to living in rural California, far removed from Washington, D.C. The Washington Post runs a fascinating profile of Kashkari and what he currently thinks about the controversial program.

Recalls Kashkari: “Seven hundred billion was a number out of the air. It was a political calculus. I said, ‘We don’t know how much is enough. We need as much as we can get [from Congress]. What about a trillion?’ ‘No way,’ Hank shook his head. I said, ‘Okay, what about 700 billion?’ We didn’t know if it would work. We had to project confidence, hold up the world. We couldn’t admit how scared we were, or how uncertain.”
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New York City’s Top Write-In Vote

Michael Bloomberg won reelection in last month’s New York City mayoral race, but there was another famous billionaire who received some support from the voters as well.

“Charles Montgomery Burns, better known as Mr. Burns in the hit animated TV series The Simpsons, got the most votes of any write-in candidate during last month’s mayoral election in New York City,” CNN reports. “According to records released by the New York City Board of Elections, the cartoon billionaire received 27 write-in votes out of the 299 that were cast.
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Most Influential Book of the Year?

The New York Times notes that before President Obama made his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan he had read Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam by Gordon Goldstein.

“The book had become a must read in the West Wing after Mr. Emanuel had dinner over the summer at the house of another deputy national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and wandered into his library to ask what he should be reading. Among the conclusions that Mr. Donilon and the White House team drew from the book was that both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to question the underlying assumption about monolithic Communism and the domino theory — clearly driving the Obama advisers to rethink the nature of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Behind the Afghanistan Surge

Two must-read stories attempt to show how President Obama came to his decision on a surge of new troops in Afghanistan.

Here are some interesting excerpts:

Washington Post: “‘What was interesting was the metamorphosis,’ said national security adviser James L. Jones, the only senior official who agreed to discuss the deliberations on the record. ‘I dare say that none of us ended up where we started.'”

New York Times: Vice President Joe Biden “quickly became the most outspoken critic of the expected McChrystal troop request, arguing that Pakistan was the bigger priority, since that is where Al Qaeda is mainly based. ‘He was the bull in the china shop,’ said one admiring administration official. But others were nodding their heads at some of what he was saying, too, including General Jones and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.”

After reading the stories, Playbook concludes the “implicit message of the material fed” to the newspapers was that this “was not just a Potemkin debate over a foregone conclusion. Unlike President George W. Bush, we took a long, hard look at the options and alternatives. And unlike the armchair warriors in the Bush administration, we didn’t let ideology drive strategy. This president knows the cost of war, and wasn’t taking the troop commitment lightly.”

Prepare Yourself

For your next dinner party: How to Win a Fight with a Conservative or How to Win a Fight with a Liberal.

The Audacity of Spin

David Greenberg reviews The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe in the Washington Post but is not impressed.

“Political consultants — the handlers, hucksters, hacks, flacks, ghosts and other assorted spinmeisters who form the modern campaign’s supporting cast — bring forth our conflicted feelings about politics. Half the time we deride them as oleaginous sharpies who deal in half-truths and double talk. The rest of the time we revere them for their shamanistic wisdom and award them platforms from which to dispense it: lucrative newspaper columns, prominent talk-show gigs, cushy chairs at Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations. And when they write memoirs, we know to expect shameless spin — yet despite ourselves we hope for disclosures and insights into their magic. “

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