POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 1/20

Conrad Would Support Using Reconciliation Process

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) opened the door to passing health care reform through the budget reconciliation process, “a position he opposed prior to this week’s special election in Massachusetts,” according to The Hill.

“His comments lend weight to speculation that congressional Democratic leaders plan to have the House pass the Senate healthcare reform without changes, then pass a second bill with changes hashed out between the two chambers’ leaders and the White House.”

Obama’s First Year by the Numbers

Mark Knoller compiled some interesting statistics about President Obama’s first year in office.

Most striking is that he gave 158 interviews, “far more than any of his recent predecessors in their first year. Ninety of the sessions were TV interviews. Eleven were radio. The rest were newspaper and magazine. The number reflects the White House media strategy that Mr. Obama can best respond to questions in an interview setting.”

He also held 42 news conferences, of which 5 were formal.

Also interesting: Obama spent all or part of 26 days over 4 trips on vacation. George W. Bush spent 69 days at his Texas ranch over 9 trips to his ranch his first year.

Ohio Trending Republican

A new Wenzel Strategies (R) poll in Ohio finds Republicans on their way to reclaiming the governorship and holding a U.S. Senate seat.

In the gubernatorial race, John Kasich (R) leads Gov. Ted Strickland, 43% to 33%.

In the U.S. Senate race, Rob Portman (R) leads Lee Fischer (D), 37% to 31%, and tops Jennifer Brunner (D), 40% to 35%.

Pence Mulls Bayh Challenge

The Hotline reports that Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the House GOP Conference chair, will meet with NRSC staffers tomorrow to discuss a possible challenge to Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN).

This may explain Bayh’s recent opposition to pushing ahead with health care reform after the election last night of Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts.

Good Riddance to 60 Votes?

Did trying to balance on the precarious edge of their supermajority leave Senate Democrats too timid to govern? It’s an emerging argument for Democrats looking for a silver lining to Scott Brown’s victory.

Jon Stewart: “If Coakley loses, Democrats will only then have an 18 vote majority in the Senate — which is more than George W. Bush ever had in the Senate when he did whatever the *#@! he wanted to do. In fact, the Democrats will have a larger majority than the Republicans have had since 1923.”

Markos: “We lost our 60th vote, but really, what did 60 get us last year? It empowered Joe Lieberman, gave cover to Blanche Lincoln, provided excuses to Harry Reid, and gave a free pass to Max Baucus. Now we don’t have 60. And like the Republican Senate of the 2000s, if Democrats want to get anything done, they’ll have to do it via reconciliation. Given last year’s track record in the Senate, it certainly can’t make the Senate any less effective.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country. The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

— President Obama, in an interview with ABC News.

There’s an App for That

The White House announced a new app for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch which allows you to “watch the President’s public events at the White House, frequent web chats with Administration officials, and other events like key speeches and press briefings in real time.

“The White House App also lets users stay up to date with the White House Blog and the latest from the Briefing Room. Browse behind-the-scenes photos and watch on-demand videos. The app provides instant access to full videos from recent speeches, press briefings, and special events.”

Bishop Seen as Vulnerable

A new SurveyUSA poll finds Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) with a very small lead against potential challenger Randy Altschuler (R) among likely voters, 47% to 45%.

The New CQ Politics

For the last six months, I’ve been working closely with my partner CQ-Roll Call on the roll out of a new and improved CQ Politics that will focus specifically on the midterm elections.

Take a look and let us know what you think.

Forgetting History

memo from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), head of the Senate Republican campaign effort, says of yesterday’s election result that “voters realize that there is only one party who bailed out the automakers and insurance companies…”

It’s interesting how soon Republicans have forgotten that it was actually President Bush who orchestrated the bailouts of both AIG and the automakers at the end of his term.

Quote of the Day

“It’s like in Roman times, they’d be trotted out to the coliseum and the lions would be brought out. I mean, they’re wanting blood and they’re not getting it so they want to protest, and, you know, you can’t blame them. But frankly, the fact is we inherited this mess and it’s becoming ours.”

— Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), quoted by Politico.

Brown Heavily Used Online Ads

Here’s an interesting statistic from Google: Scott Brown’s (R) campaign in Massachusetts spent 10% of their media budget on online advertising, breaking Bob McDonnell’s (R) previous record of 8% in Virginia last November.

TSA Pick Withdraws

President Obama’s nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration withdrew from consideration, saying his appointment had “become a lightning rod for those who have chosen to push a political agenda at the risk of the safety and security of the American people,” Politico writes.

“Errol Southers’s nomination had been stalled due to a hold placed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who said he had concerns about whether Southers would implement collective bargaining for TSA employees.”

O’Malley Maintains Lead in Maryland

A new Gonzales Research poll in Maryland shows Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) leading ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) by 9 points in a hypothetical rematch, 48% to 39%.

However, Todd Eberly sees some danger signs: “O’Malley enjoys the support of 73% of Democrats and only 39% of Independents – 11% of Democrats and 25% of Independents are undecided and incumbents tend not to do well among undecided voters. O’Malley should be concerned as well that his approval rating has taken another dip falling to 46%.”

President’s Approval Typically Dips in Second Year

On the anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, Gallup takes a look back and notes that “most of the last eight elected U.S. presidents, starting with Dwight Eisenhower, saw their approval rating drop in the second year of their presidency — on average by five percentage points.”

What Now on Health Care?

With political strategists in Washington and Massashusetts pointing fingers at who is to blame for yesterday’s U.S. Senate loss, the Washington Post notes “the real debate for the Democrats will be how to proceed. The most immediate problem is what to do with the health-care bill. Democrats from the House and the Senate have been negotiating furiously, trying to harmonize competing bills. Now the issue is whether they can quickly agree on how to pass a bill and whether they face a public backlash by doing so.”

The Wall Street Journal notes the loss “sparked what could become a bitter fight between liberals who urged Democrats to keep on course with health care, and centrists who argued the party needed to focus on the economy. Some of the latter suggested the party drop its health-care overhaul altogether.”

According to The Hill, White House officials “would prefer the House pass the Senate health care bill without changes, which would obviate the need for a second Senate vote on the legislation.”

“The problem is that many liberal lawmakers in the House don’t like the Senate bill. To compensate for this opposition, there is a proposal that the House would then pass a second measure making changes to the Senate bill. That measure could then pass through the upper chamber at a later date under special budgetary rules known as reconciliation, which allow legislation to pass with a simple majority.

Roll Call notes that discussions among Democratic leaders “were expected to get more serious today, as the reality of the Massachusetts defeat takes hold.”

Who’s to Blame?

Nate Silver tries to explain the 31-point swing in the Massachusetts vote: from Barack Obama’s 26-point victory in the 2008 presidential election to Martha Coakley’s 5-point loss last night.

He blames 10 points on the national environment, citing generic ballot tests that show “the Democrats’ position has worsened by a net of 10 points since November 2008.”

Another 11 points of blame “should be assigned to Coakley. That represents the difference between the 58 percent of vote that she received at her high-water mark in the polls to the 47 percent she received on Election Day.”

The remaining 10 points are spread out “as evenly as possible, giving 3 more points to Coakley, 3 more points to the national environment, and 4 to Massachusetts-specific special contingencies.”

Conclusion: “If you follow through on the math, this would suggest that Coakley would have won by about 8 points, rather than losing by 5, had the national environment not deteriorated so significantly for Democrats. It suggests that the Democrats would have won by 9 points, rather than losing by 5, had the candidate been someone other than Coakley.”

How the Vote Shifted in Massachusetts

Charles Franklin stayed up late crunching numbers and found that Scott Brown’s (R) vote totals in Massachusetts were essentially identical, in aggregate, to those Sen. John McCain received in the 2008 presidential election.

But it was a very different picture for Martha Coakley (D). Her best town gave her only about 80% of Barack Obama’s vote. Even in the towns she won, she was dramatically underperforming the Obama vote.

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