POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 2/23

Gibbons Had a Traveling Companion

Last night, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) came off a flight with a woman he has previously denied having a relationship with, KLAS-TV reports.

Though he is recently divorced, Gibbons initially denied the woman was even at the airport despite video footage proving otherwise.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“They should stop crying about reconciliation as if it’s never been done before… It’s been done 21 times before.”

— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), quoted by CBS News, on Republicans complaining about possibly using budget reconciliation rules for health care legislation.

Midterm Elections Will Cost Nearly $4 Billion

A new report from the Center for Responsive Politics estimates that this year’s midterm elections will cost at least $3.7 billion — about 30% more than four years ago.

Major caveat: The estimate does not include how much money could come directly from corporations, unions, trade associations or other interest groups stemming from the recent Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited contributions.

Ford’s Private Poll Leaks

Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D) paid for a detailed poll to test the viability of a U.S. Senate run in New York, the New York Times reports.

The sources for the article are two people who were surveyed and “took detailed notes about the questions and later shared them” with the reporter.

Most interesting is how Ford tested his vulnerabilities: “He is hypothetically characterized as a carpetbagger; a member of the National Rifle Association; a flip-flopper on gay marriage; a Wall Street executive who has not disclosed his bonus; and a newcomer who began paying taxes in New York only within the past year.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I don’t have any claim to being a bright individual.”

— Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R), quoted in his much too personal deposition.

Traficant Will Run as an Independent

Former Rep. James Traficant told CNN he will launch an independent bid to return to Congress.

Said Traficant: “I will be running for congress…as an independent. I have been a Democrat all my life, and quite frankly I am disgusted with both parties. I hate to say this. My father is rolling over in his grave, a truck driver.”

However, Traficant — recently released from prison after serving seven years — did not indicate which district he would run in. He’s been eyeing Ohio’s 6th or 17th congressional districts.

Record Number of Bills Stalled by Senate Logjam

“Exasperated House Democratic leaders have compiled a list showing that they have passed 290 bills that have stalled in the Senate,” The Hill reports.

The list ranges from some of Democrats’ largest initiatives, including health care reform and climate change legislation, and many minor bills, such as one naming a National Historic Park after President Jimmy Carter.

Nevada Governor Celibate Since 1995

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) “had to answer questions of an extremely personal nature in a deposition taken earlier this month,” Las Vegas Now reports.

But the one that will stand out is about his sex life: “Gibbons said there had been no intimacy with his wife or any other woman since 1995.”

He added: “I’m living proof that you can survive without sex for that long.”

Gibbons is being sued by a cocktail waitress who says he groped her in a parking garage just before the 2006 election and he was accused by his ex-wife of being unfaithful in their divorce.

Tear Down This Myth

Just out in paperback: Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy by Will Bunch.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Bunch says that “thanks in part to a deliberate campaign of distortion by modern conservatives, a Reagan myth has been used to justify disastrous spending policies at home and disastrous militarism abroad.”

He calls the Reagan myth a “powerful philosophy that is loosely based on Reagan’s 1980s presidency but distorts or exaggerates the reality of much of what happened in those years.”

The Moral Case for Health Care Reform

George Lakoff notes that while Republicans “argue loss of freedom (‘government takeover’) and life (‘death panels’ and abortion)” to defeat the health care bill, the Obama administration “has been giving policy wonk arguments about economic and pragmatic policy details that the public cannot understand.”

Health care is “a moral issue of the highest order. And it is a patriotic issue. Health security is a problem for far more Americans than military security. Your security is far more likely to be threatened by the lack of treatment for illness and injury than by any likely terrorist attack.”

Perry Still Way Ahead in Texas

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Texas finds Debra Medina (R) is fading in the Republican race for Governor but it still looks like Gov. Rick Perry (R) will face a run off with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

Perry leads Hutchison, 40% to 31%, with Medina getting 20% support.

In a run off, Perry is way ahead of Hutchison, 52% to 35%, “thanks in large part to Medina’s supporters, who say Perry is their second choice by a 52% to 24% margin.”

Public Split But Majority Back Key Provisions

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds the public evenly divided on health care reform legislation, with 43% in favor and 43% opposed. However, the survey also finds that at a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents “back at least some of the key provisions in the reform bills that have passed the House and Senate.”

“They include measures that would: reform the way health insurance works, such as preventing insurers from excluding people because of pre-existing conditions; offer tax credits to small businesses to help their workers get coverage; create a new health insurance marketplace; help close the Medicare ‘doughnut hole’ so that seniors would no longer face a period of having to pay the full cost of their medicines; and expand high-risk insurance pools for individuals who cannot get coverage elsewhere.”

“Providing subsidies to lower and middle income people also receives strong support from Democrats and independents and near majority support from Republicans.”

Republicans Plan to Force Tough Votes

Mike Allen: “Senate Republicans tell us they plan a ferocious response if Democrats proceed with their plan to try to pass comprehensive health reform with simple-majority votes following Thursday’s White House summit. A top aide tells us GOP senators may offer DOZENS and perhaps HUNDREDS of amendments, some forcing Dems to vote on such subjects as Gitmo and terror trials.”

While debate time is limited when moving a bill using the reconciliation process, the number and content of amendments are not. Even though amendments must be germane, the GOP can force a vote in order to set them aside.

More: “Top aides tell us there are not currently 50 votes for the plan in the Senate, or 218 in the House. Moderate and endangered lawmakers want the spotlight off comprehensive health reform. Instead, it’s about to take center stage.”

McCain Says He Was Misled on Bailout

Under fire from conservatives and a tough primary challenge, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “is having to defend his record of supporting the government’s massive bailout of the financial system,” the Arizona Republic reports.

The four term senator now “says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.”

However, in his new book, On the Brink, Paulson belittles McCain’s contribution, noting that “when it came right down to it, he had little to say in the forum he himself had called.”

Paulson also blasted McCain’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign during the crisis, “impulsive and risky” and even “dangerous.”

Crist Losing Staffers

“In the latest sign of turbulence for Charlie Crist’s wounded U.S. Senate bid, key staffers are starting to leave the campaign,” the St. Petersburg Times reports.

“Political director Pablo Diaz, one of the first two staff members hired for the Senate campaign, is departing at the end of the month for ‘a new opportunity.’ Sean Doughtie, a well-regarded new media consultant who had worked with Crist for years, stopped working for the campaign at the end of January.”

Meek Trails in Florida Senate Race

Democrats once hoped a competitive Republican primary in Florida’s U.S. Senate race might help them pick up that seat. However, a new Rasmussen Reports surveyfinds Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) trailing both Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and Marco Rubio (R) by significant margins.

Crist leads Meek, 48% to 32%, while Rubio tops Meek, 51% to 31%.

Quote of the Day

“I think any Republican that says you should start from scratch, I think that’s bogus talk, and that’s partisan talk.”

— California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), quoted by McClatchy News Service, bucking congressional Republicans on health care reform.

Shays Not Running for Governor

Former Rep. Chris Shays (R) tells CT Capitol Report he will not make a bid for governor of Connecticut.

Said Shays: “I will not be running for Governor. I would love to be part of the debate. I believe I would win. And I would dearly love to serve and help get our State out of the huge mess it is in. But Betsi and I simply can’t make it work financially. After quitting my job to run for Governor and serving four years in office we would be nearly bankrupt, the very problem I would be helping to get the State out of.”

Strickland Retakes Lead in Ohio

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) now leads challenger John Kasich (R) in the his re-election race, 44% to 39%. In November, the race was deadlocked at 40%.

Said pollster Peter Brown: “John Kasich remains unknown to most voters. The campaign will be a race by the candidates to define Kasich for the 62 percent of voters who don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. Given that, the race’s closeness may say much about Strickland. While the Governor’s horserace numbers are good, he has a long way to go and what is keeping him ahead is his support among women.”

Steele Spending Spree Under Fire

RNC Chairman Michael Steele “is spending twice as much as his recent predecessors on private planes and paying more for limousines, catering and flowers — expenses that are infuriating the party’s major donors who say Republicans need every penny they can get for the fight to win back Congress,”Politico reports.

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