POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/10

Rubio Now Holds Staggering Lead

A new Insider Advantage/Florida Times-Union poll in Florida finds Marco Rubio (R) leading Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) by 34 points among likely voters in August’s primary, 60% to 26%.

Said pollster Matt Towery: “I can tell you that I’m in shock because I was convinced that other pollsters were using some sort of system to strain for ultra-Republicans or something that was skewing the polls to the conservative side.”

Yesterday’s PPP poll showed Rubio with a similar lead.

The Massa Story Gets Worse

Joshua Green reports that former Rep. Eric Massa’s (D-NY) “behavior toward his subordinates that got Massa into trouble in Congress is part of pattern that dates to his time in the Navy.”

Several shipmates say that Massa “was notorious for making unwanted advances toward subordinates” who “didn’t turn him in for fear that he would retaliate.”

Said one: “When you’re on ship, you’re almost exhausted 24-7. So a lot of times you sleep with your uniform on. Tom and Massa shared a stateroom together. Massa climbed up on the top of his bunk, which is hard to do — you never crawl up on somebody else’s bunk. He wakes up to Massa undoing his pants trying to snorkel him.”

In fact, Massa only announced that he would resign from Congress “shortly after the House Ethics Committee had been notified of Massa’s behavior in the Navy.”

Democrats Return Rangel Cash

A total of 36 House Democrats have returned $503,000 in contributions from embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) after a week-long offensive by Republicans to paint the cash as tainted, according to The Hotline.

“The NRCC has been hounding incumbents to return or donate the money they received from Rangel, generating significant local news coverage as vulnerable members have raced to return the money.”

Jeb Bush’s Son Doesn’t See Father Running

The eldest son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said he “doesn’t expect his father to make a run for president in 2012,” the AP reports.

George P. Bush “said his father is enjoying the private sector while staying active in conservative causes and education reform.”

Comparing Presidential Approval

Gallup just launched a very useful and interactive presidential approval page that lets you view presidential job approval ratings from Truman to Obama and compare presidents at the same point in their terms. It’s updated daily.

Hickenlooper Holds Solid Lead in Colorado

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Colorado finds John Hickenlooper (D) leading Scott McInnis (R) in their race for governor, 50% to 39%.

“There’s absolutely no doubt Democrats are better off with Hickenlooper in the race than they would have been if Bill Ritter had tried for reelection. While Hickenlooper’s favorability spread is a positive 51/27, Ritter’s approval rating continues to be in negative territory as it has been for the last year at 38/50. That’s a 36 point net improvement for Democrats by swapping Ritter for Hickenlooper and given that it’s no wonder the party’s in so much better shape now.”

Congress Sinks Lower While Obama Holds Steady

A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that just 22% of Americans approve of Congress — the lowest point yet during the Obama presidency. However, neither Republicans nor Democrats are safe; half of all people say they want to fire their congressman.

Conversely, Obama’s job approval is holding fairly steady at 53%.

Republicans Say Tea Party Candidate is Fake

CNN reports that some Republicans are accusing Jon Scott Ashjian, “a new Tea Party candidate running for U.S. Senate in Nevada, of being a fake. The allegation? He was put in the race by agents of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to siphon votes from the GOP.”

Says Senate candidate Danny Takanian (R): “No doubt about it. Nobody in the Tea Party knows who he is. He didn’t know any of the principles of the Tea Party.”

If true, and Reid ultimately wins, it would be one of the all time great political stories.

Reed Declines Congressional Bid

Ralph Reed will not run for Congress,  putting his efforts instead into his Faith and Freedom Coalition.

David Brody: “I can tell you that it is indeed poised to be a major player in the 2010 and 2012 elections… Don’t underestimate Ralph Reed and his ability to galvanize conservative Christians.”

Crist Independent Bid Would Help Rubio

Maybe this is why Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) rules out an independent run for U.S. Senate: A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that an independent Crist bid would only work to Marco Rubio’s (R) advantage, “because Crist would win more Democratic votes than Republican ones.”

In a hypothetical three way contest, Rubio leads with 34%, followed by Crist at 27% and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) at 25%.

Whitman Invites Media Then Refuses to Take Questions

California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R), “who has been criticized for sidestepping news reporters’ questions, took heat Tuesday after she called the media to an ‘open’ campaign event — then barred reporters from accompanying her on a tour of Oakland’s port and refused to take their questions,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

A very awkward video clip of reporters getting the news from spokeswoman Sarah Pompei is worth watching.

Read more…

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I have very few hard and fast rules. One of them is not to have sword fights in the morning with Rahm Emanuel.”

— Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), in an interview with Don Imus on the Fox Business Network, referring to former Rep. Eric Massa’s (D-NY) naked confrontation with the White House chief of staff.

New Life for an Energy Bill?

Lost in yesterday’s Eric Massa circus was news that a bipartisan group of 14 senators — led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — is pushing ahead with climate change legislation.

The bill under discussion would put a first-ever price on carbon emissions.

New York Times: “The rush of activity underscored the last-ditch push to produce a draft Senate bill before the spring recess that begins March 26.”

Latest Health Care Whip Count

Even though we highlighted the problems with counting votes for the health care bill,The Hill’s latest House whip count is still fascinating reading.

Carnahan Avoids Obama Visit Today

After President Obama’s speech in St. Louis this afternoon, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports he will attend a fundraiser for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) who isn’t up for re-election until 2012.

Meanwhile, Robin Carnahan (D) — who is running for U.S. Senate this year from Missouri — will actually be in Washington, D.C.

Carnahan “has kept a political arm’s length from the president, careful not to appear in lockstep with the White House on key issues.”

Quote of the Day

“This is a very sick person. Perhaps his judgment is impaired because of the ethical issues that have arisen, and he is no longer in the Congress.”

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), quoted by Bloomberg, about former Rep. Eric Massa’s (D-NY) accusations that Democrats forced him out to resign.

Update: The Bloomberg article was edited to include Pelosi’s comment, “He has been diagnosed with cancer.” Obviously, that’s changes the entire meaning of the quote.

Is Hutchison Backing Off Resignation Pledge?

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said she’s not making any announcements about her political future, “intensifying speculation within Senate GOP circles that she won’t abandon her seat in the middle of a competitive election year,” Politico reports.

Said Hutchison: “I have nothing to say, and I won’t for a while.”

Meanwhile, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes Hutchison’s silence is “not stopping most of those who want her U.S. Senate seat. They are campaigning and raising money for the race.”

Waiting on the CBO

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “that before the House acts on final health care legislation, leaders are waiting for costs assessments from the Congressional Budget Office, and information from the Senate parliamentarian,” CNN reports.

Specifically, House leaders want to know “what the Senate will be able to do” in a reconciliation bill meant to make fixes to the underlying health care bill.

The Daily Caller quotes Pelosi: “It’s all up to the CBO. We don’t know anything until they tell us. It’s really the strangest thing because so much of this is not very new, so we thought we’d get it back sooner. But anyway, they do their very careful work and I respect that.”

Markets Defy GOP Rhetoric About Obama

Bloomberg: “One year after U.S stocks hit their post-financial-crisis low on March 9, 2009, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen more than 68 percent, and it’s up more than 41 percent since Obama took office. Credit spreads have narrowed. Commodity prices have surged. Housing prices have stabilized.”

Paterson Plunge Levels Off

A new Quinnipiac poll finds New York Gov. David Paterson’s (D) plunge in approval rating has bottomed out as voters now disapprove by a 61% to 21% margin of the job he is doing, identical to results from last Friday.

Voters say 50% to 39% that Paterson should serve until the end of his term on December 31 rather than resign.

Said pollster Maurice Carroll: “It’s hardly a vote of confidence, but the should-he-stay or should-he-go number edged up a trifle in the Governor’s favor.”

Huckabee Holds Very Early Lead in Iowa

Right Way Marketing survey in Iowa found Mike Huckabee leading among Republican presidential hopefuls with 21%, followed by Mitt Romney at 14% and Sarah Palin at 12%.

However, 52% of Republican voters are still undecided.

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