POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/18
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) “has agreed to pay $74,000 to settle charges that his travel and campaign spending violated state ethics laws,” the AP reports.
“The Republican governor is accused of breaking 37 laws, including improperly using pricey plane tickets for a trip to Argentina where he saw the mistress he infamously called his soul mate.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee “has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury looking into the aftermath of Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair with a former staffer, adding a new political problem for GOP leaders in their response to the dual criminal and ethics probes of the Nevada Republican,” Politico reports.
“The NRSC was asked to turn over documents related to Ensign’s tenure as NRSC chairman. Ensign chaired the committee during the 2007-08 cycle.”
It’s hard to put too much faith in the various health care whip counts, but First Readreports White House and House Democratic leaders “are fewer than five votes away from 216.”
Jonathan Chait: “I have always thought that the key is to get within four or five votes. Once you’re there, you’re very likely to win. Why? Because then the White House and Democratic leaders can concentrate all their attention on a few holdouts. And they can make an irresistible argument: If you don’t vote for this bill, you will be responsible for the political and moral disaster that ensues. I just don’t think anybody is willing to be the person who kills health care reform. They may hold back, they may want to see if the bill is going to die anyway, and they may want somebody else to go first. But when the finish line is in sight, they won’t say no.”
“Paterson would not give more details about the conversation citing the ongoing investigation” but this “contradicts earlier remarks from Paterson that the story was based on un-sourced claims and information from unnamed sources.”
This story could not get more confusing.
President Obama “is postponing his trip to Asia until June so he can stay in Washington for a possible Sunday vote on his health care overhaul plan,” theWashington Post reports.
“Obama had already pushed the trip back once, delaying his orginally scheduled March 18 departure until Sunday so he could help Democrats on Capitol Hill rally last-minute votes for the plan.”
Ben Smith: “The decision to cancel his trip may look like a sign of urgency but it’s also, in the language of Washington, a sign of tremendous confidence: You don’t set the President of the United States up to experience humiliation in person. It’s being taken right now by people on both sides of the fight as the clearest sign yet that Nancy Pelosi has the votes.”
“I am your worst-case scenario. And I’d do it all again.”
— Former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-PA), writing in the Washington Post, urging House Democrats to vote their conscience even if it means losing their seats like she did 18 years ago as the deciding vote on President Clinton’s budget.
Congressional Republicans “emerged from a closed-door, bicameral strategy session on the House floor optimistic they can kill President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill in the House, but stood ready to upend the measure in the Senate if House Democrats approve it in an expected weekend vote,” Roll Call reports.
“Republican leaders declined to discuss their strategy for defeating reconciliation in the Senate; they said their primary goal is to derail health care reform in the House.”
Two candidates running for Georgia governor this year — “one Republican and one Democrat, both trained as high school educators — have had their teaching certificates suspended for misconduct involving female students,” according to theAtlanta Journal Constitution.
“How’s it been? Like a living hell.”
— Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), in an interview with The Hill, describing the intense pressure from outside groups and individuals over abortion provisions in the health care reform bill.
David Bernstein notes that virtually every Massachusetts politician “with statewide significance who has over the years become intertwined with the Central Artery Project (as it is officially known) has seen his or her dreams of higher office dashed.”
“Now gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker (R), former secretary of administration and finance under” Gov. William Weld (R), “will try to break that curse — but already finds his opponents hanging the Big Dig albatross around his neck.”
The latest National Journal Political Insiders Poll finds that on a scale of 0 to 10 — with zero being no chance at all — the average score Democratic insiders gave for chances of the health care bill passing was 7.9 and for GOP insiders was 6.5.
A new Rasmussen Reports survey in Arizona finds Sen. John McCain (R) leading primary challenger J.D. Hayworth by just seven points, 48% to 41%.
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) “is in the crosshairs of a Department of Justice criminal investigation,” KLAS-TV reports.
“The criminal probe stems from a romantic affair Ensign had with the wife of his key staffer and close friend, Doug Hampton, and what Ensign has done to help Hampton financially.”
“Subpoenas have been issued to at least six Las Vegas businesses. The Justice Department came to Las Vegas to interview several prominent business and political figures in what appears to be a wide-ranging and deadly-serious criminal probe.”
The CBO projects President Obama’s health care bill will cost $940 billion and cut the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, The Hill reports.
The bill is more expensive than the House or Senate bills, “though the CBO said that the current bill, which builds off the Senate’s bill with changes to it, would make larger reductions in the deficit.”
“The release of the CBO score sets into motion a 72-hour endgame on health care that could mean a vote in the House on the package as early as Sunday morning.”
Ezra Klein: “It moves the story from process to substance. How Congress will vote is not a good story for the Democrats. What they will be voting on is rather better, and they’re much more comfortable talking about it.”
“Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any weirder” in New York politics, the New York Daily News reports a poll call in the field “appeared to be testing the viability of former LG Betsy McCaughey as a statewide candidate for either governor or the US Senate.”
However, it’s not clear whether McCaughey is now registered as a Democrat or Republican.
McCaughey flamed out last fall in her public attempt to challenge Democratic health care reform efforts.
President Obama told members of Congress last week that “the fate of his presidency” hinged on this week’s health reform vote in the House, Politico reports.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY): “We went in there already knowing his presidency would be weakened if this thing went down, but the president clearly reinforced the impression the presidency would be damaged by a loss… He was subtle, but that was the underlying theme of the meeting — the importance of passing this for the health of the presidency.”
As the article notes, “it’s a little more drama than Democrats are used to getting from Obama.”
A new Field Poll in California finds Tom Campbell (R) leading Carly Fiorina (R), 28% to 22%, among likely Republican voters in the U.S. Senate primary, with Chuck DeVore (R) at 9%. However, 40% are still undecided.
In hypothetical match ups with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in the general election, Campbell leads Boxer, 44% to 43%, while Boxer leads Fiorina, 45% to 44%, and tops DeVore, 45% to 41%. Both findings are within the survey’s margin of error.
Said pollster Mark DiCamillo: “Formerly, I would have said this is in the Democratic column, but I would say now it’s got to be moved into the tossup column. There just seems to be a turning of voter opinions. I think a lot of it has to do with the Congress.”
An interesting Smart Politics analysis finds that Democrats currently hold 43 of the 50 least competitive House seats in the nation.
In fact, John Lewis (GA-5), Kendrick Meek (FL-17), and Richard Neal (MA-2) have not faced a Republican challenger since new district lines were drawn in 2002. Neal has not faced a GOP opponent since 1996.
After Illinois set a modern record for low turnout in February’s primary, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed legislation to move the date back to March, the Chicago Tribunereports.
“Holding the election so soon after the holidays and creating a compressed campaign season also is partly blamed for Democrats picking the unheralded but free spending Chicago pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen as the party’s lieutenant governor nominee. Cohen’s candidacy imploded following troubling revelations about his personal life, and Quinn now finds himself searching for a running mate six weeks after the primary was supposed to have settled the issue.”
A new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut finds “undecided” is the big leader in the Democratic and Republican primary race for governor.
Among Democrats, 44% of voters are undecided, while Ned Lamont (D) gets 28% and Dan Malloy (D) gets 18%.
On the Republican side, 50% are undecided, while Tom Foley (R) has 30% and no other candidate tops 4%.