POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/25

Ensign Blames “Gotcha” Journalism

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) — who admitted last year to having an affair with a married staffer — said that he’s been the victim of unfair “gotcha” journalism, Politico reports.

“The Nevada Republican made the charge as he was being asked whether he’s been subpoenaed in a grand jury probe into the aftermath of his affair. Instead of answering that question, he descended into an extended rebuke of the press… for the way it has covered the scandal surrounding him.”

A Changed President

Joe Klein says President Obama “became a very different President” in the process of getting his health care reform bill through Congress.

“After a first year in office that promised consequence but never quite delivered on it, he had done something huge. The comparisons with Jimmy Carter would abruptly come to an end. He was now a President who didn’t back down, who could herd cats, who was not merely intellectual and idealistic but tough enough to force his way. This is bound to change the landscape of American politics. It makes significant progress on other issues — financial reform, immigration, perhaps even the reduced use of carbon fuels — more plausible. It may give Obama new stature overseas, in a world that was beginning to wonder about his ability to use power.”

Close Senate Race in Ohio

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Ohio finds Rob Portman (R) leading Jennifer Brunner (D) in a U.S. Senate match up, 38% to 37%, and beating Lee Fisher (D), 41% to 36%.

“With the candidates themselves relatively anonymous the numbers at this point are more a reflection of the general political mood in Ohio than anything else, and with Obama’s approval in the state at 40% to 53% disapproving it’s no surprise that Portman leads both Democrats at this stage. If anything it’s a surprise Portman’s not up by more.”

Quote of the Day

“The ace we have in our pocket is the Republican party. The Republicans have concluded that their success lies in our failure. The American people are smart. They smell a rat. They know there was nothing about trying to get a better bill.”

— Vice President Joe Biden, quoted by Fox News, on the administration’s health care victory.

Toomey Leads in Pennsylvania

A new Franklin & Marshall College poll in Pennsylvania finds Pat Toomey (R) leading both possible Democratic rivals in the U.S. Senate race, though large numbers are still undecided.

Toomey leads Sen. Arlen Specter (D), 33% to 29%, and beats Rep. Joe Sestak (D), 27% to 19%.

Gibbs Compares McCain to a Six Year Old

After Democrats passed health care reform, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pledged his party would no longer cooperate with Democrats on anything, The Hill reports.

Said McCain: “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responds: “I find it curious that not getting your way on one thing means you’ve decided to take your toys and go home. It doesn’t work well for my six-year-old. I doubt it works well in the United States Senate, because we have issues that are important for his constituents and for all of America.”

Senor Will Not Run for Senate

Former Bush administration adviser Dan Senor (R) has opted not to run for U.S. Senate from New York, the New York Post reports.

“The move narrows the field considerably and takes away the person who many party leaders had started to coalesce around.”

Said Senor: “Over the past few weeks, I took a very serious look at running for the Senate seat in New York. I ultimately decided this wasn’t the right time in my family and business life for me to run.”

Whitman Leads Brown in California

A new Public Policy Institute of California finds Meg Whitman (R) leading Jerry Brown (D) in their race for governor, 44% to 39%.

In January, Brown held a similar lead over Whitman.

Petraeus Says He’ll Never Run for Office

Gen. David Petraeus took the stage “where presidential candidates have debated but said his visit had nothing to do with politics or New Hampshire, home to the first presidential primaries,” the AP reports.

Said Petraeus: “I thought I’ve said ‘no’ as many ways as I could. I will not ever run for political office, I can assure you of that.”

Will Democrats Now Try to Include Public Option?

Now that a parliamentary ruling forces House Democrats to vote again on fixes to the health care bill, the Senate could possibly add additional fixes to the bill — including a public option.

Huffington Post: “Democratic leadership no longer has to worry that additional amendments would send it back to the House, since it must return to the lower chamber regardless. The Senate is now free to put to the test that much-debated question of whether 50 votes exist for a public option. Democrats could also elect to expand Medicare or Medicaid, now that they only need 50 votes in the Senate and the approval of the House.”

House Will Have to Vote Again

Senate Democrats “defeated 29 straight Republican amendments to the Democratic health care reconciliation bill before losing a key parliamentary ruling in Thursday’s early hours that will force the legislation back to the House of Representatives,” The Hill reports.

“The Senate adjourned at 3 a.m., and is scheduled to reconvene at 9:45 a.m. Thursday and continue debating amendments until a final vote at 2 p.m.; attention would be turned to points-of-order objections, with Republicans eyeing up to three possible parliamentary violations in the bill. If final passage is approved, the bill would then go to the House; final passage there would send the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.”

New York Times: “The successful parliamentary challenge did not appear to endanger the eventual adoption of the changes to the health care legislation.”

Obama Approval Unchanged After Health Care Passage

A new Quinnipiac poll — taken just after passage of President Obama’s signature health reform bill — finds his approval rate is basically unchanged at 45%.

The survey found that 49% of American voters disapprove of the health care reform, down from 54% before the vote. In addition, 51% say that the proposed action by several state attorneys general to block the health care overhaul is a “bad idea.”

Said pollster Peter Brown: “It may be that passage of health care eventually helps President Barack Obama’s approval ratings, but at this point there’s no sign of that. The White House believes that now that the legislation has been signed into law they can sell it to the American people. Approval of health care reform is growing – or disapproval is shrinking – but the President still has his work cut out for him.”

Campbell, Fiorina in Tight GOP Race for Senate

A new Public Policy Institute of California poll finds Carly Fiorina (R) has pulled into a statistical tie with Tom Campbell (R) in the GOP Senate primary race.

Fiorina leads Campbell, 24% to 23%, with Chuck DeVore way back at 8%.

However, the poll also brings more bad news for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “Much like last week’s Field Poll, Boxer continues to bleed voters, particularly independents, as she’s in a dead heat with her GOP rivals, counting for the margin of error.”

Cambell edges Boxer, 44% to 43%, while Boxer inches ahead of Fiorina, 44% to 43%.

Repeal Effort Losing Steam?

Though Republicans were using the word “repeal” a lot in the hours after health care reform passed the House, they’re now softening their stand and even talking about some things they like in the bill.

Ezra Klein notes that in only 12 hours, the Republican position has gone from “repeal this socialist monstrosity that will destroy our final freedoms” to “there are some things we don’t like about this legislation and would like to repeal, and there are some things we support and would like to keep.”

Ginsburg Defies Senator’s Prediction

A year after surgery for pancreatic cancer, ABC News reports Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she is feeling well — “and then took a dig at the senator who had claimed after her surgery that she would only have nine months to live.”

Said Ginsburg: “I am pleased to report that, contrary to Sen. Bunning’s prediction, I am alive and in good health.”

Sen. Jim Bunning (R0KY) described Ginsburg’s cancer in February 2009 as “bad cancer — the kind that you don’t get better from.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Perhaps they felt like they had killed health care reform… They thought the fight was over. And that the president couldn’t now succeed. I do believe that. And it is almost as if they had made the statement that they thought they had stopped the thing. And so it created a breathing space for us to regroup.”

— White House adviser David Axelrod, quoted by the Huffington Post, on Republicans letting down their guard after winning the Massachusetts Senate special election in January.

Issa Calls for Investigation of White House

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told CBS News that “he will call for a special prosecutor to investigate the White House if it does not address Rep. Joe Sestak’s claim that he was offered a federal job in exchange for dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary.”

Said Issa: “If the public doesn’t receive a satisfactory answer, the next step would be to call for a special prosecutor, which is well within the statute.”

Stupak Gets Death Threats

“In the wake of his vote in favor of health care reform legislation, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), a strong opponent of abortion rights, has been on the receiving end of a string of extremely hostile and threatening messages, including death threats,” CBS News reports.

The audio of some of these messages is very disturbing.

Obama Approval Way Ahead of Nearly Everyone Else

A new Bloomberg Poll finds President Obama “receives lukewarm approval ratings from Americans, at least until you compare him with other major political figures and institutions.”

Fifty percent approve of the job Obama is doing, down from 54% in December.

However, those favorability numbers “look solid when compared with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and both political parties, with voters unhappy about what’s happening in Washington and the direction the nation is heading.”

Obama Derangement Syndrome

A new Harris poll that reveals some shocking things about how Republican voters view President Obama.

Key findings:

  • 67% believe Obama is a socialist.
  • 57% believe Obama is a Muslim.
  • 38% believe Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did.”
  • 24% believe Obama “may be the Antichrist.”

“It demonstrates the cost of the campaign of fear and hate that has been pumped up in the service of hyper-partisanship over the past 15 months. We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing the United States in the process. What might be good for ratings is bad for the country.”

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