POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/31

Former Florida GOP Chair Under Criminal Investigation

Former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer facing a criminal investigation “after an audit found he awarded himself and his executive director a fundraising contract that paid them about $200,000,” the AP reports.

Greer resigned earlier this year after it was discovered he “used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment.”

Plurality Not Happy with Their Representative

A new Marist Poll finds that 45% of registered voters nationwide are not satisfied with their elected officials in the U.S. Congress and would vote against them in the November election. By contrast, 41% would vote for the incumbent, and 14% are unsure.

Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “There is plenty of grumbling about Congress, and the winds of change are blowing.”

Pollster Sees Signs of 1994

Pollster Stan Greenberg says there are “signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago,” the Huffington Post reports.

Said Greenberg: “We are on the edge of it, but we are not there. If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

Spending Cuts Favored to Reduce Deficit

The latest Democracy Corps poll finds voters are deeply concerned about the federal budget deficit and overwhelmingly choose spending cuts over tax increases — 71% to 18% — to bring down the deficit. However, “when asked about specific proposals to do so, few ideas achieve majority support.”

In fact, 48% think the deficit can be reduced without real cost to entitlements, “believing there is enough waste and inefficiency in government spending for the deficit to be reduced through spending cuts while keeping health care, Social Security, unemployment benefits and other services from being hurt.”

Push for Health Care Repeal Could Backfire

Top Republicans “are increasingly worried that GOP candidates this fall might be burned by a fire that’s roaring through the conservative base: demand for the repeal of President Barack Obama’s new health care law,” the AP reports.

Pushing for outright repeal carries big risks: “Repeal is politically and legally unlikely, and grass-roots activists may feel disillusioned by a failed crusade. More important, say strategists from both parties, a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinois and California.”

Quote of the Day

“We wrote checks to keep them alive…and then they turn around and we find they aren’t even paying taxes, they are getting rebates back. All the more reason why there is a sense of growing outrage to all this.”

— Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT), in an interview on the Fox Business Network, on banks that received bailout funds.

Obama Will Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

President Obama will propose “to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time,” the New York Times reports.

“The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.”

First Read: “The announcement is stunning for those of us who paid close attention to the presidential race. And it will be yet another test for Obama’s Democratic base — in this case, environmentalists.”

Blitz of Obama Books Coming

“The White House has practically been overrun by journalists pumping top officials for behind-the-scenes details for a growing roster of behind-the-scenes books,” the Washington Post reports.

“The blitz has created complications for presidential aides, who have a country to run, and frustrations for the authors, who are clamoring for face time with their sources.”

New books are coming from Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter, NBC’s Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and David Maraniss, the New York Times‘ Jodi Kantor and New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza.

Out next week: The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Ehrlich Confirms He’ll Challenge O’Malley

Former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) confirmed rumors that he’ll try to reclaim his former job  and challenge Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), the Baltimore Sun reports.

Ehrlich hopes “to benefit from a national anti-incumbent sentiment that emerged since the last presidential election and has deepened during the health care debate.”

Democrats Gain in Ohio

A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Democrats are having a mini-surge in Ohio and now lead in both the U.S. Senate and Governor’s races.

In the Senate race, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) leads Rob Portman (R) 41% to 37%, reversing a three point Portman lead in February. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) also edges Portman, 38% to 37%, reversing a five point Portman lead.

In the gubernatorial race, Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading challenger John Kasich (R), 43% to 38%.

Hutchison Plans Big Announcement

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has called a press conference for 11 a.m. ET in San Antonio and is expected to announce whether she will stay in the Senate for the rest of her term, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “will join her for the announcement. Cornyn confirmed on Twitter that he would be on hand but did not elaborate.”

Hutchison said last fall that she would resign her Senate seat after the March primary for governor, but it’s unlikely McConnell would be on hand if she were planning to follow through on those plans.

The Hotline reports Hutchison will serve out the final two years of her terms.

Big Republican Donors Bypassing RNC

Since Michael Steele became RNC chairman in January 2009, “a growing number of prominent GOP donors has stopped contributing to the RNC, choosing instead to direct their money to outlets such as the party’s Senatorial Committee,” the Daily Caller reports.

“According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, at least eight of the RNC’s top individual donors have declined to contribute in the past 14 months… Each of the individuals had a record of contributing thousands to the RNC in past years but since 2009 have chosen to direct their money to the NRSC, National Republican Congressional Committee or individual campaign committees.”

Tea Party Candidate May Be Headed for Jail

Scott Ashjian, the Tea Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada, has been accused of writing bad checks for his asphalt business and faces up to 14 years in prison,KTNV-TV reports.

A judge is expected to sign an arrest warrant tomorrow.

Ashjian’s entry into the race was seen as big break for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as polls showed him pulling votes from Republican challengers.

Baker Supports Obama’s Foreign Policy

In an interview last night, former Secretary of State James Baker “voiced his apparent support for the overwhelming majority of Barack Obama’s foreign policy agenda,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“Baker said he agreed with Obama’s handling of Iraq, his handling of Israel’s controversial stance on the building of settlements in Jerusalem, and his handling of Afghanistan (with the small exception of the president’s ‘date certain’ for withdrawal).”

When asked which of Obama’s foreign policy decisions he disagreed with, Baker “cited last year’s leadership crisis in… Honduras. The Obama administration called it a ‘coup,’ but Baker says he’s not sure it was one ‘in the traditional sense.'”

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