POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 9/17

Palin Blanks

In a video that’s painful to watch, neither Sarah Palin or Bill O’Reilly could remember the person she endorsed in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate Republican primary.

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Murkowski Keeps GOP Guessing

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is expected to announce tomorrow whether she’ll wage an independent write-in campaign for U.S. Senate, the Anchorage Daily News reports, but it’s not amusing to Senate leaders.

Politico: “For the first time since she lost her primary to tea party favorite Joe Miller last month, Murkowski met with her colleagues, huddling with senators on the floor and cloak room for more than two hours – and speaking with supporters by phone. When she approached McConnell on the floor, he raised his eyebrows and turned away to Cornyn, who chuckled with amusement.”

DeMint Says Goal is Gridlock

Sen. James DeMint tells Bloomberg Businessweek his goal for the U.S. Senate is “complete gridlock” so that he can “stop programs that violate his anti-Big Government ideology.”

Said DeMint: “What happens in the Senate is the Republicans sink to the lowest common denominator. People want an alternative to some kind of watered-down Republican philosophy.”

Kirk Holds Slight Edge in Illinois

A new We Ask America poll in Illinois finds Rep. Mark Kirk (R) with a small lead over Alexi Giannoulias (D) in the race for U.S. Senate, 39% to 36% with 19% still undecided.

Jackson and Emanuel Discuss Possible Race

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel met privately with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who could be a potential rival running for Chicago mayor early next year.

Jackson spoke to the Chicago Tribune: “No one entering this contest should be under any illusion that if Rahm Emanuel comes to town, he’s [not] bringing an A-game. This will not be a B-game. And those who would be mayor need to recognize that. I say this with respect, but not unafraid to be in the ring with him myself. Rahm Emanuel is a heavyweight championship player and it would be a heavyweight fight.”

Altering History

Just another indication of how hard Middle East peace talks will be: The BBC reports Egypt’s state-run newspaper “has come under fire for altering a photograph to suggest President Hosni Mubarak was leading the Middle East peace talks.”

The original image, taken at the White House, shows President Obama leading the way and Mubarak trailing behind.

Lynch Leads for New Hampshire Governor

A new Public Policy Polling survey in New Hampshire shows Gov. John Lynch (D) ahead of challenger John Stephen (R) in his re-election race with a solid 51% to 39% lead.

Carter Slams Ted Kennedy

In a 60 Minutes interview to promote his new book, White House Diary, former President Jimmy Carter ripped the late Sen. Ted Kennedy for delaying health care reform legislation “out of spite.”

Said Carter: “The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now, had it not been for Ted Kennedy’s deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed. It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill.”

“He did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of life.”

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Connecticut Senate Race Now a “Toss Up”

The Cook Political Report calls the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut a “Toss Up.”

“The larger point, though, is that with seven weeks left to go, McMahon has made this a race and Democrats’ best efforts to stall her candidacy have not worked. This, of course, could certainly change as they start airing negative ads against her, but for now McMahon is in the hunt, handing Democrats a race in an expensive blue state that they weren’t expecting.”

Ayotte Holds Smaller Lead in New Hampshire

A new Rasmussen survey in New Hampshire finde Kelly Ayotte (R) leading Paul Hodes (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 51% to 44%.

“Though Ayotte’s support is unchanged from early August, she held a 13-point lead over Hodes at that time, 51% to 38%, without leaners. If leaners are not part of the totals, Ayotte leads Hodes by a 48% to 41% margin.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Well, I’ve seen a lot of people run for office and say a lot of things and then when they have the burden of holding office and the responsibility that goes with it. I’ve seen them become very sobered, very quickly, about the challenges we face domestically and internationally.”

— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, quoted by ABC News, weighing in on the Tea Party movement.

Coons Holds Lead in Delaware

A new Rasmussen survey in Delaware finds Chris Coons (D) leading Christine O’Donnell (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 53% to 42%.

The Making of a Political Uprising

Michael Scherer: “Not since Barry Goldwater thumbed his nose at country-club Republicans in 1964 has a rebel movement created such a crisis of legitimacy among the GOP establishment. And like that rebel movement, this one may spur an evolutionary change in the party that could last a generation.”

“At a time of historic economic insecurity, the Tea Party movement has stolen the hearts of conservatives. It now has a chance to send as many as seven new Senators to Capitol Hill with their dreams of a radically smaller government, unfettered financial markets, defanged regulation and shrinking federal entitlements.”

Digging Deeper on Health Care Polls

Jonathan Cohn notes that while a New York Times/CBS News poll shows Americans oppose the health care reform law 49% to 37%, that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Still, if you dig deeper into the same poll, you’ll find that public sentiment on health care reform is more complicated than those figures suggest. While 40 percent of respondents said they supported repealing the Affordable Care Act, more than half changed their minds (leaving just 19 percent in favor of repeal) when pollsters mentioned that it’d mean letting insurance companies exclude people with pre-existing conditions.”

“One other thing: When pollsters asked respondents if they’d be more or less likely to vote for a member of Congress that supported reform, 28 percent said more likely, 28 percent less likely, and 41 percent said it’d make no difference. One poll question obviously can’t capture the full political impact of health care reform, but that result suggests that it is not the electoral liability many critics predicted it would be.”

GOP Voters Don’t Want Boehner, McConnell

A new Public Policy Polling survey suggests that Republicans may not want their current leaders to keep the reins, even if their party takes control of Congress in November. Just 21% of GOP voters prefer to keep House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), while 57% want to replace the party’s leadership.

“Republicans are split over whether Boehner should be elevated to the Speakership, with a third favoring him, a third preferring someone else, and a third unsure. A third also would like someone other than McConnell to become Majority Leader in the less likely event the GOP takes charge of the Senate, but only 27% want McConnell himself.”

Plouffe to the White House?

Michael Sneed “hears rumbles White House senior adviser David Axelrod will be replaced by David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign communications chief, after the midterm elections, which are expected to be a Dem disaster.”

Is Palin Gearing Up?

If Sarah Palin “has made any final, official decision to run, she’s kept it from her inner circle of advisers,” Shushannah Walshe reports. “But lately, alongside the personal tweets that have been a primary means of communicating with the outside world in recent months, Team Palin has begun issuing press releases. The smoke signals indicate her staff has begun working in earnest on a White House run.”

Said one former aide: “No one has been told directly, but staffers are working under the assumption that she’s running. It has become very apparent to everyone on her staff that she is preparing to run for president. The staff is now working. They are writing speeches, preparing talking points, picking congressmen to endorse all under the umbrella of what you would do two years out before running for president and that’s their understanding. It’s a 2012 ball game, and they should plan on that basis.”

Lincoln Getting Crushed in Arkansas

A new Arkansas News Bureau/Mason-Dixon poll shows Rep. John Boozman (R) continues to hold a 17-point lead over Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in the U.S. Senate race, 51% to 34%.

The Hotline: “Those numbers show that Lincoln isn’t gaining any traction with her campaign. Back in May, a poll from the same company showed Boozman leading 52% to 35%. There is still more than a month to go, but at this point these numbers suggest Arkansas will be a near-certain pickup for the GOP.”

Gingrich Warns Republicans

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich offered a blunt warning to House Republicans, Politico reports, saying the election is far from over — “and don’t expect Democrats to roll over.”

Said Gingrich: “Any of you who think this is locked doesn’t get it. You have a machine on the other side… trying to take out one candidate at a time.”

Most Still Blame Bush for Economy

Gallup Poll: “Nearly two years into his presidency, 51% of Americans say President Obama bears little to no blame for U.S. economic problems, while 48% assign him a great deal or moderate amount of blame. More Americans now blame Obama than did so a year ago, but a substantially higher percentage, 71%, blame former President George W. Bush.”

Life in the White House

A new “wildly indiscreet book,” written in collaboration with French first lady Carli Bruni, says Michelle Obama thinks being America’s First Lady is “hell,” the London Daily Mail reports.

Said Mrs. Obama: “Don’t ask! It’s hell. I can’t stand it!”

Ben Smith: “The White House isn’t commenting, and perhaps it can be chalked up to the language barrier. But it’s also the sort of biting, honest line that made Michelle Obama very popular, at first, in Iowa, where women she met loved her authenticity and honesty about how difficult it was to live through the campaign.”

UpdateCBS News reports a French embassy spokesman denies the account, adding “Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy distances herself completely from the content of the book.”

Quote of the Day

“I’m going to be very honest with you — Chris Coons, everybody knows him in the Democratic caucus. He’s my pet. He’s my favorite candidate.”

— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), quoted by The Hill, on the Delaware U.S. Senate race.

Crist Listed at Bottom of Ballot

This isn’t going to help Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s independent bid for U.S. Senate: The St. Petersburg Times reports Crist will be listed ninth on the election ballot out of 10 candidates.

Said Crist: “It’s an issue, obviously.”

State law puts partisan candidates first, starting with the candidate of the party controlling the Governor’s Office. Because Crist was a Republican when he was elected governor in 2006, he contributed to Marco Rubio (R) being listed first.

Dead Even in the Generic Congressional Ballot

A new Politico/GWU Battleground Poll finds Democrats and Republicans tied in the generic congressional race at 43% each — even though most of those surveyed think the GOP will take control of the House and Senate in the midterm elections.

“Better yet for Democrats, in several key regions with numerous House and Senate seats in play — namely, the Midwest and Northeast — they hold a 5-point advantage, suggesting the party’s congressional fortunes aren’t nearly as grim as the media coverage might suggest.”

More hope for Democrats in a New York Times/CBS News poll: While voters rate the performance of Democrats negatively, they view Republicans as even worse, “providing a potential opening for Democrats to make a last-ditch case for keeping their hold on power.”

Kasich Opens Up Big Lead for Ohio Governor

A new Quinnipiac poll in Ohio shows John Kasich (R) opening up a wide lead over Gov. Ted Strickland (D) among likely voters in the race for governor, 54% to 37%.

Notes pollster Peter Brown: “Independent voters often decide elections in Ohio and Kasich leads among the unaffiliated by 23 points. Not only that, but John Kasich does slightly better among Democrats than Strickland does among Republicans.”

Meanwhile, a new CNN/Time poll shows Kasich leading 51% to 44% and a newSurveyUSA poll has Kasich leading 52% to 40%.

Close Race for Minnesota Governor

A new SurveyUSA poll in Minnesota shows Mark Dayton (D) leading Tom Emmer (R) in the race for governor, 38% to 36%, with Tom Horner (I) trailing at 18%.

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