POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 9/21

Obama Hints at Changes to Economic Team

President Obama suggested that he might make changes to his team of economic advisers, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

Said Obama: “Well, look, I — I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well. But the bottom line is — is that we’re constantly thinking, is what we’re doing working as well as it could? Do we have other options and other alternatives that we can explore?”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“Rahm is an extraordinary Chief of Staff. I’ve seen him at his best and I’ve seen him do some things behind the scenes which will never be reported in history… But this a once in a lifetime opportunity. He could be a powerful force. He has to make his decision soon, get on the ground. You can’t win this from the White House, you have to win it from the streets of Chicago.”

— Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), in an interview with Bloomberg TV, on the “more likely than not” mayoral bid by Rahm Emanuel.

Generic Ballot Virtually Tied

The latest Gallup tracking poll shows a close generic congressional ballot with Democrats at 46% and Republicans at 45% among registered voters. It is the second week out of the last three in which the two parties have been virtually tied.

Nonetheless, Republicans remain significantly more likely than Democrats to say they are “very” enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections, 47% to 28%.

Heightened Security for Palin Appearance

“There will be high security tonight when Sarah Palin shows up to watch daughter Bristol perform on Dancing with the Stars,” TMZ reports.

Most interesting: Security has been told if there is a breach, Sarah is a “higher priority than Bristol.”

Lowey Challenger Wrote Racially Charged Essay

Maggie Haberman reports that the Republican challenger to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) “is a Christian conservative author and activist whose writings have frowned on inter-racial marriage and movies like Save the Last Dance, touted the benefits of studies linking race to IQ and said parents need to teach their kids ‘appropriate ethnic boundaries’ for marriage and socializing.”

Jim Russell (R) made the statements in an essay called “The Western Contribution to World History” which was also featured on infamous former politician and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s website.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents.”

— Former President Jimmy Carter, in an interview with NBC News.

Former Ensign Staffers May Lose Home

Jon Ralston reports that Doug and Cindy Hampton — the couple at the center of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) sex scandal — may lose their house at a public auction next month.

“Doug Hampton has said he cannot find work since he went public about Ensign’s scandalous behavior, which has resulted in federal and Senate Ethics Committee probes. Ensign, in seeking money for his defense, has quite astonishingly played the victim. Meanwhile, it appears the Hamptons are going to lose everything.”

Cook Shifts Alaska Senate to “Likely Republican”

The Cook Political Report has moved its rating of the Alaska U.S. Senate race from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican” in the wake of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s planned write-in bid.

“While Murkowski is well-known and retains a reservoir of goodwill among voters, history has not been kind to write-in candidates and Murkowski’s path to victory is extremely steep. Still, Murkowski’s decision adds enough uncertainty, particularly in the absence of polling to provide some guidance, that we are moving the race to the Likely Republican column.”

Nate Silver says Murkowski “indeed stands a chance — and more than a trivial chance — in her write-in bid. The race would probably be competitive if Ms. Murkowski were running a conventional, independent candidacy. And there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that being a write-in will harm her to the point that she is not viable in a race where she otherwise would have been.”

Vitter Re-Election on Cruise Control

A new Magellan Strategies survey shows David Vitter (R-LA) leading Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) by 18 points, 52% to 34%, among likely voters in the Louisiana Senate race.

The survey notes Melancon’s support among Democrats is anemic. He gets just 51% of members of his own party, with Vitter getting 34%.

A Preview of Things to Come?

1997 clip of Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R) from Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect shows her debating Al Franken, who of course is now a U.S. Senator from Minnesota.

See more…

House GOP to Unveil New “Contract with America”

Republicans will unveil a new “Contract with America” on Thursday, The Hill reports.

The effort, modeled after the party’s successful strategy in 1994, is intended to highlight “what the Republican party would stand for if it returns to power in Congress. For much of the last two years, Republicans have won points from voters chiefly by opposing the Obama administration’s agenda.”

Politico: “The specifics of the agenda have been held tightly by Republicans, but they have already committed to proposing a constitutional test for each bill considered in the House, and they will push a ‘read the bill’ provision that makes final versions of legislation available for the public and lawmakers to read before the House votes.”

Boxer Leads in California

A new Public Policy Polling survey in California shows Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) leading challenger Carly Fiorina (R) by eight points for U.S. Senate, 50% to 42%.

Key finding: “One other factor that should be noted here is that Boxer is just about the only vulnerable Democrat seeking reelection in a state where the majority of voters still approve of Barack Obama’s performance. His approval is 53/42, and by and large the folks that like Obama are supporting Boxer — California’s one of the last frontiers left where he’s not a drag.”

Toomey Leads Sestak By Nine

A new PoliticsPA/Municipoll finds Pat Toomey (R) leading Rep. Joe Sestak (D) by 9 points, 45% to 36% with 19% undecided.

See more…

Less Enthusiastic Women May Hurt Democrats

New York Times/CBS Poll finds men are going to vote Republican in their congressional district by a margin of 45% to 32%, while women prefer the Democrat 43% to 36%.

“Women have been more likely than men to favor Democratic candidates, an advantage Democrats have come to count on. Women also historically outnumber men when it comes to showing up at the polls. But this year may be different. Even though women are still more likely to vote Democratic, the poll suggests they may stay home this year, giving more of the decision-making to men by default.”

Bad News for Feingold

A Public Policy Polling survey in Wisconsin — which will be released tomorrow by DailyKos — will show Sen. Russ Feingold (D) trailing challenger Ron Johnson (R) by double-digits due to a “massive” enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.

If true, Republicans once again have a chance at taking control of the U.S. Senate.

Known and Unknown

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s new memoir is due out in January and will be titled, Known and Unknown.

The AP notes the title “refers to a widely quoted explanation — praised by some as philosophy, criticized by others as double-talk — Rumsfeld offered in 2002 about the lack of evidence that Iraq was supplying terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.”

All Signs Point to Rahm Run

According to Politico, Democratic insiders “say the polling looks good for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s prospective Chicago mayoral bid, and sources say he has all but decided to jump into the race.”

No one “was able to provide actual numbers, and Emanuel’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But whether Emanuel has strong polling or is simply putting out that message, Democrats say the survey is yet another data point creating the expectation that he will run.”

Ben Smith: “The clearest evideince, I think: He hasn’t shut down the speculation, as he’d have every reason to do if he wasn’t running.”

Boozman Way Up in Arkansas

A new Talk Business/Hendrix College Poll shows Rep. John Boozman (R) leading Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) by a huge margin, 56% to 29%.

Carter’s Diary

Jimmy Carter’s latest book, White House Diary, was published today and based on an interview he gave with 60 Minutes last night, it’s going to be worth reading for anyone interested in the presidency. Just fascinating.

Don’t Underestimate Sarah Palin

Mark Halperin: “Palin is operating on a different plane, hovering higher than a mere celebrity, more buoyant than an average politician. Some of you are too young, or too forgetful, to recall the breathless fusses over Donald Trump and Warren Beatty when they toyed with presidential bids, or how much oxygen Ross Perot sucked up when he ran in 1992. You may think Palin is full of hot air, but there is enough of it to power her from Alaska to the Republican nomination in 2012, and until she unambiguously takes herself out of the running, or until the nomination is definitively won by another, she will remain both a force and a force field.”

“She is like Obama: the camera loves her and both sides of the political spectrum hang on her every word. She is like Bush: able to communicate with religious conservatives and Middle Americans. Most of all, she is like Bill Clinton: what doesn’t kill Sarah Palin makes her stronger. So as the world gets ready for the midterm elections and for the start of the epic contest in which Republicans will pick their champion to go into battle against Barack Obama, be advised: Palin is very much alive and, despite what you think, extraordinarily strong.”

Meanwhile, Walter Shapiro looks at Palin’s most-likely path to the Republican nomination with South Carolina being the “Kingmaker State.”

Majority Support Gay Marriage

A new AP-GfK Poll finds that 52% of Americans support the rights of same-sex couples to marry. It’s the second national poll to have found majority support for gay marriage in the last two months.

The Good Fight

Out soon: The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics by former Vice President Walter Mondale.

The New Yorker interviewed Mondale noting “he could not help noting the similarities between Obama’s embattled White House and Carter’s. The problems that he and Carter faced from 1976 until 1980, he recalled, often seemed ‘overwhelming,’ with ‘no good answers’ in sight.”

Said Mondale: “The public’s expectations are so outsized. We’re going through this drama again. November might be a disaster.”

Deal Holds Small Lead in Georgia

A new Mason-Dixon poll in Georgia finds Nathan Deal (R) with a small lead over former Gov. Roy Barnes (D), 45% to 41%.

An Insider Advantage poll last week had the race tied

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