POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 11/11

Palin’s Alaska

Early reviews of Sarah Palin’s Alaska — which debuts this weekend — make clear no one really knows what Palin’s motives are for doing the reality show — besides making money, of course.

Time: “Does showing this image on reality TV humanize a controversial public figure while burnishing her tough-woman cred? Or does it weaken a politician who already faces doubts about her qualifications for high office? That depends in part on how much you believe the old yardsticks of authority — projecting gravitas, finishing terms in office — still matter.”

New York: “While it is hard to imagine, as Karl Rove observed, that appearing in a tell-all reality show would help Americans envision Palin in the Oval Office, it is not hard to see how the swelling patriotic elements of the show will add to Palin’s mythology. It’s just when it gets down to the details of her family life — such as when she vaguely pretends to help her daughter and niece make cupcakes in the family kitchen — that the show begins to hit some sour notes.”

New Yorker: “I can’t say what Palin is really up to with this show. She seems to want viewers to think that she’s conflicted about public life. She says that she’d ‘rather be doing this than in some stuffy old political office’ and ‘a poor day of fishin’ beats even a great day of work.’ In that spirit, I wish Palin many, many days — years — of fishin’, starting now.”

Santorum Claims Tea Party Mantle

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) told Politico that none of the Republican presidential hopefuls can truly be called tea party candidates — except for him and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R).

Said Santorum: “There isn’t a single candidate running for president who can claim to be a tea party candidate. That’s by definition. The people involved in the movement weren’t involved in politics, and were only activated by what they saw in Washington.”

He added: “I qualify. I was out, content to be out, but now I feel compelled to come back.”

Rahm Gets Clear Shot for Mayor

Greg Hinz: “Barring a huge surprise — hello, Alexi; a judge throwing Rahm off the ballot for residency reasons — former congressman and Obama White House Chief of Staff Mr. Emanuel is well, well on his way to a surprisingly easy move to City Hall. He might even win the 50% needed in the February first round to avoid an April run-off election.”

Nearly All Write-ins are for Murkowski

A Democratic observer of the counting of write-in ballots for Alaska’s U.S. Senate race tells the Anchorage Daily News that around 98% of them appear to be for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

Roughly 10% of those are being challenged by Joe Miller’s (R) campaign on spelling grounds but he’s being overruled on 90% of his challenges.

McConnell Exposed on Iraq

Some news from former President Bush’s new memoir: Before the 2006 midterm landslide that gave Democrats control of Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked President Bush in a private Oval Office meeting to pull some troops out of Iraq in order to boost the GOP’s fortunes.

But Salon reports, “in the same month — September 2006 — that McConnell made his private request, he publicly blasted Democrats for calling for a reduction of troops in Iraq, saying that their position endangered Americans.”

Boehner Will Fly Commercial as Speaker

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) pledged “that he will continue to fly commercial airlines to and from his home district in Ohio after he becomes the second person in line to assume the presidency next year,” the New York Times reports.

“The announcement was a not-so-subtle dig at the current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who took heat for flying military airplanes when she returned home to her San Francisco district.”

Reports of Ensign’s Political Death Exaggerated?

Despite the political obituary for Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) we highlighted earlier, a new Public Policy Polling survey finds he “actually has pretty solid approval numbers with Republican voters, suggesting that it would take a strong foe for him to be denied renomination.”

Key finding: “64% of GOP primary voters in Nevada approve of Ensign’s job performance to only 23% who disapprove. He’s particularly strong with conservative voters who give him a 71/16 approval spread. That means any challenge to him is much more likely to succeed on ethical grounds than ideological ones- voters on the right flank of his party are a lot more comfortable with him than centrists.”

Commission to Call for Deep Cuts in Spending, Tax Breaks

draft proposal from the co-chairs of President Obama’s bipartisan debt commission “calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending starting in 2012, and an overhaul of the tax code to raise revenue. Those changes and others would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020,” the New York Timesreports.

Big caveat: “Under Mr. Obama’s executive order last February creating the panel of 12 members of Congress and six private citizens, 14 of the 18 commissioners must agree in order to send any package to Congress for a vote in December.”

Wall Street Journal: “The sweeping plan is likely to provoke a political firestorm. It touches many of the third rails of politics, including defense spending, social security and middle-class tax breaks long seen as inviolate.”

Bush Would Have Backed Obama

The Financial Times reports an astonishing anecdote: In 2008, President Bush told British officials that he favored Barack Obama for president over John McCain.

“The venue was the Oval Office. A group of British dignitaries, including Gordon Brown, were paying a visit. It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor… Trying to be even-handed and polite, the Brits said something diplomatic about McCain’s campaign, expecting Bush to express some warm words of support for the Republican candidate… ‘I probably won’t even vote for the guy,’ Bush told the group, according to two people present. ‘I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me.'”

Another GOP Civil War Brewing

The Hotline: “There are early signs that the same intra-party feuds that limited huge pickups in the Senate in 2010 are re-emerging for 2012. Members who would be likely locks for re-election – Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R) and Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) — could well face serious primary challenges from Tea Party candidates. And Democratic members who look vulnerable – like Montana’s Jon Tester – could benefit from ideologically divided Republican fields.”

“If crowded fields do, in fact, form, they will present the possibility of a sequel where candidates favored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee — like those seen this year in Delaware, Kentucky, and Colorado – end up losing to less-electable candidates. In those states, establishment Republicans ran into problems as their endorsed candidates went down in primaries. Republicans believe they could have comfortably won the Colorado and Delaware Senate races if their favored candidates prevailed.”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“I think she likes being a celebrity commentator for Fox and a speaker and being able to provide for her family. I think that life appeals to her. It’s a lot easier to charge people up than to actually govern.”

— Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), in an interview with the Kennebec Journal, discussing why she doesn’t expect Sarah Palin to run for president.

Nearly 60 Million Uninsured

Reuters reports that 59 million Americans lacked health insurance for at least part of 2010, up 4 million from 2008.

“The findings have implications for U.S. healthcare reform efforts. A bill passed in March promises to get health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans who currently lack coverage.”

“But Republicans who just took control of the House of Representatives last week have vowed to derail the new law by cutting off the funds for it, and some want to repeal it. Experts from both sides predict gridlock in Congress for the next two years in implementing healthcare reform’s provisions.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Marco Rubio is a natural leader and is likely to be a leader of our party. In five years, no one will remember Jim DeMint, and Marco will be president.”

— Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), quoted by the Weekly Standard.

Who Controls What in Redistricting?

Swing State Project has an excellent chart showing exactly which party controls what in the redistricting process in all 50 states — along with a column showing what things looked like ten years ago.

LeMieux Considers Nelson Challenge

Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL), appointed to his job in mid-2009, told the AP “he is alarmed by soaring federal spending and that it might prompt him to run in his own right for the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012.”

Said LeMieux: “We’re going to talk and think about it and see what the future holds. If it is something I’m going to do in the short term, then I have to make a decision relatively near term.”

Democrats Trying to Get Snowe to Switch?

National Journal: “We hear that Dems are making new overtures to Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine to switch teams. They’ve tried before, but Snowe’s 2012 primary prospects make taking another run at her now seem worth it.”

The GOP’s Ensign Problem

Though Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) may not know it, Jon Ralston argures he is “a walking political corpse, soon to be indicted or willingly or forcibly retired.”

“I have to believe Ensign will soon become a target of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Why? Because the GOP sees a path to taking the Senate in 2012 — two-thirds of the contested seats are held by Democrats — and they don’t want to have to worry about defending their own. Ensign has a disapproval rating approaching Harry Reid-like elevation and he will have neither the benefit of a Reid-like turnout machine or campaign team. Those who know him or have been with him before want nothing to do with him now. Even in Nevada, where the dead are resurrected and no depredation seems unforgivable, Ensign has no path to victory.”

“And, yet, Ensign has seemed nothing short of delusional in recent months, telling folks he is getting ready to ramp up his re-election bid even as his personal campaign account and his leadership PAC are depleted.”

Recount Battle Begins in Minnesota

The Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that beneath a “statesmanlike veneer” surrounding Minnesota’s lingering race for governor, “a swelling cadre of attorneys and operatives are hunkering down in sweaty war rooms, building the political infrastructure for what could be a nasty recount fight in which Dayton clings to a lead of less than one-half of 1 percent.”

“Much of the plotting underway revolves around money — a lot of it. To fuel a recount battle that could extend into a protracted court fight would take truckloads.”

Though Tom Emmer (R) trails Mark Dayton (D) by approximately 9,000 votes, some Republicans hope to prolong the recount fight long enough to keep Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) in office an extra few weeks with a newly GOP-led Legislature.

Another Wave Coming?

Nate Silver: “Democrats — if they are expecting to do better in 2012 than they did this time around — might actually be pleased that elections have become so strongly aligned to partisan orientation. They now have just 12 seats in which Mr. Obama won a minority of the vote to defend — whereas Republicans have 55 where he took the the majority instead. So if there is even a fairly modest shift back to Democrats in 2012, and the shift is again fairly uniform, they could be in a position to achieve quite a few gains.”

Bush’s Contradictory Presidency

Los Angeles Times review calls former President George W. Bush’s memoir,Decision Points, “unexpectedly engrossing” and notes the man and the president “portrayed in these pages is, at the same time, passive and strong; intelligent but not curious; a public person apparently at his best in private; willing to admit shortcomings, but not particularly self-critical; unfailingly civil himself, but happily surrounded by bare-knuckle partisans. There is a kind of pragmatic courage that makes a leader fearless of contradictions. Bush, for his part, seems oblivious to them.”

Quote of the Day

“I would be in it to win it. I wouldn’t do it just to shake things up.”

— Sarah Palin (R), quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, on running for president in 2012.

Miller Sues Over Write-in Spelling

Alaska U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller (R) filed a federal lawsuit arguing that votes that misspell Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R) name shouldn’t count as the state today tallies write-in ballots in the U.S. Senate race, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Despite the lawsuit, the state is preparing this morning to start checking and counting the more than 92,000 write-in ballots cast in last week’s election.

The state counted about 27,000 absentee and early votes yesterday with Miller gaining on the write-in total by about 2,100 votes. At the end of the day, Miller remained 11,333 behind the write-in total.

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