POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 11/16

Murkowski Passes Miller in Alaska Vote

For the first time, the latest numbers from Alaska show Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) leading Tea Party-backed Republican challenger Joe Miller (R) in the U.S. Senate race, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Until now, there were more write-in votes than votes for Miller. But for the first time, the votes actually counted for Murkowski top Miller’s numbers.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“I don’t think that she enjoyed governing.”

— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), in a CBS News interview, explaining why she won’t support a Sarah Palin presidential bid.

Murkowski apparently isn’t alone among Alaskans. A new Public Policy Polling survey shows Palin in fourth place — behind Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney — in a potential Alaska presidential primary.

Ethics Panel Says Facts Not Disputed

In an ominous sign for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the House ethics committee “said the facts presented by a prosecutor accusing Mr. Rangel of violating Congressional rules were not in dispute and that the congressman himself had not refuted the charges,” the New York Times reports.

“The committee’s finding came after an unusual public hearing that was abbreviated by the longtime congressman’s dramatic exit from the proceedings. Mr. Rangel, who appeared at the inquiry alone, stunned the packed hearing room by walking out after complaining that he had no lawyer because he could not afford the millions of dollars in legal fees he had racked up during the two-year investigation.”

New York Post: “If the judges decide Rangel violated any House rules, the full ethics committee would hold a hearing on how Rangel would be punished. The most likely sanction would be a House vote deploring his conduct.”

You Fix the Budget

The New York Times released an interactive tool to let you choose from a menu of major options to try to balance the federal budget.

Felix Salmon did it but complains the options “on both the spending-cut and the tax-hike side tend to hit the poor and the middle classes more drastically than the rich; what’s missing here is the option to implement something much more progressive, in both senses of the word. It’s a missed opportunity, and a shame.”

Ezra Klein says it’s still “worth playing around with, though the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget’s calculator is more comprehensive, and the calculatorfrom the Center for Economic and Policy Research works harder to include policies that are too often left out of the mainstream debate. But they’re all good, clean fun, and they all make the same basic point: It’s the health-care system, stupid.”

 

The Making of a Candidate

The Wisconsin Interest has released the first of five pieces taking a deep look at Sen.-elect Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) winning campaign to unseat Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). The first installment looks at the campaign’s early days, from “murder sessions” to funding the campaign.

A sampling: “Despite Johnson’s willingness to learn, these behind-the-scenes question and answer sessions often got testy… For instance, staff told him three separate times not to say he’s a better candidate than Dave Westlake because he has more money. Then, at a candidate forum in Brookfield, Johnson answered a question about why he’d be a better candidate by essentially saying he had more money.”

President Obama’s New Book

Out tomorrow: Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama.

Congress vs. the Red Carpet

leaked USA Today editorial staffing breakdown shows the newspaper has 27 reporters dedicated to covering entertainment and just five for covering Congress and politics.

Ratings Gold for Palin’s New Show

The premier of Sarah Palin’s Alaska attracted 5 million viewers last night, according to just-released Nielsen numbers.

The Hollywood Reporter notes the first episode of the eight-part series was the most-watched program launch in TLC’s history.

Palin Invented a Word

The New Oxford American Dictionary has picked “refudiate” as its word of the year.

“An unquestionable buzzword in 2010, the word refudiate instantly evokes the name of Sarah Palin, who tweeted her way into a flurry of media activity when she used the word in certain statements posted on Twitter. Critics pounced on Palin, lampooning what they saw as nonsensical vocabulary and speculating on whether she meant ‘refute’ or ‘repudiate.'”

“From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used ‘refudiate,’ we have concluded that neither ‘refute’ nor ‘repudiate’ seems consistently precise, and that ‘refudiate’ more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of ‘reject.'”

Crist Had Promised to Caucus with Republicans

Not that it matters now, but former Sen. Bob Dole (R) told the Topeka Capital-Journal that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) promised him that he would vote for Republican control of the U.S. Senate if he had won the three-way race in Florida.

Cuomo Taps Giuliani for Transition

New York Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo (D) named Rudy Giuliani (R) to lead his transition committee on public safety, the New York Daily News reports.

“By bringing Giuliani into the fold, Cuomo may be neutralizing the ex-mayor’s potential to be a vocal critic of the incoming Democratic gov on all things security related. After all, if Giuliani helps pick Cuomo’s public safety cabinet, how can he trash them later?”

Important to note: Giuliani crossed party lines to endorse Mario Cuomo (D) in his unsuccessful race against George Pataki (R) in 1994.

White Not Interested in Senate Bid

Bill White (D), who failed to unseat Texas Gov. Rick Perry (D) earlier this month, tells the Houston Chronicle that “he will not run for U.S. Senate in 2012 and is trying to figure out what to do next.”

White also said he “has no plans to try again for governor or for a Senate seat in 2014, when Republican John Cornyn faces re-election.”

Takeover With No Mandate

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll finds that 52% of Americans approve of the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, but just 17% say the election results were a mandate for the GOP.

Said pollster Keating Holland: “That’s the classic pattern in elections like these. In 1994, the last time the Republicans bumped the Democrats from power on Capitol Hill, only 18 percent thought that those midterms elections were a mandate for the GOP. In 2006, when the Democrats took control, only 27 percent thought that was a mandate for the Dems. Most Americans seem to believe that these elections were ‘throw-the-bums-out’ events.”

Greg Sargent: “I guess Dems can look at these numbers and take solace in the fact that the elections show no mandate whatsoever for GOP ideas and rule. On the other hand, Republicans can read these numbers and conclude that they show avery strong mandate for continued obstruction of Obama’s agenda.”

What Sparked the Tea Party?

President Obama’s policies get blamed (or credited) with triggering the Tea Party movement. But the National Journal notes it was really George W. Bush’s.

“Much of the GOP’s continuing shift away from fiscal responsibility — and the simmering anger of conservatives — was papered over by the war on terrorism. Just as many conservatives forgave Reagan his spending excesses because of his magnificent stand against the Soviets, Bush was given a pass after 9/11, even though he enlarged the role of government to new dimensions. The conservative disaffection with Bush culminated, of course, in the final months of his term, as the financial system crashed and Treasury Secretary Paulson orchestrated his $700 billion bank bailout… That intervention marked his final and irrevocable break from the conservative movement. In that moment, he also lit the fuse of conservative populist outrage that exploded so powerfully in last week’s election, handing off the time bomb to Obama.”

A More Polarized Congress

Though President Obama took the blame for excessive partisanship over the last two years, the numbers suggest the midterm elections will cause even further political polarization.

Adam Bonica: “The hollowing out of the political center explained the momentous rise in polarization during the Southern realignment. Now that only a handful of moderates remain in the House, polarization can no longer be portrayed as a story of vanishing moderates. It appears the rise of the extremists has stepped up as the driving force behind congressional polarization.”

Plouffe to Replace Axelrod in White House

President Obama’s top adviser, David Axelrod, will likely be replaced by campaign strategist David Plouffe when he leaves the White House early next year.

Axelrod tells National Journal that “he still plans on leaving Washington in the spring to head back to Chicago to work on the president’s reelection campaign, and he expects Plouffe — who was a key member of Obama’s presidential campaign — to step in to the White House soon.”

Big Win for the Obama Administration

First Read: “The biggest political story that few are talking about right now? GM’s initial public stock offering, which is set for this Thursday. Looks like it’s going to be a big success and a case where the government may just make money on this deal. This has the potential of being a very good story for the Obama White House, as well as a success of government intervention. How does Team Obama try to sell it? This could be the White House’s next (or last?) best chance to sell their intervention. Where would the unemployment rate be in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio if GM not gotten major government assistance?”

Rangel Ethics Trial Begins Today

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) “faces his accusers today when the House ethics committee holds a trial to determine if the New York Democrat violated 13 ethics charges,” USA Today reports. “His trial overshadows the start of a lame-duck session, in which lawmakers will tackle a host of spending issues and hold orientation sessions for newly elected members of Congress.”

The Hill notes Rangel “plans to defend himself before a jury of his Congressional peers Monday without the assistance of an attorney in a fight for his personal reputation and possibly his career.”

Trivia: The last ethics trial in the House was in 2002 for Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) who was later expelled from Congress.

Obama Blames Himself for Partisan Tone

President Obama said his own “obsessive” focus on implementing the right policies “had led him to ignore a part of the reason voters handed him a mandate in 2008,” the New York Times reports.

Said Obama: “I neglected some things that matter a lot to people, and rightly so: maintaining a bipartisan tone in Washington. I’m going to redouble my efforts to go back to some of those first principles.”

Hispanics Flee Arizona

A new BBVA Bancomer Research study “suggests there may be 100,000 fewer Hispanics in Arizona than there were before the debate over the state’s tough new immigration law earlier this year.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“If I do anything in 2012, it will only be to don my black ninja pajamas and grab some grenades in an effort to blow up the system that has created the hyper partisanship that permeates politics today. If it has an element of disruption, I might be interested. Otherwise, I’ll probably pass as I doubt any traditional approaches are going to result in anything other than the status quo.”

— Democrat-turned-Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, quoted by The Hotline, on likely sitting out the 2012 presidential race.

What Will Lieberman Do?

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “faces no easy road to victory in 2012,” Roll Call reports.

“Connecticut political players on both sides of the aisle — including a key Lieberman ally — said the Independent who caucuses with Democrats cannot win another three-way race, as in 2006 after he lost the Nutmeg State’s Democratic primary. There is also consensus that Lieberman would struggle to win a contested primary for either party’s nomination should he ultimately decide to abandon his Independent label.”

Steve Kornacki: “Either Lieberman knows all of this now or he’ll figure it out by the time ’12 rolls around. It may not matter to him either; he may like the idea of ending his career as a self-styled martyr. But the most plausible scenario for Joe Lieberman in 2012, the more you look at things, may just be that he walks away. For good.”

Two New Senators

Sens.-elect Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Chris Coons (D-DE) will be sworn in today at 4:00 pm ET. Both Coons and Manchin were elected to replace appointed senators and so will take office before the start of the 112th Congress.

Meanwhile, Sen.-elect Mark Kirk (R-IL), who won the special election in Illinois, will be sworn in later in November, according to Illinois state law.

Democrats Avert Leadership Fight

Politico reports that Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), currently serving as majority whip, will be given the newly created position of “minority assistant leader” to avert a leadership fight as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) moves down to minority leader and forces the rest of the Democratic leadership team, including current majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), down one notch.

Meanwhile, First Read laments “the arrangement to avoid an intraparty leadership fight,” which is good for the party, but “definitely bad for connoisseurs of political drama. For political junkies, few things match a congressional leadership contest: Politicians politicking politicians, an entertaining mix of the simplicity of a high school class election and all the scheming and intrigue of dinner at the Borgias.”

What if Congress Doesn’t Raise the Debt Limit?

With Republican control of the House and a larger number of “tea party” members in the Senate, many are wondering and worrying about what it means if Congress fails to raise the debt limit next year. Josh Barro doesn’t think it would mean very much at all, noting that “the Administration could muddle through for months (or possibly even years) by using accounting gimmicks and clever cash management strategies to stay within the current debt limit.”

“Partly, it would do this by mimicking the strategies of state governments that find themselves entering a new fiscal year without a balanced budget and without authorization to borrow for deficit spending. While it would be unusual for the federal government to face a stack of bills due with no authorization to borrow to pay them, states face this situation on a fairly regular basis and handle it in ways that might give us heartburn but do not cause the world to come crashing down.”

 

 

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