POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 1/27

Sir Charles Will Not Run for Governor

Former NBA star Charles Barkley — who famously announced his intention to run for Governor of Alabama in 2014 — tells TMZ he’s officially abandoned his plans to run because politics are a “bad business right now.”

Palin Coverage on the Rise

The Hollywood Reporter notes that coverage of Sarah Palin has been increasing every year since she was named as Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008.

“At Fox and MSNBC, every major program at those networks has been ratcheting up the Palin coverage, according to LexisNexis. In 2008, Olbermann mentioned her in 67 news segments, a year later it was 146 and a year after that 179. In 2009, Hardball ran 141 stories mentioning Palin and a year later it ran 184. Over at Fox, Hannity ran 94 stories mentioning Palin in 2009 and 145 the following year. The O’Reilly Factor ran 82 Palin stories in 2009 and 108 in 2010.”

Meanwhile, Dana Millbank, who admitted to writing 42 columns about her, has declared February to be a Palin-free month.

Mark and Maria

An Argentinian website published a photo of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and his girlfriend, Maria Belen Chapur.

FITS News notes it’s “the first known photo of the two of them together” though it’s not clear when it was taken.

Thune Moves Closer to Running

In an interview with ABC News, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) sounds like he’s increasingly likely to run for president.

Said Thune: “I think that these are interesting times. You always want to look at where you can best serve your country and make a difference and, obviously, there’s a big opportunity on the national field. There are a lot of good candidates out there. I don’t know, at this point, whether I’ll be one of those, but I want to be in a place where I can make a difference.”

Fewer Choices May Help Obama

Nate Silver sees lessons for President Obama in the book, The Paradox of Choice.

“The thesis of the book is that when we have too many choices before us — perhaps you’ve been to one of those burger joints where you have to select among about 13 different types of cheese and 4 different types of ketchup just to order lunch — we spend too much time worrying about whether we are making the right decisions, which may lead to both reduced happiness and worse decision-making.”

With Republicans controlling the House — and therefore dramatically reduced expectations for Obama’s legislative agenda — he notes the president have far few choices to make than he did the first two years.

“Precisely because there aren’t likely to be as many pressing political decisions before Mr. Obama in the next two years as there were in the last two, he will have more time to attune his message to independent voters and to concentrate on his re-election efforts, all the while branding them as bipartisan comity.”

Kucinich Sues House Cafeteria

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has sued a House of Representatives cafeteria for $150,000 in damages for selling him a sandwich wrap that caused dental damage when he bit into a pitted olive, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Why an Unexceptional Speech Got an Exceptional Response

The early returns are in, and it’s a landslide.

Snap polls (surveys with a small sample size taken immediately after a speech or event) almost always show a positive reaction to the State of the Union address. The reason is simple: if the President of the United States can’t make a persuasive argument — on the grandest platform in the world, with an hour of uninterrupted time — he’s doing something very wrong.

So it was no surprise that the post-State of the Union snap polls released last night and this morning showed a win for President Obama. What was surprising — more like jaw-dropping — was the lopsided degree of the President’s win.

See more…

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I had other obligations.”

— House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), quoted by TPM, when asked if he watched Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) response to the State of the Union.

Has Fox News Delayed the Presidential Race?

David Frum: “Once a candidate declares, they will be obliged to resign their jobs as media commenters. Media Matters calculates the value of airtime devoted to Fox commenters Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich, and also John Bolton and Rick Santorum at $55 million. That does not include the value of whatever fees are paid those commenters. A lot has been said about the role of Fox in 2012. One effect could be unexpectedly perverse: a late start.”

Santorum Says Slow Start is Helpful

Rick Santorum told the Des Moines Register that the slow start to the 2012 presidential campaign is helpful to him.

Said Santorum: “The fact that we have not seen a rush to the starting gate in this election cycle has given me an opportunity to really get a little better sense of how the water is.”

Meanwhile, Christian Heinze notes how candid candidates have been about their reluctance to publicly jump in the race. “Instead of relying solely on ambivalence as the motivating favor behind their public hesitation, leading presidential prospects are also admitting some of the strategy involved, and that’s a reflection of a historical phenomenon that can’t be appreciated until you look at what the prospects have said.”

Revenge of the Nerds

Todd Purdum: “Of course, most of Obama’s putatively serious proposals were purest claptrap. But, as a statement of national aspiration, Obama’s speech was serious and purposeful and even bracing. He managed to strike a blow for nerds everywhere by insisting that the nation should applaud not only the Super Bowl players but the science-fair winners — and he was rewarded with a standing ovation. If he accomplishes nothing else in his life in politics, Obama might just yet make it not only acceptable, but actually cool, to be smart.”

Deficit Widens to $1.5 Trillion

A new CBO report estimates the federal government’s budget deficit is expected to grow about 14% to $1.48 trillion by the end of the current fiscal year, “an increase largely resulting from the extension of lower tax rates,” the Wall Street Journalreports.

Also: The unemployment rate is projected to be 8.2% in September 2012.

Obama Had an Eye on the Battleground States

Smart Politics notes that “every personal, episodic story” told by President Obama about regular Americans in his State of the Union address was rooted in a battleground state he carried in the 2008 election: Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Why 2012 Will Be More Like 2008

Alexander Burns has some of the highlights from Larry Sabato’s Pendulum Swing.

Reassuring news for Democrats: “Young people went down from 18% of the electorate in 2008 to just 12% in 2010. Blacks from 13% to 9%. Hispanics: 11% to 8%. 2012 will not look like 2010. … Analysts keep talking about the shift among Independents. It was less a shift than a different group of Independents showing up. Compared to 2008, this group of Independents was much older and whiter. … 2010 was as Republican an electorate as ever shows up, in midterms or in presidential elections.”

Reassuring news for Republicans: “With over 6,115 state legislative seats on the ballot, over 720 went to the GOP, counting post-election party switches. Compare this to 1994, another great GOP year when they picked up only 472, or Democrats’ great Watergate year of 1974, when they netted 628.”

Gutting Campaign Finance Law

Rick Hasen: “For the past several years the three Republican FEC commissioners have blocked enforcement of much of what remains of federal campaign finance law. As we enter the 2012 election season, the FEC is as good as dead, and the already troubling campaign finance world of secret unlimited donations is bound to get worse.”

New Congressman Already in Trouble

Less than a month after taking office, Florida politicians from both parties are eyeing the seat of Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), who is already facing investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Election Commission for personal and campaign related issues, according to Politico.

“A Florida Democratic Party official didn’t share names of the possible recruits, but said Democrats were bracing for the possibility that Rivera might not serve out his first term in the House of Representatives… Republican ‘insiders already are drawing contingency plans for a replacement should the freshman lawmaker resign or be forced to step aside.'”

Obama Forces Republicans Into a Corner

President Obama “put Republicans in something of a box last night,” The Noteobserves.

“He oozed optimism, telling Americans in the last moments of his speech that, ‘From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.”

“On the other hand, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who gave the Republican response and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who delivered what was billed as the Tea Party rebuttal, both focused on the negative — crushing deficit, the debt crisis, the ballooning size of government.”

First Read notes Ryan’s speech “was gloomy, especially compared with Obama’s positive and forward-looking address… This will ultimately be a challenge for the Republicans competing against Obama in 2012. How do you both criticize his policies and chart a new course, but also remain optimistic? Ryan has a fairly sunny nature, and he had a hard time looking optimistic. This is NOT going to be easy for the actual presidential field.”

Omaha Mayor Survives Recall Attempt

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle (D) “says he has gotten the message. Suttle narrowly survived a recall effort Tuesday, less than 20 months after taking office. Victorious but chastened, he said he plans to do a better job communicating with Omahans,” the Omaha World Herald reports.

Obama’s Speech by the Numbers

Mark Thompson: “State of the Union speeches have been running between 5,000 and 7,000 words lately. The Swampland bean counter tallied the number of words the past decade’s addresses contained dealing with war, terrorism and other national-security matters. No surprise — Bush spent an average of 2,500 words on such topics, four times the 650 Obama has averaged (including 828 tonight, a record for him). Of course, in Bush’s first speech before Congress in February 2001, he spoke a spare 261 words on the subject.”

“A Smart Politics content analysis finds that 65.9 percent of Obama’s remarks Tuesday night focused on domestic policy (257 sentences) – virtually identical to 2010 (65.3 percent). Foreign policy statements constituted just 15.6 percent of Obama’s speech (61 sentences), compared to 13.9 percent in 2010. Another 18.5 percent centered on non-policy remarks, largely focused on statements celebrating the ‘American dream.'”

Will Obama Get a Bump in the Polls?

Mark Blumenthal: “Polling bumps from State of the Union addresses are largely the stuff of myth. That’s the message of before-and-after polls conducted over the last three decades. What might add a twist to this year’s address, however, is an unusual context — a new Republican House Speaker seated behind President Barack Obama and a recent bump in Obama’s job approval ratings — that could make for some unexpected impact.”

Quote of the Day

“Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.”

— Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), quoted by The Hill, giving his response to President Obama’s speech.

Reactions to the State of the Union Address

Mark Halperin: “The president’s speech made a down payment on the two biggest political challenges he faces in 2011 and 2012, including his own re-election. First, he delivered one of the strongest efforts yet at explaining his rhetorical theory of the case for how his policies will create jobs in America. And, second, he laid even more of a trap for Republicans, whose challenge to cut spending without damaging valuable programs or raising taxes grows more difficult by the day (and the president knows it).”

Jonathan Chait: “The substance of Obama’s speech was moderate liberalism — we like business, but government has a role too, neither too much nor too little, etc. It’s hard to attach that kind of case-by-case pragmatism to an overarching theme. But I do think Obama pulled it off pretty well. He took a fairly hackneyed idea — the future — and managed to weave it into issue after issue, from infrastructure to energy to deficits to education and even foreign policy.”

See more…

GOP Suffers from Split Message

The Fix: “Even before President Obama took the podium, it was a good night for his party. Why? Because the coverage on all the cable channels leading up to the speech focused on the fact that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) AND Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) were both slated to give responses to the President’s speech. The dueling speeches highlighted the ongoing divide between the establishment GOP and the tea party movement at a time when lots and lots of casual political watchers were tuned in. Republicans need to find a way to heal this rift or at least litigate it in a less public manner heading into 2012.”

High Marks for Obama’s Speech

CBS News poll found 91% of those who watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech approved of the proposals he put forth during his remarks. Only nine percent disapproved.

CNN/Opinion Research survey indicated that 52% of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with 32% saying they had a somewhat positive response and 15% with a negative response.

Does Obama’s Budget Math Add Up?

The AP has done a fact-check on key points that President Obama made during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“Obama spoke ambitiously of putting money into roads, research, education, efficient cars, high-speed rail and other initiatives in his State of the Union speech. He pointed to the transportation and construction projects of the last two years and proposed ‘we redouble these efforts.’ He coupled this with a call to ‘freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.’

“But Obama offered far more examples of where he would spend than where he would cut, and some of the areas he identified for savings are not certain to yield much if anything.”

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