POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/9

Missouri Senate Race a Toss Up

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Missouri finds voters closely divided on Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) job performance and while she posts modest leads over each of her possible Republican opponents, she’s consistently in the mid-40s.

Key takeaway: “McCaskill’s leads, even as small as they are, shouldn’t be particularly reassuring for her. There are at least twice as many undecided Republicans as Democrats in each match up, suggesting that once the GOP candidates become better known they will probably catch up to her pretty quickly.”

Saddam’s Movie Club

Donald Rumsfeld: “In December 1983, I traveled to Baghdad as President Reagan’s Middle East Envoy and met with Saddam Hussein. At the conclusion of our meeting he presented me with a gift. Such gifts can be unusual, but even so I was shocked by this one. Saddam had given me a three-minute videotape documenting alleged Syrian ‘atrocities.’ The blurred, choppy footage shows young Syrians biting the heads off of snakes and stabbing puppies, to the apparent applause of then-Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad. Saddam’s message was clear: The Syrian regime was barbaric. Though his evidence was hardly convincing, his conclusion was a tough one to dispute.”

Spitzer Dodges Question About Mayoral Race

We said it could be the best political race ever and Eliot Spitzer now gives what he calls a “not Shermanesque” response when asked on CNN about possibly running for mayor of New York City.

This Time is Different?

In the mail: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

“Throughout history, rich and poor countries alike have been lending, borrowing, crashing — and recovering — their way through an extraordinary range of financial crises. Each time, the experts have chimed, ‘this time is different’ — claiming that the old rules of valuation no longer apply and that the new situation bears little similarity to past disasters. This book proves that premise wrong.”

 

An Inexperienced Senate

Aaron Blake: “Already, there are 16 brand new senators and more than two-fifths of the Senate has served less than one term. Given the retirements we’ve seen so far, as much as half of the next Senate could be members in their first term or having just won their second term. And for a Senate so staid in tradition, it could be an interesting time. Younger members generally have less patience than their more seasoned colleagues and have already been pushing for the slow-acting chamber to pick up the pace. And the new setup will put many of these new members in heretofore unthinkable positions of power.”

Haley Writing a Memoir

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is writing a book, the AP reports. But she denies she’s doing it to raise her profile for higher office.

Said Haley: “Whenever somebody wants to tell their story, it’s not always because they’re seeking to move up to a further position. It’s because they truly have a story to tell.”

Poll is Warning for Wu

A new SurveyUSA poll in Oregon’s 1st congressional district finds voters are split over whether Rep. David Wu (D-OR) should resign over his recent odd behavior that led staffers to quit his office, 46% to 42%.

However, when pitted against the challenger he defeated last year, Rob Cornilles (R), Wu loses by eight points, 41% to 33%.

Maine Republicans Still Want to Dump Snowe

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Maine finds just 33% of Republican primary voters say they would support Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) for re-election next year while 58% prefer a generic “more conservative candidate.”

Key findings: 58% of primary voters think she’s too liberal to 37% who think she’s ideologically where she should be.

Q&A with Adam Smith on Florida Politics

A few questions for St. Petersburg Times political editor Adam Smith:

What do you think about Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) re-election chances heading in 2012?  Who has the edge to be his GOP challenger?

Bill Nelson, the last remaining statewide Democratic political figure in Florida, clearly is vulnerable in 2012 though not nearly as much as many Republicans think. We’re likely to see Barack Obama launch another massive Florida campaign, and it’s hard to see Obama getting less than, say, 47 or 48 percent in Florida. Nelson has always performed stronger than most Democrats in conservative north Florida, so it shouldn’t be extraordinarily hard for Nelson to get above 50 percent.

Mike Haridopolos, president of the Florida Senate, is the early frontrunner but I don’t know how long that lasts. He will report raising a lot of money, but he is already getting terrible press over everything a sweetheart taxpayer-funded book deal to voting to raise taxes and fees. I’m not convinced U.S. Rep. Connie Mack ultimately runs, and former Sen. George LeMieux is tainted by his association with Charlie Crist. Former state House majority leader Adam Hasner could be the one to watch.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has kept a low profile since arriving in the Senate. Do you think he’s got his sights on higher office, possibly as a vice presidential candidate, or does he stick it out and become a master of the Senate?

I have no idea, but I imagine if Obama looks beatable by Aug. 2012 Rubio would have a hard time saying no. He said a number of times on the campaign trail that — unlike Charlie Crist — he was not looking to spend his life as a career politician.

See more…

Turning Point for Same-Sex Marriage?

The latest General Social Survey from the University of Chicago finds for the first time that more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it, 46% to 40%.

In 1988, a whopping 73% opposed same-sex marriage.

Fewer Schools Want Obama to Speak

CBS News obtained a White House memo that says it has received just 68 applications from schools interested in having President Obama speaking at their high school graduation — as compared to over 1,000 last year. The deadline for applications is next week.

Notes the memo: “Something isn’t working.”

The memo went on to urge staffers to ask “friendly congressional, gubernatorial and mayoral offices” to encourage schools to apply.

Kirk to Commerce?

The Dallas Morning News reports on speculation that President Obama could pick U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to be the next secretary of Commerce, assuming Gary Locke moves on as the next ambassador to China.

Mike Allen: “Officials say a top candidate to replace Locke is Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative. Under that scenario, look for Mike Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, to replace Kirk as USTR. A twist: The Commerce Department is expected to be the hardest-hit department in the first wave of the government reorganization President Obama announced in his State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile, Kara Swisher suggests a good candidate would be Google CEO-and Obama favorite-Eric Schmidt.

New Jersey’s Forgotten Senator

A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll in New Jersey finds Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) with a 34% to 28% favorable rating — but with 38% having no opinion.

This comes despite — or perhaps because of — Menendez putting out more press releases than any other senator last year, according to Congress.org.

Bachmann Will Wait Until Summer

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells CNN she’ll decide in “early summer” about running for president.

Said Bachmann: “I think a natural time frame and I think, probably, by about early summer a decision should be made. I think that’s kind of a natural time-frame, and so I think a decision will be made by then.”

Pawlenty’s Path to the Nomination

Jonathan Chait takes a look at the likely Republican presidential primary field and concludes Tim Pawlenty may have the clearest path to the nomination, if only “through process of elimination.”

Ruling out the rest: “I’ve argued many times that Mitt Romney is fatally wounded… Huntsman, too, will be disqualified as an ideological traitor for his service in the Obama administration, a weakness compounded by his lack of name recognition… Barbour is the kind of person the party elites would love to have as president but would hate to have as presidential candidate. He’s a walking GOP stereotype who has never had to run outside of a wildly Republican state… As a short, bald former pharmaceutical executive and Bush administration official, Daniels is not a whole lot more electable than Barbour. Plus, he sounds unlikely to run, anyway.”

“That leaves Pawlenty. He has demonstrated political talent, having worked his way up the party hierarchy and winning the governorship in blue-ish Minnesota twice. His record contains only one major ideological deviation — support for cap-and-trade, at a time when cap-and-trade seemed to be emerging as a consensus GOP position, which he has thoroughly recanted.”

Angle Adviser Teases Another Bid

A consultant to failed Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) emailed Ben Smith suggesting his client might try again now that Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has said he won’t run for re-election.

Wrote John Yob: “Almost 250,000 Republicans have already donated to Sharron Angle, probably more than any Republican in the country. She will be a tremendously strong candidate for whichever office she chooses to run for. A combination of a strong tea-party based grassroots operation and unprecedented campaign funding is a powerful combination in a Republican Primary.”

Roemer Explains His Divorce(s)

Byron York notes how former Lousiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R), who has been married three times, addressed the subject of his divorces before a religious audience last night.

Said Roemer: “I’m honored to be with you in Iowa in faith and freedom. I’ve always been a churchgoing Methodist boy, from a cotton field in north Louisiana. After a long period as a divorced man, 12 years, I remarried some 10 years ago. I married the piano player in a church next door to my own. Scarlett. Thank you, Jesus.”

He added: “So I now go to First Methodist Church nearly every Sunday. Sit in the balcony and then as the final hymn is sung, I sneak out and go to the chapel on the campus at LSU and sit with my wife and occasionally the piano. Faith and freedom, I’m honored to be invited.”

Palin Chooses Speech Over Debate

Sarah Palin has booked a speaking appearance in Denver on May 2 — the same day as the first Republican presidential debate in California, the Denver Post reports.

Quote of the Day

“If they care at all about their children or grandchildren, and sometimes I doubt that — I think, you know, grandchildren now don’t write a thank-you for the Christmas presents, they’re walking on their pants with the cap on backwards listening to the enema man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg, and they don’t like them!”

— Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), in an interview on Fox News, scolding the elderly for complaining about possible Social Security cuts.

Wilson Must Win Over New Mexico Independents

With former Rep. Heather Wilson’s (R-NM) decision to enter the race for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), a look at a recent poll finds a difficult road ahead for the early Republican frontrunner.

Public Policy Polling: Last month we found her favorability with primary voters to be 71/18, and actually even better with conservatives at 74/14 than with moderates at 64/25… Wilson’s real problem is with independents. New Mexico is a Democratic state. For a Republican to win statewide requires winning independents, and generally winning them by a lot. But they don’t like Wilson. Her favorability with them is a 39/43 spread. In a hypothetical contest with her successor Martin Heinrich she trails with independents by a 22 margin at 50/28.”

How Ensign’s Retirement Helps Republicans

Nate Silver says Republicans may have been the beneficiaries when the Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) announced that he wouldn’t seek another term.

If Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) “is the Republican nominee, he is likely to be a strong general election candidate. He is well-known to Nevadans, having been their Secretary of State for 12 years before entering Congress. He avoided voting for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. And a recent Public Policy Polling survey suggests that about twice as many Nevadans have a favorable impression of Mr. Heller as an unfavorable one.”

“The increasing Democratic tilt of Nevada, of course, is also why Mr. Heller is no shoo-in. The state has increased the share of the vote it gave to the Democratic presidential candidate in each of the past seven elections, and by 2008 had become slightly more Democratic-leaning than the country as a whole… The prospective Democratic candidates, like U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley and Secretary of State Ross Miller, are not necessarily weak. But Mr. Heller is a strong candidate who became a little stronger today, and that is enough to make him a slight favorite.”

Hastings Charged with Sexual Harassment

The Palm Beach Post reports that a former aide to Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) has filed charges alleging that the congressman subjected her to “unwelcome sexual advances” over a two year period while he chaired the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also know as the Helsinki Commission.

The lawsuit was filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch on behalf of the plaintiff Winsome Packer. Hastings denies the charges.

Barbour Staffs Up

Former RNC communications director Jim Dyke has signed on with Mississippi Gov.Haley Barbour’s (R) political action committee, “a major signing in the below-the-radar fight for staff talent in advance of the 2012 GOP presidential primary fight,” the Washington Post reports.

“Dyke’s hiring is the clearest signal yet that Barbour will run for president in 2012. He has said he plans no formal decision until the Mississippi legislature adjourns in April.”

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