POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 5/26

Edwards Defiant

statement from former White House Counsel Greg Craig, the lawyer for John Edwards currently negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors, sounds like his client is going to fight a likely indictment:

“John Edwards has done wrong in his life – and he knows it better than anyone — but he did not break the law. The government’s theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested. There is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution. The government originally investigated allegations that Senator Edwards’ campaign’s funds were misused but continued its pursuit even after finding that not one penny from the Edwards campaign was involved. The Justice Department has wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours on a matter more appropriately a topic for the Federal Election Commission to consider, not a criminal court.”

Obama Approval Surges to 16 Month High

A new Gallup survey finds President Obama’s job approval rating is 53% — the highest it’s been since February 2010.

Just a month ago, Obama’s job approval hit 41%, tied for the lowest of his administration.

Kasich Joins Scott as Most Unpopular Governor

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is now tied with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) as the least popular governor in the country. Just 33% of voters in the state now approve of Kasich to 56% who disapprove.

Why it’s important: “Kasich and his first term Republican brethren across the Midwest may be the best thing that’s ever happened to Barack Obama’s reelection chances. Obama’s numbers are middling in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa to name a few. But in all of those places he’s at least more popular than Kasich, Tom Corbett, Rick Snyder, and Terry Branstad. You have a situation where people voted Republican last year and are quite unhappy with the results and that might keep them from voting Republican again next year whether they’re enthralled with Obama or not.”

Angle Won’t Run in NV-2 Special Election

Sharron Angle has taken herself out of the running for Nevada’s 2nd district special election, for which candidate filing began Wednesday, Roll Call reports.

Said Angle: “I do not have any desire to participate in a process described by others as a ‘ballot royale‘ or a situation where the party central committees choose their nominees because it makes a mockery of the most important constitutional element in exercising freedom.”

Interest Free Loan or Lobbying?

“At the same time Tiffany & Co. was extending Callista (Bisek) Gingrich a virtual interest-free loan of tens of thousands of dollars, the diamond and silverware firm was spending big bucks to influence mining policy in Congress and in agencies over which the House Agriculture Committee — where she worked — had jurisdiction,” Jeff Stein reports.

Felix Salmon: “There’s enough confusion over the Tiffany’s deal that it certainly looks unusual — while Tiffany’s does extend interest-free loans of up to one year to top clients, Gingrich’s account was open for two consecutive years, despite the fact that Gingrich claimed to be paying no interest on it. And in any case it seems unwise, to say the least, to accept an interest-free loan of more than $250,000 from a company which is lobbying your committee — no matter how rare or common such loans might be.”

LaHood’s Ride

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled new fuel economy labels for cars today noting they are “a win for automobile consumers and for the nation’s energy independence,” the Detroit News reports.

However, as Jalopnik notes, LaHood arrived at the unveiling in a 12-mpg Chevy Suburban SUV.

Clinton Encourages Ryan Backstage

ABC News got interesting video of former President Clinton speaking to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) backstage at a forum on the national debt.

Clinton praised the Democratic victory in NY-26 yesterday but added, “I hope Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing.”

Ryan responds: “My guess is it’s going to sink into paralysis is what’s going to happen. And you know the math. It’s just, I mean, we knew we were putting ourselves out there. You gotta start this. You gotta get out there. You gotta get this thing moving.”

They parted with Clinton telling Ryan that if he ever wanted to talk about it, he should “give me a call.”

See more…

Vitter Blocks Salazar’s Pay Increase

First Read reports that a planned salary increase for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has been blocked by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) over drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Salazar is entitled to a raise of $19,600, elevating his salary to that of other cabinet posts now that his original Senate term has expired. In long-standing rules, senators appointed to executive branch jobs cannot be paid at the higher rate until their elected terms expire. Secretary Clinton also is under this rule until 2012.”

Vitter has demanded that the rate of permits issued for new deepwater exploratory wells reach six per month before he lifts his objection. Salazar has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to withdraw efforts to increase his pay.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“I’m afraid the Democrats will draw the conclusion that because Congressman Ryan’s proposal is not the right one, that we shouldn’t do anything. I completely disagree with that.”

— Former President Bill Clinton, quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

Majority Favor Walker Recall in Wisconsin

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Wisconsin finds 50% of voters would support the recall of Gov. Scott Walker (R), while 47% are opposed.

“It’s impossible to say whether Democrats will be able to sustain this strong anti-Walker sentiment all the way through the time a recall election would actually be held. But it bodes well for them that as Wisconsin has left the headlines, at least nationally, Walker’s numbers have just continued to get worse at home.”

Sarah from Arizona

Rumors that Sarah Palin has purchased a home in Scottsdale, Arizona seem to be true as KSAX-TV captures video of what appear to be Todd and Sarah Palin outside the luxury home.

See more…

Running Against the Safety Net

David Frum: “The GOP will run on a platform crafted to be maximally obnoxious to downscale voters. Some may hope that Tim Pawlenty’s biography may cushion the pain. Perhaps that’s right, at least as compared to Mitt Romney, who in the 2008 primaries did worst among Republicans earning less than $100,000 a year. And yes, Pawlenty is keeping his distance from the Ryan plan. But biography only takes you so far. The big issues of 2012 will be jobs and incomes in a nation still unrecovered from the catastrophe of 2008-2009. What does the GOP have to say to hard-pressed voters? Thus far the answer is: we offer Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, and tighter money aimed at raising the external value of the dollar.”

“No candidate, not even if he or she is born in a log cabin, would be able to sell that message to America’s working class.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Was there politics to it? Perhaps; I’ll let historians sort that one out.”

— Jon Huntsman, in an interview with Mark Larson, on President Obama appointing him as Ambassador to China.

Cartoon of the Day

5-25-11.jpg

What Does NY-26 Mean?

Steve Kornacki: “When they retook the House in their midterm landslide, Republicans ceased to be the default protest vehicle for voters. This was the role they played for all of 2009 and 2010, and it was easy… Suddenly, swing voters have something else to vote against besides President Obama.”

John Sides: “MUCH more interesting is not ‘what it means’ but ‘what POLITICIANS think it means.’  Even though their perceptions may extrapolate well beyond the available data, it still matters whether they think that NY26 was an outlier, a harbinger of a voter backlash against GOP policies, a sign that Democrats can gain ground in 2012 by accusing the GOP of endangering Medicare, or what have you.”

Jim Garaghty: “As long as the American public believes that Medicare is fine and no change is needed, the Democrats will thrive with their scare tactics.”

Steve Benen: “After a series of losses in races Republicans expected to win with relative ease, the party would be wise to take a moment to realize Americans aren’t buying what the GOP is selling. Indeed, it looks an awful lot like buyer’s remorse is the most common public sentiment.”

Mike Murphy: “For months many of the GOP’s most caffeinated Tea Party freshman having been waving Seppuku knives around and claiming to be ready to lose the next election on their principles. It just happened. The question now is just how much of the spending and entitlement crisis will the Republicans solve, if we lose 40 more seats?”

See more…

Tea Party Group Targets Romney

One of the largest and most influential national Tea Party organizations will focus its 2012 campaign efforts on “nudging the grassroots toward coalescing behind whoever ends up being the most electable alternative” to Mitt Romney, according to the Huffington Post.

“Interviews with top officials at FreedomWorks, a Washington-based organizing hub for Tea Party activists around the country, revealed that much of their thinking about the 2012 election revolves around derailing the former Massachusetts governor… Brendan Steinhauser, who travels around the country meeting with activists as FreedomWorks’ top liaison to the grassroots, said most people he talks to are ‘definitely trying to stop Romney.’… So FreedomWorks plans to bring its influence to bear during the primary. They’ll be violating former President Ronald Reagan’s so-called Eleventh Commandment — that Republicans should not attack other Republicans — but Steinhauser said these are unusual circumstances.”

Lawmaker Pulls Gun on Photographer

Maine state Rep. Frederick Ladd Wintle (R) was arrested after threatening to shoot a photographer “at point blank range” outside a Dunkin Donuts last weekend, according to the Portland Press Herald.

In what police termed a “bizarre” series of events, Wintle allegedly started talking to the photographer about an infant that died this week at a homeless shelter and said he was looking for the mother’s drug dealer. He then pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of his pants’ waistband and pointed it at the photographer.

Quote of the Day

“If the Obama campaign doesn’t believe I’m not running, I just am glad that I’m helping whoever the opp researcher that they’re actually paying to get opp research that they’re never be gonna be able to use.”

— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), quoted by Fox News Insider, responding to reports that Democrats are “digging up dirt” on him.

Perry Thinking About Presidential Bid

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) chief political strategist, Dave Carney, tells the Texas Tribune Perry is probably mulling a presidential bid.

Said Carney: “Obviously, it’s flattering to have everybody, Rush Limbaugh and all these other conservative, right-of-center leaders, talk about you, urging you to think about it, urging you to run, saying they support you. But I don’t see any difference in terms of the governor’s thinking… I’m sure he’s thinking about it because it’s just human nature when you have Rush Limbaugh spend 20 minutes talking about you and have all these other people mention you, that you don’t sort of think that’s flattering and think about it. But I don’t see any change in his direction, what he’s planning to do.”

Ryan Makes His Pitch Again

new video from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) attempts to “regain the high ground in a vicious debate that has Dems chortling and GOPs panicked,” according to Mike Allen.

Says Ryan: “Washington has not been honest with you about Medicare. Medicare is a critical program which helps seniors achieve health security. But the truth is it’s headed for a painful collapse. We can save Medicare, but we have to reform it so that it delivers the high quality we expect, at a price we can afford… The urgent need to reform Medicare, and the President’s misguided approach, have left us with a serious question to ask: Who should be making health-care decisions for you and your family? A government monopoly and a panel of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.? Or you?”

See more…

Blagojevich Will Testify at Trial

Rod Blagojevich’s retrial on corruption charges “has been mostly a scaled-back repeat of last summer’s first installment, but that could soon change dramatically if the former governor testifies in his own defense and calls Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel among his first witnesses,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

A source said Emanuel “was told to prepare to testify at the retrial. In late 2008, Emanuel, then chief of staff to President-elect Barack Obama, sent messages to the then-governor about Blagojevich’s pick to replace Obama in the U.S. Senate.”

“Blagojevich is planning to take the witness stand as well, according to several sources familiar with the decision. He has been preparing to testify for several days and worked in depth on his possible testimony over the weekend.”

Running Against Boehner

Tom Jensen suggests another potential lesson learned from the Democratic victoryin NY-26 last night:

“House Democratic candidates may be able to run against John Boehner next year in the same vein that House Republicans ran against Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi last year. Boehner’s approval rating nationally is a 25/42 spread and even in this traditionally Republican district it’s a 28/45 spread. Barack Obama’s not popular in this district either, don’t get me wrong — his approval is a 42/51 breakdown. But it’s remarkable that his net approval is 8 points better than Boehner’s in a district that John McCain won by 6 points in 2008.”

Prosecutors Will Seek Edwards Indictment

The Department of Justice “has green-lighted the prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards for alleged violations of campaign laws while he tried to cover up an extra-marital affair,” ABC News reports.

“A source close to the case said Edwards is aware that the government intends to seek an indictment and that the former senator from North Carolina is now considering his limited options. He could accept a plea bargain with prosecutors or face a potentially costly trial.”

“Edwards has been the focus of a lengthy federal investigation focusing on hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly provided by two wealthy supporters. The government will contend those were illegal donations that ultimately went to support and seclude his mistress, Rielle Hunter.”

Sources told WRAL that “a major development would occur in the next two weeks. It could be an indictment or perhaps a plea deal. Sources said it’s unlikely that prosecutors would walk away from the case.”

Update: The Wall Street Journal reports prosecutors and lawyers for Edwards “are in last-ditch plea agreement talks that could avert felony charges over alleged campaign-finance violations.”

Snowe Comes Out Against Ryan Budget Plan

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has become the latest Republican senator to announce her opposition to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed Medicare changes, the Portland Press Herald reports.

Said Snowe: “I am going to vote no on the budget because I have deep and abiding concerns about the approach on Medicare, which is essentially to privatize it.”

Other Republicans opposing Ryan’s plan include Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), meanwhile, has said he will vote against the bill because it doesn’t go far enough.

Florida Voters Really Don’t Like Scott

A new Quinnipiac poll in Florida finds that 57% of voters disapprove of the job Gov. Rick Scott (R) is doing while just 29% approve — the worst score of any governor in the states surveyed by the polling organization.

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