POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 4/24
In the mail: It’s Even Worse Than it Looks by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein.
The book identifies the two scourges most responsible for our dysfunctional government: the polarization between two adversarial political parties and a governing system that makes it very difficult for majorities to act. This is coupled with an “escalating extremism” of the Republican party.
Perhaps most important, the authors note that several popular “cures” for our nation’s problems — a balanced budget amendment and term limits — would only exacerbate the gridlock.
A new Merrill/Morrison Institute poll in Arizona finds Mitt Romney barely leading President Obama in a general election match up, 42% to 40%, with another 18% undecided.
Said pollster Bruce Merrill: “The eventual outcome also may be dependent on whether former Surgeon General Richard Carmona can mount a vigorous campaign for retiring Sen. John Kyl’s seat, a campaign that would stimulate turnout in the Hispanic community. While I think if the election were held today Romney probably would win, it appears Obama can mount a competitive campaign in Arizona.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told Fox News that his party faces a “real challenge” in holding on to its majority in the House.
Said Boehner: “We have 50 of our members in tough races, 89 freshmen running for their first reelections and we have 32 districts that are in states where there is no presidential campaign going to be run, no big Senate race and we call these orphan districts. You take 18 of them, California, Illinois and New York, where you know we’re not likely to do well at the top of the ticket and those districts are frankly pretty vulnerable.”
He added: “I would say that there is a two in three chance that we win control of the House again but there’s a one in three chance that we could lose and I’m being myself, frank. We’ve got a big challenge and we’ve got work to do.”
Howard Kurtz: “I started pondering this when we all got swept up in the spectacle of Hilary Rosen denigrating Ann Romney for not working… That, in turn, followed our collective enthrallment over Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom describing their Etch a Sketch operation, which in turn followed the uproar over Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a slut, which followed…well, it’s hard to remember at this point.”
“Each of these episodes, considered separately, contains elements of substance that were soon overwhelmed by the rhetoric emanating from the media echo chamber. Collectively, they suggest that what should be a serious campaign in hard economic times has turned into a spectacle in which we are amusing ourselves to death.”
Nothing has been heard from former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich reported to prison nearly six weeks ago, but Fox Chicago News reports that Blagojevich “is now washing pots and pans, and could soon be teaching Shakespeare and Greek mythology to other inmates.”
Also interesting: “He’s got three cellmates, and so far, has no problems with any of them.”
Said his lawyer: “All things considered, he looked good, he’s still got a headful of hair, it’s gone from black to brown, not gray, as everyone predicted. It’s gone from black to brown but he looks good.”
The law firm where former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) works, gave $50,000 to a pro-Obama Super PAC, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The head of the firm is “a big time Democratic donor” but the donation also “adds a layer to Crist’s political conversion, from Republican governor to independent candidate for U.S. Senate to talked about Democratic candidate for governor.”
Edward Luce: “By this stage in the 1984 election, Ronald Reagan was proclaiming ‘Morning in America’. Barack Obama has so far had no such opportunity. Unlike the sharp rebound from the brutal recession of Reagan’s first term, today’s recovery has yet to break through dawn. It began just under three years ago. Most Americans say they feel no different.”
“Nor has Mr Obama found a good catchline to frame his side of the story. Last year he picked the slogan: ‘Winning the future’. It quickly vanished. In his State of the Union address this year, he switched to ‘An America built to last’ — and that was pretty much the last that was heard of it. He has yet to find a campaign theme that is built to last.”
“The cash-strapped Republican Party of Minnesota has been served eviction papers at its St. Paul headquarters,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The party has not paid rent since last August.
Florida prosecutors did not end up charging Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), but their 18-month investigation revealed that the former state lawmaker practically lived off campaign contributions for nearly a decade, the Miami Herald reports.
He was “paying mortgages on four different properties and jetting around the globe though he never held a full-time job or earned more than $28,000 a year.”
“So how did he do it? Newly released FDLE investigative reports show that Rivera used back-dated campaign records, a web of bank accounts and undisclosed loans, a batch of credit cards and misleading disclosure forms to disguise his finances from the public eye during much of his eight-year tenure in the Florida Legislature.”
Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney is preparing to run for her old House district on the Green Party ticket, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
A “lightning-rod political figure,” McKinney was defeated in 2006 by Hank Johnson (D) “after a much-publicized run-in with a U.S. Capitol police officer and her accusations that the Bush administration may have known beforehand about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”
With John Edwards finally facing a criminal trial over alleged campaign finance violations,Walter Shapiro raises the strong possibility that philanthropist and Edwards donor Bunny Mellon didn’t even know about mistress Rielle Hunter.
“Up to now, the pre-trial coverage has assumed that Mellon, like Baron, was intent on helping Edwards cover up his philandering. But the trial will raise the strong possibility — and you will have to trust me on the sourcing for this — that the then-97-year-old socialite was as ignorant of the existence of Rielle Hunter (or any other Other Woman) as any Democratic voter besotted with John Edwards. When she was asked for the money, delivered in seven installments beginning in June 2007, she apparently thought that she was donating in some round-robin fashion to the Edwards campaign, not covering up an affair.”
“If Bunny Mellon did not know about the affair, how could her contributions be personal rather than political?”
Rick Hasen: “But I don’t think that’s the right question. Let’s suppose Mellon did not know. Even if Mellon intended the money to help Edwards’ campaign, it is Edwards intent that matters here.”
“If Rubio passes the vetting process, assuming he does, I think he’s the obvious choice. And if he says he doesn’t want the office, he’ll find a horse’s head in his bed. The next day he will accept. Romney’s not going to take no for an answer. We have ways, we Republicans.”
“Most millionaire politicians achieve wealth before winning office,” the Omaha World Heraldnotes.
But Nebraska U.S. Senate candidate Jon Bruning (R) “blazed a different path, one in which an ambition for affluence led to involvement and investment in at least 17 private companies, nearly all while serving as Nebraska’s attorney general.”
“Along the way, the Republican front-runner for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat built a multimillion-dollar net worth while drawing a salary that ranged between $75,000 and $95,000 as the state’s top lawyer. His business pursuits have emerged as an issue in the campaign, prompting critics to question how he could find the time to fulfill his public responsibilities.”
Former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH): “The president is in full campaign mode. So is Congress. The federal government has been put into a holding pattern until the November elections… President Obama could go back to Chicago and campaign from there… Members of Congress could go back to their districts or wherever else it is they live, since everyone knows that nothing is going to happen.”
“If Washington was vacated, it would be a more honest expression of the reality of the status of governance for the next six months. It might help the American people believe that there is some integrity to the situation.”
Rick Hasen notes an editorial by the conservative National Review against the federal prosecution of John Edwards is reminiscent of the Washington Post supporting Tom DeLay’s defense in his Texas criminal trial.
“It is no wonder then that liberals and conservatives have rallied around these politicians, despite the fact that most wouldn’t win any popularity contests… Each of these cases, which feature prosecutors relying on novel theories to criminally prosecute prominent political figures, raises two distinct dangers.”
“First, if the law is murky, prosecutors with a political agenda could use criminal prosecutions to take down their political enemies… Second, even if prosecutors are well-meaning and looking out solely for the public interest, there’s a fundamental unfairness in subjecting politicians to criminal liability for uncertain violations of campaign finance law. The threat of criminal liability can ruin a political career.”
The reason: “People really, really dislike politicians. They hate Washington. They think politics is broken — maybe irreparably. Congress’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll was at 17 percent — and that was an improvement (!) from where it’s stood for most of the past few years… Choosing someone who is seen as the favorite of party insiders then could erode rather than bolster the contrast Romney is trying to drive against the incumbent.”
An improving economy is “swinging the pendulum” in President Obama’s favor “in the 14 states where the presidential election will likely be decided,” the AP reports.
“What’s made the difference is that unemployment has dropped more sharply in several swing states than in the nation as a whole. A resurgence in manufacturing is helping the economy — and Obama’s chances — in the industrial Midwestern states of Ohio and Michigan. And Arizona, Nevada and Florida, where unemployment remains high, are getting some relief from an uptick in tourism.”
The New York Times looks at President Obama’s shift from a senator who criticized George W. Bush’s use of executive power to a president who increasingly uses those same powers.
“Branding its unilateral efforts ‘We Can’t Wait,’ a slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting, the White House has rolled out dozens of new policies — on creating jobs for veterans, preventing drug shortages, raising fuel economy standards, curbing domestic violence and more. Each time, Mr. Obama has emphasized the fact that he is bypassing lawmakers… Aides say many more such moves are coming.”
“Mr. Obama’s increasingly assertive use of executive action could foreshadow pitched battles over the separation of powers in his second term, should he win and Republicans consolidate their power in Congress.”
For the last six months, Bill Clinton has argued that the Obama re-election campaign should stop attacking Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper, Politico reports.
“A more effective strategy, Clinton has told anyone who would listen, would be to focus almost exclusively on Romney’s description of himself as a ‘severe conservative,’ to deny him any chance to tack back to the center.”
USA Today: “Millions of dollars flowing to independent political groups dominating this year’s presidential and congressional contests have come from mystery and hard-to-find donors, newly filed campaign reports show… Using undisclosed or hard-to-track money in politics is legal, under the patchwork of court decisions, campaign-disclosure regulations and IRS rules that govern federal elections.”
An example: “More than $8 out of every $10 collected during the first three months of this year by two conservative groups associated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, for instance, went to a non-profit branch that does not have to reveal its donors.”
A USA Today survey of economists finds that “despite the headwinds of higher gas prices and Europe’s financial crisis” they think the U.S. economy will grow faster than expected this year.
Key findings: “The economy will grow 2.5% this year vs. their 2.3% forecast three months ago. Unemployment averaging 8% in the fourth quarter vs. 8.2% now.”
Mitt Romney’s effort to increase the amount of money wealthy backers can give to his campaign — by encouraging donations to state parties — “has hit a hurdle: new Securities and Exchange Commission rules that are making some Wall Street donors skittish about writing checks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
At issue: “Presidential candidates in the past have asked donors to give money to state parties to help fund their election effort. But Mr. Romney’s inclusion of state campaigns has raised a red flag with some Wall Street firms because of new SEC rules enacted after ‘pay to play’ scandals.”