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Monday, September 28, 2009


Byron York nicely sums up why Mitt Romney is probably running again:
So if you list the things politicians do when they're in the early stages of a presidential run -- well, Romney qualifies.
Political action committee? Check.
Fundraising for GOP candidates? Check.
Courting party activists? Check.
Profile-raising book? Check.
TV appearances? Check.
But Andy Barr explains an obstacle that did not loom as large in the 2008 campaign:
Three years ago, Romney was heralded for his innovative effort to institute near-universal health care in his state. But now that the issue has emerged as a partisan fault line and the Massachusetts plan has provided some guidance for Democratic reform efforts, Romney finds himself bruised and on the defensive as the GOP rallies around opposition to President Barack Obama’s plans.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Positive Signs for the GOP

As we describe in Epic Journey, President Obama and his party enjoyed stunning success with fundraising in 2008. But now the Republicans seem to be doing a little better. According to the Washington Post:
As the battle over President Obama's effort to overhaul the health-care system reached a fever pitch this summer, the three national Republican committees combined to bring in $1.7 million more than their Democratic counterparts in August. The pair of Democratic committees tasked with raising money for House and Senate candidates -- and doing so at a time when the party holds its strongest position on Capitol Hill in a generation -- have watched their receipts plummet by a combined 20 percent with little more than a year to go before the November 2010 midterm elections.
The polls also show a shift in the political breeze. Gallup reports:
The Republican Party's image -- quite tattered in the first few months after the 2008 elections -- has seen some recent improvement. Forty percent of Americans now hold a favorable view of the Republicans, up from 34% in May. The Republicans still trail the Democrats on this popularity measure, as 51% of Americans now view the Democrats favorably. With the Democrats' favorable rating dipping slightly since last November, their advantage has narrowed.
One reason may be increased attention to terrorism, an issue where the GOP has at least a modest advantage. Gallup again:
Americans continue to give the Republican Party a slight edge over the Democratic Party -- 49% vs. 42% -- in their perceptions of the party that will better protect the United States from international terrorism and military threats. The Republicans' edge on this issue is unchanged from last year but has diminished from earlier in the decade.
Economic conservatism may also work to the party's advantage. Still more Gallup:
Americans are more likely today than in the recent past to believe that government is taking on too much responsibility for solving the nation's problems and is over-regulating business. New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 20

Apparently, the White House has largely abandoned the practice of posting interview transcripts. Not one of yesterday's "Full Ginsburg" interviews is on the site. Here are links:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hope, Change, and Profit

From CQ Politics:
The hours are long, the work is sporadic, and chances of failure lurk eveywhere, but politics is still a place where hot-shot operatives can pull down a six-figure salary, a CQ MoneyLine analysis has found.

The analysis of expenditure reports showed that at least 216 campaign and political action committee staffers made more than $100,000 each in the 2008 election cycle.

The largest reported paycheck, nearly $300,000, went to Eli Pariser, former executive director of Jay Banning, the former chief financial officer for the Republican National Committee, was second, taking in $291,780. Karrie Harris Cohen was a close third. She was paid $288,094 for running the Every Republican Is Crucial political action committee tied to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Friday, September 18, 2009


In Epic Journey, we tell how the site was a big asset to the Obama campaign. It has also proved to be a liability, since it provides material to opposition researchers. A case in point is his now-embarrassing talk to ACORN in November 2007, dutifully recorded by Sam Graham-Felsen:
When Obama met with ACORN leaders in November, he reminded them of his history with ACORN and his beginnings in Illinois as a Project Vote organizer, a nonprofit focused on voter rights and education. Senator Obama said, "I come out of a grassroots organizing background. That's what I did for three and half years before I went to law school. That's the reason I moved to Chicago was to organize. So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it. I've been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Clinton, Newsom, and Brown

Bill Clinton is reportedly endorsing San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom over Attorney General Jerry Brown in the California's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Why? One reason is that Newsom supported Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. (Newsom still remembered an old snub by Barack Obama.) But there is another, bigger, reason.

When Brown ran against Clinton for the 1992 presidential nomination, things got ... heated. See:

As William Faulkner once explained: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Sunday, September 13, 2009


AP notes that 54 Democrats entered the House in the sweeps of 2006 and 2008. Many come from swing districts or GOP-leaning constituencies. Now they have to defend tough votes on health and other issues.

Add to that the absence of Obama from the top of the ticket, which could reduce turnout among blacks, liberals and young people, and the likelihood of a highly motivated GOP base confused by the president's proposed health care plan and angry at what they consider reckless spending and high debt.

Taken together, it could be the most toxic environment for Democrats since 1994, when the party lost 34 House incumbents and 54 seats altogether. Democrats currently have a 256-178 edge in the House, with one vacancy. Republicans would have to pick up 40 seats to regain control.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

In his address to Congress, President Obama asserted that "most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system, a system that is currently full of waste and abuse."

For decades, however, presidents have been waging war on waste and declaring progress.
  • Dwight Eisenhower: "The strong expansion of the economy, coupled with a constant care for efficiency in Government operations and an alert guard against controllable waste and duplication, has brought us to a prospective balance between income and expenditure.
  • John F. Kennedy: "The notable progress made by the Department of Defense in reducing costs and eliminating waste is typical of the government-wide effort to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations."
  • Lyndon Johnson: "We are cutting waste where we find it. We are cutting inefficiency where we can prove it. We are cutting out the nonessentials so we can better support what is essential."
  • Richard Nixon: "Our search for waste has led us into every nook and cranny of the bureaucracy. "
  • Gerald Ford: "I am shaking up and shaking out inefficiency and waste wherever I find it."
  • Jimmy Carter: "One of my major commitments has been to restore public faith in our Federal government by cutting out waste and inefficiency. In the past four years, we have made dramatic advances toward this goal, many of them previously considered impossible to achieve."
  • Ronald Reagan: "[W]e launched an all-out campaign against fraud, waste and abuse at the Federal level."
  • George H.W. Bush: "And I sent Congress my first line-item rescissions, cutting $3.6 billion in unneeded wasteful spending These rescissions will serve notice to Congress that the days of wasteful spending are over."
  • Bill Clinton: "Medicare fraud and waste are more than an abuse of the system; they’re an abuse of the taxpayer. By overbilling, charging for phony procedures, and selling substandard supplies, Medicare cheats cost taxpayers hundreds of millions a year. That’s why we’ve assigned more Federal prosecutors and FBI agents than ever to fight this kind of fraud, and why we’ve invested in new tools to investigate and prosecute these crimes. All told, our efforts have prevented the wasteful spending of an estimated $50 billion, and aggressive enforcement has recovered nearly $1.6 billion for the Medicare Trust Fund."
  • George W. Bush: "Fought health care fraud and waste by cutting wasteful spending out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Medicare bill that the President signed will cut wasteful spending and save seniors and taxpayers an estimated $20 billion over the next decade."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Speech

In his speech to Congress on health care, the president said: "Now, add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years -- less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. (Applause.)"

At First Things, an analysis from Epic Journey's Jim Ceaser:
He is President of the United States and he strongly supports the War in Afghanistan, asking soldiers daily to sacrifice their lives for that cause. Less than a month ago he rousingly defended the policy before the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars not as “a war of choice” but as “a war of necessity.” True enough, during the campaign as well, Obama always gave his support to the Afghan war, in contrast to the Iraq War, which was the “war of choice.” The question now, however, is why he would include Afghanistan inside of a rhetorical appeal that rests on the implicit notion, at least to his own partisans, of the scandal of wasting funds. And why he would do this at the very point when he is calling on Americans to make greater sacrifices for that venture? A President who is a serious war-time President, a position he has embraced for himself, might wish to think twice before evoking sentiments that raise doubts about his own policies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Unpatriotic Seniors?

In 2008, seniors did not buy into Obamamania, and they remain skeptical of the president’s policies. His speech to schoolchildren will not help.

If you quit school, he tells the kids, “You’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.” Among Americans between ages 65 and 74, 20.7 percent quit before finishing high school. For those 75 and older, the figure is 27.4 percent. The latter group includes some who quit in order to enlist in the armed forces after Pearl Harbor. And yet the president seems to be calling them unpatriotic.

The president’s supporters may object that things were different in the 1940s: one could still get a good job without a high school diploma. True, but irrelevant. The president is speaking to kids, and there are very few third-graders with a good grasp of the nation’s economic and technological history. If a child’s grandparents or great-grandparents dropped out, that child may well conclude that they quit on their country.

The gaffe is understandable. Head Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau is all of 28 years old. As is the case with all White House staffs, the Obama team skews young, since the hours are too brutal for those over a certain age. One of the few seniors on the grounds is Vice President Biden, who is not famous for his ability to avoid verbal mistakes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Danger for Democrats

With President Obama's victory, many analysts spoke of a Democratic realignment. In Epic Journey, we suggested that such speculation was premature at best. Some recent survey data justify our caution. On party identification, Gallup reports:

In August, an average of 45% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned to the Democratic Party, while 40% identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party. This 5-point advantage represents a decided narrowing of the gap between the parties from the 17-point Democratic advantage in January.
President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have close ties to organized labor. Those ties may prove to be a political liability. In advance of Labor Day, Gallup finds:
While 66% of Americans continue to believe unions are beneficial to their own members, a slight majority now say unions hurt the nation's economy. More broadly, fewer than half of Americans -- 48%, an all-time low -- approve of labor unions, down from 59% a year ago.

Friday, September 4, 2009


In the health care endgame, President Obama will have to contend with factional politics on Capitol Hill. As David Broder observed a few weeks ago:

These organizations -- essentially caucuses within each party -- are relatively uncharted territory for students of Congress. But two articles in the current issue of Congress and the Presidency, the journal published by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, examine the history and impact of these factions.

There is nothing new about factions playing a central role in the legislative bargaining process. One of the articles, by Daniel DiSalvo of City College of New York, finds that factions, which he defines as "cohorts that are smaller and more agile than the party as a whole," have been prominent in Congress at least since the first years of the 20th century.

Often linked to interest groups, intellectual centers and activists outside Congress, they are "agenda-setting vehicles and engines of political change that develop new ideas, refine them into workable policies and promote them on Capitol Hill," DiSalvo says.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Convention Cities

National party committees pick convention sites with an eye to influencing the electoral votes of the host state. By drawing media attention and helping local business, the thinking goes, the convention will sway nearby voters to support the party's nominee. This approach seldom works. In the flat world of new media, locals get as much convention news as people on the other side of the world. And as for the "gratitude" factor, the enormous hassle that goes with a convention more than outweighs any local business benefit. The St. Paul Pioneer Press looks back:

The 2008 Republican National Convention hardly left a mark on Minnesota's political landscape.

It didn't turn the state from blue to red. On the contrary, Barack Obama carried Minnesota by the largest margin of any Democrat in recent history.

And the convention, which started a year ago today, didn't boost the fortunes of Republican candidates down the ticket.

"From a political standpoint, I'm not sure there's any lasting impact," Ron Carey, the state Republican Party chairman who stepped down this spring, said Monday.