Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CA: Tents and Parties

After the 2008 campaign, some observers said that Republicans could not recover unless they reached beyond their conservative base. In California, the National Organization has weighed in with an ad against Republican senatorial candidate Tom Campbell, who supports gay marriage. Dan Morain writes in The Sacramento Bee:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obama's Victory & 2004 Bush Voters

In a forthcoming article in PS, Arthur Lupia suggests that the behavior of 2004 Bush voters was key to President Obama's victory in 2008:
Barack Obama’s success in bringing millions of new voters to the polls was an impressive achievement. But these new voters were not a necessary condition for his victory. When considering whether or not to support John McCain in 2008, a number of Bush voters decided, “No We Can’t.” The number of 2004 Bush voters who decided to stay at home, or to support a Democrat, in 2008 did not grab the same kinds of headlines as new voter stories, but they were a sufficient condition for Obama’s Electoral College victory. Hence, future presidential hopefuls’ attempts to draw lessons from the 2008 campaign should focus not only on how the Obama campaign got so many new people to the polls, but also on why so many people who voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 2004 chose to do something different in 2008. If 2008’s new voters are less energized in 2012, the story of that election may turn on whether voters who once supported a Republican can be convinced to do so again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

More Polling Data on Health

More discouraging news for supporters of the health bill:

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats to convince most Americans that the health care overhaul passed last week will help them and their families.

In the poll, 50% call passage of the bill "a bad thing" and 47% say it was "a good thing." That's at odds with the findings of a one-day USA TODAY Poll taken a week ago -- a day after the U.S. House approved the legislation -- in which a 49%-40% plurality called the bill "a good thing."

Ron Brownstein writes:

In the Kaiser poll, even fewer noncollege than college-educated whites said that the plan would benefit the country. In one sense, that's ironic: Census figures show that noncollege whites are more than twice as likely to lack health insurance as whites with a degree. But these working-class whites have grown more skeptical than better-educated whites that government cares about their needs. And the searing recession has only hardened those doubts. In a recent memo, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg warned that these anxious and alienated voters are approaching a "tipping point" that would send them hurtling toward Republicans in November. House Democrats seem aware of that risk: Of the 34 Democrats who opposed the final health care bill, 28 represent districts with an above-average share of whites without college educations.

CA: The GOP Primary Races

Debra Saunders has a smart analysis of the CA GOP primary races:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Study of Campaign Money

A new report from the Campaign Finance Institute finds:
  • First, the national political parties have continued to make up for the soft money they lost, but the new money comes from individual donors at all levels and not just from small donors.
  • Second, it has become clear that the parties' financial stories must be seen as being intertwined with those of their candidates. Presidential fundraising strategies strongly affect the Democratic and Republic National Committees while Members of Congress have become among the most significant supporters of the House and Senate campaign committees.
  • Third, because of the way the presidential candidates and their parties have long worked together, it is not possible to say in a meaningful way from the parties' financial figures alone that the national parties have played a less (or more) prominent role in presidential elections after BCRA than before.
  • Fourth, however, we can say that the congressional parties are every bit as prominent in House and Senate elections as they ever have been. Their receipts are up, while their independent spending made them the dominant voice during the closing weeks of many if not most of the close elections for the House and Senate in 2006 and 2008.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bounceless

Last fall, Bill Clinton said that "the minute health care reform passed, President Obama's approval ratings would go up 10 points." Nope, didn't happen. The first Gallup tracking poll taken entirely after the signature of the health bill (March 24-26) shows his numbers at 48 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove -- exactly equal to the average for the week of March 15-21.

Update: Gallup tracking for March 25-27 has approval and disapproval tied at 46 percent.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Words of War, Words of Politics

In the past few days, some columnists have suggested Republicans are inciting violence because some of their political vocabulary derives from military language. But as I explained in The Art of Political Warfare:


Military concepts are inescapable because many political terms began their career in uniform. "Strategy" comes from the Greek strategeia, meaning "generalship." "Campaign," from the Latin campus ("field") started as a military term for an organized struggle taking place over a distinct period and aiming for a definite result. "Slogan" derives from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh ("army") and ghairm ("cry").


Gary Hart, who led Senator George McGovern's presidential campaign and later became a senator and presidential candidate himself, wrote in his book Right from the Start that the McGovern campaign “relied heavily on the classic insurgency technique of rousing the countryside -- the volunteers -- to beat the entrenched powers. Like most political techniques, this one is based on military principles; it is New England citizens with pitchforks and muskets against George III's troops.”


The Clinton campaign famously had a “War Room.” (Hillary Clinton thought up the name). Clinton strategists James Carville and Paul Begala wrote: “With so much riding on the first take, being aggressive is key. Or as we liked to say in campaigns, “It’s hard for your opponent to say much when your fist is in his face.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Minimal Bounce In Quinnipiac Poll

The Quinnipiac Poll does not show that passage of health care reform has transformed public opinion:
Despite passage of his signature health reform bill, President Barack Obama still gets a split 45 - 46 percent approval from American voters in a Quinnipiac University national poll conducted Monday and Tuesday, compared to a negative 46 - 49 percent approval in a survey concluded Sunday before the House of Representatives voted on the health care bill. These are President Obama's worst grades so far, tying his 45 - 46 percent approval February 11.

American voters mostly disapprove of the health care reform 49 - 40 percent, compared to 54 - 36 percent before the vote. But voters say 51 - 40 percent that proposed action by several state attorneys general to block the health care overhaul is a "bad idea," the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.
...

"It may be that passage of health care eventually helps President Barack Obama's approval ratings, but at this point there's no sign of that," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "The White House believes that now that the legislation has been signed into law they can sell it to the American people. Approval of health care reform is growing - or disapproval is shrinking - but the President still has his work cut out for him."


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Individual Mandate, the 2008 Campaign, and the GOP

Campaign rhetoric comes back to haunt. Consider the individual mandate for health insurance, which Republicans now denounce. The Miami Herald reports:

"The truth is this is a Republican idea," said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She said she first heard the concept of the "individual mandate" in a Miami speech in the early 1990s by Sen. John McCain, a conservative Republican from Arizona, to counter the "Hillarycare" the Clintons were proposing.

McCain did not embrace the concept during his 2008 election campaign, but other leading Republicans did, including Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Seeking to deradicalize the idea during a symposium in Orlando in September 2008, Thompson said, "Just like people are required to have car insurance, they could be required to have health insurance."

Among the other Republicans who had embraced the idea was Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts crafted a huge reform by requiring almost all citizens to have coverage.

"Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate," Romney wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2006. "But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian."

At the same time, then-Senator Obama opposed the individual mandate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This Vice President Is Rated PG-13 (Strong Language)

From Game Change:
'Golly, man!' Obama said, with more anger in his voice than 'gollys' normally carry. He was, in fact, as pissed off as most people on the call had ever heard him, more so than he'd been at even the wickedest jabs from Hillary Clinton. 'How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?'"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Targets

CQ reports:

House Democrats passed the big health care bill in part because of the "aye" votes from 20 Democrats who represent districts that backed John McCain over Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

All but three are seeking re-election this year -- Reps. Bart Gordon (Tenn.) and Vic Snyder (Ark.) are retiring and Rep. Brad Ellsworth (Ind.) is running for the Senate.

Six of the 20 are serving their first terms: John Boccieri (Ohio); Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.); Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.); Suzanne M. Kosmas (Fla.); Betsy Markey (Colo.); and Tom Perriello (Va.).

Perriello and Markey are in contests that CQ Politics presently rate as tossup

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Post-Game

The president now will start an unusual campaign: to win support for legislation after passage. Michael Shear of The Washington Post explains:

President Obama is set to begin an immediate public relations blitz aimed at turning around Americans' opinion of the health-care bill, assuming the House passes it, White House officials said Sunday afternoon as they waited for the final votes.

Planning inside the West Wing for the post-vote period has proceeded quietly, even as the president and his allies on Capitol Hill have been fighting for the measure's passage.

Reshaping the legislation's image will take place in three phases, aides said: the immediate aftermath; the seven months until the November midterm elections; and the several years that follow, during which many provisions in the measure will gradually take effect.

Democratic lawmakers particularly welcome the immediate help:

One Democratic lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be considered critical of the president, said that such support has been extremely limited. He said opponents of the legislation have run nearly $1 million worth of ads criticizing him, while supporters have spent just about a tenth of that.

Organizing for America "has been a paper tiger in my district," he said.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Obama's Spurious Lincoln Quotation

In his remarks to the House Democratic Caucus (the White House website called it “The House Democratic Congress” – talk about a sense of ownership), the president said:

I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”

The book he was consulting may have been They Never Said It, by Paul F. Boller and John George. If so, he missed what they said about the Lincoln passage: “This sounds like Honest Abe, but honesty compels admirers of Lincoln to admit that there is no documentary evidence for the statement.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Program for the Poor is a Poor Program

A familiar saying in social welfare policy is: "A program for the poor is a poor program." That is, it will have a hard time getting political support if people think that the benefits flow to the poor instead of the middle class. And thus we can understand a major political problem for Obamacare. Gallup reports:
The majority of Americans believe the healthcare bill Congress is currently considering will benefit those who lack health insurance and lower-income families. Americans tend to see more negative than positive effects on most other groups in society, The findings that more Americans believe the new legislation will make things worse rather than better for the U.S. as a whole, as well as for them personally, are consistent with previous Gallup polls showing a slight negative tilt when Americans are asked if they support the new plan.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Challenging Numbers for the President

On the eve of the health care vote, some new numbers are increasing the depth of his political challenges.

Yesterday I noted that President Obama's job approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll went upside down for the first time. Today, with Gallup's rating staying upside down and with the addition three new polls in the last 24 hours (NBC/WSJ, Pew, and Fox News), Obama's job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.
Public views of the health care bills being discussed in Congress have remained quite stable over the past few months. As has been the case since last July, there is more opposition than support for these proposals. Currently, 48% say they generally oppose the health care bills in Congress while 38% say they generally favor them. That is almost identical to the balance of opinion in February and January.
The survey found a 21-point enthusiasm gap between the parties, with 67% of Republicans saying they are very interested in the November elections, compared with 46% of Democrats. "If the Democrats are going to close that gap, they've got to get their people excited. And I don't see how you get those people if you vote no" on the party's health-care legislation, said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican Bill McInturff.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 38

From the president's interview with Bret Baier of Fox News:

BAIER: Let me insert this. We asked our viewers to e-mail in suggested questions. More than 18,000 people took time to e-mail us questions. These are regular people from all over the country. Lee Johnson, from Spring Valley, California: "If the bill is so good for all of us, why all the intimidation, arm twisting, seedy deals, and parliamentary trickery necessary to pass a bill, when you have an overwhelming majority in both houses and the presidency?"

Sandy Moody in Chesterfield, Missouri: "If the health care bill is so wonderful, why do you have to bribe Congress to pass it?"

OBAMA: Bret, I get 40,000 letters or e-mails a day.

BAIER: I know.

OBAMA: I could read the exact same e-mail —

BAIER: These are people. It's not just Washington punditry.

OBAMA: I've got the exact same e-mails, that I could show you, that talk about why haven't we done something to make sure that I, a small business person, am getting as good a deal as members of Congress are getting, and don't have my insurance rates jacked up 40 percent? Why is it that I, a mother with a child with a preexisting condition, still can't get insurance?

So the issue that I'm concerned about is whether not we're fixing a broken system.

BAIER: OK, back to the original question.

OBAMA: The key is to make sure that we vote — we have a vote on whether or not we're going to maintain the status quo, or whether we're going to reform the system.

BAIER: So you support the deem and pass rule?

OBAMA: I am not —

BAIER: You're saying that's that vote.

OBAMA: What I'm saying is whatever they end up voting on — and I hope it's going to be sometime this week — that it is going to be a vote for or against my health care proposal. That's what matters. That's what ultimately people are going to judge this on.

If people don't believe in health care reform — and I think there are definitely a lot of people who are worried about whether or not these changes are, in some fashion, going to affect them adversely. And I think those are legitimate concerns on the substance — then somebody who votes for this bill, they're going to be judged at the polls. And the same is going to be true if they vote against it.

Yesterday, the president issued a statement celebrating "Sunshine Week." That statement was on the White House website. Like dozens of other interviews, the Fox exchange was not.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Scandal-Free White House?

At Politics Daily a few days ago, Walter Shapiro pondered possible reasons for the relative absence of scandal in the Obama White House so far:
The reasons for a scandal-free White House may be as random as Obama's luck (just ask presidential candidate Hillary Clinton) or may reflect the partisan self-discipline of congressional Democrats (something that has not easily been applied to health-care reform). Obama also may be benefiting from the newspaper cutbacks that have created a dwindling band of Washington investigative reporters.
A new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism provides some circumstantial evidence pointing to newspaper cutbacks:
  • 2006-2008: Now the deterioration of ad revenue and deep newsroom cuts begin in earnest. Another 7,500 news jobs vanish. Those foreign bureaus are closed. Many specialty beats are shut down. Metros can no longer afford to cover outlying suburbs. The most experienced (and highest salaried) reporters and editors are targeted with buyout/early retirement packages.
  • 2009-early 2010: Horrible recession and accelerating ad losses force continuing deep cuts. Separate business and features sections disappear. The space for news, especially on light advertising days, has been squeezed to a fraction of what it once was. Statehouse and Washington bureaus are gutted or closed. All but the most positive newsroom survivors are mourning the departure of colleagues, worried they may be next to be axed and pessimistic about the industry’s future. The latest job-cutting target is to slash the copy desk. Readers see less news and many more typos and factual errors.
  • A similar trend is evident for magazines:
    Both Time and Newsweek closed down every domestic bureau not on the Eastern Seaboard, and reduced the number of staffers assigned to Washington. Newsweek shut its Baghdad bureau and U.S. News & World Report lopped off 38% of its newsroom and listed operations only in New York and Washington.


    Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 37

    In an interview with Jake Tapper of ABC, the president spoke of breast-cancer survivor Natoma Canfield. What would have happened if the health bill were already in place?
    Well what would have happened is that Natoma would have been able to be part of this exchange, this marketplace that gave her a choice of plans just like members of Congress have but, because she’d be a part of a million people who are in a pool, her rates would be lowered and so you wouldn’t have seen her being put into a choice where she’s got to chose between her house or her healthcare. And that’s true for self employed, for small businesses, for individuals all across the country.
    According to the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Canfield is receiving care at the Cleveland Clinic. "A spokeswoman there said the woman was virtually certain to qualify for aid and, anyway, the clinic has no intention of placing any liens on her home for the expensive care she is now receiving free."

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Obama and the Media

    The Project for Excellence in Journalism is out with The State of the News Media 2010, and one finding may not be surprising:
    The partisan gap that showed itself during the 2008 election season continued into 2009, at least when it came to cable’s coverage of the new Obama administration. A PEJ study of the first 100 days found that the majority of Obama stories on Fox were clearly negative in tone. It was the only outlet studied where that was the case. On MSNBC, the majority of stories were clearly positive in tone. It was the only outlet studied other than Newsweek where that was the case. In that respect, the two channels offered divergent images of Obama. CNN, meanwhile, mirrored the rest of the mainstream news media in the tone of its coverage

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Foley and Massa

    At The Daily Caller, a former House GOP leadership aide notes two ways in which the Massa scandal differs from the Mark Foley scandal that helped end the Republican majority in 2006:

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    1994, 2010, and the Deficit

    At National Review Online, I outlined some of the similarities and differences between the 1994 and 2010 elections. The Pew Research Center offers further comparisons:

    Opinions about which party can better handle the deficit have shifted since the previous midterm campaign in 2006. Currently, 42% say the Republican Party can do a better job of reducing the deficit, while 36% say the Democratic Party can do better ...

    There are some similarities in current public views about the deficit today with opinions in July 1994, a few months before Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades. In fact, the Republican Party then held a lead on handling the deficit identical to the lead it now holds (42% to 36%).

    Yet the hierarchy of leading national issues is very different today than it was in 1994. Currently, the deficit is mentioned more frequently as a top problem (11% today vs. 5% then). But jobs and the economy are far more dominant issues now than they were 16 years ago. In July 1994, just 12% volunteered unemployment or jobs as the most important problem, placing them well behind crime (26%), which was the top issue. Today, 31% volunteer unemployment or jobs as the most important problem facing the nation, while another 24% mention the economy.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    The Time for Talk

    For someone who is so gifted at talk, the president seems not to like it:
    The time for talk is over. The time for action is now, because we know that if we do not act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse. Crisis could turn into catastrophe for families and businesses across the country.

    The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor, one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren.

    -- At the Copenhagen summit, December 18, 2009

    The time for talk is over; it’s time to vote. It’s time to vote. Tired of talking about it.

    -- On the health care bill, March 10, 2010



    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Enthusiasm Gap, 2010

    According to a new survey from Harvard's Institute of Politics, young Republicans are more jazzed than young Democrats -- a sharp reversal from the pattern of 2008. The press release says:
    Young Republicans energized and looking forward to the 2010 midterm elections. Among 18-29 year-olds surveyed, young Republicans are showing more enthusiasm than young Democrats for participating in the upcoming midterm elections and are statistically more likely than Democrats to say they will “definitely be voting in November.” More than two-in-five (41%) Republicans are planning on voting, compared to 35 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Independents. Those who voted for U.S. Sen. John McCain for President in 2008 are more likely (53%) to say they will definitely vote this November than those who voted for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (44%). In addition, those disapproving of President Obama’s job performance (35%) are more likely to vote than those that approve of his performance (30%).

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Moving Opinion on Health Care

    Pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Douglas Schoen explain why the president's health proposal remains in trouble:

    The reason President Obama can't move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

    That's a tough sell when the economy is hurting and people want reform to lower the cost of care. It's also a tough sell for a president who won an election by promising tax cuts for 95% of all Americans.

    In recent days, the president has tried to rally support by attacking the insurance industry. He may seem to be following Saul Alinsky's advice to focus on an enemy, or "target." If so, he is overlooking an important passage from Rules for Radicals:

    [The target] must be a personification, not something general or abstract such as a community's segregated practices or a major corporation or City Hall. It is not possible to develop the necessary hostility against, say, City Hall, which after all is a concrete, physical inanimate structure, or against a corporation, which has no soul or identity, or a public school administration, which again is an inanimate system.

    The "insurance industry" is even more abstract than a specific insurance company. The president needs a better enemy -- especially since the other side has several: Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and of course, him.


    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Insurance Companies and Campaign Money

    To push health care legislation, President Obama is attacking the insurance industry: "We can’t have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people. . "Part of the motivating factor here is letting members of Congress know there's a price to pay for failure," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told The Washington Post. "And for the public, it's important to remind them that there are premium increases of 40 percent for as far as you can see if nothing is done."

    This line of attack is at odds with Democratic fundraising. So far in the 2010 cycle, says the Center for Responsive Politics, the insurance industry has given 53 percent of its federal contributions to Democratic candidates. (That figure represents an 8 percent increase from 2008.) Top recipients of insurance money include:
    • Senator Christopher Dodd $258,400
    • Senator Charles Schumer $195,100
    • Representative Barney Frank $147,499
    • Representative Charles Rangel $118,800
    • Senator Harry Reid $114,000






    Monday, March 8, 2010

    A Wake-Up Call

    A new Democracy Corps poll offers what it calls a "wakeup call" for the president:
    Although the public continues to give the president strong ratings on a range of national security issues – indeed, above his overall approval rating – there is evidence of rising public concern about the president’s handing of these issues. Historical doubts about the Democratic Party on national security show signs of reviving and many voters worry the president and his administration are not dealing forcefully enough with terrorist suspects. Additionally, the troubled economy is driving down public perceptions of America’s strength and standing in the world.

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Some-Drama Obama

    During the 2008 campaign, the Obama team was famous for its communication skill and its lack of internal divisions. Those days are gone. Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times reports on the president's reaction to "White House infighting" stories:

    Last Monday, I learned, Obama made clear to senior staff -- in an Oval Office meeting after he returned from a trip to Savannah, Ga. -- that he didn't like these stories. He reminded them that it is "one for all and all for one'' in his administration. They were there to get things done for the nation, and they were not in the White House to engage in what Obama considered petty Washington intrigue.

    A New York Times profile of David Axelrod depicts a counselor who protests too much:

    “For me, the question is, why haven’t we broken through more than we have?” Mr. Axelrod said. “Why haven’t we broken through?”

    That question has dogged Mr. Axelrod in recent months and has preoccupied Mr. Obama’s inner circle, fueling speculation that the vaunted “No Drama Obama” team might be fracturing. Not surprisingly, the White House has no patience with the notion.

    “You guys want to fit people into boxes and categories that are just not accurate,” Mr. Emanuel said.

    Mr. Axelrod would not discuss what counsel he offered to Mr. Obama, though he denies any “fissure with my buddy Rahm” and any charge that he is too infatuated with the president to recognize the political risks of his ambitious agenda.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    A Possible GOP Pickup

    Stories of misconduct by Representative Eric Massa (D-NY) have not only damaged his party's image but his abrupt resignation has provided the GOP with another target. CQ reports:

    New York’s 29th district was always going to be a competitive race in November, given its long tradition of electing Republicans and the anti-Democratic trends coursing through the country. But freshman Rep. Eric Massa ’s surprising decision not to seek re-election has transformed what was going to be a straightforward race between Massa and former Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R) into an open-seat free-for-all.

    Given Democrats’ loss of incumbency advantage in the district, and the chance that the open seat could now lure a potentially stronger GOP candidate, CQ-Roll Call is changing its race rating for the general election to the more competitive Tossup from Leans Democratic.


    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    A Bad Week for House Democrats

    Ethic accusations have forced Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) to relinquish his gavel for the time being. The job then went to Pete Stark (D-CA), who then gave it up in favor of Sander Levin (D-MI). The Politico explains:

    Officially, Stark stepped aside to keep the gavel of the panel's health subcommittee. But lawmakers and aides said Stark faced a rebellion within the committee and the caucus over his sometimes bizarre behavior and penchant for making offensive comments.

    Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen told Stark at a Ways and Means Committee meeting Wednesday that his stepping aside would be in the best interests of the party, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the meeting.

    Panel members voted unanimously in favor of recommending Levin for the post once Stark stepped aside, according to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas).

    Meanwhile, another case is not only causing further damage to the party image, but opening a seat to a GOP takeover. At Hotline, Reid Wilson writes:

    And Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) said he would retire after a single term in office; Capitol Hill buzzed with rumors that the ethics committee is investigating alleged harrassment of a male staffer, though Massa denied those reports and said a recurrence of cancer had forced him to step aside.

    Dems are also dealing with a wave of retirements, many of which come in districts the GOP has its eye on. Of the 15 Dems who will not seek another term in the House, the GOP has a strong chance in at least 11, including Massa's.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Bad Feelings

    Rasmussen finds that Americans are unhappy with the state of their nation:

    Just 25% of U.S. voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest level of voter confidence since early January 2009.

    Correspondingly, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 69% believe the nation is heading down the wrong track, the highest level measured in 14 months.

    The employment situation may account for the gloom. Gallup reports: "Gallup Daily tracking finds that 19.8% of the U.S. workforce was underemployed in February, on par with January's 19.9% reading."

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    All Politics is Local, Except When It's National

    In 1980 and 1994, Republicans gained ground by nationalizing congressional elections. Democrats did the same thing in 2006 and 2008. Now it's the GOP's turn again.

    Former Representative Ed Bethune (R-AR), who was a leader of the House Republican revival of the late 1970s, lays out a line of attack against Blue Dog Democrats:

    The modus operandi of these politicians: 1) Get elected to national office in Arkansas by claiming to be a conservative Democrat. 2) In Washington, use the “go along to get along” strategy to appease the liberals who control the national Democrat party. 3) When running for re-election deny “going along to get along.” Claim to be a conservative, not an enabler for the liberal agenda.

    This year, thanks to the extreme agenda of President Barack Obama, the Blue Dog hoax is revealed. On the first day of this congress they voted for Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, to be Speaker of the House. Then, there were votes for the $3.9 trillion Obama budget, the pork-laden and debt-producing stimulus bill, and the terribly flawed health care bill. These votes stripped away the fa├žade behind which the Blue Dogs have been hiding for years. Their constituencies-spitting mad-saw what they were doing.

    As political scientist William Connelly puts it, "All politics is local, except when it's national."

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Senate Races

    Though it seems unlikely that Republicans can win control of the Senate, President Obama's election made GOP gains more likely. He and Vice President Biden vacated Illinois and Delaware seats that are now ripe for pickup. The same goes for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's old seat in Colorado. And although the New York seat once held by Secretary of State Clinton is more of a reach, a Republican might win it if the circumstances are just right.

    Moreover, the president's sagging approval ratings put other seats into play. For instance, as a New York Times piece suggests, California's Barbara Boxer could have a fight. Up to now, she has had the luck of the Senate cycle. Her initial election took place in 1992 -- when Bill Clinton's double-digit lead in the state marked California's switch from red to blue in presidential elections. She ran again in 1998. Normally, midterms are tricky for incumbents of the president's party, but the Clinton impeachment drove voters away from the GOP and toward the Democrats. And in the gubernatorial election that year, Democrat Gray Davis won big. Six years later, the Bush campaign went dark in California, and GOP Senate candidate Bill Jones could not afford a single television ad.

    Now she is running in a much more challenging year.