U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., says he won’t be a write-in candidate in his state’s Senate race, most likely because polling doesn’t indicate he would win. That leaves Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell (who beat Castle in the primary) and Democrat Chris Coons in November’s general election, with Coons favored because Delaware has many more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Castle’s decision leaves two other Republican Senate primary losers still running — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, as an independent after losing out to Marco Rubio, and incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, trying to hold her seat with a write-in campaign after losing to Joe Miller. It’s an uncomfortable situation, especially Murkowski’s. Top Senate Republicans urged her to bow out, concerned she and Miller might divide votes and let Democrat Scott McAdams steal a Red State seat. Murkowski quit as the GOP conference’s vice chairman, but has retained her seniority on the Energy Committee.
Some Republicans think the party should enact a “sore losers” rule to dissuade losing primary candidates from continuing on as Murkowski and Crist are doing — make them sign a pledge that they won’t do it or require them to return any party funds spent on their behalf. Probably the best deterrent is that sore losers don’t win the general very often — Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., in 2006 being the notable exception.
OK, so this is a little “inside baseball” for most non-Inside-the-Beltway readers, but a House vote Wednesday showed how potent the tax issue is heading into the November elections. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against a leadership-supported adjournment resolution that would excuse the chamber this week without taking up an extension of Bush-era tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. House leaders quickly gaveled the roll-call vote to an end once the resolution nosed ahead 210-209. Fourteen members (including Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City) didn’t vote. Most of the Democrat no votes were from members locked in tough re-election races, moderate or “Blue Dog” Democrats trying to distance themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republicans (and, evidently, more than three dozen Democrats) think Congress should act on the tax-cut extension before the mid-term elections. Pelosi and her lieutenants see adjournment without action as the best way to skirt the issue. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those voting no this week survive November.
Suppose for a minute you’re Ike Skelton, the Democratic congressman from Missouri. You’re running for your 18th term. Though you’re a pro-defense, socially moderate member of the House and a pretty good fit for your district, your work is cut out for you this year: the cyclical trend against members of a first-term president’s party at the two-year mark of his term, a sluggish economy, high unemployment and a polling suggesting a Republican wave high enough, perhaps, to sweep you away with it — generated by deep and wide voter unhappiness with your president and his policies. You voted against Obamacare, but your record of voting with liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi more than 90 percent of the time is a veritable mill stone around the neck. So what succor does President Obama offer you and your discouraged supporters? “Buck up.” Obama smacked members of his own party Monday, saying unenthusiastic Democrats need to get with the program to prevent an electoral debacle next month. Making change is hard, Obama said, and “if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.” So, yeah, Obama needs to work on his Knute Rockne impersonation. Seriously, it takes some nerve to be cracking skulls five weeks from the election after his agenda created the current radioactivity around Democrats. That includes Skelton — up just 3 points over Republican Vicky Hartzler in the last public poll. Thanks, Mr. President.
Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential standard bearer in 2004, thinks he knows why things are looking so grim for his party in November: uninformed voters. “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening,” Kerry said in Boston last week. Hmm. Let’s go over that again. A conservative political tide, like the one that apparently is about to swamp Democrats in a few weeks = uninformed simpletons swayed by sloganeering. But “Hope and Change” and “Yes, We Can,” the simple slogans of 2008 — now that an enlightened, inspired electorate changing the course of American history. Interesting.
At the beginning of the election cycle, there was no formulation that had Republicans gaining a majority in the U.S. Senate without winning Delaware’s open Democratic seat — the one formerly held by Joe Biden and occupied since Biden’s elevation to vice president by caretaker Sen. Ted Kaufman. Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Castle was seen as a lock to move the seat into the GOP column, but after Christine O’Donnell’s upset victory in the Republican primary last week, Beltway wise men (and women) said the pickup opportunity in Delaware was gone — and with it GOP hopes of capturing the Senate.
Not so fast. Though O’Donnell faces long odds in the general election because of Delaware’s overwhelming Democratic voter registration, Democratic seats in other states suddenly have become competitive. Republicans still might have a shot. A new PPP poll in West Virginia shows Republican John Raese with a three-point lead over Gov. Joe Manchin in the race to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd. Significantly, it’s Raese’s first lead, and the lead is registered in a Democrat-sponsored survey. Elsewhere, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (California), Russ Feingold (Wisconsin), Patty Murray (Washington) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) are in tight races. Granted, a number of the Republican leads are within the statistical margin of error as well. But given the strong GOP tide this fall, Democrats can’t like the numbers they’re seeing.
You know things are going bad for the White House when it finds itself in a cat fight with one of its biggest supporters in the media, The New York Times. Here’s the skinny: The Times publishes an article saying White House political advisers are weighing an “attack ad” campaign that would link Republicans and the Tea Party. An unidentified White House official told Politico the story in The Times was “100 percent inaccurate,” prompting the newspaper’s Washington Bureau chief to counter that the “piece is accurate.” Maybe they’re both right — or both wrong? After the exchange of salvos, The Times softened its headline and the first sentence of its story, dropping the negative notion of an “attack ad” campaign and replacing it with more generic, non-judgmental characterizations of the strategy that’s being hatched in the West Wing. No further comment from the White House — probably because it would find itself fighting a losing battle even if an unidentified official declared the new Times story “90 percent inaccurate.”
Revealing: Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, is captured on a lobbyist’s voice mail asking for campaign cash. No big deal; members solicit contributions all the time. The remarkable aspect is in actually hearing a member of Congress grovel for cash. It’s also interesting the way Norton brandishes her subcommittee chairmanship trying to get dollars from a lobbyist who apparently has given to other members but not her. (Insert cat fight audio.) Norton’s office says there’s nothing untoward in the phone call because it was made from her campaign headquarters, skirting a ban on members soliciting cash from federal property. Dicier is whether the call dodged ethics rules that prevent members from seeking cash in connection with their official capacities, such as subcommittee chairmanships. We’ll see.
The side story to the story is the way it was being handled — or not handled — by different news organizations. As of Thursday afternoon neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times had generated their own report on Norton’s activities, though the audio had been linked from Matt Drudge’s site all day and had been picked up by other online publications. By the way, Norton, 73, was nominated for a 10th House term with 90 percent of the vote in this week’s D.C. Democratic primary, tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district.
First lady Michelle Obama thinks Americans are too in love with sugary, buttery, creamy, salty foods. So she’s turning up the heat on restaurants, suggesting they work harder to “reprogram” the country’s taste buds. Obama told the National Restaurant Association recently Americans have been conditioned to like French fries with hamburgers, for example, which could be changed if eateries served, say, apple slices with their quarter-pounders. She’d like to see whole wheat pasta instead of white and smaller serving sizes. As suggestions — exhortations, even — Mrs. O is doing a public service. But things will get more interesting if the Big Government types start talking about regulation. Then watch out. Who knows, maybe the day approaches when Twinkie Police will crisscross the land, searching bag lunches and kicking down pantry doors. The first lady’s not there yet (the L.A. Times reports she likes fries). But draconian measures sprout from somewhere, and official frustration with a public that likes shakes, fried chicken and Ho-Ho’s could become fertile soil for sterner measures than a lecture from the first lady.
Sounds like CBS’ Bob Schieffer jumped ugly with House Minority Leader John Boehner concerning Boehner’s smoking habit, during their interview on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” Schieffer noted Boehner has taken $340,000 from the tobacco industry over his political career and connected it with cigarette smoking deaths. The hint was that Boehner might push for different government policy if he wasn’t so entwined with Big Tobacco. Boehner blew that off by noting tobacco is a legal product, and he rejected the notion Americans need to be told which habits they can and can’t have by government. Schieffer was undeterred, suggesting Boehner and President Obama stop smoking together. True bipartisanship. Of course, Schieffer should know better. Politico reports the newsman is a former smoker and cancer survivor. The guess here is most people who quit smoking don’t do it because someone hectored them into it.
News flash: The Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., says he has canceled Saturday plans to commemorate 9/11 with a Quran bonfire because backers of the Islamic center planned near ground zero have agreed to move the project. But wait: Islamic center supporters say they haven’t done anything of the sort, only that they’ve agreed to talk with Jones. So stay tuned. In any event, Jones must be feeling the pressure. While President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Gen. David Petraeus all speaking as one in opposition to the proposed Quran roast isn’t the same thing as a voice from heaven — it’s getting close.