From the “My Collar Feels a Couple of Sizes Too Small Dept.”: Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, on Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” trying to explain loans from his family’s bank to underworld figures. Three times NBC’s David Gregory asked Giannoulias whether he knew crime figures were getting loans from his bank, and three times Giannoulias offered dissembling answers. Twice the candidate said he and other bank officials didn’t know the extent of the loan recipients’ “activities.” Gulp! That sounds like Giannoulias knew these folks were crooks but didn’t know how crooked, and thus extended them loans. Stay tuned.
Talk about a study in contrasts. On Friday jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to bring greater personal freedom and human rights to his homeland — efforts that currently have him serving an 11-year sentence in a Chinese jail. Liu has been in and out of prison over the years for his activities. He’s just the third Nobel winner to receive the award while imprisoned, and Chinese officials welcomed the news by implementing a blackout on his selection inside the country. Now the contrast — the one between Liu, recognized for a life of self-sacrificial (and dangerous) work for individual liberty, and last year’s winner, President Obama, recognized for … well, the potential to do great things.
Republican Christine O’Donnell has her work cut out in her run for Delaware’s open U.S. Senate seat. Democrats make up about 47 percent of the state’s registered voters, Republicans just 29 percent. Barack Obama captured about 62 percent of Delaware’s votes in 2008. So what is the message in O’Donnell’s first major ad buy of the campaign? That she’s not a witch.
Now, there’s a reason for that. Since winning her party’s nomination last month, O’Donnell has been bedeviled by video of herself from years ago, including a 1999 spot where she’s talking with cable host Bill Maher about “dabbling” in witchcraft when she was a high schooler. So, in a spot produced by Fred Davis, whose uncle is U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, O’Donnell tries to put the witch thing behind her. “I’m not a witch,” O’Donnell says, looking straight into the camera. She says she’s “nothing you’ve heard,” alluding to opposition spin that she’s extreme, nutty or extremely nutty. “I’m you.” The 30-second ad tries to focus voters on what she would do as a senator — fight waste, runaway spending and conventional politics. The ad’s best line will resonate with voters sick of Washington — in other words, the likeliest of voters this fall: “I’ll go to Washington and do what you’d do.” Hard to say if it will it be enough to get O’Donnell back into the race with Democrat Chris Coons. But it is effective.
The cake isn’t baked yet on the 2010 congressional elections, but it’s getting there. Gallup reports President Obama’s approval rating for September was 45 percent, one tick better than August’s 44 percent. Historically, when a president is below 50 percent approval it’s a storm warning for his party in Congress. In the House, a switch of 39 seats would give Republicans the majority. In the Senate the number is 10. Democrats from Vice President Joe Biden on down have been guaranteeing they’ll hold both their majorities in less than a month. You’ve gotta question Biden’s handicapping, at least in the House. People who get paid to produce forecasts think the GOP will get the 39 and might not look back until they’ve hit 45, 55 or even more. Dick Morris says 100 seats are in play. Crazy.
One case in point. In Northern Virginia, freshman Democrat Gerry Connolly is in a rematch with his 2008 opponent, Republican Keith Fimian. The only recent public poll shows Fimian ahead by about five points. Here’s the concern: Connolly’s district is flush with federal workers, who for some reason tend to vote for the party of big government (Democrats). If Connolly is lagging at this point it suggests bad things for Democrats on Nov. 2. Connolly has tried to distance himself from polarizing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying all of the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended for now. But he voted for Obamacare and surely would vote to keep Pelosi as speaker. So watch the Connolly-Fimian tilt. If the Republican wins, it could signal a GOP wave that’s going to wash away a lot of Democrats.
ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports that at the Friday morning White House staff meeting, departing Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel got a going-away gift: a dead Asian carp. Emanuel, who resigned later in the day, is widely expected to run for mayor of Chicago, where they know a few things about dead fish and bare-knuckled politics. One Emanuel legend is that he once sent a dead fish to a pollster he didn’t like, alluding to “The Godfather” scene where the Corleones learned Luca Brasi had been killed when they received a dead fish wrapped in Brasi’s bullet-proof vest. Emanuel’s no-nonsense, even abrasive, style was Washington legend, though in his East Room farewell the tough guy turned to mush as he thanked President Obama and recalled his parents. Everyone has a soft side — even guys who give (and receive) dead fish.