President’s Toughest Repeats in 2012

Remember back three years, if you will, and Indiana’s prominent role in the presidential election. First, there was the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton primary contest in early May that had the nation’s attention. Then, our early poll closing had many in November watching closely for the start of a trend (that did play out) when Obama defeated Republican opponent John McCain.

Obama actually won 365 electoral votes in 2008. It’s certainly too early to tell whether the president wins re-election. Far more certain is, barring a total GOP meltdown, that the 365 total will not be approached. In fact, the National Journal Daily consulted with veteran political strategists from both sides to determine the states "toughest for Obama to hang on to."

Indiana leads the way. Here are a few excerpts from that article:

1. Indiana (11 electoral votes). That the president’s advisers are privately downplaying their chances of recapturing the traditional GOP stronghold—and talking up, instead, his chances in other longer-shot states like Arizona and Georgia—is a clear sign the Hoosier State is looking out of reach.

2. North Carolina (15 electoral votes). The Democratic convention is being held in Charlotte, which should excite the home-state base. But underneath those encouraging indicators are telltale signs that recapturing North Carolina is easier said than done. Obama won the state by a razor-thin, 14,000-vote margin in 2008, thanks to record black and youth turnout. With unemployment at 9.7 percent and the recession disproportionately affecting those groups, it’s hard to foresee that same level of enthusiasm again.

3. Florida (29 electoral votes). The Sunshine State’s 10.7 percent unemployment rate is the nation’s fourth highest. Little has improved economically since the 2010 midterms, when Democrats lost the governor and Senate contests, and saw four Democratic House seats flip to the GOP. For a president who won Florida by just a three-point margin in 2008, that’s not a recipe for success.

4. Ohio (18 electoral votes). Talk to enough Democratic strategists who have worked in the Buckeye State and you’ll inevitably hear anxiety about the president’s standing here. Obama has visited Ohio more than any other battleground state since being elected, but it hasn’t made much of a difference in his poll numbers. Obama’s message that the economy has been turning a corner has been off key with a blue-collar electorate that hasn’t been feeling much of a recovery.

Nevada (6 electoral votes) is also on the list. Honorable mention: Other states that Obama will have to work hard to hang onto include: 6) Virginia (13 electoral votes) ; 7) Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes);   8) Colorado (9 electoral votes) ; 9) New Hampshire (4 electoral votes); 10) Iowa (6 electoral votes).


Senate Republicans Call for Withdrawal of NLRB Member

Forty-seven U.S. Senators have signed a letter to President Obama asking him to withdraw his nomination that put Craig Becker on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Notable signers include Richard Lugar, John McCain, Tom Coburn and Mitch McConnell, among many others.

Sworn in April of last year, Becker had served as associate general counsel to both the SEIU and AFL-CIO. The letter (linked below) points out that the Senate voted in opposition to his initial appointment, and argues he has done nothing to alleviate previously held concerns. The Senators contend Becker "has led the Board to re-open and reverse settled decisions, made discrete cases a launching point for broad changes to current labor law, and used an 18-year-old petition to initiate a rulemaking proposal that likely exceeds the Board’s statutory authority."

Here is the full letter — with signatures.

Leading the Way for the GOP is ???

Agree or disagree with his policies, it’s clear that the primary occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the leader of the Democrat party. But what about the Republicans? There is no face of the GOP — at least in the eyes of the American people.

Sounds like a problem for the GOPers. Or is it? Maybe a new torchbearer will emerge. Here’s the current status, as reflected in a couple of different surveys.

Sixty percent of respondents either didn’t know or declined to answer who they thought was a leader of the Republican Party. Further, 15 percent offered "nobody" as a response.

A separate survey suggests this might be a problem for the men who lead each chamber’s GOP caucus, House Minority Leader Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell, at least if they want to continue to lead.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning outfit, released a survey of GOP primary voters in which roughly one-third of respondents said both men should be replaced if Republicans gain control in November.

In the first poll, Boehner clocked in at 4 percent — within the poll’s error margin — as the leader of the party, behind former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., both of whom got 5 percent.

McConnell was a few lengths back, at 1 percent, behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who got 2 percent, and tied with radio host Rush Limbaugh, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, TV host Glenn Beck and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The numbers underscore the disconnect between the grassroots and the party hierarchy in an election year where the bottom-up momentum is coming from a movement almost as disillusioned by their own party as their Democratic opponents.

Republicans contend that having no leader associated with their party is not unusual when a party does not control the White House. But the question of who leads the Republican Party will take on a new urgency if they gain control of either chamber next year and have to shift motives from opposing President Obama’s agenda to moving one of their own. 

Stimulus Money Went Where? for What?

When federal government spending is involved, there is almost certain to be some questionable uses. According to a report from senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, there are more than a few such examples in the $862 billion stimulus plan.

The following and more are included in their report:

  • Nearly $2 million to photograph ants
  • More than $550,000 to replace windows in a closed visitors center
  • Replacing a 5-year-old sidewalk with a new sidewalk that leads to a ditch

You get the idea. Sure, there is some politics involved here. But the examples of misappropriated or mismanaged funds do speak loudly. Remember, it’s all about jobs — or at least it is supposed to be.

Here’s the report, Summertime Blues (for taxpayers).

An Endorsement — Not — for Palin

I don’t feel I’m exactly going out on a limb when I say I don’t consider Sarah Palin a legitimate presidential candidate in 2012. It’s a little more interesting, however, when a key Republican player addresses the topic.

Steve Schmidt was chief strategist for John McCain’s presidential run. He said this last week about the former Alaska governor:  "My honest view is that she would not be a winning candidate for the Republican Party, and in fact were she to be the nominee, we could have a catastrophic result."

The CongressDaily update from the National Journal also reported:

Schmidt, who backed McCain’s choice of Palin as his running mate but clashed with her advisers, added: "I don’t think it’s inconceivable that she could be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. I think it’s almost inconceivable that she could be elected president of the United States."

Schmidt’s assessment came as he shared the stage with longtime Democratic strategist Bob Shrum at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic and the Aspen Institute.

Shrum jumped in as soon as Schmidt suggested Palin couldn’t win, joking, "Let me endorse Sarah Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012."

The public perception of Palin during the campaign and her subsequent messy exit from the governor’s post will, in this corner, leave her a popular speaker/guest at events of all kinds but not a serious candidate on the national stage.

Grabbing Some More of Your Dollars

While the majority of the attention is on health care reform, climate change and the like, other "routine" business continues to take place in Washington. On the agenda this week, as early as later today, is consideration on the Senate floor of a $122 million, fiscal year 2010 Transportation/Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.

Don’t confuse this with the legislation authorizing highway funding that expires on September 30. The consensus there is that an extension, as long as 18 months, will be enacted so that little challenge can be put off until 2011.

On the transportation bill, there have been more than 50 amendments filed. Most come from Arizona’s John McCain; you remember him from that 2008 presidential election thing. Among the items McCain wants to remove from the bill:

  • $195,000 for renovation of the Emmett Till Memorial Complex in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi
  • $500,000 to construct a beach park promenade in Pascagoula, Mississippi
  • $500,000 requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to provide a credit counseling service in Las Vegas

I’ll vote with McCain on this one. But then this whole earmark argument has been heard before — and it still seems to be business as usual.

Another worthy amendment would prevent lawmakers from congratulating themselves by using stimulus funds to purchase signage for such projects in their communities. The only stimulus that would provide is to the legislator’s re-election efforts. 

An Early Look at the 2010 Congressional Vote

Politicos tell us it’s never too early to look ahead to the next election. Washington’s CQ Politics does so for Congress, rating 100 House districts in play in some form in the 2010 mid-term elections.

CQ has eight of Indiana’s nine incumbents in the safe category. They are Visclosky, Donnelly, Carson and Ellsworth on the Dems’ side, and Souder, Buyer, Burton and Pence for the Republicans. Baron Hill (9th District) is in the Democrat Favored listing.

Key items to watch, according to CQ:

  • Democrats will likely lose a portion of their 256-178 (one current opening) advantage. The party in charge of the White House typically loses seats during the first mid-term vote (although the GOP and President Bush were an exception in 2002)
  • Swing seats will be a big focus. In 49 districts, voters favored John McCain for president but elected a Democrat to the House; conversely, 34 districsts backed President Obama but put a Republican in the House
  • Of the 100 seats rated competitive, 59 are held by Democrats. Only three are viewed as toss-ups, a slightly higher numbers as highly competitive and the majority as slightly competitive

Much can change, however, over the next 15 months.

A Closer Look at the Climate Change Vote

Late last week, the U.S. House voted 219-212 to pass climate change legislation. It is one of what will be a long series of contentious debates and votes during the current session. Although Democrats have a strong majority in the House, this was not a party-line vote. A few of the facts:

  • Forty-four Democrats voted against the measure, with 211 voting for it. Thus, it took some of the eight Republican "yes" votes for the bill to pass
  • Those numbers may be slightly misleading, however, as some of the Dems switched their votes when the total reached 220. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says some of those 44 would have been with her party’s majority to ensure the bill’s passage
  • This topic has often been referred to as geographical rather than political. According to analysis from the National Journal, 30 of the 121 Democrats from states that generate at least 40% of their power from coal (think Indiana and its 95% coal use) voted against the bill. Only 14 of the 134 Democrats from states that are less reliant on coal joined in the opposition
  • On the political side, Sen. John McCain carried 49 districts last year in which Democrats were elected to the House. Twenty-nine of those reps voted against the measure. In the 207 districts that voted for both Democratic reps and President Obama, only 15 voted against the bill

Political dynamics will continue to be at play — they always are. But each issue, each vote, will prove interesting with different legislators and regions coming to the forefront. Stay tuned for plenty more to come.

(Third) Party Time!

 So you’ve watched McCain and Obama do their thing, go head to head, man to man, "Joe the Plumber" reference to "Joe the Plumber" reference, and you’re still not sure you can endorse either gentleman with your vote? Well, the folks at Free & Equal are hosting a third-party debate (McCain and Obama are invited, but not expected to show) Sunday at 7 p.m., which will be recorded by C-SPAN and streamed at Third Party Ticket.

Just exactly who will be there is still murky, since certified letters have just gone out to all candidates, say event organizers. Ralph Nader, who is on the ballot in 45 states as an independent candidate, has indicated he will show up. Cynthia McKinney, former member of Congress from Georgia and the Green Party candidate, will also be there, according to her website. Ms. McKinney is on the ballot in 30 states. Also invited is Chuck Baldwin, running on the Constitution Party ticket in 35 states.

Mr. Baldwin is perhaps the least known of the group. He’s an evangelical minister and hosts a conservative talk show in the Florida panhandle region. He also has gained the endorsement of Ron Paul, whose bid for the Republican nomination garnered a loyal and enthusiastic following.

The only question mark is Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate. Mr. Barr has made it clear that he will only debate Mr. Nader and no one else.

No word yet if these candidates will be mandated to use the phrases "change" or "my friends" a designated number of times.

Note: According to the Elkhart Truth, Barr will be the only third-party candidate on the Indiana ballot, while Baldwin, McKinney and Nader are eligible write-in candidates.

Ring the Bellwether: Key Ohio Town Still Divided

CNN has an interesting article today on the bellwether Ohio town of Chillicothe. The town is still collectively on the fence regarding the McCain/Obama question, and may serve as a microcosm of many similar areas throughout the Midwest:

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, a state that has received more visits from the candidates and their running mates this year than any other.

Inside the bellwether state is the bellwether town of Chillicothe, a town that often mirrors the state’s election results.

Voters there are divided.

With less than a month to go until the election, it’s concerns about the financial markets and the economy that dominate the airwaves at the town’s radio station.

"The only other people that’ve experienced something like what we’re experiencing now are our grandparents or our great-grandparents," host Dan Ramey said on his radio show on WBEX-AM.