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Politics

Where is Joe Sestak?

One of the most important things in Public Relations is that you stay out in front of problems. Make sure that you’re the first one to define your brand, the competition’s brand and the debate. When trouble strikes, make sure you’re the one who is out there first explaining things. In general, make sure YOU’RE the one who creates the first impression in the minds of consumers, because it makes it much easier to keep customers on your side.

This is particularly true in politics. And it’s playing out in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate election.

This week, Republican Pat Toomey, a former Congressman from the Lehigh Valley region of the state and President of the Club for Growth, ran these ads on Philadelphia television defining himself, Democratic nominee Joe Sestak and the debate in terms favorable to him:

There were no ads in response from Sestak. Why not?

This is not the same situation that Sestak had in the primary, where he held off on a TV ad blitz (including one very devastating ad) until the very end and still easily won. Incumbent Arlen Specter was very unpopular already and primary voters were simply waiting for Sestak to give them a reason to vote for him.

Other than Republicans (Toomey narrowly lost the GOP Primary for Senate to Specter in 2004) and his former constituents, most Pennsylvanians don’t know Toomey. And even fewer Pennsylvanians know Sestak, a two-term Congressman from Delaware County. A big part of this race is going to be which candidate can paint the other one as least mainstream in his views. Toomey has beaten Sestak to the punch on this. And it means that Sestak is going to be fighting an uphill battle to redefine both he and his opponent in a favorable manner.

That’s no easy task, especially for a Democratic candidate this year.


Time for Reid to ditch Lieberman, save health care reform

Photo credit Talking Points Memo

Enough is enough.

The news last night that Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is threatening to filibuster health care reform with a Medicare Buy-In,  a compromise spurred by Lieberman’s threats to filibuster the public option, is the last straw. It’s time for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to strip Joe Lieberman of his commitee chairmanship, maybe even kick him out of the Senate Democratic Caucus, then go through moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) or some other means to get Health Care Reform passed.

Enough trying to figure out a member of the Democratic caucus from a very blue state who won’t keep his word. Enough trying to placate a senator who seems content on wrecking his caucus’ most important piece of legislation this Congress, specifically a component of it that, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, 56% of his constituents in Connecticut FAVOR. It’s time for Reid to drop the hammer on this guy and move on before the Democratic party gets destroyed next year.

I don’t know if Lieberman is still bitter about being primaried out by Ned Lamont in 2006 or what. But ever since he won re-election as an independent that year (Connecticut allows primary losers to do so), Lieberman has increasingly gone against the Democratic Party and, therefore, most of his constituents back home. He endorsed and campaigned for Republican John McCain for President last year. Reid let him keep his chairmanship and caucus spot after that, knowing that he’d need him to avert Republican filibusters and get the party’s agenda passed this year. And that gamble has backfired big time, to the point that it is now seriously threatening the legislation that will play a huge rule in determing the party’s electoral fortunes next year and possibly in 2012 as well.

First, Lieberman threatened to filibuster the public option. He wouldn’t even accept one with a trigger, the way Snowe has. Realizing they didn’t have the votes to pass a public option along the lines of what is in the House version, Reid and a group of his fellow Democratic senators composed a compromise that replaces the public option with a Medicare buy-in. But even before the new proposal was scored by the Congressional Budget Office (the CBO report should be in by the middle of this week), Lieberman said yesterday that he’d filibuster that too. Not allow to go to a vote and simply vote against – filibuster.

If Reid strips Lieberman of his chairmanship and/or kicks him out of the caucus, it’s not like the Republicans are going to welcome Lieberman with open arms. Lieberman remains pro-choice and has other liberal view points that won’t help him with the Republican leadership. And at this point Lieberman isn’t going to get re-elected in 2012 no matter what party he runs on. I suppose he could resign in a snit and leave Jodi Rell, Connecticut’s Republican Governor, to appoint a Republican replacement. But that Republican wouldn’t be much more damaging to the Democratic party’s cause than Lieberman has.

As for what alternatives Reid has without Lieberman, he could work with Snowe, who won’t state her position on the compromise until the CBO report comes back but at least has been relatively consistent. If Reid had Lyndon Johnson’s you-know-whats (which he doesn’t), he could twist the arms of other Democratic senators (like Nebaska’s Ben Nelson and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu) to get on board. But at least Nelson is consistent – he represents a very conservative constituency.

Reid could also try to do what Trent Lott and Co. famously tried to do in 2005 and invoke the “nuclear option” – change Senate rules to end debate with only a simple majority of the Senate, as opposed to the current 60 votes needed. The Republicans would certainly howl for blood if that happened, but they tried it first.

Using budget reconciliation (which only requires 50 votes plus Vice President Joe Biden) to pass the more controversial parts of the bill is probably not an option either. The bill is too complex, the Republicans would force the caucus to hold together through even more objections than it is now and if it was going to happen, Reid needed to do it already.

Whatever Reid does, health care reform needs to get through the Senate, go through conference committee and pass both chambers again. It MUST get done, or the normal losses the President’s party suffers in his first midterm elections will be catastrophic ones. Republicans are going to be motivated to take down the other party next year as it is. If health care reform doesn’t get passed, the Democratic base will stay home as well.

Health Care Reform must get done. And at this point, that means telling Lieberman to leave.


Congresssman Runyan? Former Eagle running in 2010

Former Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan will retire after this season and run for Congress next year, the Associated Press Reports.

It has been rumored for a while that Runyan, 35, would challenge Democratic incumbent John Adler next year in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across Southern New Jersey from Philadelphia’s east suburbs, through the Pine Barrens region to the Jersey Shore. Runyan made the challenge official yesterday. The district is very much a swing district, with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) rating of R+1. Adler narrowly won the district by 3.4% in 2008.

“I look forward to a successful end to my career on the field,” Runyan said, “and a spirited campaign against Congressman Adler in 2010.”

Runyan hasn’t played since the Eagles let him go after having surgery on his right knee following last season. He signed a free agent deal with the San Diego Chargers yesterday, which he said would be his last NFL deal.


The Final Four in the way of public option

The political news website Talking Points Memo had a good piece last night analyzing the four Senate Democrats who are balking at supporting the public option, or even voting to bring a bill with a public option to a vote (ie, invoking cloture): Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

“These are the four Democrats threatening to filibuster a public option bill down the line. They’re also in discussions with leadership and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) regarding a compromise modeled on Snowe’s trigger. How they change the bill so significantly remains unclear (can Reid round up 60 votes to swap the provisions? Does he pull the bill off the floor and reintroduce it with a different public option?) For the time being, though, liberals are turning up the heat on these four. And to succeed, they’ll need to be well aware of what buttons to push.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a VERY tough spot here. the Dems can rip Lieberman, Jim DeMint, et al in the press or even on the Senate floor all they want. It won’t matter. If no Health Care Reform passes, the Dems are going to get their rears handed to them next year and likely in 2012 as well. The public isn’t going to care that the Republicans or Joe Lieberman wouldn’t vote for cloture. All that will matter to them is that the Democrats had the White House and large majorities in both chambers of Congress and once again proved incapable of governing and actually accomplishing things.

If Reid tries to go Tony Soprano (figuratively speaking, of course!) on those four, he risks at least three of them switching parties and no longer voting with the Dems even some of the time. Lincoln, Nelson and Landrieu would likely benefit politically from this (all three represent states that President Obama lost by at least 15 points last year).  Who knows with Lieberman?  He represents a very blue state and votes with the Democrats on social issues and even a lot of fiscal ones, but was primaried out in 2006 (he later won re-election anyway as an independent) and may still hold a grudge against the party because of that. He campaigned for John McCain last year, yet still got to keep his committee chairmanship and place in the caucus because Reid knew he’d likely need his vote to get stuff passed. Maybe Lieberman would change parties, serve out the rest of his current term and retire in 2012. Or maybe he’s just grandstanding to get attention for himself and will back down when Reid puts the gun in his face and starts to squeeze the trigger.

Reconcilliation, which doesn’t require invoking cloture (and hence only needs 50 votes plus Vice President Joe Biden), likely won’t work either. Only certain parts can be passed that way, and which ones are at the sole discretion of the Senate parliamentarian. If you think the Republicans are fighting this viciously now, just imagine how many bogus amendments they would propose to bog things down if this goes the reconcilliation route. And even if the Dems could keep 50 votes together through that entire process and get it passed, it would have to be re-approved in 2015. If the Republicans have control of the Senate by that point, Health Care Reform is dead before it’s even had a chance to take effect.


FOX News Poll: Bow-gate much ado about nothing

According to a poll conducted by FOX News (not exactly the most liberal media outlet there is), 67 percent of Americans believe it is appropriate for the President to bow to a foreign leader if that is the country’s custom. Only 26% said it is never appropriate. Even among Republicans, 53% said it was appropriate, to 40% never appropriate.

This was in response to President Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan last week and the resulting furor. Conservatives have complained about this and Obama’s other greetings when meeting foreign leaders, complaining that he conveys American weakness.

Me? I think that whole issue – not just this case – is much ado about nothing. There are plenty of things worth criticizing President Obama about, but this is not one of them. This is nothing more than the neoconservative meme that Obama is “Anti-American” and the belief in their interpretation of American Exceptionalism (not the original one laid out by Alexis de Tocqueville) – that America and Americans can and must be able to do whatever they want and get whatever they want, and that all other countries are subservient.

I for one think American Exceptionalism is a very short-sighted belief. The United States should not expect, let alone demand, the rest of the world to acquiesce to its whims and desires. There is only one world, and it has to work for all 6 billion-plus humans out there, not just the 300 million in the United States. The same goes for every other country in the world.

And just in case anyone has forgotten, we have far bigger problems to deal with than how President Obama should be greeting foreign leaders. Unemployment is over 10%, a figure that, since late October, includes yours truly. We’re in the middle of two outrageously expensive wars, one of which we shouldn’t have been in to begin with and the other of which President Obama can’t decide how to finish. Health care needs reforming, and President Obama won’t take the lead on one of the cornerstones of his campaign.

How the President greets foreign leaders is not high on my list of things to bitch about.


Reid announces Senate healthcare reform bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled his chamber’s version of Healthcare Reform yesterday. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s version will guarantee health insurance coverage for 94% of Americans and cost $849 billion over 10 years, which will ultimately reduce the budget deficit by $127 billion.

“We’re proud of these figures,” Reid told reporters. “Not only do we make [health insurance] affordable for every American, we certainly do it in a fiscally responsible way.”

As expected, the Senate version includes a public option with an opt-out clause, persumably allowing Democrats from more pro-Republican constituencies the cover of voting for the bill, or at least for cloture, while claiming that the bill will give states the option to not participate if they so choose. The Senate version, like the House version, prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.

Now the tough part begins for Harry Reid. He has to make sure he has 60 votes on board to invoke cloture and get the bill to the floor for a vote. If he does and it passes, the Senate and House versions will have to be combined in conference committee, after which both chambers will have to pass the final version. So while Sen. Reid deserves praise for getting healthcare reform this far in the Senate, there is still a ways to go.

 

 


Why Palin gets piled-on

I haven’t posted in a while. And with Sarah Palin’s book Going Rogue coming out this week, there is certainly plenty for political pundits to analyze and discuss.

Via one of my fellow bloggers, I read a column by Andrew Malcolm in the Los Angeles Times that ponders the question of why Sarah Palin inspires so much hatred on the part of her opponents. Is it simply her beliefs themselves? Is it sheer snobishness? Do her opponents, especially her female opponents, somehow feel threatened by her?

Those probably have something to do with it. But I think most of the issue is not Sarah Palin’s beliefs themselves, but the way she conveys them. The Sarah Palin we’ve seen since John McCain tabbed her to be his running mate 15 months ago, the one some of whose fans have tabbed “the female Ronald Reagan,” has been very Un-Reagan-like in her style.

Simply put, she’s been a divider, not a uniter.

Much like Nancy Pelosi and (to an extent) Hillary Clinton on the left, Sarah Palin is very in-your-face with her beliefs and values, in many ways demonizing those who don’t march in lockstep with her. This attitude gets under her opponents’ skin, so when she has a moment of vulnerability (the Couric interview, etc.), they’re more than happy to exploit it.

Reagan espoused his values in a more genteel, welcoming way. Reagan understood that everybody wasn’t going to agree with him on every part of his ideology. But he based his message on a few key non-divisive issues that unified Americans of many persuasions. That’s how he won over the Reagan Democrats (of course, Jimmy Carter being the worst President of the last 60 years helped his cause).

Sarah Palin, however, went on the campaign trail last year talking about “Real Americans” and questioning people’s patriotism and belief in their country’s values. The implication was that anyone who didn’t believe in her brand of conservatism was somehow less of an American. Maybe that wasn’t her intent. But between her campaign style and some of the words that she said and some of the things that happened at her rallies, that’s how it came across. And while it fired up her party’s base, it equally galvanized her opponent’s base against her.

I don’t recall Reagan inspiring that kind of divisiveness. I don’t recall him questioning Jimmy Carter’s patriotism or accusing Walter Mondale of palling around with terrorists. The closest I can recall Reagan coming to that was his “Welfare Queen” remark during his failed 1976 primary campaign. Reagan unified.

If Sarah Palin or any other Republican wants to win next year or in 2012, they need to run the type of campaign that Reagan did, and that Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell did this year. Espouse conservative principles, but do so based on the issues of the day in your constituency. Present a clear alternative to your opponent, but don’t be a jerk about it. And don’t focus simply on pandering to your base with culture war rhetoric. Reagan, Christie and McDonnell didn’t win because of their stances on abortion, gay marriage and gun rights.

This is how Sarah Palin took down Frank Murkowski and the Republican establishment in Alaska to become Governor in 2006. It’s how she had approval ratings of close to 90% before McCain came calling. And it’s what she’ll have to get back to if she’s going to have any chance of overcoming her very sudden and clumsy resignation this past summer and having a political future.


UH OH! No funds in budget for Christie transition

christie

In a radio interview this morning, New Jersey Governor-Elect Chris Christie said there are no transition funds for his incoming administration.

No money for hiring of new staffers. No money to update signs, publications and stationary. No money to do the things that have to be done when one administration leaves and another enters.

 “Interestingly, the state didn’t fund the transition,” Christie said in the interview. “They didn’t put any money in the budget for a transition so we need to talk about making sure that we get that squared away.”

Christie defeated incumbent Jon Corzine 49.1% to 44.6%  in the November 3 general election, becoming the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey since 1997. He takes office in mid-January.


House passes healthcare reform bill

After a day of wrangling and debate and voting on amendments, the House of Representatives passed its healthcare reform bill late tonight. Most of the Blue Dogs (a group of 45 or so moderate or conservative Democrats) voted nay, and others needed an amendment proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) that banned plans that paid for abortions from the proposed new exchange to be satisfied. But the bill passed by a 220-215 vote shortly after 11 p.m. ET. Joseph Cao (R-LA), who was elected from an overwhelmingly pro-Democratic district in New Orleans last year after “Dollar Bill” Jefferson was indicted for corruption (most famously having $90K in cash in his freezer), was the only Republican to vote for it.

President Obama gave House democrats a pep talk before today’s debate and voting. He reminded them to “answer the call of history.”

Now the ball is in the Senate’s court. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who I’ve been very critical of, is showing some fire in trying to get his caucus on board and avert a Republican filibuster (he needs 60 votes to invoke cloture). He’s running into a lot of resistance from Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who was primaried out by Ned Lamont in 2006, won re-election as an independent, caucused with the Democrats, but then campaigned for Republican John McCain in last year’s Presidential election. I’m not sure what Lieberman is trying to do – CT is a very Democratic state. But he could be a bigger fly in the ointment than Olympia Snowe or even Ben Nelson.

Anywho, if the Senate passes its version – and who knows if or when that will be – the two versions will go to a conference committee to form one final bill, which both chambers will vote on one last time.


Maine voters reject Gay Marriage

In a bit of a surprise, given the state’s political tendencies and a pretty good turnout for an off-year election, Maine voters have apparently voted YES on Question 1, to repeal the law the state’s legislature passed this year to allow gay marriage, by a 52-48 margin.

According to FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver, there was a rural-urban divide in the vote, with Portland and the southern part of the state voting overwhelmingly NO (ie, in favor of gay marriage) and the northern, more rural part voting overwhelmingly YES. Gay Marriage obviously remains a very divisive issue in this country and will continue to be.