Saturday, October 21, 2006

I Think I Saw this on Northern Exposure

I missed the 22nd Annual Pumpkin Regatta!

Look what people do when they have too much time on their hands.

Or is it because they have too big pumpkins?

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Barron's: GOP Will Hold Both Houses

Courtesy of Powerline comes this prediction from Barron's, which suggest that the GOP will have their majority narrowed, but will retain both Houses on election day. I hope that's right, but I don't know that the Barron's piece adds much to the debate.

Barron's bases its projection on who's raised the most money in each individual race. They note that the candidate with the most cash wins 92% of the time. Based on that, and how much GOP candidates have raised, they project GOP majorities.

This has some value I suppose, but I think it puts the cart before the horse.

Very few races are seriously contested nowadays - only about 30 or so a year since the 2000 redistricting, it seems. In the other 400 House races, the person who is certain to win almost invariably raises more than the person who's certain to lose. 400 out of 435 equals a 92 percent success rate.

Barron's notes that their rule - he who has the most money, wins - operates for every election except 1958, 1974, and 1994 - which were all big wave years. (Democrats gained 49 seats in 1958 and 1974; the GOP gained 54 in 1994.)

To me, the Barron's piece leaves us with the same question we had before: is this a big wave election or not? If it is, then some better-funded candidates are going to lose. If it is not, those who have the most money will likely hold onto their seats.

Barron's argues that this year is not like 1994, because at that time the economy was bad, and now it's good. Of course, the economy was not all that bad at that time - and I don't recall people thinking it was. Now the economy is great, and people tend to be pessimistic about it. So even if the strength of the economy made this year different from 1994, the perception of the economy is probably no better today than it was then.

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Weller Clarifies

Jerry Weller has apparently decided to do what he can to shut down the rumor-mongering. He says that one of his interns (not a page), whose identity they did not know, was invited to the home of another congressman for some type of party when that intern was 21. Apparently nothing happened.

I have said that the GOP needs the whole page story to go away. I suspect that reporters will do some digging around this (those that have not done so already). This account of Weller's raises questions: did nothing really happen, why do they not know the intern's identity, and how did this transform into the other page rumor that went around a few days ago? However, if reporters find nothing more to it than this (and I am told the NYT found this to be a dry well), and if the person was indeed 21, hopefully the story will die without further attention.

Weller clarifies intern incident
October 21, 2006
Intern invited to party by another lawmaker

JOLIET -- Acting on the advice of an election attorney, the staff for U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller is contacting the U.S. House Ethics Committee about an incident involving a male former intern and another congressman.

The staff took that action as rumors swirled Thursday about potential trouble for Weller, R-Morris, in the wake of the page scandal.

Weller is not being investigated, campaign spokesman Steve Shearer said Friday.

Shearer said "there is nothing" to the rumors, noting that those have been circulated on Democratic-leaning blogs. He said some blogs have since changed their postings about Weller.

Shearer said the incident occurred two to four years ago when an intern of Weller's intern, then 21, was invited to the home of another congressman for a social function. Weller's office does not know the identity of the intern, he said.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Weller Rumor Set to Boomerang on Dems?

Illinois's Daily Journal reports that Representative Jerry Weller has informed the House Ethics Committee that a page - one evidently sponsored by him - was inappropriately invited to a social function by another Congressman.

Following on the heels of The Rumor, this represents an interesting twist. Where rumor had it that he had acted inappropriately with regard to a page, it seems that rather, he knew of another lawmaker who has done so. Is that individual a Democrat or Republican? Well, I hope it's a Democrat. And I also hope that nothing more is involved here than 'an invite to a social function.' That sounds far less serious than the Foley affair.

More directly on politics however, I hope that this story DIES. The GOP gains nothing at this point from a Democrat answering ethics charges. It just makes voters more anti-Congress, and convinces them that something needs to change. No matter how it appears on the surface, that can't be good for the GOP.

Republicans need an end to these ethics stories now, so they can return in the scarce days remaining to topics like economic growth, immigration, and national security.

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Mehlman: The Base is Motivated

Ken Mehlman has shared a summary of why the GOP believes their base is sufficiently motivated to do well in the midterms:

Friday, October 20, 2006
Memorandum From RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman To Republican Activists And Interested Parties On Republican Motivation

DATE: OCTOBER 20, 2006

In recent days and weeks, the mainstream media have repeatedly claimed that the Republican base is suffering from “low voter enthusiasm.” It is easy to believe a story that is repeated so frequently, but in fact there is ample evidence to the contrary. By many measures, there are strong indications of a right-of-center base that is engaged and committed.

First, numerous polls clearly indicate near parity in intensity between Democrats and Republicans. Three recent national surveys—Gallup, Cook/RT Strategies, and our most recent RNC survey conducted by Voter/Consumer Research—all show partisan interest is approximately equal. The details of those polls are below:

Voter/Consumer Research (Oct. 8-10)

The RNC’s internal research shows election interest at 7.7 on a 10-point scale among Republicans and 7.6 among Democrats, unchanged from late September and in line with this year’s overall trend.

Gallup (Oct. 6-8)

To quote from Gallup’s voter turnout projection, “Gallup's latest analysis suggests Republicans and Democrats are now roughly even in terms of anticipated turnout in the midterm congressional elections. The voting intentions of the large pool of registered voters is now similar to the voting intentions of the smaller pool of likely voters, showing no disproportionate impact of turnout in either direction”

Gallup asked, “How motivated do you feel to get out and vote this year -- extremely motivated, very motivated, somewhat motivated, not too motivated or not at all motivated?(% “extremely” or “very” motivated)” The following table shows that the GOP in fact now holds a slight lead, up from just a few months ago:

[Graphic doesn't work on this page; please see link for this data - The Editor]

Cook/RT Strategies (Oct. 5-8)

On a scale of one to 10, Republicans and Democrats have almost equally high mean election interest scores (8.2 for Republicans, 8.1 for Democrats), but Democrats hold a slight edge in the percentage of their voters who are “highly interested”—47 to 51 percent.

However, keeping in mind the local nature of midterm elections, it is more important to consider intensity by state or congressional district. RT Strategies/Constituent Dynamics (conducted Oct. 8-10) released district-by-district polling showing Republicans have a slight edge in partisan intensity. GOP “voter motivation” is higher than Democratic motivation in 19 of 32 competitive House races, in some cases by as much as a full point on a 1 to 9 scale. Democratic intensity is higher in the remaining 13, and in none of those races is the difference higher than 2/3 of a point.

Additional Data

A recent Pew study (9/21-10/4) found that while roughly similar numbers of Republicans (41%) and Democrats (39%) are “regular” voters, more Republicans (25%) than Democrats (20%) vote intermittently—meaning there are more of our voters for us to turn out in a midterm election. Furthermore, Democrats (20%) are substantially more likely than Republicans (14%) to not be registered to vote at all.

Other Measures of Intensity

There are ways besides polls to measure the intensity of the Republican base, and those also indicate that GOP voters are strongly engaged. Fundraising, for example, is often called the ‘first ballot’ for the simple reason that supporters only donate when they are involved and enthusiastic. That is why we are excited that the RNC received support from 362,000 new donors this cycle. We’ve averaged 8,256 contributions for each deposit day so far this year. We just announced that September has been our best financial month of the entire cycle. Our supporters know how important this election is, and their financial support shows it.

Volunteer enthusiasm is another key measure of intensity. Again, every indication here is that our base is working hard for victory in the 2006 election. Republican volunteers have contacted more than 14 million voters this year, and more than 7 million since Labor Day alone. We have made 1 million voter contacts every week for the past five weeks, and for six weeks we have surpassed the number of contacts we made at comparable times in 2004, a presidential election year.

The Bottom Line

Despite the media hype, an examination of all the facts makes it clear: the Republican base is active and engaged. No matter how you measure it—whether by record-breaking fundraising, unprecedented volunteerism, or scientific polling—the numbers show that Republicans understand the importance of the choice we all face on November 7.

I'm not sure how one can reconcile this data and this argument with the tendency of pollsters to sample more Democrats than Republicans this year, because (it is said) the electorate this year will be disproportionately Democrat. Is there a way they can both be right, or is one in for a surprise on election day?

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Weekend Fun

An oldie (1998), but a greatie: Kevin Rubio's Troops.

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Some Questions for CNN

Have you seen the ads around the web (and on the air) for CNN anchor Lou Dobbs (wish I could find some examples)? What office is he running for?

And is there any doubt who CNN wants to win the midterms? If so, it was answered when CNN decided to air a 6-part series entitled "Broken Government" in the last days before the election.

But does a network that defends its teaming up with snipers killing Americans have any credibility left?

If this is impartiality and responsible journalism, give me Fox any day.

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One Stop Shopping

There are a number of good sites to read the latest prognostications on what will happen on election day. For easy reference, I've created a short list of the ones I use most frequently at the top of the column to the left ("Election Forecasts"). From here you can quickly check on what some of the best election analysts are predicting.

I know I'm missing some sites; I'll add them as I can.

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Sabato's Latest

He predicts a 20-25 seat (or more) gain for the Democrats in the House. He rates the Senate as a 50-50 proposition.

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Lieberman Leads Lamont Big

Lieberman can start to focus on which party he wants to caucus with next year.

It's looking like the Senate will be awfully close next year. It's possible that Lieberman could be the one who decides whether the Democrats or the Republicans control the Senate.

Why would he choose to sit with the Democrats? He is young enough to run for re-election in six years, and unless he has already decided not to seek re-election, he ought to begin to plan as if he will run. So why would he choose to try to rebuild bridges with the MoveOn/DailyKos base in Connecticut, instead of sticking with the Republicans who will deliver him a victory? The DailyKos crowd will only hate him more after his independent candidacy, and the only way to win them over will be to move to the left of Teddy Kennedy.

Plus, even if the Democrats gain 5 seats in the Senate, then he would still be in the Majority if he switched sides. In fact, in such a circumstance, he could probably write his own ticket.

Update: This is the sort of thing that ought to help Lieberman decide to conference with the Republicans. His home-state colleague and old friend Chris Dodd has taped a commercial with Lamont, even when it seems clear that Lamont is headed for defeat. What would motivate Dodd to do that?

He's thinking about running for President in 2008, and he knows he'll need the DailyKos crowd to win the primary. So if it comes to making Joe Lieberman happy or making the Fever Swamp happy, it's no contest.

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Speaker... Hoyer?

No, won't be Speaker Hoyer. Frankly, if the Democrats win the House, it's almost impossible it would be anyone but Nancy Pelosi. However, the Washington Times (registration required) hits the topic only a few days after the Influence Peddler.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's prospects for becoming the nation's first female House speaker depend not only on a Democratic victory in November but also on her ability to prevent any Democrats from voting against her -- primarily centrists opposed to her liberal stances.

At least one Democratic House candidate has pledged not to support Mrs. Pelosi, and others in conservative districts have refused to commit their support -- potentially leaving Mrs. Pelosi shy of the 218 votes required for the chamber's top post.

Democrat Charlie Stuart, who hopes to unseat Republican Rep. Ric Keller in Florida, already has said he opposes Mrs. Pelosi and would prefer Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the more conservative No. 2 Democrat in the House whose strained relations with Mrs. Pelosi have been well-chronicled on Capitol Hill.

"He's a centrist," Stuart spokeswoman Sultana Ali said of the Florida Democrat. "His values really are more in line with Steny Hoyer than Nancy Pelosi."

At least three other Democrats contacted by The Washington Times refused to commit their support to Mrs. Pelosi, whose San Francisco district is far more liberal than the districts that are up for grabs in this election.

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Some Nice GOP Polls...

Courtesy of Taegan Goddard's Political Wire.

Survey USA finds Tom Reynolds back in the lead. By the way, this is a longtime Republican district. Since the Foley scandal broke, I've felt that it should at least be competitive for Reynolds. Hopefully this is a sign he's through the worst.

Siena College shows Sweeney back in control.

Lamborn doing well in GOP stronghold.

And in a surprising poll, Eric Dickerson (no, not that one) leads Julia Carson. Count on the NRCC quickly doing another poll in this district to see if it produces the same results. If so, Eric Dickerson is about to get a million or two.

By the way, is Taegan the name of a man or a woman?

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Where the NRCC is Putting Its Money

AKA: Putting Away Occam's Razor

According to CQ, lots of the NRCC's late spending is going into defending GOP held seats. In a year like this, that makes a great deal of sense.

It's disturbing that so far, the polls don't seem to show consistent improvement for the candidates who are benefiting from the spending. But there could be several reasons for that - district-by-district polls are spotty, not all the money has been spent, etc.

I have decided that this is the appropriate time to let readers know that in explaining why so many GOP candidates are doing poorly in polls, I have officially decided to set aside Occam's Razor. Between now and election day, my theories will be based on what I will call Bonhoeffer's Razor. It will be guided by this Bonhoeffer quote:

The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy

Sekptics should be aware that Bonhoeffer's Razor is already in use elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Anyway, for those keeping score at home, here are the 10 districts where the GOP is spending the most money:

Since Sept. 1, the single district receiving the most such attention from the NRCC, with $2.4 million in expenditures, is Ohio’s 18th District — the seat where the Republicans’ hold has been put at dire risk by the conviction on corruption charges of retiring six-term Republican Rep. Bob Ney. The NRCC is extending itself to help Republican state Sen. Joy Padgett, who became the party’s nominee last month after Ney acknowledged guilt in a case involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and renounced the nomination for re-election that he won in May.

The $2.4 million exceeds the total amounts raised by either major party candidate — Padgett or Democratic nominee Zack Space, an elected municipal attorney — as October began (key House race fundraising).

The NRCC has also divided $6.2 million almost evenly among three districts in the suburbs of Philadelphia where GOP incumbents face difficult races: the 6th, where two-term Rep. Jim Gerlach is opposed by Democratic lawyer Lois Murphy in a tossup race; the 7th, where 10-term Rep. Curt Weldon is an underdog against Democrat Joe Sestak, a retired Navy vice admiral; and the 8th, where freshman Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick is opposed by Democratic lawyer Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran.

The House GOP campaign unit also has independently spent $1.8 million since Sept. 1 in Florida’s 22nd District, where 13-term Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. and Democratic state Sen. Ron Klein have been raising substantial sums on their own in a contest that is too close to call.

The top 10 districts in which the NRCC reported the most independent expenditures since Sept. 1 are rounded out by:

• Iowa’s 1st ($1.57 million): Republican businessman Mike Whalen faces Democratic lawyer Bruce Braley for the seat of eight-term Rep. Jim Nussle, the Republican nominee for governor, in a district that leans Democratic in presidential races.

• Minnesota’s 6th ($1.50 million): Republican state Sen. Michele Bachmann faces Democrat Patty Wetterling, a child safety advocate. Though the district typically leans Republican, Wetterling had a strong candidate debut in 2004 as the challenger to Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy, who left the seat open this year to run for the Senate.

• Connecticut’s 2nd ($1.47 million): Republican Rep. Rob Simmons faces Democrat Joe Courtney, a former state House member, in an eastern Connecticut district that normally has a decided Democratic lean. Courtney is viewed as running a stronger campaign than he did in 2002, when he lost to Simmons by 8 points.

• Indiana’s 9th ($1.42 million): Freshman Republican Rep. Mike Sodrel is opposed by Democratic former Rep. Baron P. Hill, who beat Sodrel as the incumbent in 2002 but was then unseated by him in 2004 by a razor-thin margin.

• New York’s 24th ($1.40 million): GOP Rep. Sherwood Boehlert’s moderate views easily kept this competitive upstate district in his party’s hands over 12 terms, but the seat is up for grabs with Boehlert’s retirement. Republican state Sen. Ray Meier, who is more conservative on some issues than Boehlert, is defending the seat against a vigorous challenge by Democrat Michael Arcuri, a county district attorney.

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What do Bored Reporters Do?

They tell you what the House Ethics Committee has for lunch.

...Trandahl’s testimony went on for so long that an ethics committee employee bought lunch for lawmakers in the cafeteria in the Capitol’s basement. She ordered four hotdogs, two tuna sandwiches on rye bread, and a turkey sandwich on wheat bread.

I regard this is another example of how the Republican majority has lost its way. If the Spirit of 1994 still prevailed, the GOP would have shut down the Capitol cafeteria and eaten the egg salad sandwiches and string cheese that they brought from home.

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Biggest 'Sorry' in History

I've said sorry for lots of things: sorry I stayed out so late, sorry I forgot to put dinner on, sorry I didn't get the car serviced... People say it takes a big man to say I'm sorry, so good for me.

But if I am a big man, Kim Jong Il is Goliath and Paul Bunyan rolled into one. He's issued the biggest 'sorry' the world has ever seen: 'sorry I detonated that nuclear weapon.'

Can you imagine what a paragon of virtue he'll be if he says sorry for the missile tests, the hair cut, and starving his people?

On the subject of big apologies, it reminds me of the Kids in the Hall clip below. It's great if you like Kids in the Hall, but don't watch if you won't laugh at a joke about cancer.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Close Run Thing

Bob Novak says that if the election were held today, Democrats would gain 20 House seats and 4 Senate seats. He says however, that there's a chance for a runaway Democratic victory if the Republican base becomes dispirited.

Of course, projecting a 20 seat House gain implies that the House is still in reach for the GOP.

I think that sounds about right. Let's see what the next few weeks hold.

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Good GOP Senate News

The latest poll numbers at The Corner show improvements for Republican Senate candidates across the board. Yesterday's Survey USA poll shows Cardin and Steele tied (although the WSJ/Zogby result today shows a Cardin lead).

WSJ/Zogby also shows Talent and Allen at 50%, Kean leading Menendez, and Corker leading Ford. And if you're a 'glass-half-full' type, then DeWine and Santorum trail their Democratic challengers by somewhat less dauting numbers...

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For a Laugh

What if Al Qaeda recruited like the Mormons (although I've only ever seen Jehovah's Witnesses recruit like this; do Mormons do it too?):

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Is this what waterboarding is like? The constant drip, drip, drip, that leaves you feeling like you're being drowned? I thought Democrats all agreed that it was inappropriate and unacceptable.

It will be extremely hard for the GOP to pull out a win if the Foley story stays on the front pages through election day.

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Stingrays Continue Their Assault

Clearly some sort of coordinated attack has begun. First they took out the guy that they thought was our leader, then they take out a Massachusetts man, and now they're coming for the rest of us.

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Dean's Wasteful Spending

I'm one of many who's criticized Howard Dean's '50 State Strategy,' which holds that Democrats can't win nationally if they can't compete in Red States. It led Dean spent millions in states like Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Mississippi. I've said it was silly to spend scarce dollars on an effort likely to prove futile, and the DNC is now borrowing money to spend on competitive races.

So how does Dean's investment look so far? There are clearly a number of competitive races in previously safe GOP states and districts. Did Dean's money help create today's environment?

Let's look at the competitive races:

Ohio (Arguably 'purple,' but red at a statewide level)

Tennessee is probably the only Senate race that 'shouldn't' be competitive. Conrad Burns has shot himself in the foot, George Allen is still answering 'macaca' questions, and the Ohio GOP is in meltdown. And the only reason Tennessee is competitive is that Harold Ford is a great candidate.

For the House , I will look at Charlie Cook's latest rating of competitive races. Cook provides the Presidential Vote Index (PVI) for each House district. The PVI indicates how much redder or bluer the district is than the nation as a whole, in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential races. I'll list the competitive House districts which are more than 5 points redder than the entire country:

Likely Dem Seats
John Salazar (CO-3) Bush +6
Stephanie Herseth (SD-AL) Bush +10
Jim Matheson (UT-2) Bush +17

Lean Dem Seats
Jim Marshall (GA-8) Bush +8
John Spratt (SC-5) Bush +6
Chet Edwards (TX-17) Bush +18
Open (TX-22 DeLay) Bush +15
Alan Mollohan (WV-1) Bush +6

Toss Up Seats
John Hostettler (IN-8) Bush +9
Mike Sodrel (IN-9) Bush +7
Geoff Davis (KY-4) Bush +12
Charles Taylor (NC-11) Bush +7
Open (OH-18 Ney) Bush +6
Don Sherwood (PA-10) Bush +8
Thelma Drake (VA-2) Bush +6

Lean Republican Seats
John Doolittle (CA-4) Bush +11
Marilyn Musgrave (CO-4) Bush +9
Open (ID-1 Otter) Bush +19
Ron Lewis (KY-2) Bush +13
Open (NV-2 Gibbons) Bush +8

Likely Republican Seats
Open (CO-5 Hefley) Bush +16
Jim Ryun (KS-2) Bush +7
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1) Bush +12
Jean Schmidt (OH-2) Bush +13
Barbara Cubin (WY-AL) Bush +19

We won't really know anything concrete until after November 7, but so far it doesn't look like Dean's gamble is paying off. I count only 8 competitive districts that probably 'shouldn't' be: Schmidt, Doolittle, Musgrave, Lewis, Sodrel, Davis, Taylor, and Drake. To me, that looks like 'the wave,' and not Dean's money.

The GOP is weak in three districts for obvious reasons (DeLay, Ney, & Sherwood). Seven seats are held by Democratic incumbents who've already won in hostile territory (Marshall, Edwards, Salazar, Herseth, Matheson, Spratt, Mollohan). At least one seat is held by someone who is a weak campaigner, and who always has close races (Hostettler). The rest are open seats (which are always more competitive), and seats that probably aren't actually competitive (Ryun, Fortenberry, Cubin).

Howard Dean says that his spending was a long-term investment - one that won't necessarily pay off in one cycle. That's good, because I don't see any payoff yet. And of course, if Democrats win the House, all sins are likely to be forgiven - at least for a little while.

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Campaigns Borrowing Money

I've alluded to the point that Democrats have taken out a loan to help fund Senate races. The Hotline's Chuck Todd reports that those funds are intended primarily to help Jim Webb and Robert Menendez:

DNC Takes Out Loan For DSCC

The DSCC's optimism about winning the Senate is apparently contagious as the DNC is going to pony up an extra $5-10M for the Senate committee, according to sources familiar with the previously reported arrangement between the two campaign orgs.

While the DNC doesn't have $10M to just toss around to another campaign committee, the DNC apparently has decided to go into debt to come up with the extra cash DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer has been pleading for from DNC Chair Howard Dean. The actual amount of the loan the DNC is taking out is not known as the committee holds out hope they can raise nearly everything they need before the election. But a line of credit has been opened.

The money is not designated for specific Senate races, however, sources tell us that two races in particular were used as leverage in negotiations between the DSCC and the DNC. Those two races: New Jersey and Virginia. Apparently the extra DNC money will help soften the financial blow the DSCC was taking by incurring the extra cost of saving Sen. Bob Menendez from the challenge of Republican Tom Kean Jr. as well also trying to target Virginia. New Jersey and Virginia sport three of the most expensive media markets in the country (NYC, Philly and DC). In addition, TN was also a factor in the DNC-DSCC discussions as the investment the DSCC is making is possibly more than they expected.

A national party committee taking out a loan toward the end of an election cycle is not unusual, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle. In '04, the DCCC took out a loan in an attempt to save the Texas Democratic House incumbents. In the end, four of those five Texas Democratic incumbents lost.

There has been some speculation (driven a bit by Democratic pundits like James Carville) that the DCCC might take out another loan this cycle in order to spend money on some of these new House seats that have come into play over the last few weeks.

The RNC is proving to be an important cog to the Republicans' efforts to hold the House and Senate, particularly the Senate. It's been something that's gotten under the skin of Schumer and DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel. It'll be interesting to see if Dean's decision to go into debt will finally get Schumer and Emanuel off his back. [CHUCK TODD]

As a Virginian, I suspect that the money on Webb will wind up being poorly spent. No matter how well the Democrats may do this year, I don't think they'll be able to beat George Allen - unless something new pops up. I'm hopeful that New Jersey voters will finally reject a criminal running for office, and vote Kean.

Of course, if the Democrats win one chamber of Congress, they'll be able to raise the money to repay this loan. So it might be a good bet.

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Dash of Cold Water

Because I've posted too much optimistic stuff recently, today I have the requisite dash of cold water. Mickey notes that the latest Majority Watch Robopoll shows Democrats leading outside the margin of error in 222 House races. And Today's piece by Mort Kondracke in Roll Call (subscription required) has a simple and straightforward title:

Practically No One Thinks Republicans Can Hold the House
October 19, 2006
By Morton M. Kondracke,
Roll Call Executive Editor

Except at the White House and the top reaches of the Republican National Committee, I can hardly find a single politician, consultant or pollster, Democratic or Republican, who thinks the GOP can retain control of the House.

And even at the White House, the messages are mixed. Strategist-in-chief Karl Rove is proclaiming that Republicans will pull out a victory. On the other hand, one aide also told me that the chances of Republicans retaining narrow control is in the 40 percent to 45 percent range — that is, less than a 50-50 shot — while Democrats’ chances of winning either narrowly or with a bigger margin are greater.

Republicans are more optimistic about the Senate, where they think retaining contested seats in Arizona, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia will leave them with a 51-seat majority, assuming they lose in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and fail to pick up New Jersey...

Republican consultants I’ve talked to say they expect House losses to range anywhere from 20 seats — five more than Democrats need to take over — up to 30 or more.

Democrats say they frantically are trying to keep up with new House opportunities that previously were deemed second- or third-tier contests — as many as 60 seats potentially in play, up from 50 a few weeks ago. “The field is vast,” one consultant told me...

Among the seats Democrats now consider in play are Colorado’s 5th district, which came open with the retirement of GOP Rep. Joel Hefley. President Bush carried the district with 66 percent of the vote in 2004. Also considered in play is Michigan’s 7th, where Bush won 54 percent and moderate Rep. Joe Schwarz lost the GOP primary to conservative Tim Walberg.

Other potential new targets are Reps. Jim Leach in Iowa’s 2nd district; Jean Schmidt in Ohio’s 2nd; Gil Gutknecht in Minnesota’s 1st; Mike Ferguson in New Jersey’s 7th; Charles Bass in New Hampshire’s 2nd; Robin Hayes in North Carolina’s 8th; and Cathy McMorris in Washington’s 5th, plus Nevada’s 2nd, an open seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Jim Gibbons.

Bush carried those 10 districts by an average of 54.7 percent...

Bush’s overall approval rating in the latest Gallup Poll was 37 percent, 4 points below what former President Bill Clinton’s was in 1994. Dealing with North Korea’s nuclear threat may help him marginally, but it hurts that the threat is worsening on his watch.

The latest generic ballot gives Democrats a 14-point edge in House races. In 1994, Republicans outpolled Democrats by just 7 points, and Democratic experts calculate that, factoring in gerrymandering of House districts, they need a national vote margin of just 7 points to 8 points to capture 15 seats.

In a joint survey for National Public Radio, the first-rate GOP and Democratic polling firms Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner reported this week that in the 48 most-contested House districts, when voters were asked, by name, which candidate they favored, 50 percent chose the Democrat to 43 percent for the Republican. Six percent were undecided...

One GOP pollster told me that the Democratic tilt of swing voters — especially independents and white women — is the main factor operating against his party this year. “They are frustrated with the lack of success in Iraq. They are scared about the future of the economy. They doubt us on social issues. And, they say, ‘We let you run things for 12 years. We want something different...’”

The result, he said, is that “Democrats are sitting on our three-yard line. It’s first and goal. Maybe we can hold them, but they’ve got four plays to score. If they don’t, it’s their fault.” The bottom line is that Republicans need to be better at defense than the Chicago Bears.

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More GOP Incumbents in Trouble?

Amidst reports that the DCCC is considering taking out a big loan to fund the expanding field of competitive races they see, is this report that Melissa Hart is one Republican whose race has suddenly turned into a good opportunity for Democrats:

NRCC nervous about Rep. Hart's race
By Jonathan E. Kaplan

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) bought nearly $200,000 in television airtime on Tuesday to defend Rep. Melissa Hart’s (R-Pa.) seat while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has reserved airtime in the race that had previously been considered a safe seat for Republicans.

The sizable television buys indicate that the field of competitive House races is expanding; Democrats are finding opportunities in places where they had not expected to be competitive. In Hart’s district, there are 55,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, "We seek to solve potential problems before they become problems," said Carl Forti, the NRCC’s spokesman...

This story probably doesn't really indicate any trouble for Hart. Note that the DCCC 'reserved' airtime. They have not bought it, and might well never air any ads.

Rather, this story illustrates where the race for the House is today: Democrats are talking about a wealth of potential new opportunities. Melissa Hart, Gil Gutknecht, Bill Sali (the GOP candidate in Idaho's open seat) have all been heavy favorites, but Democrats suddenly sense opportunity.

The race for Congress may soon look like a high-stakes poker game. Don't be surprised to hear soon that the DCCC is borrowing money to fund newly-competitive House races. And expect one of the GOP campaign committees to borrow money as well, if only to demonstrate its confidence.

Which side is bluffing?

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GOP Win in Foley Seat Gets Harder

For every piece of good news for the GOP, there's a piece (or two) of bad news:

'Vote for Foley is vote for Negron' signs may not be displayed, judge rules
By Vanessa Blum
October 18, 2006, 6:25 PM EDT

Election supervisors in Mark Foley's old district may not display notices informing voters the disgraced Republican congressman has been replaced by another candidate, a Tallahassee judge ruled Wednesday.

Information sheets stating a vote for Foley would go to Republican state Rep. Joe Negron might ease voters' confusion, said Leon County Circuit Judge Janet Ferris. However, they would violate Florida laws limiting what information can be provided to prospective voters at polling places, she ruled after hearing from lawyers Wednesday morning.

Supervisors in most of the affected counties had planned to display notices in their precincts stating: "A vote for Mark Foley [Rep.] will be counted for Joe Negron [Rep.], the Republican candidate."

The sheets would also say a vote for Democratic candidate Tim Mahoney counts for Mahoney and a vote for unaffiliated candidate Emmie Ross counts for Ross.

The Florida Democratic Party filed suit Friday claiming the proposed notice violated Florida law by referencing specific candidates and constituted favoritism toward the Republican Party.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Best Reason Yet for GOP Optimism

All of us on the Right are debating whether the GOP majorities are gone, or whether they can be salvaged. We're wondering how important the GOP money advantage is, particularly when the Democrats are taking out big loans (effectively 'doubling down' on the elections), and we're trying to figure out how much of what Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman is saying is true, and how much is designed to cheer the base enough to make Speaker Pelosi's majority really narrow.

Well, here is the first evidence I've seen that Rove and Mehlman are giving us more than happy words. According to the Hotline, GOP voter outreach and Get Out the Vote efforts are looking more successful than ever:

Why The White House Has To Be Optimistic
Perhaps the biggest danger to Republicans in the wake of all these bad polls is that their volunteer base, so critical to victory in 2004, won't put their heart in their work. If volunteers become convinced that Republicans will lose control of Congress, what incentive do they have to work hard?

If you're ever read a profile of Ken Mehlman, you know he is obsessed with metrics. For him, one of the most important sources of data is a weekly e-mail his political team prepares called the "Weekly Grassroots Report." It meticulously records the work of tens of thousands of volunteers in targeted states, counties and congressional districts across the country. The data summary allows the RNC to determine which states are meeting goals and which states are falling behind.

The RNC declined to share the most recent report, which was issued Monday. But two independent sources who saw last week's report professed to be surprised: not only was their no drop off last week, 12 states broke new voter contact records.

In a month, the party completed more than a million phone calls and door contacts conbined. Bigger states are putting up big numbers -- even Ohio, which lagged behind its targets all summer, has caught up. The RNC is particularly pleased with their progress in New Jersey, where they've rapidly set up a more aggressive version of their 72 Hour Program in light of the state's more competitive Senate race.

These are the numbers that motivate Karl Rove's optimism. The spreadsheets show that Republican volunteers are working hard. There are plenty of volunteers and they seem plenty willing to knock on doors and make telephone calls. That's why it makes sense for Rove, for White House pol. dir Sara Taylor, and for Mehlman to exude uncanny optimism even while their brains pour [sic ]over pessimistic polls. Right now, a strong volunteer corps on election day working to turn out voters is the only hope they've got. If the volunteers detect a shred of defeatist cross-talk or come across a newspaper article suggesting that Rove is panicked, then they'll start to panic, too.

The point is that top-level Republican optimism is pragmatic, not ignorant. [MARC AMBINDER]

I think Ambinder ought to have changed his headline and shifted the tone of his piece. The real point here is the one I highlighted in the last line: GOP optimism is pragmatic, not ignorant. The point is not that they are being optimistic to keep volunteers working; it's that the work of those volunteers leads to optimism.

Is it possible that all those volunteers and all those phone calls are going to waste? Are GOP voters so dispirited that getting them to the polls will be like trying to wring blood from a stone? I suppose. But given that this is the same machine that took the dispirited base which expected a Bush loss in 2004, and turned it into record-shattering turnout, how likely is that?

After all, this effort doesn't need to elect a President, it only needs to limit losses to 15 seats in the House and 5 or so in the Senate. I think there's a decent chance it can do that.

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Why Does the Left Hate Gays?

As is often the case, I can't add much to the observations of Captain Ed. Except to ask a question: why are so many on the Left so obsessed with identity politics? It seems that white men are the only group in our culture permitted to have a variety of views. If you are black, or latino, or gay, or a woman, your political views must correspond neatly to your label.

Gays who oppose gay marriage, African-Americans who oppose racial preferences, women who oppose abortion, are all in one way or another traitors to their identity. If we required the same orthodoxy of white males, wouldn't the Kennedys be the ultimate traitors to the rich white male identity? Why am I - by virtue of the color of my skin - permitted to think for myself, but others are not?

Is this not the ultimate example of racism and sexism?

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Unrelenting Focus on the Border Fence

The White House and Congressional leadership are arguing over when to sign the Border Fence Bill. Leadership in Congress wants a signing with much fanfare, close to the election, while the White House wants a quiet event that won't grab as much attention:

"It's a timing issue: We want it signed closer to the election when folks are paying attention and those who want to take advantage of the messaging opportunity can do so, and the White House is aware of this," said an aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. House Republican leadership aides confirmed that strategy.

Mr. Bush has already signed a spending bill with money for some fencing, but has yet to sign the bill actually authorizing the double-wall fence along nearly 700 miles of the border. Congress passed both bills in the waning days of the legislative session last month.

Many blogs from across the political spectrum have speculated he is trying to scuttle the bill with a pocket veto, but Mr. Bush has said he will sign it, though in private, without a signing ceremony.

Congressional Republicans said that is a bad move at a critical political time.

"A public signing ceremony with the maximum amount of fanfare in a high-profile place would be the best thing the president could do to help out Republicans who are having trouble in their re-elections," said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, adding that such a ceremony would go a long way to counteract cynicism from voters who question the White House's commitment to border security.

So the President wants a quiet ceremony without much fanfare. Sounds almost like the way Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, huh? Where have I heard that before?

I wonder if it causes physical damage to pat oneself on the back...

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Experts Differ on Foley Impact

So how deeply will the Mark Foley scandal impact turnout among evangelicals and other conservative 'values voters?' My gut tells me not all that much.

Karl Rove agrees with me. (But of course, he's paid to say what he says).

On the other hand, the erratic Dick Morris says this is the whole ball game, and the GOP is out faster and uglier than the New York Yankees.

I must say, I take optimism from the fact that Joe Negron is doing well. As in the special electon to replace Duke Cunningham: if the issue isn't the be-all and end-all in the district where it happened, how can it be decisive in dozens of races in differnt states and political environments?

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The Vulnerable Tasmanian Devil

I believe I'm coming late to the party, but I learned only recently that Tasmanian Devils are dying at extraordinary rates due to Devil Facial Tumor Disease (mildly disturbing picture)

You can view footage of the Devil here, or listen to one here, both at the website of Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries and Water.

Wikipedia gives what I imagine to be an accurate summary of DFTD. But with Wikipedia, who knows...

Based on the traditional Warner Brothers rendition of the Tasmanian Devil, I would not have guessed that they look more like the highly-dangerous Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS).

Hat Tip: Joe

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pelosi's Nightmare

It's not all that unusual for a candidate for Speaker not to get all the votes of his (or her) conference. In fact, Nancy Pelosi herself did not get the votes of all Democrats when she ran for Speaker at the start of the current Congress. Gene Taylor of Mississippi refused to vote for her, because she was too liberal.

If his vote is needed to give Pelosi the speakership, will Taylor change his mind? And what about Henry Cuellar of Texas, who supported Bush for re-election, and whom Democrats tried to defeat because they viewed him as a closet Republican?

Pelosi had better hope for a margin of more than a seat or two.

Welcome Kaus readers, and thanks Mickey for the traffic. Feel free to look around, or read how the Secure Fence Act is like the Defense of Marriage Act.

Update: A commenter reports that Gene Taylor has indicated that he will vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker next year. An article in The Hill confirms that. The same article indicates that Henry Cuellar also voiced support. That definitely seems to remove the two most likely candidates to undercut Pelosi's Speaker bid.

Chavez Jumps the Shark

A few months ago Hugo Chavez was on the rise in Latin America. He busted his way into Mercosur, turned former allies against the US, flirted with North Korea and Iran, and generally fomented leftist revolution in the Americas. Now it looks like he's yesterday's news.

Today it looks like he'll fall short in his goal to win a spot on the UN Security Council. If he does indeed fail, then John Bolton will have done the UN a great service by keeping the Security Council from being the same sort of laughing stock that the General Assembly has become.

Meanwhile, back in Latin America, the conservative Felipe Calderon defeated Chavez's candidate in Mexico's Presidential race. Chavez's chief regional rival - Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - appears on track to win re-election in Brazil. His candidate in Ecuador's Presidential race is looking very weak against his conservative opponent. And his candidate in Peru was defeated by a US ally.

And in what might be the most alarming development for Hugo, he may actually have to take domestic opposition to his re-election bid seriously - at least, if the huge rallies in support of his opponent are to be believed.

Just a few months ago, the dominant story in Latin America was the return of leftist populism. Now it looks like Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega may represent Chavez's only opportunity to salvage his reputation, in what was supposed to be a banner year for him.

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Team Hoyt: What Love Can Accomplish

A minimum of sappiness on my part. Please check out Wizbang's Kim Priestap over at her personal blog:

A Tribute to the Strongest Dad in the World
Wow. I found this at Barbara Curtis' site Mommy Life and it's awe-inspiring.

Strongest Dad in the World
Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons.

Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike.

Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father?

Not much--except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. "He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;"

Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. "Put him in an institution."

But the Hoyts weren't buying it...

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Funny, Funny Movie...

I can't improve upon the comments of Jonathan Last over at Galley Slaves:

...You should click on that link. It's amazing. Like D.E.B.S. meets Van Damme's Street Fighter. You've never seen anything like it...

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Don't Look Now...

But the GOP appears to have a chance at Mark Foley's seat:

Poll: Democrat Leads In Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's District

Oct. 16 - The Democratic candidate running for the House seat once held by Mark Foley has a slim lead over a Republican rival, according to a newspaper poll published Sunday.

Democrat Tim Mahoney led Republican state Rep. Joe Negron 48 percent to 41 percent, with 11 percent undecided, according to the poll commissioned by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Negron is filling the campaign vacancy left after six-term congressman Foley resigned amid reports that he exchanged sexually explicit Internet messages with teenage boys who worked on Capitol Hill.

Foley's name will remain on the ballot, with any votes cast for him going to Negron.

The poll also found that many voters in the 16th Congressional District in South Florida say their voting plans will not be influenced by the scandal.

According to the poll, 71 percent, including two-thirds of Democrats, said the scandal would have "no effect" on whether they would cast ballots for Mahoney on Nov. 7. And 72 percent said the page scandal would not influence their voting patterns in other races.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Maryland-based Research 2000 conducted the telephone survey of 600 likely voters in District 16 Wednesday through Friday for the newspapers.

If Negron is within 7 points, he has a chance.

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The '80s Rejoin

In honor of Alan Schlesinger, a Crazy Eddie collection:

By the way, I will make a substantive point. For all those who moan about declining standard of living, take a look at what TVs sold for during Crazy Eddie's ridiculous sales - $499, $599 - prices like that. Even ignoring inflation, you can buy a far better TV for the same price today. And I won't even get into how much better the programming is than it was in Crazy Eddie's day. (Although back then you could see Alf).

Wait a minute, am I rambling?

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Japan Prepares for DPRK Mischief

Japan Times: "'There are concerns that North Korea may launch large-scale terrorist attacks or sly and heinous activities in retaliation to additional sanctions,' said Hiroto Yoshimura, deputy director general of the National Police Agency."

Will Money Make a Difference

The Washington Post this morning spells out the biggest reason for Republicans to be optimistic about the race for control of the House: $$$$.

In 31 closely contested House races, Republican candidates have an advantage in cash-on-hand of more than 2-1. Anne Northup (R-KY) has three times the cash on hand of her Democratic opponent. Peter Roskam has 7 times as much as his opponent in the race for Henry Hyde's seat. Geoff Davis in Kentucky and Clay Shaw in Florida have advantages of about 4-1. Further, while the NRCC and the DCCC had roughly the same amount of cash on hand in the last filing (with a critical filing to be disclosed this week), the RNC had an advantage of about 4-1 on Howard Dean's DNC. (This is a topic I have written on almost ad nauseam).

So if campaign cash makes a difference, you can expect to see a whole bunch of close races tilt toward the GOP in the next few weeks. This is essential for the GOP, as even Ken Mehlman concedes that Democrats would win the House if the election were held today.

There is a critical question whose answer we may not know until election night, however: will cash make a difference this time? This might sound silly, but I bet that in 1994 no amount of money would have helped some Democrats win re-election. The wave was so big that some Democrats might have spent 4 or 5 times as much as they did and still lost. Will the GOP fall prey to the macrowave on election night, or will they be able to make headway in a range of districts where today they trail by a small margin, and still eke out a win?

I'll be watching polling indicators for the next few weeks, to see if there are signs of improvement. If we start to see analysts shift 'Toss-up' seats into the 'Lean GOP' column, it will definitely be a hopeful sign. Watch races like Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson in Connecticut, Clay Shaw in Florida, Geoff Davis in Kentucky, and Tom Reynolds in New York (which may also tell us how big the 'Foley Effect' will be). If many of those incumbents start to fight their way back to small leads, the GOP majorities definitely have a fighting chance.

I won't bet the house, but I think there's still reason to be optimistic.

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Why George Allen's Senate Race is Close

The Washington Post reports this morning that Virginia's proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage looks likely to win statewide approval. And their indication of how different the view is in Northern Virginia from the rest of the state shows clearly why George Allen's Senate race is so close.

53% of Voters Say They Back Va. Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Only Area Against Measure Is N.Va., According to Poll
By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006; A01

A majority of Virginians support a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, although voters split on the measure when presented with interpretations of its potential impact, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Fifty-three percent of likely voters said they would vote for the amendment, and 43 percent would oppose it, the poll found, indicating that three weeks before Election Day opponents still have a long way to go to make Virginia the first state in the country to defeat a same-sex marriage amendment.

The only part of the state to oppose the measure was Northern Virginia, where voters rejected it 55 percent to 42 percent, further evidence that the Washington suburbs have become a political and social world apart from the rest of Virginia. Respondents in the rest of the state backed the measure 58 percent to 38 percent, according to the survey, conducted over three days last week.

Despite the overall results, the poll provided some hope for opponents of the measure. Their chief argument is that the language of the amendment is too broad and would endanger contracts between unwed heterosexual couples. Supporters contend that the measure is limited to declaring that same-sex marriages would never be approved or recognized in Virginia.

When respondents were read the arguments on both sides of the question, enough voters showed a willingness to reconsider that the gap narrowed to a virtual tie -- 48 percent said they supported the measure and 47 percent opposed it, within the poll's margin of error of three percentage points...

Several political scientists who have studied state ballot measures said the polling data from Virginia appeared to defy expectations, given the commonwealth's reputation as a conservative state.

"This is quite a surprise," said Daniel A. Smith, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida. "In an ostensibly conservative state like Virginia, you'd expect to see the numbers up around 60 or 70 percent."

The lower numbers in Virginia reflect a national trend of weakening support for state efforts to ban same-sex marriage, several experts said. Twenty states have passed similar measures since 1998, many with about 75 percent support. The lowest level of support an amendment received was 57 percent in Oregon in 2004.

But this year, poll results in several states with similar ballot measures show weaker support than in 2004, when 11 states passed constitutional amendments. Polls in Colorado and Wisconsin show results similar to Virginia's; poll results in South Dakota are mixed...

Among those who said they would vote for Democrat James Webb for U.S. Senate, 67 percent opposed the measure and 31 percent supported it. Allen favors the amendment, and Webb is opposed because he thinks the language goes beyond prohibiting same-sex marriage. Webb believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

The only group to significantly cross party lines was blacks. In the poll, blacks supported Webb by 81 percent to 11 percent, but they favored the amendment 61 percent to 34 percent. "I don't believe in gay relationships; I just don't believe that they are right," said Aaron Moore, 26, from Chesapeake, who added that he follows the Pentecostal faith and will vote for Webb. "Even though I'm a Democrat, it's just something that I disagree with most Democrats on."

Whites supported the measure 51 percent to 45 percent, the poll found...

The full poll data is here. It shows Allen leading Webb by a margin of 49-47%. I don't see the methodology for the poll, so I can't tell how many Republicans and how many Democrats were sampled.

Further, I am not sure how the poll defines 'Northern Virginia.' But if you consider Northern Virginia to consist of Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudon counties, as well as Alexandria and Fairfax cities, then it comprises slightly under 2 million of Virginia's population of 7.6 million. And the region is growing like crazy, and is considerably more liberal than the rest of the state.

And a ban on gay marriage is supported 58-38% through most of the state, and opposed in Northern Virginia 55-42%. If you needed any indication of why GOP candidates are no longer sure-fire winners, you have it here.

They say that grography is destiny. In California, the state traditionally had a Senator from the Bay Area, and a Senator from the South. In Pennsylvania, races cut along Pittsburgh/Philadelphia lines. In New York, former mayors of New York City do not win statewide races. And perhaps most famously, Democrats do best when they nominate conservative Southern Governors for the Presidency.

Well, since geography is destiny in Virginia as well, the GOP in Virginia will soon do best when it nominates Northern Virginia moderates for statewide office. We won't see that many more Senators like George Allen, and will instead see Senators like Tom Davis.

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Betting on Kolbe

AP reports that the House Page Board has discussed allegations against a second lawmaker. Speculation turns to Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ):

Page board said discussed other charges
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 5 minutes ago

Allegations of improper conduct toward teenage pages that are unrelated to ex-Rep. Mark Foley are under discussion by House overseers of the program, according to a Democratic lawmaker involved in the talks.

Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, the only Democrat on the House Page Board, would not say Monday whether the allegations involved Republicans or Democrats, lawmakers or staff members. He said nothing has been proven.

In his unexpected remarks, Kildee — who is unhappy Republicans did not tell him about Foley's improper approaches to male pages — said the page board discussed the new allegations in a conference call Monday.

"It was about other allegations and I'd like to leave it at that," he said. "Let me just say, not about Mr. Foley. It's only been allegations."

If any Republicans are involved, new allegations could further damage the majority party in Congress less than a month before the election. Polls already show the GOP has been damaged by the scandal involving Foley, R-Fla., who sent former male pages too-friendly e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages.

While Kildee did not divulge details, it is known that federal prosecutors in Arizona have opened a preliminary investigation into an unspecified allegation related to a camping trip that Rep. Jim Kolbe (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., took with two former pages and others in 1996. Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in the House, has denied any wrongdoing...

Good old AP! 'If any Republicans are involved, new allegations could further damage the majority party...' Not 'if any Democrats are involved, it could damage the minority party's effort to retake control...'

Well, anyway, Kildee could certainly be referring to Kolbe, because there reportedly are allegations against him:

Arizona lawmaker's '96 trip with ex-pages investigated
Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix has opened a preliminary investigation of a 1996 camping trip that included Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., and two 17-year-old boys who participated in the congressional page program, law enforcement officials said Friday.

One official cautioned that the inquiry was based on allegations from one unidentified source that has not been substantiated. The allegations involve Kolbe's behavior toward one of the ex-pages, the official said.

The trip down the Grand Canyon also included several Kolbe staffers and National Park Service employees, according to NBC News, which first reported the investigation. Kolbe's office said in a statement to NBC that "there is absolutely no basis and no truth" to any allegations of inappropriate behavior.

This said, I really doubt Kolbe has done anything wrong. Having had a fair amount of interaction with him over the years, he is friendly and somewhat physical. He will clap your shoulder, or grab your elbow, or slap you on the knee if he's joking. Everyone who deals with him knows it. But I've never gotten the sense that there was anything more than that. And where Foley was regarded as somewhat creepy, people are comfortable with Kolbe. I've never heard a suggestion of inappropriate behavior from him - certainly not toward pages.

If the Page Board is discussing allegations against him, I bet it amounts to nothing.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Bump in the Road for Lieberman

Polls have shown Joe Lieberman with a healthy lead in his race for re-election as an Independent in Connecticut. In the recent debate between Lieberman, Ned Lamont, and the Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger, a potential threat to Lieberman's re-election has emerged. That threat is Alan Schlesinger:

The ghost of Crazy Eddie was channeled Monday by a man who would be Connecticut's next senator -- and whose name is neither Lieberman nor Lamont.

This candidate's name is Alan Schlesinger. He is the official candidate nominated by the Republican Party to replace Joe Lieberman in the U.S. Senate. He trails both Lieberman -- who's now running as a "Connecticut for Lieberman" candidate -- and Democrat Ned Lamont by far in this fall's Senate race; Republicans are overwhelmingly backing Lieberman instead. Schlesinger has been drowned out by all the attention on the other two candidates.

So Schlesinger came out swinging -- literally, with his hands at times -- when he finally got to debate his two opponents in a televised debate. He injected a new factor into the race. Lieberman sought to focus attention, and criticism, on Lamont, his closest rival. But Schlesinger pounced on them both throughout the debate, and sought to establish himself as the conservative alternative to two "liberal Democrats."

He made his pitch to conservative and moderate voters on issues ranging such as flag-burning (only he supports a constutional amendment against it). “Don’t listen to Joe’s rhetoric," Schlesinger declared. "Watch his voting record.”

The 1-2 p.m. debate, the first of three scheduled over the next week in this home stretch of the too-close-to-call race, took place at the Stamford Marriott Hotel. It was sponsored by the Business Council of Fairfield County. Channels 12 and 30 carried the debate live.

...Schlesinger arrived pumped, too... During the debate he raised his voice, cracked up the audience with exhortations like, "Look out Ned and Joe, here I come baby!"...

Schlesinger set himself apart from both Lieberman and Lamont on issues like immigration. "Joe favors amnesty… Ned Lamont he actually wants to give them scholarships," Schlesinger said. "Alan Schlesigner is the only one on this stage who has a tough policy. I want to build the walls. I want to make sure there is no road to residency. I am the son of a legal immigrant. There are people today who attempted to come here as legal immigrants and died. Now we’ve got people flooding into this nation for no other reason than they want a better life for themselves. … We have to secure the borders… “We have to use drones.“

Similarly, while Lamont and Lieberman bickered about whether Lieberman is weak on preventing privatization of social security, Schlesinger called for investing some of the social security trust fund in home mortgages.

“Both of these gentlemen stand for social security and medicare bankruptcy," Schlesinger said. "I call the United States Senate the ostrich club… It [social security] is the greatest iceberg this nation is facing. Social security is so underfunded they make the national debt look like a litle walk in the park...”

Schlesinger's chance of winning is nearly zero. But Lieberman is depending on a substantial portion of the Republican vote to win. A recent Hartford Courant poll showed Lieberman with an 8 point lead over Lamont, and Schlesinger with just 4%. And surely Schlesinger's support comes almost entirely from Lieberman. If Schlesinger were to increase his support to just 10 or 15 percent, Liberman would probably have no chance.

With the New York Times and others set to toss dirt on Lamont's grave, his tactic becomes clear: he has to help Schlesinger win GOP votes. Note the compliments for Schlesinger from Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

...why has the GOP been allowed by those who call themselves "true conservatives" to abandon the candidate who supposedly represents their values? And why has the media so slavishly accepted all the narratives coming out of the Lieberman4Lieberman campaign, to the complete exclusion of the guy who legitimately won the GOP nomination?...

Alan Schlessinger kicked Lieberman's ass for the GOP vote he so critically needs to win, and Lamont gave him no quarter on the Democratic side (and looked very senatorial in the process). While there are many good things to say about both Lamont and Schlessinger in the debate today, the loser was clearly — Joe Loserman.

Expect to see more Schlesinger cheerleading from the Lamont camp. And it will be interesting to see if Schlesinger is raising money from that camp. The most recent campaign filing I see on the FEC website shows Schlesinger having raised a total of $113K. I wonder if the next report will show more donations from those who want to build Schlesinger up in order to tear Lieberman down.

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Left Brain Rules!

You Are 90% Left Brained, 10% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

Hat Tip: ALa

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Another One Bites the Dust...

By most accounts, Curt Weldon is trailing in his race for re-election against Democrat Joe Sestak. It looks like the Fat Lady is singing, in the form of an FBI raid on the home of his daughter, who is a highly-compensated lobbyist with Russian and Serbian clients who apparently benefit from her father's actions in Congress.

With all the talk about pre-emptive post-mortems of the Republican failure on election day, I'll toss my two cents in on a side that has gotten little attention: Larry Sabato's. If the GOP loses its House majority, it will be for many reasons: arrogance in power, loss of the reformist mantle, the 6 year itch, and others. But despite the litany of complaints against Republicans over how they have run the Congress, a fatal flaw may prove to be that they have given away too many seats.

Consider how the GOP has shot itself in the foot in slam-dunk GOP districts. Tom DeLay's seat is probably gone. Bob Ney's seat looks lost. Don Sherwood reportedly had an affair and choked his paramour, (he's run ads apologizing for it). Mark Foley's is likely lost. Curt Weldon's appears headed for a Democratic takeover. Tom Reynolds has an easy seat, that may be lost solely because of Foley. That's at least 6 easy-win GOP seats that the majority party has given away! If Democrats retake the House, it will probably be by a margin of 6 or less.

Like the basketball team that misses free throws, House Republicans may see their majorities lost by unforced errors that were entirely in their own control.

And another point: Jim Geraghty comments out that whatever else happens, the next set of Congressional GOP leaders are likely to be more aggressive conservatives, as moderate GOPers are defeated for re-election. While it is almost always true that swing districts tend to elect moderate Members of Congress, who are the first ones defeated, that's probably not the case this year. Look at the endangered Republicans, and their lifetime ratings from the ACU:

Rob Simmons -- 54%
Chris Shays -- 47%
Clay Shaw -- 82%
Chris Chocola -- 95%
John Hostettler -- 90%
Mike Sodrel -- 92%
Geoff Davis -- 88%
Heather Wilson -- 82%
Tom Reynolds -- 88%
Steve Chabot -- 98%
Deborah Pryce -- 79%
Jim Gerlach -- 67%
Curt Weldon -- 70%
Don Sherwood -- 87%
Henry Bonilla -- 91%
Thelma Drake -- 92%
Dave Reichert -- 64%

If that's representative of the group that ends up losing on election day - which seems likely but is not a sure bet - it definitely doesn't qualify as the liberal wing of the GOP. Rather, it looks more like the conference as a whole - one or two at the left end of the party, a few moderates, and about half of them legitimate conservatives.

I suspect that the next set of GOP leaders will be more aggressive reformers, and perhaps more conservative, but it will be because they have seen that it is political suicide to ignore Republican principles. I don't think it will be because moderates have been culled.

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Saddam Verdict on November 5

Well, assuming that Saddam is convicted and sentenced to death on November 5, what will the impact be on the elections two days later? Will there be a series of attacks by insurgents, that the media will portray as increased signals of a coming civil war? Will Americans voters regard it as a sign that Iraq is 'turning the corner?'

Is this Karl Rove's Ace in the Hole?

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Replacing Immigrant Labor

Will a border fence stanch the flow of illegal immigrant labor? It's work that Americans will do, given the right business model.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Studds Dies a Timely Death; Fishing Highlighted

The GOP is still trying to figure out why Gerry Studds was a some kind of gay superhero for secretly having sex with underage Congressional pages, while Mark Foley seems to be the antichrist for having sex chat with them. But while Studds's actions were deplorable, and his refusal to acknowledge that was disgusting, at least he picked a useful time to shuffle off the mortal coil. Even some Democrats might be shamed into silence over Foley, when Studds's death proves a reminder of their moral bankruptcy on the whole issue.

Here's what Nancy Pelosi had to say about Foley:

"The children who work as Pages in the Congress are Members’ special trust...

The children, their parents, the public, and our colleagues must be assured that such abhorrent behavior is not tolerated and will never happen again."

So far no comment on Studds (at least that I have seen).

John Kerry remains the picture of shameless hypocrisy. With regard to the Foley scandal, he recently said:

"This issue is here because of a Republican cover-up," he said. "And those from the party that preach moral values that covered this up have no right to preach moral values any more."

Of Studds, Kerry had this to say:
Gerry was a stalwart champion of New England's fishing families as well as a committed environmentalist who worked hard to demonstrate that the cause of working people and the cause of the environment go hand in hand with the right leadership. When he retired from Congress, he did not retire from the cause, continuing to fight for the fishing industry and New England's environmental causes.

Kerry apparently thinks that Studds still had legitimacy on 'moral values' issues like supporting New England's fishing families. It'll be funny if someone corners him and forces him to explain the contradiction.

Ted Kennedy reportedly called for an investigation into who knew about Foley's behavior. But he too, seems to have been unfazed by the actions of Studds. His statement also focuses on fisheries:

"Gerry's leadership changed Massachusetts forever and we'll never forget him... His work on behalf of our fishing industry and the protection of our waters has guided the fishing industry into the future and ensured that generations to come will have the opportunity to love and learn from the sea. . . . Gerry's work in Congress can still be seen in the towns and cities he fought for, in the constituents who became friends, and on the waters he worked tirelessly to protect."

I suppose maybe I'm being too harsh. Perhaps the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has committeed serial truncation of the Democrats' reaction quotes. Because if you look at this list, there's not a mention of behavior that Democrats seemed to think was so deplorable when we were talking about Mark Foley.

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