Colorado Goes Crazy!

July 26, 2010

For those of you that do not know, that is a take from a headline in the Boston Globe in 1935.  That year, the Alberta general election saw the Social Credit Party of Alberta rout the governing United Farmers of Alberta to the extent that the UFA was left without a seat in the upcoming Legislative Assembly.  They would never return to government in Alberta, and left politics altogether; the UFA is now a major cooperative.  Will something that epic happen in Colorado this year?  No, of course not.  However, it is pretty amazing to see the Republican Party completely implode in a race that was thought to be a likely flip.

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), considered.

July 19, 2010

Well, he’s in.  West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin will run to succeed U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd in the United States Senate.  Byrd died in June at age 92.  Gov. Manchin recently appointed his former chief of staff, Carte Goodwin, to be the placeholder until the election can be held.  The special election will be on August 28th, and the general election will be held on November 2nd.

In order for legislation to pass which set the date of the special election, Manchin and Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates had to make a concession: the law will allow people to run for more than one office at a time.  This was to open up the possibility for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to run for the seat as well without giving up her House seat.  Capito will make a decision on whether she will be a candidate later on this week.

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A Political Panorama Watch List for the 2010 elections.

July 2, 2010

This year’s midterms have the potential to shape the legislative agenda of the Obama administration for some time to come.  If the Republicans win out this year, it will have a chilling effect on the White House’s political capital.  If the Democrats manage to keep the House and Senate in their hands, but with a reduced majority, this could also force the White House to play a little nicer with Republicans, a la Bill Clinton post-1994.

The following is a list of races that the writers at The Political Panorama are watching closely this year.

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Tuesday’s primaries, considered.

June 7, 2010

Tomorrow is yet another big primary day.  The big primaries are on the Republican side, and they stretch from South Carolina to California.  Some are noted because they have been, well, just plain weird, and others will have a huge impact on the electoral outcomes in those states.

So let us mosey on down the list, shall we?

1. California

  • The Golden State’s biggest fights are on the Republican side.  Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a huge McCain booster in 2008, appears to have righted the ship in her campaign.  For a couple of months, it appeared that former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA) would take the nomination, as Fiorina’s campaign was flagging amidst a lackadaisical approach to campaigning, and well…those really weird ads.  However, Campbell has been hit by accusations of taking money from professors linked to terrorism, and Fiorina has really picked up the pace throughout the campaign.  As such, Fiorina has broken through the pack and now has a solid lead in the polls.  I look for her to be the Republican nominee against U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).  Likewise, the governor’s race on the Republican side experienced a period of tightening, as former EBay CEO Meg Whitman’s lead appeared to have vanished overnight a couple of weeks ago.  However, State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has not been able to capitalize on various missteps related to Whitman’s EBay dealings, and Whitman appears poised for a convincing victory tomorrow.  She will take on former Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) in the general.

2. South Carolina

  • Given the strong Republican tilt in the Palmetto State, the Republican primary will be tantamount to election.  The big story has been the Republican gubernatorial primary, where State Rep. Nikki Haley is seeking to become the state’s first Indian-American governor.  However, there have been claims from two politicos (unsubstantiated, I must add) that they have had affairs with Haley.  Because these claims are unsubstantiated, they have not become too much of a liability to her campaign.  In fact, they may have helped her, since many see them as attempted smears from her opponents (one of the staffers that she allegedly slept with was a staffer of her opponent, Lt. Gov, André Bauer).  She will not avoid a runoff, so it is tough to say who wins the primary overall, but Haley will finish first in the primary tomorrow.

3. Iowa

  • Ah, Iowa.  The land of corn.  And really competitive gubernatorial primaries.  This primary has captivated me.  The storylines are numerous: former four-term Gov. Terry Branstad comes out of political retirement to seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination, tea party favorite Bob Vander Plaats makes his third run at the governor’s mansion, and Democratic Gov. Chet Culver struggling mightily to get it all together.  Culver is unpopular with unions after resorting to somewhat drastic measures in order to balance Iowa’s budget last year, and the rift threatens to cut into his natural grassroots volunteer base.  Branstad will win the primary tomorrow, and unless something causes the landscape dramatically, he will also win the general as well.

4. Nevada

  • Remember when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was a walking dead man?  Remember when I could have probably challenged him in the general and won?  Well, that was before former Nevada GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden, the (former) frontrunner for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, said that we should start bartering chickens for health care.  Now, former State Assemblywoman Sharron Angle’s tea party-fueled campaign has seized the lead for the nomination.  Normally, this would be a good thing: hyped-up activists that are willing to go all out for candidates, volunteers that are truly committed to a cause and view you as the embodiment of that cause.  However, establishment Republicans have signaled that they will not work with Angle were she to win the nomination, and this rift has breathed new life into Reid’s campaign.  As far as the primary tomorrow goes, I believe that Angle takes it in a tight three-way race that also involves businessman Danny Tarkanian, but I do not believe that she unseats Reid in the general.

Have fun tomorrow and happy primary watching!

SN: In order to get onto the Technorati blog aggregator, we must insert a code into one of our posts:  7M6ZEHW5VVVZ.


Are we witnessing the Obama Oil Spill, and what political consequences lay ahead?

June 4, 2010

Douglas:

This oil spill came at the worst possible time for President Obama.  The jobs reports had been showing positive growth over the last couple of months.  This fact, combined with a more assertive Obama that had become less timid about directly confronting his adversaries, made the legislative outlook for 2010 quite bright.  Perhaps we could get legislation through that dealt with climate change, or maybe we could even raise the Employee Free Choice Act from the dead and put a version of that to a vote on the floor.

Well that is no more, as the double whammy of the actual oil spill and the failed efforts to end the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has all but ground President Obama’s legislative agenda to a halt.  Along the way, he has been criticized for myriad things:

  • He did not attend the funerals of the eleven men who died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion that caused the oil spill.
  • He has not dispensed enough government resources to cap off the oil well.
  • He has not held BP accountable enough.
  • He has not been to the Gulf coast to talk with the residents of the region more.

These are but a few.  However, it is necessary to note a couple of things, the first of which having to deal with the entity that bears the responsibility for cleaning up the oil spill.  It is not the United States federal government; it is British Petroleum.  They should have to drain as much money as they have to in order to clean this mess up.  Second, while he did not attend the funerals of those that perished in the blast (like he did for the 29 West Virginia coal miners who died last month), should that be taken to mean that he does not care?  Did President Bush attend the memorials of those that died in the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia?  He did not.  How many times did President Bush visit the region after Katrina?  That is what I thought.  I would not expect the President of the United States to be talking to every citizen on the Gulf Coast; I would want him in Washington, putting together the kind of braintrust that is going to be needed to deal with the aftermath of the largest oil spill in American history.

All of this being said, is it Obama’s oil spill?  No.  It cannot be.  It cannot be because there is nothing that suggests that he is not doing everything legally necessary to make this situation right.  If the federal government comes in and cleans this mess up on its own, it would be akin to a parent constantly cleaning up after a child.  When does BP learn from its mistakes?  When are they made to feel the same sort of pain in the area that matters most to them (their pocketbooks/wallets) that the families of the eleven who were killed, or the thousands of fishermen that work and live along the Gulf Coast who now find themselves out of work, are made to feel every day that this drags on further?  The federal government should perform necessary duties (environmental impact alleviation, finding work for displaced fishermen, etc.), but British Petroleum must be made to pay for their actions, and short of President Obama ordering a nationalization of oil companies doing business within the United States, the clean up and payout of damages to victims should be the sole responsibility of BP.

As far as the electoral consequences are concerned, it is a wash.  Here in Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has been hitting U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) hard on the issue, highlighting his campaign donations from BP and his stance against a bill that would have raised the liability caps for pain and suffering that companies such as BP would have been forced to pay.  But make no mistake: there are Democrats that have also taken money from BP as well, and they will be targeted in much the same way.  So I see this as something that will, politically speaking, not make too many waves come November 2nd.

Troy:

Can this be considered Obama’s oil spill?

There are really two veins to this question. The first is, is Obama to blame for the spill? The simple answer is no. BP is to blame, perhaps Transocean, as well as the deregulation of past public servants.

The second is, does Obama “own” the spill in terms of the buck stopping with him. The answer is, to a limited extent, yes. BP ultimately is liable, but the public is certainly looking to Obama above all others to demonstrate guidance toward some sort of resolution.

What will be the electoral effect of the oil spill?

It depends. As I’ve said since Obama took office, the midterm elections of 2010 will be decided largely on management and budget issues. Positive results for Democrats depend partially on the economy (and budget) beginning to turn around. In terms of the oil spill, if the latest attempt to cap-and-contain the underwater pipeline is successful, the focus can then shift more toward cleanup of the existing spill with an aggressive cleanup regime. Because the midterms will be largely decided on management effectiveness, for Democrats meaningful progress/success on the oil spill will result in a neutral effect at worst and a positive effect at best.

If the latest attempt fails and the Gulf of Mexico continues to turn black through August or September when the relief wells are drilled, the oil spill could be somewhat harmful for Democrats whether it’s fair or not. That’s especially true of there isn’t a clear plan in place for the cleanup following the drilling of the relief wells in August. It has been well noted in recent years that planning for the aftermath, so to speak, is critical. By August, the Obama administration, the military, other top officials will have had plenty of time to develop a plan for cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico. If they fail to do that, the consequences in November will be limited, but real.

Eric:

Can this be considered Obama’s oil spill? Well, it is not necessarily rational but the answer has to be an overwhelming YES. Not because it is but because that is how it is and will be perceived. I say it isn’t rational because there is little, if anything, for Obama to do in this case. He is being forced to throw his hands up and say ‘I have no idea’ just like BP and everybody else. It’s not like it was Obama’s plan to drill that well, and you can’t convince me that he should have done something which may have prevented it (perhaps taking some action to address MMS). He just happens to be the guy in the captain’s chair at the time of the accident; however that translates into blame and/or consequences. It’s Obama’s oil spill as much as it was Bush’s Katrina and Carter’s hostage crisis.

Allow me to digress for a moment, but the real issue to me is that we allow this offshore drilling with no plan or apparent ability to stop disasters that may happen. They have the blowout preventer…but then what? Nobody came up with a fail safe for the fail safe? Why not? As we see now, the consequences are pretty severe.

Anyway, as far as electoral effects of the oil spill, I think it is a tough subject to predict. For starters, I think the Democratic party is and was going to have a somewhat difficult mid-term election in the first place. Largely the result of a seemingly growing anti-government movement, the oil spill won’t be reversing any of those sentiments. But for Obama in particular, I think the inability of any one person or entity, government included, to stop the flow of oil before August (!) is going to translate into evidence or ammunition for the lack of experience and leadership argument (evidence or ammunition depending on your stance on the topic).

Let’s be honest, Obama did not win the election based on his extensive previous experience in government. It was a big target for the GOP in 2008, and it will be again assuming the spill and its effects are relatively fresh on Americans’ minds. Will it sway the election? Too early to say for sure, but if nothing else it might make it a much tighter race than anybody previously thought.

Craig:

I believe that the oil spill should be considered President Obama’s oil spill. With that said, there is plenty of blame to go around (the status quo before Obama as well) is partially to blame as well.

However, like any political figure, ties to the current oil industry have caused an unsafe inbreeding that has led us to the largest oil disaster in our nation’s history. Steven Chu, President Obama’s Energy Secretary received the bulk of a $500 million BP grant to develop alternative energy sources. BP’s Chief scientist at the time (Steven Koonin) described Chu as “my twin brother.” Now, Chu is working with and against (to protect the President’s political capital) BP to stop the flow of oil.

I agree with James Carville, John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, and LA Governor Bobby Jindal. The President has not taken a proactive role in the oil spill. I believe this has the potential to be Obama’s Hurricane Katrina.

While Bobby Jindal is evaluating and helping with relief efforts, President Obama could be very hands on in this process, and he hasn’t been. He’s attempting to pass the buck on to BP for plugging the well and cleaning the mess. He should be working with other countries and industries in order to solve the problem. Instead of leaving BP’s CEO of making statements of progress, the President needs to have his “bullhorn” moment and take control of the situation.

BP memos show they may have been slow to respond or have underestimated the full effects of the problem. From a pure realistic perspective: if BP executives were slow to respond before, and directly after the disaster, are they the right people to tell the Obama Administration what their next plan is to cap the well?

We are a month and a half after the disaster and today is only his third trip to the Gulf region. While oil and energy ties are abound in every political regime, it’s unrealistic to say that Obama will “clean house” as he claims with the oil industry. If that is so, he needs to reconsider his own Energy Secretary. The Republicans could legitimately frame this as Obama’s Katrina. With that said, I do not believe this will have a drastic effect on the midterm elections in November. While the problem is all of ours, the responsibility rests at President Obama and BP’s feet.

Lastly, here are some facts on the amount of oil currently in the gulf:

  1. 11,300 – The distance in miles the current amount of oil leak would stretch if placed in milk jugs lined side by side.
  2. 102 – Number of school gymnasiums that could theoretically be filled floor-to-ceiling with oil from the spill.
  3. 19,000,000-39,000,000 – The amount of oil that has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since the spill. 19 Million gallons would fill my car’s gas tank (14.5 gallons) 1.31 million times.
  4. 400 Wildlife Species threatened by the spill.

What Are They Putting in the Water in Florida?

June 1, 2010

I just got back from another trip home to the sunshine state where I spent some good time with family and friends. One of the more interesting things I noticed while I was down there was the political advertisements for two candidates in particular. Jeff Greene, who is running for the same U.S. Senate seat as Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio, and Kendrick Meek, and Rick Scott, who is running for governor. The fact that these two retards are running for public office is the reason behind the title of this post.

Jeff Greene…let’s start with him. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is running on a platform of being a political outsider while touting his business credentials and past success. Upon closer look, one may discover that Jeff Greene amassed his fortune trading credit default swaps in real estate. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that is exactly the same thing that gets blamed for causing the whole financial market meltdown not too long ago. Millions of Floridians have had their homes foreclosed or are facing foreclosure as a result of the irresponsible lending and mortgage industries, but not Jeff Greene. He made a fortune off of it, and now he wants Floridians to elect him as a United States Senator. Perhaps it is a sincere effort to repay Floridians and Americans through public service…but if you’re willing and able to believe that then please send me an e-mail because I have a business plan I would like to discuss with you.

Rick Scott. A member of the GOP, running for governor against likely GOP nominee and current front-runner Bill McCollum. McCollum is the Attorney General of FL, a career politician I suppose–a fact which Rick Scott is quick to point out. Rick Scott? He founded and was the head of a company which owned hospitals which were found to have committed Medicare fraud. His company was ordered to pay the largest ever fine for this offense. It happened on his watch, he was CEO. What does he cite in his campaign commercials for why he should be governor of Florida? His “successful” business experience and his accountability, among others. One of his commercials mentions the history of his company (kind of hard to ignore it) and concludes with him saying the important part is that he was not charged with anything or fined personally, and oh yeah its important to learn from it and move on, like he has. So he is accountable…now.

Ridiculous. Somebody should inform these people, and whoever told them they should run, that simply NOT being a politician is not adequate qualifications public office. This anti-establishment fervor, for lack of a better term, is mucking up candidates who wouldn’t necessarily be a good public servant, rather just anybody rich enough to finance their ambition.

In my opinion, politicians and public servants should be individuals who the public can look to as a good example, people who value service to their state, community, and country. Instead, it seems like more and more these days we look to politicians for examples NOT to follow. People like Rick Scott and Jeff Greene.


The GOP’s November Strategy, considered.

May 24, 2010

From Arizona to Kentucky to Indiana to that one sex club in Los Angeles, the GOP has been in one imbroglio after another. In the “election of the angry-at-anything-voter”, what is the GOP strategy for victory in November?

To be honest, I do not know if they quite have one at this point. I mean, it looked like the Tea Party was going to be the catalyst for a Republican landslide last year. These conservatives were fired up and ready to demolish the Democrats over weak leadership, an “unpopular” health care bill, and a general sense of depression among liberal activists over the seemingly insurmountable odds staring them in the face with regards to the implementation of the Democratic agenda that swept into office only months before.

A few things have changed since then, the most pressing thing being the position of the Tea Party in the Republican Party. While they were simply seen as a force for protest in 2009, they have become a monster all their own, and the Republican Party may end up being its own biggest casualty. Tea Party-backed candidates have triumphed in Utah, where three-term conservative Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) will not appear on the Republican primary ballot after failing to garner enough votes at the Utah State GOP Convention. They have also triumphed in Kentucky, where Dr. Rand Paul is now the Republican nominee to face Attorney General Jack Conway in that state’s U.S. Senate race.

The problem, though, is that these candidates may not be very polished and, by extension, worse candidates. Take the Paul conundrum over civil rights. Now, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed 46 years ago and is settled law. When asked about his views, he could have simply said, “I feel that the de jure racism of our past is a settled matter. I support freedom for all, regardless of creed or color. Period.” Yet, he could not resist making his libertarian defense of freedom from regulation, and it may cost the Republicans a safe seat in the U.S. Senate. Now, can anyone tell me that Trey Grayson would have somehow been less conservative? That is what I thought, too.

The same situation has played out in Arizona, where pressure from Tea Party operatives and right-wing immigration groups forced Gov. Jan Brewer’s (R-AZ) hand in signing some of the most regressive immigration policy since the internment camps of World War II. This will have a grave effect on efforts to recruit Latino support for Republican candidates in the fall. The much ballyhooed strategy to recruit minority GOP candidates may have been seriously damaged by these events.

Then, you have the sex scandals. Their effect on depressing the GOP faithful needs no further explanation besides to say that I’m pretty shocked that a party rocked by these sorts of events in 2006 would not have learned its lesson by now.

So, my question is this: given all this, what is the path for Republican victory?  First, we must define victory.  A victory must be more than usual; simply winning 20-25 House seats and 4-5 Senate seats is no victory.  That is normal for a first-term President’s first midterm election.  A victory would constitute a 30+ seat gain in the House and a 7+ seat gain in the Senate.  How possible is this?  On the House side, it is quite possible.  With the bulk of new Democratic Congresspeople coming from places like Idaho-1 or Virginia-5 (rural, conservative districts that strongly tilt red in federal elections), I would expect that a lot of these will be swept out of office.  They would still need a few swing districts, and after the Critz victory in Pennsylvania, those doors may not be as open as once thought, especially if the economy continues to tick upward.  In the Senate, it is nearly impossible.  Winning all five tossups plus a Connecticut or a Washington?  I do not see that happening.  The GOP will campaign on the deficit, and that will get people fired up for sure.  However, how many people can even say what the federal deficit is?  How about the national debt?

This election will come down to GOTV; midterms always do.  But with the recent missteps from the GOP, the tidal wave that appeared to be ready to thunder onto the electoral shores of November may end up gliding in like a gentle wave.  It will sure be fun to watch.