Outlawing Choice No Longer Exists In The Abstract

As you've undoubtedly already heard, Governor Mike Rounds has signed into law a bill banning abortion in the state of South Dakota. While there is an exception in the bill if the life of the mother is at risk, there are no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or situations where the health of the mother is compromised. The South Dakota ban is likely to be followed shortly by a similar ban in Mississippi, which does allow exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Right now, each state only has one abortion clinic.

Now, neither of these bills is really going to outlaw abortion in either state. Yet. Rounds openly admits that the South Dakota ban will be bogged down in the courts for years to come. Both (again, as you've undoubtedly already heard) are designed to challenge the precedent of Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court, where their backers expect to find a receptive audience with John Roberts and Samuel Alito. This is the moment that every pro-choice voter who has ever voted for a Republican never thought would come. They voted for Republican tax cuts, confident that the social agenda was just some sort of ruse to win over the Falwell crowd. For example, in September of 2004, polling indicated that in the crucial state of Ohio, support for Bush among self-identified pro-choice voters was much higher than support for Kerry among self-identified pro-life voters. This is a critical point. Throughout the pro-choice electorate, there has long been this assumption that the woman's right to choose is not seriously threatened. It has always been an incredibly stupid and undisciplined thing to assume. Elected Republicans haven't been pandering to the Falwell crowd. They are the Falwell crowd.

And this fight isn't over. It doesn't end with Bush naming Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court. If not Bush, the next President will name a replacement to John Paul Stevens, whose death Republicans are gleefully hoping for because it will likely push the court decisively one way or the other (or at least more than it has already been pushed). A quick review of Republicans likely to run for their party's nomination in 2008 shows that ignoring choice at the ballot box is no longer an option. John McCain, George Allen, and Mitt Romney have all promised that, like Rounds, they would sign the South Dakota ban, as has darkhorse candidate Mike Huckabee.

Advocates for choice have been warning voters about this for years. Obviously, after a while, those warnings sounded alarmist and unrealistic to some. Unfortunately, they were neither. So here we are. This issue no longer exists in the abstract.

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Who was that shotgun really pointed at?

Okay, so Dick Cheney shot and almost (so far, anyway) killed a man. There's something very smelly about the whole affair, but what I'm smelling most strongly from the Bush White House and the Republican leadership is this: it may be that Dick Cheney's days as VP are growing very short.

In the last week or so, we've been reading an awful lot about how Scooter Libby's "immediate superiors," i.e. Dick Cheney and George W Bush, authorized him to 'leak' classified information. High-ranking Republicans have been suggesting, in public, that this might warrant an investigation ... and then the dicey sounding shooting/coverup. It looks to me like "Big Time" is being prepped for a resignation.

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Conservatives Nominates Allen

Need proof that public opinion polls about the 2008 race are horribly useless? Well, I'm going to give it to you anyway. In mid-December, data from a Gallup poll was released that indicated a lead for Rudy Giuliani in the race for the 2008 GOP nomination. He wound up with an impressive 30%. In fourth place was Virginia Senator George Allen, who came in with a relatively dismal 7%.

A straw poll was held at this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, that showed some very different results. For those of you unfamiliar with CPAC, it's billed (and I'm not arguing) as "the largest gathering of conservatives nationwide," so it's essentially a who's-who of rightist America. The list of speakers and sponsors reads like Jack Abramoff's Rolodex -- Ann Coulter, Dick Cheney, Rick Santorum, Grover Norquist, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Wayne LaPierre, Oliver North, Ken Mehlman, Phyllis Schlafly, George Will, Michelle Malkin, J.D. Hayworth, John Fund, Tony Blankley, Bill Frist, John Bolton, Bob Novak, and so on and so forth. I would consider a straw poll held at this event to be far more credible than anything Gallup can glean from questioning the general public.

In a straw vote for presidential favorites in 2008, Virginia Sen. George Allen received 22 percent of the vote of conference participants. Arizona Sen. John McCain garnered 20 percent, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani 12 percent and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 10 percent, according to results from Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates. [Newt] Gingrich was at 5 percent.

So what does this tell us? The candidacies of George Pataki, Mitt Romney, and Chuck Hagel are likely dead on arrival. The same could probably be said for Mike Huckabee, though I think he could very well be the sleeper of the '08 GOP race. But most of all, it tells us that conservatives who are 'in the know' are not backing the same candidates as your average Republican voter. This is something we're very familiar with as the netroots straw polls show almost always exactly the opposite results as polling of average Democrats.

It also tells us that George Allen is one to watch as 2008 draws near. This makes it incredibly important that we make ourselves very aware of his record and positions. And since he's up for re-election this year, it's also incredibly important that we go out of our way to support Democratic candidates James Webb or Harris Miller in the Virginia Senate race. Picking off Allen's seat won't be easy, but it is possible, especially in light of the fact that he doesn't seem to be doing his job, too busy running for President to actually worry about representing his constituents.

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James Webb: Broaden the Base of the Dem. Party

The following letter from James Webb was read last night at the Virginia Jefferson-Jackson (JJ) Dinner. The letter explains why Webb couldn't be there (unfortunate accident with a "runaway power washer") and explains his own deep roots both in Virginia (particularly the rural and mountainous parts) and also in Democratic Party philosophy (Andrew Jackson - one half of "Jefferson-Jackson" - is a particular favorite of his).  Since Webb couldn't be there due to hand surgery Friday, his letter was read by former Lt. Governor candidate Viola Baskerville.

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VA-Sen: Harris Miller To Challenge Allen

Republicans may be running into recruiting troubles around the country, but Democrats are having no such problems. Case in point, the 2006 Senate race in Virginia. Quite a few people had hoped that Governor Mark Warner, the most popular politician in the state, would take on Senator George Allen. However, that brought up interesting questions about whether Warner could run for Senate in 2006 and then turn around to run for President in 2008. So the speculation turned to Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, James Webb. But as Matt pointed out earlier, it seems the Virginia Democrats have gone in a slightly different direction with Harris Miller.

WTOP Radio has learned Harris Miller will challenge Republican incumbent George Allen in November.

Miller, an activist in Fairfax County, will formally announce his candidacy next week. He describes himself as "a shorter, and poorer version of {Governor) Mark Warner."

The 54-year-old McLean resident is currently the President of the Information Technology Association of America. He wants to see more done by the Federal government.

"I'm not satisfied with what I'm seeing done in Washington in terms of preparing our country for the future."

Picking Miller is interesting on a number of levels. First of all, as Chris pointed out back in November, finding a challenger for Allen was one of the few remaining recruiting priorities for the Democrats. That Miller is reportedly running with the backing of Mark Warner confirms that, since he has no interest in the 2006 Senate race, he's definitely running for President in 2008. And of course, since George Allen is also often mentioned as a likely 2008 contender, it's extremely important that he faces a strong challenge for re-election to his Senate seat.

Personally, it's quite encouraging for me to see that Miller will be championing forward-thinking economic development as a key campaign theme. Governor-elect Jon Corzine was successful here in New Jersey with a similar pitch and I generally think it's a very smart idea to tie progressive policy and economic development together as one political issue. Moving into the future, positioning the Democratic Party as the party of progress running against the Republican Luddites should pay real dividends.

UPDATE: There is still a lot of support for James Webb in the comments. I've heard some discomfort with the fact that Webb's a former Republican, but in Virginia, I'd imagine that helps more than hurts. And it doesn't seem to me that there's much question about Webb's loyalty to the Democratic Party. A Webb/Miller primary in Virginia seems like it would be pretty interesting.

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