The DC Mentality

This torqued me the other day. Politico's daily Congressional news e-mail, Martin Kady's Huddle, led off with this paragraph yesterday morning (emphasis added):

From Hawaii to Arkansas to Pennsylvania, Democrats have lost the ability to hand pick their preferred candidates.

And in West Virginia, the fallout from Rep. Alan Mollohan's primary loss is still sinking in, as the Washington Democratic establishment realizes it can no longer steer the primary outcomes with money and high profile endorsements.

By the end of this month, Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter may be out, and Hawaii may have a Republican congressman who owes his victory to divided Democrats.

Um, what? No sir, Democrats have NOT lost the ability to pick their candidates. They are GAINING the ability to pick their candidates rather than letting the DC establishment do it for them. To suggest that Washington rainmakers are the only real Democrats and that voters should shut up and listen is undemocratic with a lower case d, and exemplifies much of what is wrong with Washington. Washington does not (or at least should not) run the rest of the country; the rest of the country runs itself by choosing its own representatives and having them assemble together in a central city. Overly idealistic perhaps, but we'd be closer to that model if the MSM were on its side.

Let's put a further dent in the establishment mindset by promoting Joe Sestak and Bill Halter next week.

Progressive Senate Candidates Make Closing Arguments

They’re calling it Super Senate Tuesday. Next week on May 18, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas will all hold competitive primaries for the U.S. Senate. All three races offer the progressive movement the chance to defeat lackluster conserva-Dems. (Also Tuesday, the special election to replace the late Rep. Jack Murtha in PA-12 and the non-competitive OR-SEN primary.)

In both Kentucky and Pennsylvania, progressive candidates down roughly 20 points just a month or two ago are now in dead heats against inferior opponents. In Kentucky, state Attorney General Jack Conway is squaring off against Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo. Mongiardo is un-electable in a general, conservative (he agrees with Mitch McConnell on health care!), and possibly corrupt. Conway is none of those things, and yet a new Daily Kos poll has Mongiardo winning 39-36. SurveyUSA has it virtually tied at Mongiardo 38, Conway 37.

Fortunately, Conway has the momentum. In the past week, he’s picked up endorsements from the Lexington Herald Leader, state auditor Crit Luallen, and former Senator Wendell Ford, who is spending the final four days of the primary campaign barnstorming the state with Conway. Here’s a new video from Conway’s campaign:

Another close race is PA-SEN between retired admiral Rep. Joe Sestak and former Repub Arlen Specter. This race is also tied; Kos calls it 45-43 for Sestak, Muhlenberg tracking says 43-45 for Specter, and Quinnipiac says 44-42 for Specter. Here’s the closing argument from Sestak, a new ad comparing his voting record to Specter’s:

I’ve been very impressed with the last two ads I’ve seen from Sestak’s campaign – this and the one highlighting Specter’s party switch and close ties to Dubya and Palin. The latest news on that ad is that Specter cited a local newscast as proof that Sestak was splicing his words and taking them out of context – and yet himself spliced the newscast and took it out of context to make that point.

I used to support Arlen Specter, but then he tried to smear Admiral Sestak’s military record, making up false charges against a decorated veteran for political gain. There’s little worse in my book. Kentucky’s Daniel Mongiardo isn’t much better than Rand Paul, and we’ll be better off with even a liberal Arlen Specter, so please, support Jack Conway and Joe Sestak today. They’re both close, but need a final push – especially in Sestak’s case, where a tie favors Specter’s organizational advantage.

Also happening, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is still well behind incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. I still think she’ll get 50% of the vote, but he is catching up, so maybe show him some love too and we can knock out several conservative obstructionists at once.

The Journal Never Learns

The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed today from Karl Rove called, “How Badly Will The Democrats Do?” Why the Journal found Rove to be a trustworthy prognosticator, I’ll never know. Granted, he’s better than Dick Morris, but that’s not saying much. This go-round, Rove lists a variety of numbers regarding fundraising, primaries, polls, enthusiasm, etc., and comes to this conclusion about the 2010 midterms:

The White House has many tools to change the narrative to its advantage. But it's unlikely swing voters will abandon their concerns about ObamaCare, spending and deficits. The public, especially independents, increasingly believes Mr. Obama's policies threaten America's economic future.

Though this midterm election will likely turn on national concerns, it will still come down to individual contests. While a lot will play out over the next six months, there's no question good Republican candidates running effective races will make this a memorable, perhaps even epic, election for the GOP. Obama Democrats should beware.

Okay, but remember the last time he talked about individual contests, on NPR in 2006? Days before he GOP lost 30 House seats and the majority? Here’s the man’s track record:

SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you are looking at.

ROVE: No, you are not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week for candidates for the US House and US Senate and Governor, and you may be looking at 4-5 public polls a week that talk attitudes nationally.

SIEGEL: I don't want to have you to call races...

ROVE: I'm looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to THE math.

SIEGEL: I don't know if we're entitled to a different math but your...

ROVE: I said THE math.

Okay, so, after all that, the Journal still gives the man’s predictions credibility… why, exactly?

Senate Climate Bill Finally Unveiled

After weeks of teasing and rampant speculation about the bill’s actual contents, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman finally released the draft of their long awaited energy bill today, known as the “American Power Act.” The two have lost their Republican counterpart, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, though according to The Hill, “Graham praised the package, although he cautioned that he didn’t know all the details.”

Until earlier this month, I was paid by an Episcopal Service Corps program to work with Repower America, Al Gore’s clean energy campaign. (Disclaimer: That program is done, and Repower has nothing to do with this post - they probably disagree with it.) I like to think that my environmental credentials are pretty strong – but I oppose this bill as currently written. Fortunately, it wouldn’t take much to get me to support it. This post will contain both a summary of the bill from Senator Kerry's office and my own reaction.

According to Kerry’s office’s (emphasis added), “Rather than allowing a patchwork of conflicting state and federal regulations, it lays out one clear set of rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  States will not be permitted to operate cap-and-trade programs for greenhouse gases. Those states that have already taken a leadership role in implementing emission reduction policies will receive compensation for the revenues lost as a result of the termination of their cap-and-trade programs. “

This anti-federalist ban on state action may or may not be unconstitutional, but it certainly turns this bill into a last step rather than a first step. It’s the states, not the Congress, the Department of Energy, or even the EPA that have taken the lead in the combating climate change and our addiction to oil. Without California’s aggressive actions on energy or the northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, we’d be nowhere. The Kerry-Lieberman bill gets the ball rolling on national climate action, but by banning future state regulation, it also stops the ball as soon as it starts. I can support the bill’s oil and coal giveaways if it’s just a first step, but not if it’s a last step.

As for the rest of the bill, Senator Kerry’s office has made executive summaries and section-by-section summaries available. Select bullet points in the short summary include (emphasis added):

  • We include a hard price collar which binds carbon prices and creates a predictable system for carbon prices to rise at a fixed rate over inflation. Introductory floor and ceiling prices are set at $12 (increasing at 3 percent over inflation annually) and $25 (increasing at 5 percent over inflation annually), respectively.
  • To provide environmental integrity and ensure meaningful emissions reductions, we include a strategic reserve to complement the hard price collar and ensure the availability of price-certain allowances in the event of unusually high carbon prices.
  • We provide over $7 billion annually to improve our transportation infrastructure and efficiency, including our highways and mass transit systems.
  • We also address our use of foreign oil in our trucks and heavy-duty fleet by providing significant tax incentives for conversion to clean natural gas vehicles.
  • Mindful of the accident in the Gulf, we institute important new protections for coastal states by allowing them to opt-out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores. In addition, directly impacted states can veto drilling plans if they stand to suffer significant adverse impacts in the event of an accident. States that do pursue drilling will receive 37.5 percent of revenues to help protect their coastlines and coastal ecosystems.
  • Industrial sources will not enter the program until 2016. Prior to 2016, allowance value is dedicated to offset electricity and natural gas rate increases for industrial rate-payers and to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing – to keep power bills down in the future.

More summary and analysis below the jump.

There's more...

Three More Blows For Specter

Today is not a good day to be former Repub Arlen Specter. First, a second polling firm now shows him well behind retired Admiral Rep. Joe Sestak in the PA-SEN Democratic primary. Second, Specter has fallen well behind Sestak in both state-wide favorability ratings and general election matchups, giving Sestak all the electability cards. Third, you just know Specter had to be rooting against Obama nominating Kagan for the Supreme Court, and that's going to hurt him.

Reflecting the same results as the Muhlenberg tracking poll, Rasmussen now shows Sestak in the lead. Both polls show a 47-42 race, right at the 5% MOE. This is the third day in a row Sestak has led the Muhlenberg poll and his largest lead yet; it is the first time he has led in a new Rasmussen poll. Muhlenberg has 11% undecided; Rasmussen 8%. (Rasmussen included "some other candidate" among the choices, which grabbed the other 3%.) These polls used different methodologies to find virtually the same results.

Another new Rasmussen poll shows that Sestak is surging almost as much with the general public as he is the Democratic electorate. Sestak's favorable rating is now 50%, tied with Toomey's 51% and far ahead of Specter's 41. If the general election were held today, Specter would lose to Toomey 50-38, whereas Sestak is virtually tied at 42-40. In February, both trailed 47-38. It's clear where the momentum lies.

Also, this nugget from NBC's First Read sugests the President's new nominee to the Supreme Court may have an impact on the PA-SEN race:

As we predicted in First Thoughts, Joe Sestak's campaign is seizing on Arlen Specter's vote against Elena Kagan in 2009, when the Senate was confirming her to be U.S. solicitor general. Specter voted against her before his switch to the Democratic Party...

But he added: "My opponent, Sen. Specter, has already made his views about the president's nominee clear by voting against her confirmation to be Solicitor General, even as seven of his fellow Republicans approved her nomination. I expect Sen. Specter may backtrack from his earlier vote on Ms. Kagan this week in order to help himself in the upcoming primary election, but the people of Pennsylvania have no way of knowing where he will stand after May 18.

PA-SEN: Sestak’s Lead Expands, Favorables Rise

Friday’s Muhlenberg tracking poll showed retired Admiral Rep. Joe Sestak taking the lead over recent Republican Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary. Saturday’s poll, released a few minutes ago, shows that lead growing.

From May 5-8, Sestak lead Specter 46-42 with 12% undecided, almost outside the 5% MOE. From May 4-7, Sestak lead Specter 44-42 with 14% undecided. Just as importantly, in the past week Sestak’s approval has risen 7 points from 45 to 52 while Specter’s has plummeted even more, from 58 to 50.

Regarding the general election, 35% have no opinion of Sestak, compared to just 14% for Specter. Specter had slightly better numbers than Sestak in the last general election poll, but if indie numbers are anything like Democratic numbers, then the undecideds suggest he’s at a November ceiling whereas Sestak still has room to grow. Pollster’s Harry Enten thinks that’s exactly the case, writing on his personal blog Friday that while “it is true that Specter only trails [Repub Toomey] by 6.9% (while Sestak trails by 9.1%), the Sestak vs. Toomey matchup also has a larger pool of undecided voters. Thus, Sestak would have a greater opportunity to pick up voters and close any gap between Toomey and himself.”

Enten’s analysis is of April polls, conducted well before Specter’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Since then, his popularity has only fallen while Sestak’s has grown. Sestak’s new ad on Specter’s self-serving party switch as well as Specter’s own counterproductive attacks on Sestak’s military service have clearly taken their toll, so one can only assume that the numbers are even worse for Specter now. If another poll validates Sestak’s lead before the May 18 primary, we’ll know the race has a new favorite. There are 3-4 polls in the field now, so we should find out soon.

There's more...

Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) Loses Re-Election Bid At State Convention

The tea party defeated conservative Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) at today's Utah Republican Party state convention. Bennett is the first Senator to lose in a primary this year. Chris Cilizza has the facts:

Utah Sen. Bob Bennett lost his bid to be nominated for a fourth term Saturday, defeated at the state Republican Party convention by a strong conservative sentiment that threatens to unseat other establishment-backed GOPers in the months to come. Bennett... came under fire in recent months for what some claimed were his insufficient conservative bona fides.

As evidence his detractors cited his vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as well as his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee -- both symbols, conservatives said, of his lack of commitment to shrinking the size of government...

Under convention rules, all eight candidates appeared on the first ballot. The top three -- attorney Mike Lee, former Congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater and Bennett (in that order) advanced to the second round of balloting. Bennett was defeated there as Lee, a former counsel to popular former Gov. Jon Huntsman, and Bridgewater who had lost two races against Rep. Jim Matheson (D), advanced to the final ballot.

Catch that? It's not that Utahans didn't like Senator Bennett - they just feel that Republicans shouldn't be allowed to serve on the Appropriations Committee. Wow.

The tea partiers say that Bennett isn't conservative enough, a rather shocking claim when you look at his various scores and ratings. The National Right to Life Center gives him a 100; the ACLU gives him a 0. The American Conservatives Union gives him an 84 and the Family Research Council an 88; the AFL-CIO gives him a 9 and the AFSCME a 0. Oh, what's that you say? Tea partiers are fiscal, not social, conservatives? Okay, then how 'bout that 100 score from the US Chamber of Commerce, or the 90 from Americans for Tax Reform?

These numbers lend credibility to Bennett’s position that his crime was not being too "liberal" but rather not being outspoken enough in his opposition to those different than him. The Salt Lake Tribune:

He's a man more comfortable working behind the scenes, securing money for Utah projects, smoothing out bureaucratic problems, whispering in the ear of the Republican leader.

Now engaged in a fierce battle to keep his job, Bennett, 76, is hearing from incensed Republican delegates that they want a fighter. They want someone to publicly and loudly combat what they see as the excesses of the Obama agenda.

"So I do my best to give them anger and passion when I'm talking to them one on one," Bennett says. "I don't necessarily toot my horn in the way I think most politicians do and I apparently have paid the price for it. I'm trying to repent."

Because the tea parties want you to know that America isn't about democracy or tolerance, it's about tyranny with them in charge. There is no room for debate.

PA-SEN: Sestak and Specter Tied

Yesterday morning, Marc Ambinder Tweeted, "Senior Dem Politico in DC thinks Sestak will beat Specter. WH puts odds at 50-50." Now we know why.

In the latest Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll of the PA-SEN Democratic primary, retired Admiral Rep. Joe Sestak is tied with incumbent Arlen Specter. Both candidates are polling at 43% with N = 410 LVs, a 5% MOE, live interviewers, and a time frame of May 3-6. In Muhlenberg's previous poll, conducted May 2-5, Specter led 45-40. Prior to that, it was 49-40 for Specter. While a tie is certainly within the MOE, you can't deny that these polls show a trend and that it's not good news for Specter. RCP shows an average of Specter up 3.4, but since they only include the latest poll from each firm, their numbers don't reflect the last week's trend. Also in the latest poll, Specter's favorable rating remains slightly higher than Sestak's, but his unfavorables are much higher - 54-34 Specter and 48-13 Sestak.

It's been a rough few weeks for Specter. He mused aloud that maybe he should have stayed a Republican, and Sestak has taken the opportunity to hit him hard for the party switch with a tough new ad:

Hey Arlen, still think it's a good idea to smear our vets for their service? That may work for Repubs, but you keep forgetting - you're a Democrat now, and we don't stand for that kind of anti-American bull.

Elsewhere in new polling, Dems continue to cruise toward victory in AZ-GOV against all candidates, including the pro-profiling incumbent Jan Brewer, and two separate polls show Sen. Patty Murray finally finding her footing against Repub Dino Rossi in WA-SEN.

Live Blog With Senate Candidate Jack Conway

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Col. Andrew Horne joined MyDD for a liveblog session on this thread Friday afternoon. Conway is a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Democratic Primary. As you can see from his April interview with MyDD, he is without a doubt the most ethical and progressive candidate in the race, and a new Rasmussen poll show he's also the most electable, running 5 and 9 points behind the Repubs while Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo loses by 14 and 16. Col. Horne, a retired Marine who served in the Persian Gulf and the Iraq War, was endorsed by Wes Clark and Paul Hackett in a Congressional primary in 2006 and briefly ran against Repub Senator Mitch McConnell in 2008. He has served on the board of VoteVets and once delivered the Democrats' weekly radio address.

Below the fold, two of Conway's latest ads, and in the comments, the Q&A.

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News Wrap: Enthusiasm Gap Narrows, Obey Retires

Two big process stories today, in a good news/bad news sort of way for Democrats. The good news is that the latest Gallup poll shows Democrats are catching up to the Republicans in the enthusiasm gap, a number almost if not just as important as the generic ballot. According to Gallup,

Republican registered voters' enthusiasm about voting in this year's midterm elections has declined significantly in recent weeks. As a result, Republicans' advantage over Democrats on this measure has shrunk from 19 points in early April to 10 points in the latest weekly aggregate.

In late March and early April, after Congress' passage of healthcare reform, both Republican and Democratic registered voters became more enthusiastic about voting in this year's elections. Republicans' enthusiasm peaked at 54% "very enthusiastic" in late March and early April, but is 43% in the latest weekly update, from April 27-May 2 -- essentially where it was before healthcare passed. By contrast, Democrats have more or less retained the slightly higher level of enthusiasm they showed right after the healthcare bill milestone.

The specific numbers are 43-33.

The bad news is that House Appropriations Chair David Obey is retiring. According to the Hill, this announcement comes "much to the shock of his colleagues." This is our 18th open seat, compared to 21 open Repub seats. Obey pointed to the death of two former colleagues, Jack Murtha and Charlie Willson, and said he's "bone tired." He is 71 and has been in Congress for 41 years, and is the fourth longest serving member of the House. In the latest National Journal rankings, he was listed as thte 70th most liberal House member, and came in at 21 the previous year.

We should be able to hold this seat, but it won't be easy. His district, the Wisconsin 7th, went to Obama with 56% of the vote, but Kerry only had 51%, and this year the Republicans have a strong candidate in Palin-endorsed district attorney and sportscaster Sean Duffy. At least there's plenty of time to recruit a candidate, with a primary on September 14 and filing deadline on July 13. What's more, First Read claims the Democrats have a deep and strong bench in the district, naming ten potential candidates. The flip side, of course, is that it might help in anti-incumbent year to say hey, two of our top House leaders won't be leaders next year (ex-Chairman Rangel being the other).


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