CO-Sen: Yeah, Jane Norton is That Radically Right-Wing

As Senator Michael Bennet and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff square off for the Democratic nomination, the Republican primary appears to be a battle over who can most appeal to the furthest right-wing elements of an already hyper-conservative Republican Party. While the Democrats are running largely centrist campaigns, despite being amid a Democratic primary, the Republican establishment pick and primary front-runner, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, is doing nothing to cater to a general election electorate. Rather, Norton is joining her primary competition in far-right-wing revelry, espousing radical rhetoric and featuring a right-wing background that would make any sensible moderate shudder. Here are some of Jane Norton's greatest hits.

First, Jane Norton would completely eliminate the Department of Education. Discussion of eliminating the Department of Education was a popular topic of far-right-wing conservatives during the Reagan 80's and Gingrich early-to-mid 90's. One of the key traits of teabaggers has been ignorance - ignorance at the Obama Administration's tax cuts for middle- and lower-income families, ignorance at President Obama's birthplace and religion, and so on. Since she's part of a movement marked by turning ignorance into a virtue, why not eliminate the federal department committed to improving the education of Americans.

Second, after we've all spent the last year watching the tumultuous health care reform debates, I think we can all agree that we're not big fans of health care lobbyists. Well, for five years, Jane Norton was a health care lobbyist. She lobbied for the Medical Group Management Association, first as Executive Director in their Office of Strategic Relationship, then as Director of their Office of State Government Relations. On top of that, she subsequently lied about having been a lobbyist, given that lobbyist is one of the dirtiest words in politics nowadays.

Third, going full Palin, Jane Norton chooses not to correct misinformation spouted by supporters at her events, misinformation designed to prey on individuals' basest instincts, fear and hate. At a small coffee shop visit, a Norton supporter repeatedly said of President Obama, "He's a Muslim!" Rather than politely correct the misinformed supporter about the President's religion (notwithstanding the fact that, to this individual, "Muslim" is tantamount to a hateful slur), Norton rather put a positive spin on it, praising the "passion around what is happening in our own country." Perhaps Norton doesn't realize the mistake and actually is under the impression that President Obama is a member of the Muslim faith. If that's the case, perhaps Norton also believes that President Obama was actually born in Kenya. It'd be swell if someone in the Colorado media maybe asked her.

Fourth, it sounds like Liz Cheney drafted her stump speech:
And what I believe is happening... is the fact that the rights of terrorists are more important in this administration that the lives of American citizens.
This is an ignorant and hypocritical response to the Obama Administration trying underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in criminal court rather than military tribunal. Why is it ignorant and hypocritical? Because the George W. Bush Administration successfully tried shoe bomber Richard Reid in criminal court rather than military tribunal. Basically, according to Jane Norton, President Obama is siding with terrorists over Americans because he did something exactly the same as George W. Bush. Interesting. This ignorance and hypocrisy not too dissimilar from Norton calling on President Obama to balance the budget in his first term or not run for re-election, even though he was handed record deficits by George W. Bush (who, you might recall, was handed recorded surpluses by President Bill Clinton but squandered them).

Fifth, Jane Norton sounds like she's supportive of either privatizing or abolishing Social Security:
With regard to Social Security, it has turned into a Ponzi scheme. The money that people pay into it should be there for when they are ready to retire.
Taken literally, that individuals' money "should be there" waiting for them specifically when they retire, Norton seems to clearly support privatizing Social Security into personal accounts. Taken more broadly, that Norton believes Social Security is best likened to a Ponzi scheme, an illegal and fraudulent financial structure, one could reasonably surmise that she'd be willing to rid the country of Social Security altogether. Again, it might be helpful for a member of the Colorado media to press her on the topic. If she wants to privatize or eliminate Social Security, perhaps Colorado's hundreds of thousands of seniors receiving Social Security ought to know.

When all of this is assembled, it paints a picture of Jane Norton that is so far out of the political mainstream, she can no longer see it from her house. Taken together, Jane Norton is a fear-mongering, misinformation-spreading, ignorance-championing, Social Security-privatizing former lobbyist who would be happy to weaken education, health care and the rule of law in America. So, yeah, Jane Norton is that radically right-wing.

For news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

IA-Sen: Grassley Embarrasses Majority of Iowans; Less Than Half Would Re-Elect

New polling by Research 2000 finds that Republican Chuck Grassley is far more vulnerable than the conventional wisdom gives him (dis)credit for.

When asked if Grassley should be re-elected, only 42% said re-elect, while 31% said it was time for someone new, and 27% were not sure. (Remember, being unsure about an incumbent of twenty-nine years bodes poorly for the incumbent.) Among independents, only 39% said re-elect. Not too hot.

The money question of the poll was:

When Senator Chuck Grassley says President Obama and Democrats would QUOTE "pull the plug on grandma" UNQUOTE do you think that does Iowa proud in Congress or embarrasses Iowa?

By more than a 2-to-1 margin (53% to 26%), Iowans responded that Grassley's comments embarrassed them rather than made them proud. Among independents, the embarrass-proud ratio was an overwhelming 61-21. Research 2000 broke down the responses by Congressional district. Outside of right-wing radical Steve King's 5th Congressional district (which saw a 30-51 embarrass-proud ratio), every other district was overwhelmingly embarrassed by Grassley's remarks. The other four Congressional districts ranged from 53-64% embarrassed while only 19-24% proud.

Very interestingly, while only 35% of respondents favored the Senate version of the health care reform bill, while 56% opposed it, 62% of respondents favored a public option (a 2-to-1 margin over the 31% of respondents that opposed a public option); and, moreover, by more than a 3-to-1 margin, Iowans want Democratic Senator Tom Harkin to fight harder for a public option and would respect him more if he did.

The message from these numbers is clear: Iowans are open to voting for an alternative to Republican Chuck Grassley, would support a public option (and many who opposed health care reform in Iowa simply feel that it didn't go far enough), and were embarrassed by Grassley's dishonest kowtowing to the teabaggers with his "pull the plug on grandma" routine.

The Iowa Independent reminds us:

The “pull the plug on grandma” statement, which was part of the death panel meme Pulitzer Prize winning Web site PolitiFact named its “Lie of the Year,” dogged Grassley throughout the last few months of 2009 and was cited by at least one of the three Democrats vying to unseat him as the reason for entering the race.

Grassley's own numbers must be telling him that his lies could constitute a politically fatal flub given how freaked out he got over the discussion of his comments and how he tripped over himself backpedaling:

By the end of the year, though, Grassley was blaming media reports for his association with the death panels meme. In a letter to a constituent forwarded to The Iowa Independent, Grassley said some “commentators” took his comments and twisted them as saying that health care reform would establish death panels.

“I said no such thing,” Grassley said. “As I said then, putting end-of-life consultations alongside cost containment and government-run health care causes legitimate concern.”

Who was that Democrat who cited Grassley's comments as a reason for entering the race? Attorney and Democratic former gubernatorial nominee Roxanne Conlin. She got into the race in late 2009, so this past quarter's fundraising report will be the first test of her campaign's financial viability. Word is, she's a fairly prodigious fundraiser.

On top of that, Grassley has handed her the issue and according message frames on which to run. Notably to me, Conlin has five grandchildren. In other words, she is a grandma. I think it would be powerfully resonant for Conlin to put out an ad highlighting Grassley's "pull the plug on grandma" comments that embarrassed a majority of Iowans and to close the ad (while talking to the camera, surrounded by her five grandchildren) with the line, "I'm Roxanne Conlin, and I approved this message because I'm a grandma and I'm embarrassed that Chuck Grassley is talking about pulling the plug on me."

Keep a close eye on IA-Sen; I'm expecting a competitive race that will surprise the traditional media.

For news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

The End May Be Nigh for John Ensign's Political Career

Nevada's top political journalist, Jon Ralston, reports:

In the federal penal code, it is known as "structuring."

And it is a word Sen. John Ensign should remember because it is very likely to be on any indictment with his name on it.

That’s what I am told by a reliable source familiar with the deliberations occurring inside the Justice Department as federal authorities in Washington try to do with Ensign what they could not do with former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens: Get their man. Or, because they had Stevens and then lost him because of misconduct, Justice wants to make sure if it goes to the next step with Ensign, the charges stick.

Indictment? Don't mind if I do. (Remember, it was the abysmal Bush DOJ that fumbled the Stevens prosecution.) So what is "structuring?"

Structuring is a broad term that refers to the crime of creating financial transactions to evade reporting requirements — for example, a $96,000 payment to your mistress laundered through a trust controlled by your parents and calling it a “gift” instead of what it obviously was: a severance payment that had to be reported.

Based on the facts already in public domain, it seems there may be enough for an indictment.

Two former federal prosecutors in the past two weeks have said there is enough evidence to indict Ensign. “Just based on what the senator has said himself and what Mr. (Doug) Hampton has said … under the federal standard of probable cause, there’s enough to indict the senator now,” ex-prosecutor Stan Hunterton, a well-respected local attorney, said March 19 on “Face to Face.” Then, Thursday on the program, Melanie Sloan, the former federal prosecutor who now heads a D.C. watchdog group that has filed several complaints against Ensign, said, “I completely think” Hunterton is right. ...

The department is being very deliberate in assembling a case against Ensign. But Justice has a mountain of documents and e-mails that, combined with the senator’s own admissions or statements in e-mails, would seem to amount to a formidable case. And last week’s New York Times story, showing how Ensign’s contacts with a local company (similar to several other interactions), show how far the senator was willing to go to get Hampton work, mostly while he was employed by ex-Ensign aides who had formed a lobbying/consulting firm. The structure, so to speak, is becoming more transparent all the time.

Beyond Ensign's dire and deserved legal fate, what are the political implications?

If Ensign gets indicted, he will become a national and state nightmare for the GOP. National Democrats will brandish him as a symbol of corruption (they may anyhow) and local Democrats will wrap the junior senator around the GOP Senate nominee’s neck, especially because Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian foolishly have said they would welcome his support. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid directly go after his pal to boost his sagging fortunes. I can hear it now: “Sorry, John. But now you know how Doug Hampton feels — how it feels to be screwed over by your best friend.”

Why are the national and state Republicans mute? Cowardice, perhaps? Or is it, as NBC political guru Chuck Todd tweeted Friday, repeating something he previously said on “Face to Face” a couple of weeks ago: “NV/DC GOPers desperate to wait for Gov. Gibbons to be out of office before pushing Ensign out but can they really (”

The Web link in Todd’s tweet is to last week’s Times story, emphasizing the point that if the Republicans wait too long, their silence could be very costly. And if Ensign gets indicted and no prominent Republican has called for him to resign, there’s no way to structure that deal to the GOP’s benefit.

Ensign and Washington Republicans can continue to do what they've been doing all along - ignore, ignore, ignore. But they might not be able to run out the clock on Election Day 2010 - still seven months away - before indictments come down. And, as Ralston points out, if the Washington Republican establishment stays mum on all of this, the issue becomes a matter of the entire Party coddling its corrupt members. Hmmmm, Republican Culture of Corruption, where have I heard that before? And that's on top of the already-competitive gubernatorial and Senate races in Nevada, which is also a key 2012 swing state, don't forget. (Lowden's and Tarkanian's poorly thought out statements welcoming Ensign's support will no doubt bite them in the backside if either is the Republican nominee against Majority Leader Harry Reid. The political ad writes itself.)

Particularly as it relates to the 2010 Senate races, the Senate Republican caucus is the Ensign-Vitter caucus. Every Republican incumbent Senator and candidate for U.S. Senate should be asked by their local media if they think hypocritical lawbreakers like John Ensign and David Vitter should resign their seats. They should be forced to call for the ouster of these hypocritical, lawbreaking Republicans or be forced to serve as apologists for them and let the voters decide. Though the media around the country largely may be dropping the ball on their responsibility, it appears federal investigators aren't. The national media that gave a relentless week of news coverage to the Eric Massa absurdity still hasn't fully given the Ensign matter (or the Vitter matter) its due. However, the handing down of indictments, should that come to pass, will be national news and should force the issue for every Republican seeking federal office in 2010.

For news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

The Fundraising Quarter Ends in 72 Hours Open Thread

As we continue to celebrate the historic vote on health care reform (and continue to lament the right-wing's response of threats and violent rhetoric), it's important to remember that we're just 72 hours away from the end of the pivotal first fundraising quarter of 2010. Now is the time to contribute!

For your contributing convenience, there are ActBlue pages set up for specific groups.

Of course, I manage my "Expand the Map!" ActBlue page, promoting Democrats running for Senate seats currently held by Republicans and, this cycle, better Democrats running in primaries against conservaDems (i.e. Bill Halter taking on Blanche Lincoln) and recent Republicans (i.e. Joe Sestak taking on Arlen Specter). I hope you'll check it out and contribute what you can to our Democrats for U.S. Senate.

Daily Kos' Adam Bonin runs the "We've Got Your Back, v2.0" ActBlue page, promoting House Democrats in swing districts who supported health care reform despite the political risk. Standing up for these politically brave Democrats makes it easier to persuade Dems from swing districts to take politically risky votes for reform in the future. Some of my favorite Democrats, including Representatives Alan Grayson and Carol Shea-Porter, are represented on the page.

MyDD has established the "Going On Offense" ActBlue page, promoting Democrats running for Senate, Governor, and House - challengers and incumbents. Featured are Democratic campaigns including Tom White for Congress from Nebraska, Matt Dunne for Governor of Vermont, and Senator Russ Feingold's re-election. MyDD's Nathan Empsall went into further detail about the on Going On Offense effort on Thursday.

Remember, the contribution you can make isn't just a donation to a single candidate or political campaign. It's an investment against Republican obstruction (and conservaDem enabling) at all levels of government. Every dollar these Democrats are able to report before the end of the fundraising quarter on Wednesday night will demonstrate Democratic strength against their Republican/Teabag opposition. It makes a big difference and a real impact.

72 hours. Please chip in if you can on any of these pages - or directly to your favorite Democratic candidate for office in 2010. This is an open thread.

For news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

Warning to Democrats Wavering on HCR: Primaries Are Coming

Bumped -- Jonathan

A central tenet of the Democratic Party is that we want every American to have access to quality, affordable health care. Period. There should be no debate about that.

As such, Democrats who are wavering on whether or not to support the most substantial health care reform in decades should expect that Democrats in their district will want to replace them with better Democrats. Period. There should be no surprise about that.

It looks like conservative Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts' 9th Congressional district wants to make himself a test case.

Rebuffing personal pleas from President Obama and Vicki Kennedy, Representative Stephen F. Lynch said yesterday that he will vote against the Democrats’ health care overhaul, contending that it doesn’t put enough pressure on insurance companies to reduce costs.

The move is a shift for the South Boston Democrat, who voted in favor of the original House bill along with the rest of the Massachusetts delegation in November.

Expanding coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and prohibiting pre-existing condition restrictions is progress. The anti-choice, conservative Lynch is obstructing progress. He says the bill doesn't do enough, so he'd rather scuttle health care reform for another generation rather than pass this and attempt to build on it (if, in fact, that's his real contention).

Lynch wants to obstruct reform, wants to obstruct progress, obstruct the Democratic agenda. Fine. A better Democrat is already organizing a potential primary challenge.

Harmony Wu is seriously considering a run to represent the 9th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives. Like many of us, she has become frustrated with Congressman Steve Lynch's lack of commitment to progressive issues, especially health care reform. Please help progressive democrats collect signatures for Harmony Wu's nomination papers this weekend!

For those of you who don't know her, Harmony is a Needham mother of two who took it upon herself to coordinate Needham for the Obama campaign, and shocked everyone in the state with what she was able to deliver. Since then, she has been an inspired and passionate volunteer political organizer. She has led the charge for health care organizing in Lynch's district, mobilizing hundreds of people to call and visit Lynch's office in support of reform. Out of frustration, she has decided to consider a run against him both to show that there is passionate support for health care reform, and to hopefully remove him from office if he votes No.

This effort has sprung up in just the last twenty-four hours and has already gone from 0 to 60. (HT: Dayen at FDL)

The message: wavering Democrats are on notice. Oppose health care reform, oppose a reform measure central to the heart of the Democratic Party, scuttle health care reform for another generation, and expect to be replaced via primary by a better Democrat. The notice has been issued; and, we'll know on Sunday night how many of you we'll seek to replace.

Encourage Progressive Leadership Open Thread

It's been almost a year since Election Day 2008, but some of our '08 champs could still use a little help.  Just sayin'.

As of September 30, 2009:

DemocratCash on HandLingering DebtAmount in the RedWhere to Contribute
Al Franken$242,128$450,859$208,731Contribute to Al
Jeff Merkley$137,221$271,589$134,368Contribute to Jeff

I'm not saying there aren't plenty of 2010 candidates that need our help.  (There are!  Please help!)  I'm just saying that helping our previous progressive winners to close their books and retire their debts could encourage other Democrats currently running to follow in more progressive footsteps, knowing we have their backs.

I'll leave you with a few reasons to be very, very proud of Senator Al Franken's first months as a U.S. Senator (and very, very motivated to help retire his campaign debt):

And a dash of Senator Merkley for good measure:

Consider this an open thread.

PA-Sen: Joe Sestak, Ned Lamont, and Arlen Specter's Top Ten Worst Votes

The man who beat non-Democrat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut urges you to stand with the man who will beat non-Democrat Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.

Also, courtesy of The REAL Arlen Specter:

In his 45 years as a Republican, Arlen Specter cast thousands of votes for his party and against Democratic principles. In the last eight years, he voted more than 2,000 times with the Bush Republicans.  So when he claimed at Netroots Nation, "I'll stand behind my votes one by one," it makes one wonder, "Really, Arlen?"

It's hard to imagine any Democrat would stand behind voting for Bush's tax cuts for the richest of the rich or for Sarah Palin to be Vice-President of the United States, but the Real Arlen Specter is proud of his Republican credentials. ...

From the War in Iraq to the economic policies that created this savage recession, many of our current problems can be ascribed to one man: George W. Bush, who Specter voted for in 2000.  Given the chance to correct that vote and help put John Kerry in the White House, what did the Real Arlen Specter do?  Co-Chair Bush-Cheney '04 in Pennsylvania and vote for him a second time.

Now you can chose which one of these actions by the long-time Republican Senator is most egregious. Vote in our poll on this page and check back to see which vote was the worst of the worst. We will call on Arlen to stand behind the winner.

On the web:
-Joe Sestak, Democrat for Senate
-The REAL Arlen Specter
-Contribute to Joe Sestak via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page

For daily news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Insomnia Open Thread

Want to know something that scares me?  The phrase "Senator Roy Blunt." Does that phrase scare you, too?  If it does, please consider a contribution to Missouri Secretary of State and 2010 Senate candidate Robin Carnahan via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page.

The third fundraising quarter of 2009 ends tomorrow.  Democrats running for Senate need to make as big a fundraising splash as possible in the third quarter to help refute the growing conventional wisdom among the traditional media pundits that 2010 could be a Republican year.  And Missouri will be a high-profile bellwether.

Remember, the fundraising quarter ends tomorrow, so please contribute to our Democratic candidates for Senate via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page today if you can.

Consider this an open thread.

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FL-Sen: Florida and National Conservatives Continue to Back Rubio Over Crist

Conservative columnist George Will thinks that conservative Republican former state House Speaker Marco Rubio will pull off an upset and defeat Charlie Crist in the 2010 GOP Senate primary:

In January 2011, one Floridian will leave for the U.S. Senate. He is unlikely to be a former governor at odds with his party's nominating electorate, or the probable Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, a hyper-liberal congressman. Rubio intends to prove that "in the most important swing state, you can run successfully as a principled conservative." He probably will.

If the straw polls taken around the state by Republican County Committees are any indication, Rubio will indeed defeat Crist.  In fact, since my last round-up of FL-GOP straw polls, which included the following rundown:

Pasco County: Rubio wins, 73-9
Lee County: Rubio wins, "7-to-1 margin" [60-9]
Highlands County: Rubio wins, 75-1
Bay County: Rubio wins, 23-2
Volusia County: GOP Committee censures Crist
Palm Beach County: GOP Committee almost censures Crist as motion fails on a 65-65 tie, still a stinging rebuke
Broward County: GOP Committee attempts a straw poll, blocked only by Crist acolyte eager to avoid embarrassment for Crist

we can add Florida's Hernando County GOP Committee to the list.  Fernando County is a "poor (median income- $32,572), very white rural area north of Tampa" whose County GOP just backed Rubio in a straw poll over Crist by a vote of 46-0.  Yup, 46-0.  To that, we can also add:

Marion County: Rubio 40, Crist 8
Gilchrist County: Rubio 11, Crist 1
GOP Women's Club of Duval Federated: Rubio 65, Crist 4
Northwest Orange GOP Women Federated: Rubio 49, Crist 3
Jefferson County GOP: Rubio 30, Crist 6
Florida Federation of College Republicans: Rubio 19, Crist 6

If you add up the eleven straw polls conducted, the total is Rubio 491, Crist 49.  In other words, among recorded Republican activists in Florida, Rubio is crushing Crist by just over a 10-to-1 margin.  But Crist has the support of the Republican "establishment." To which Rubio says:

"If you are unhappy with the Republican establishment, then let's get a new establishment."

Rubio may be well on his way to accomplishing just that in the FL-GOP.

For daily news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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You ARE the Votes

We've heard from a number of conservative Democratic Senators that a public option can't be included in a health care reform bill because the votes just wouldn't be there to pass it.  (All emphasis added by me.)

Joe Lieberman (I/Dem caucus-CT), 6/16/09:

probably the most important, the votes are not there for a public health plan, government run option and this can stand in the way of a historic achievement for President Obama

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), 6/21/09:

She told CNN's John King: "Well to be candid with you, I don't know that he has the votes right now. I think there's a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus."

Kent Conrad (D-ND), 8/16/09:

"The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option, there never have been, so to continue to chase that rabbit is just a wasted effort," Conrad said on Fox News Sunday.

Max Baucus (D-MT), 9/9/09:

He also said there are not enough votes in the Senate to pass the "public option," based on public and private conversations he's had with his colleagues.

Mark Pryor (D-AR), 9/10/09:

"My guess is that there are not votes to do it in the Senate, even a very modest public option like what he's talking about," Pryor said.

To Senators Lieberman, Feinstein, Conrad, Baucus, and Pryor, along with Senators Bayh, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Nelson: you ARE the votes!

Saying that you oppose a public option "because the votes aren't there" is a nonsensical excuse when the votes would be there if the people claiming that the votes aren't there voted for it!  You are the votes.  Quit copping out.

For daily news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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