It's All Strategic, Baby

In all the talk of Barack Obama's first 100 days, what's been lost has been a celebration of the accomplishments of Michael Steele during his first 3 months as head of the RNC. Senate Guru has a great retrospective of his first 90 or so days (his 100 day mark is coming up on May 9) and the DNC released this hilarious web video marking the three big milestones that have occured on Steele's watch: Al Franken is declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate race, Scott Murphy wins the NY-20 congressional race and Arlen Specter switches from Republican to Democrat.

Of course, we know it was all part of Steele's master plan.

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John Cornyn Admits GOP Is Not A National Party

In the wake of Arlen Specter's bombshell that he'd be switching parties to run for Senate as a Democrat next year, the media -- appropriately -- honed in on the dwindling numbers of Republicans both in the congress and in the country and explored the question of whether the Republican Party is becoming a regional party.

No surprise here, the right hit back.

Jim Geraghty at Campaign Spot wrote:

The GOP Is Not a Regional Party.

Discussing the 2010 elections for the House of Representatives with David Freddoso and Mark Hemingway earlier today, we noticed that the argument that "the Republican Party is becoming a regional party" is nonsense -- even though it's widely repeated.

And despite admitting back in January that the GOP was well on its way to regional party status, Mitch McConnell said this:

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell disagreed today that the GOP is becoming a regional party, although the numbers are against him as the Republican Party has retreated in almost every region except the South in recent election years.

"I reject that out of hand," he said. "I do not accept that we will be a regional party."

So, maybe they should have sent John Cornyn the memo:

Hey, well at least he's admitting the ugly truth but if he's being honest, he'd have to admit tha, looking at the 2010 map, things look even more dire for Republicans next year. So, good luck with that, Big John.

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Dear Justice Souter

Thank you for waiting.

Thank you.

Consider this an open thread...

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KY-Sen: Bunning Showing Signs Of Retiring?

If true, this blows:

Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, the most endangered Republican up re-election in 2010, appears headed for retirement after giving his leading GOP rival the blessing to prepare to run for his seat next year.

Bunning's retirement would be a huge victory for national Republicans who have grown increasingly nervous that the 77-year-old two-term senator would lose a critical race as the party tries to cling to its diminished minority in the Senate.

On Thursday afternoon, Kentucky GOP Secretary of State Trey Grayson announced that he would form an exploratory committee to run for Bunning's seat - a move that Kentucky GOP operatives say is a precursor to Bunning's retirement. Grayson's entry will come as a relief to Kentucky Republicans and Senate GOP leaders, who may now have reason to believe their party could hold on to this seat.

A recent PPP poll showed Bunning tanking below 40% in head-to-head match-ups against 4 different Democrats. Bunning dropping out was always the only way the GOP was going to keep this seat and the fact that Bunning is likely to step aside for Trey Grayson to run is even better news for Big John Cornyn. Grayson polled the best against those same Democrats, even defeating two of them. The Democrat that fares best against Grayson and indeed against all potential comers: Rep. Ben Chandler who beats Grayson 40-34.

Update [2009-4-30 17:26:59 by Todd Beeton]:Mark Nicklaus says beware of this story:

Until Bunning confirms this story, I would view it with a great deal of skepticism as this smells like another weak Politico hit piece with nothing in it but "GOP operatives" who are trying to bring down Bunning. This is part of the coup, not a plan that Bunning is part of.

It may very well work and Bunning may realize his days are numbered and he needs to retire, but don't be surprised if later today he flips out and says the story is BS.

After all, this is a Politico story. View with skepticism.

After all, Bunning did just say yesterday that he didn't expect to face any primary opponent, signaling his full intention to run for re-election (Grayson for the record has said he will not primary Bunning.)

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Pushing Specter

Last night I saw Mike Lux speak at our local Drinking Liberally to promote his book The Progressive Revolution. Lux had the crowd rapt with examples of how the progressive movement throughout history has successfully pushed our often resistant leadership toward justice and equality. His call to action: now it is our job to push Obama and Congressional Democrats for without us, the unique potential that exists at this point in time for a "big change moment" will be lost.

I asked Mike what he thought about the Arlen Specter switch and he said he thought it was mostly a good thing, that he's likely to be with us 20 to 25% more often than he was when he was in the Republican caucus, but that we've got to keep the pressure on and the best way to do that is not letting him run unopposed in the primary. I completely agree.

Along those lines, I'm glad to see that Joe Sestak is not going away. Rather, he went on MSNBC today and reiterated his concern about what Specter is going to be for as a Democrat implying that if he's a bad Democrat, he should be challenged.

Watch it:

Also, today Andy Stern sent out a memo to SEIU's Pennsylvania members taking a much harder stand on Specter than his initial statement of support for Specter's switch did on Tuesday. Stern writes that while he applauds Specter's move...

...SEIU has always been an organization that supports candidates and elected officials based on their commitment to working families, not their party labels.

The issues that face working people in Pennsylvania have not changed, and the support we need from our representatives in Congress hasn't changed, either.

We know there have been contradictory and confusing reports about what Senator Specter's decision means for the priorities of working families in our state. In a word: our fight for Employee Free Choice and quality, affordable healthcare continues, as strong as ever.

He goes on to say that SEIU will continue to put pressure on Specter on EFCA through phone calls, letters and protests until...

...Sen. Specter supports the principles of the Employee Free Choice Act: allowing workers, not employers, to choose how and when to form a union; enforcing real penalties for employers who break the law; and ensuring that those who've chosen a union can actually secure a contract.


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Here Comes Jeb!

Today the GOP is launching a re-branding effort, what they're calling the National Council for a New America. The purpose of the group is to "produce GOP ideas on issues like education and health care" and I suppose try to convince us that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they're still relevant, God dammit!

According to the press release:

"The NCNA will be a dynamic, forward-looking organization that will amplify the common-sense and wisdom of our fellow citizens through a grassroots dialogue with Republican leaders."

Yes, it's very forward thinking. Just look at the Republican up-and-comers involved:

It will involve an outreach by an interesting mix of GOP officials, ranging from 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and the younger brother of the man many Republicans blame for the party's battered brand: former President George W. Bush.

In addition to Sen. McCain and Gov. Bush, GOP sources familiar with the plans tell CNN others involved in the new group's "National Panel Of Experts" will include:

*Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former national GOP chairman
*Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
*Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Putting aside the rather...interesting strategy of using the old white dude who lost their last presidential election to try to brand the GOP as hip, new and fresh, I think I'm most intrigued by the inclusion of Jeb Bush in this line-up. Bush has consistently and wisely laid low since leaving the governor's mansion in 2007, mindful of Bush fatigue. But Jeb was always the ambitious one. He was always the one who was going to be president. So it's hard not to look at his re-emergence here as strategically significant, perhaps an attempt to position himself for a Senate run next year. Could Bush's involvement with NCNA be a sort of trial run, to see whether people are ready for another Bush on the national stage? As I wrote on Monday, Chris Cillizza is reporting that Jeb's successor, Charlie Crist, is a "near lock" to run for Senate and will be announcing by May 5. Jeb already had to subsume his own presidential ambitions for his younger brother. It's hard to believe that Jeb would now be willing to let his younger...and tanner...governor step on what could be his one shot at the Senate.

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Putting Bush On The Ballot: 2010 Edition

Via TPM, I love how it's the NRSC that's tying Specter to Bush for the benefit of Democratic primary voters in this radio ad they've released. Of course, if they really want to win the seat they'll run ads against Toomey and run someone less crazy in the primary instead.

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Arlen Specter and the Entitlement of Incumbency


David Sirota has a good post over at Open Left about the disgusting sense of entitlement that infects incumbents of both parties. Indeed, Arlen Specter's entire switch was premised upon the same "what do you mean I have to face the voters to even qualify to run again?" arrogance that characterized Joe Lieberman three years ago. Of course, Lieberman was able to squirrel out of his loss in the Democratic Party, Specter is not so lucky. To Specter, Lieberman and, as we saw last night on Rachel Maddow, Lincoln Chaffee, primary challenges are some unfair quirk of the system rather than a function of the very democracy that elected them in the first place.

Here was Chaffee from Rachel's interview last night:

"...the tremendously successful fundraising juggernaut that pours the money into these primary races against moderate Republicans in particular. I saw it happen to me in 2006, largely responsible for my loss in the general election...this is America, anybody can run for office.  It's the money that pours in that really makes these primaries destructive...Primaries run-up your negatives and they cost you money."

Sirota slams him:

These incumbents, whether Chafee, Specter or Joe Lieberman, genuinely feel it is some sort of awful affront to democracy when they draw well-funded primary challenges who can make a primary election a genuine contest, even though the definition of democracy is contested elections.** I mean, Chafee is literally complaining that "primaries cost you money" - as if it's awful that an incumbent should have to deal with a primary. And yet, we're supposed to simultaneously believe it's perfectly fine for an incumbent to leverage their office and votes to raise truckloads of special interest cash that then lets them grossly outspend any primary challengers who come their way.

This built-in sense of entitlement among the elected establishment is, of course, not specific to any one party. In fact it's rampant in the Democratic Party. It's the same bullshit that led Debbi Wasserman Shulz to refuse to actively campaign against her Republican friends who (mis-)represent their South Florida districts and it's the same attitude that is behind Ed Rendell's arrogant declarations that Arlen Specter will run unopposed in next year's Democratic primary.

Here he was again today:

"Well, I think that Arlen will probably wind up running unopposed, or without a serious challenger," said Rendell. "Look, the President of the United States has already endorsed Arlen, the Vice President of the United States has. Everyone knows Arlen and I are personal friends, go back to when he hired me as an assistant district attorney without asking me what party I belonged to. I think every major Democrat is gonna be for Arlen. And I think he's got a lot of inherent support with Democrats and independents all across the state."

Well, Arlen Specter fled to the Democratic Party but with shit like this, it's no wonder that while there's an exodus from the Republican Party, it's not exactly accruing to the benefit of Democrats. And quite frankly, Rendell's comments only bolster the case FOR a primary challenge. Certainly I'm now even more determined than ever to both fund a Democratic challenger to Specter and withhold any and all support for the DSCC if they do anything to support Specter prior to the primary.

I don't mind people in the party welcoming Specter with open arms, what I do mind is their shutting down a process by which the voters get to say who their Senator is as opposed to Specter's political friends, especially considering Specter's open opposition to EFCA yesterday and his vote against the president's budget today. Unlike yesterday, Arlen Specter today said today that he welcomes "all comers in the Democratic primary and the general election." Let's give it to him.

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1994 Redux!

Oh noes! Is 2010 shaping up to be another 1994? So suggests Bill Kristol. Proof that the rightwing is truly beyond parody, in a post titled "Good News For Republicans!", Kristol framed Arlen Specter's defection yesterday as a real problem for President Obama and Democrats looking ahead to 2010.

Similarly and contrarianly, I wonder if today's Arlen Specter party switch, this time to the president's party, won't end up being bad for President Obama and the Democrats. With the likely seating of Al Franken from Minnesota, Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate, giving Obama unambiguous governing majorities in both bodies. He'll be responsible for everything. GOP obstructionism will go away as an issue, and Democratic defections will become the constant worry and story line. This will make it easier for GOP candidates in 2010 to ask to be elected to help restore some checks and balance in Washington -- and, meanwhile, Specter's party change won't likely have made much difference in getting key legislation passed or not. So, losing Specter may help produce greater GOP gains in November 2010, and a brighter Republican future.

What Kristol ignores is the reality that there are plenty of checks and balances within the Democratic Senate caucus itself, ensuring that 60 sitting Senators does not 60 votes make. Not to mention the truly horrendous map the Republicans have on the Senate front next year including retirements in at least three states that went for Obama.

But a little thing like reality won't get in the way of the latest GOP talking point. Republicans in 2010 FTW!

Here's reality-challenged James Inhofe today arguing that Arlen Specter's defection proves the Republican Party is newly ascendant.

This is the first visible evidence that what happened in 1993 is happening now...Now we have Obama doing the same thing that Clinton did in 1993, in fact it's worse...people are already starting to rebel against this...And that is all of a sudden, we find out that Arlen Specter is down in the Republican Party, down in terms of his popularity. The guy that ran against him and was defeated by Arlen Specter in, six years ago, now is so far ahead of him that Arlen Specter's own advisers said there's no way that you can win this thing unless you change to the Democratic Party. Now to me, that's the evidence it's coming.

Seeing is believing:

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Hate Crimes Legislation

I am thrilled to see that the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly today. When the bill first passed the House in 2007 it was met with the threat of a veto by President Bush. I'm happy to see that today we have a president who values the importance of protecting the most vulnerable among us. It is precisely for the passage of bills such as this that Americans overwhelmingly voted for change in November. I'm glad to see that today the House brought us one step closer to making this bill a reality.

Passing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 is important for two key reasons. First, it would expand hate-crime laws to include crimes based on sexual orientation, gender-identity and gender as well as disability. Currently, hate crimes laws are limited to acts of violence motivated by race, religion, color or national origin. Secondly, this bill would allow the federal government to prosecute hate crimes in states where current law is inadequate. Currently, federal prosecutors get involved only if the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity.

I know all about working to strengthen hate crimes laws at the local level. During my time in the California Assembly, I chaired the Select Committee on Hate Crimes where we advanced several bills to strengthen hate crimes legislation and to force accurate reporting and tracking of hate crimes. Sixty years ago, 120,000 Japanese Americans, US citizens by and large, were sent to concentration camps. No case of espionage was found. Yet nobody stood up for them. After 9/11 we saw a raft of attacks in the Sikh, Arab, and Muslim communities in California. I saw it as imperative to author legislation to protect their rights. While California hate crimes legislation was already rather encompassing, I still felt there was room for improvement. My advocacy for hate crimes legislation expanded from there into other Her hate crimes bills improve the prosecution of hate crimes, prohibit the insertion of hate flyers in free publications, and create an anti-bias youth program.

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