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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, October 31, 2005

(1) Perdue does not show up for Vice President Chaney visit to Georgia & (2) Rep. Marshall to co-chair a subcommittee.

Today's Political Insider notes that "in Georgia, GOP leaders realize that continued success in '06 will depend on their own efforts." This statement is in the context of Gov. Perdue being a no-show at Vice President Cheney's trip last week to Robins Air Force Base.

Although Perdue said Cheney's trip was announced too late to change his schedule, we know this is not the case. Perdue's poll numbers are well above those of President Bush

The Political Insider also reported that Congressman Jim Marshall "has been named co-chairman of a House subcommittee examining military tactics in an era of terrorism. Look for him to join U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss as a frequent talking head on the issue."

This should help Marshall; I sure hope so. I am one of his fans.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Underestimating Taylor in governor's race.

This week Bill Shipp writes:

Judging from the mail, my recent suggestion that Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor drop out of the governor's race did not meet with the resounding amen I anticipated. Taylor would be natural to remain lieutenant governor, take on the controversy-hounded Republican Ralph Reed or the small-bore Casey Cagle and become a national symbol of Democratic resurgence, I opined.

[A] missive from an old pal of Taylor made a compelling case as to why The Big Guy should stay in the contest for governor. Here is the old pal's e-mail.

"You wrote recently that Mark Taylor ought to drop out of the race for governor. You said that he should save the Democratic Party and run for lieutenant governor because, among other things, he'd get lots of great national press coverage. Presumably, the folks spreading this stuff are among those who support either (Democrat) Cathy Cox or (GOP Gov.) Sonny Perdue. No matter. They don't understand how Georgia votes and why. And they clearly don't understand Mark.

"I can tell you with authority that Mark Taylor is not dropping out of the race for governor or running for any other office. You've known him for years. This is not a guy who quits. He's also not a guy who breaks under pressure, especially from his opponents. Each time they leak this quitting stuff (usually wrapped in a 'how great this would be for Mark' box) his determination to win increases.

"Ask yourself this question: What do most voters really know about Mark Taylor (or Cathy Cox, for that matter)? The real answer is: very little. They know, perhaps, that he's a guy who is lieutenant governor, and they've heard his name on the news. They know Cathy's a woman who is secretary of state, and they've seen her name in the paper and in some TV ads. That's pretty much it. You don't get out of races because many people don't know who you are or what you've done or what you're going to do. If that's the way it worked, Roy Barnes - who started at 7 percent in the polls in 1997 - would never have run. In fact, the whole point of a campaign is to tell people what they don't know about you.

"And here's what they don't know about Mark Taylor. As a senator and two-term lieutenant governor, he's been involved in the passage of almost every piece of progressive legislation to pass in Georgia in the last decade and a half. A bill he sponsored lets every kid with a 3.0 average go to college in Georgia tuition free.

"A bill he sponsored lets every kid who graduates high school get two years of technical training tuition free. All this is commonly known as the HOPE scholarship legislation. Mark pushed it through the Senate when the current governor was trying to kill it. A bill Mark sponsored lets every 4-year-old go to pre-kindergarten and get an early start on education, free.

"A bill he sponsored created the Georgia Lottery to pay for all that. A bill he sponsored set up the PeachCare program, providing health insurance to uninsured kids of working parents. The Two Strikes bill he sponsored sends repeat violent criminals to jail for life. A bill he sponsored eliminated the sales tax on food - now something the Republicans (and supporters of Cathy Cox) want to reverse by increasing sales taxes in a so-called property tax swap. In fact, bills he sponsored cut more taxes for more Georgians than bills sponsored by anyone in the state's history.

"Now, why in heaven's name would a man with a record like that NOT run for governor? And what has Cathy Cox done in her career to match any of that, let alone all of it? Well, she gave us electronic voting machines, which she now admits don't work.

"Georgia voters - including voters in Georgia Democratic primaries - have a long, long history of voting for serious candidates for the very serious office of governor. To be sure, they toy around with protest candidates and candidates with short state government resumes (see Andy Young and Lewis Massey), but the voters always come back to favor experience and accomplishment.

"Don't forget that Mark is the guy who started his first statewide campaign in 1998 down by more than 20 points against a popular female candidate. He was bashed over and over by her and by the press. But he did not bend, and he did not quit. He put his record out there and won the primary, as tough and mean as it was. Then he was bashed in the general election repeatedly by (GOP opponent) Mitch Skandalakis and the press. Some ads were so hideous they ended up with Mitch having to pay a substantial fine to settle a defamation of character suit. Again, Mark Taylor did not quit. He won that election on his record and became lieutenant governor.

"He has seen the conventional wisdom evaporate repeatedly. He's beat the odds and the insider chatter before. Now in 2005, he's more seasoned, more experienced, more ready, and with an even longer record.

"Cathy and Sonny are spending a lot of time now spreading rumors, touting early polling numbers compiled by GOP consultants and planning their victory parties. But, believe me, they are fatally underestimating Mark Taylor."

John Kerry: The goods news and the bad news. - An Iraq Policy, Better Late Than Never.

From The Washington Post:

The good news: John Kerry settled on his Iraq policy yesterday.

The bad news: He did so 51 weeks after losing the election.

The vanquished presidential candidate . . . delivered the plain and simple alternative to President Bush's Iraq strategy that aides had pleaded with him to deliver when it still counted.

Kerry called for withdrawing 20,000 troops from Iraq by year-end and most others within another year.

"Knowing now the full measure of the Bush administration's duplicity and incompetence, I doubt there are many members of Congress who would give them the authority they abused so badly," Kerry said of his vote to authorize war. "I know I would not."

It was a political do-over, the answer Kerry opted not to give in the summer of 2004, when Bush was demanding to know if the senator from Massachusetts would still vote for war "knowing what we know now" -- that is, the absence of WMD. Instead, standing at the Grand Canyon on Aug. 9, Kerry uttered the words that may have cost him the presidency: "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for the president to have."

To reach this moment of clarity, Kerry had to jettison some earlier, inconvenient positions. For example, he had, nine months ago, emphatically opposed a "specific timetable" for withdrawal from Iraq. During the campaign, he alternately suggested increasing troops, withdrawing troops and leaving it to the generals.

In other words: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.

Kerry's speech -- and Bush's latest defense of his Iraq policy on Tuesday -- brought back memories of last year's electoral choice: between a president who wouldn't shift course no matter what, and a challenger who seemed to shift course perpetually. A year later, Bush still won't budge, and Democrats still don't agree on an alternative.

He called Iraq "one of the greatest foreign policy misadventures of all time," and asserted: "It is time for those of us who believe in a better course to say so plainly and unequivocally."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Together, America Can Do Better."

The Hill reports:

House Democratic leaders are holding a closed-door meeting with members of their caucus this afternoon to discuss a new slogan for the 2006 midterm elections: "Together, We Can Do Better" or "Together, America Can Do Better," according to Democratic sources.

Although aides say the slogan has yet to be finalized and is still up for debate, it has already been in frequent use by Democratic leaders on both sides of the Capitol for several weeks.

The catchphrase is not new to political observers, who will remember that an earlier reincarnation, "America Can Do Better," was a slogan in the campaign of presidential aspirant Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), although his main theme was "A Stronger America."

Democrats plan to unveil their 2006 party platform in the coming weeks, much earlier than in previous cycles and way ahead of the GOP's 1994 "Contract With America," which came out six weeks before the election.

Democratic leaders from an array of constituencies, including the House, Senate, Democratic National Committee, governors and mayors, have been working for months on a project designed to convey Democratic ideas and views to the public in a better way.

"There's this sense that people don't know where we stand or what our ideas are," a House Democratic leadership aide said. "Messaging has been the problem. … People should know where we stand. We've made our views clear on every issue that has come to the floor."

Academic George Lakoff, marketing expert Jack Trout and software entrepreneur John Cullinane have periodically weighed in on the project.

Democrats are also expected to discuss message issues beyond the overarching slogan, in an effort to address the widespread belief in Democratic circles that they need to communicate more effectively with voters.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Political Insider discusses new Republican poll.

AJC's Political Insider reports:

A poll commissioned by Republicans [has news that] is good if you're Gov. Sonny Perdue. Not so good if you're Ralph Reed.

The survey was taken last Tuesday, post-Hurricane Rita and post-Delta bankruptcy.

Perdue seems to have weathered the criticism that churned when he gave Georgia students two days off in anticipation of a diesel shortage.

Sixty-seven percent of 600 Georgia voters ranked Perdue favorably. Twenty-four percent of voters rank him unfavorably. The best news of all for Republicans — again according to their own poll — is that Georgians remain optimistic. Despite rising gasoline prices, high heating bills in the offing and Delta's problems, 54 percent say Georgia is on the right track.

Perdue's Democratic rivals for '06 aren't doing badly. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor's ratio of favorable to unfavorable is 36 percent to 16 percent. The numbers for Secretary of State Cathy Cox are 55 percent to 17 percent.

By comparison, President Bush is pleasing only 53 percent of Georgia voters — higher than the national average, but still disappointing. Bush's unfavorable ranking in Georgia is an astounding 47 percent. According to GOP interpretations, this means — barring a significant Bush rebound — next year's Republican ticket will rest squarely on Perdue's shoulders.

This has led state Republicans to emphasize the need to protect their quarterback. Which brings us to Reed, who wants to be lieutenant governor. In the GOP poll, 11 percent of Georgians view Reed favorably. Sixteen percent view him with distaste. And 42 percent know who he is. Do the political math — for this is the strange phenomenon that has GOP strategists concerned.

If 42 percent know who Reed is, and only 27 percent offer an opinion of him — whether good or bad — then 15 percent are purposely keeping their mouths shut.

GOP analysts think Reed may be generating hidden negatives — that Reed supporters who have stuck with their charismatic leader in the past are beginning to have second thoughts. But they aren't yet ready to voice them.

Do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat or Independent?

Today's Political Insider has a more recent poll that is the subject of a post that follows, but one reported in the current issue of James is very interesting. It notes that contrary to popular belief, Georgians are not dominated by one particular political party.

The article attributes the Legislature and Congress being heavily republican "because political lines for various districts were drawn in a manner that benefits GOP candidates. However, Georgia has a large block of voters who identify themselves as 'independent.' This critical bloc has recently chosen Republican candidates over Democratic candidates, but is always up for grabs in any statewide contest."

In response to the question "do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent," the results were as follows:

No Answer 4%
Democrat 31%
Independent 32%
Republican 33%

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Robert Highsmith has confirmed that he is ending his potential bid for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.

Insider Advantage Georgia on Friday reported that Robert Highsmith has confirmed that he is ending his potential bid for the Republican nomination for Attorney General. This is good news for our friend Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

Young Democrats Sharpen Tactics Against Old Rivals -New Breed on Hill Works Aggressively To Snap GOP Grip.

The Washington Post reports:

With the Capitol all but deserted last Monday night, the Democratic "30-Something Working Group" seized the House floor and took aim at their Republican adversaries.

As C-SPAN cameras beamed their performance around the country, Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, 32, of Ohio and Rep. Kendrick Meek, 39, of Florida recited a litany of GOP misdeeds -- mismanaging Hurricane Katrina and neglecting education and health care, for example -- and offered the Democrats' alternatives.

Their conversation even veered to religion, a subject many Democrats are afraid to touch. Ryan described the problems of the poor as a moral obligation and asked of Meek: "Where is the Christian Coalition when you are cutting poverty programs? They are fighting over Supreme Court justices."

The two newcomers -- who have served a combined six years in the House -- are part of a new generation of Democrats who are working to try to topple the GOP. Their fresh ideas, modern media skills and aggressive political tactics have inspired a party that has drifted for much of the past decade -- wedded to old notions and seemingly incapable of capitalizing on White House and congressional Republican miscues.

As part of the new approach, House and Senate Democrats are devising an alternative agenda of key policies. Ryan is pushing proposals aimed at drastically reducing the number of abortions over the coming decade by offering support and services to pregnant women. Others are crafting a plan for reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil by using more domestic agricultural products, an approach that would have significant appeal to Midwestern voters.

"We can't be Dr. No to everything Republicans do," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "We have to provide our own positive ideas."

The rise of the new breed, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Barack Obama (Ill.), the Senate's only African American and the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, marks a generational divide in a party long dominated by Northeastern liberals and Southern conservatives.

Unlike some of their forbears, the newcomers are pragmatists who view the past decade of GOP rule not as an aberration but as a sea change in political campaigning, fundraising and lobbying to which Democrats must adjust. They arrived in Washington as challengers and are comfortable questioning the establishment -- because they have not been part of it.

"Everyone recognizes the bottom line: We've got to win the House," said Van Hollen, who is in his second term. "So people are looking for creative alternatives, and they're much more willing to experiment now."

Many Democrats concede that, as a group, they were bullied into submission by President Bush during his first four years, when his popularity was high. They went along with his tax cuts, backed the war in Iraq and helped adopt a controversial Medicare prescription drug program. This year, however, the Democrats began pushing back more, even before the uproar over the administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina. By standing united, they helped to block Bush's plan to create private accounts in the Social Security system.

But in light of the Democrats' meager political successes in recent years, it is far from certain they can score major gains in next year's elections, even with Bush's popularity falling and widespread displeasure over the war and gasoline prices, according to lawmakers and political experts.

"It's not as easy as it looks," said former representative Robert S. Walker (Pa.). Walker sees plenty of parallels between his crowd of 1994 GOP House revolutionaries and the young Democrats, but he notes that the Republicans started laying the groundwork for their takeover in the early 1980s, at least a decade before their electoral coup. "I can understand why people say an opportunity is presenting itself," Walker said. "But it does take more than a couple of election cycles to change things."

While change within the party has not always gone smoothly, the top leaders recognize the importance of giving newer members running room. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has passed over more senior lawmakers to give newcomers key committee assignments and speaking roles during high-profile floor debates.

She also put junior lawmakers in charge of the 2006 campaign effort. "They are the future," Pelosi said. "And they are starting to set the pace for where things go."

Perhaps no other newcomer has moved up as quickly as Emanuel, an adviser in the Clinton White House who took command of the Democrats' campaign committee after a single House term.

They have run into their share of friction. Pelosi has gone back and forth with Ryan over his abortion proposal, worried that certain provisions could dilute the traditional Democratic position backing abortion rights.

In the Senate . . . Obama is impatient with the rigidity expressed by some of the party's old-line liberal interest groups, believing the public takes a more nuanced view of issues such as abortion and affirmative action.

"When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive 'checklist,' then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems," Obama wrote.

Pelosi says House and Senate leaders will soon lay out a slate of new ideas, similar to the "Contract With America" that the GOP used to attract voters in 1994, when it took back control of Congress.

One group that Democrats want to tap is veterans and active military members, who have seen their benefits cut or frozen as part of an ongoing budget squeeze. Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), a second-term House member, believes Republicans could pay heavily at the polls throughout the South for overlooking this crucial voting group.

"When I see white male Alabamians shaking their heads, that tells me there are opportunities for Democrats to make major inroads," Davis said.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Taylor unveils campaign plans.

The Thomasville Times Enterprise reports:

Thursday night, Georgia Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor layed out his game plans for a major Democratic comeback in the 2006 state elections.

Taylor [said] education and employment opportunities were the main points in his blueprint for regaining control of state government.

Maintaining and strengthening the HOPE scholarship — a lottery-funded scholarship program benefitting some 800,000 families — is one of Taylor’s chief concerns. “Think about that — a program that says to every high school graduate with a B average, ‘Education is available to you, at no cost to you, or the taxpayer,’” Taylor said.

“Georgia is the only state in the nation with the HOPE scholarship program. We’re the only state in the nation with a four-year-old pre-kindergarten program,” he said. “Over a million Georgia families have benefitted from these programs, which I have sponsored and I have defended throughout my public service career.”

Taylor said benefits from the HOPE scholarship are steadily dwindling, leaving deserving students with inadequate tuition funds. “Today’s HOPE scholars are receiving a smaller check than last year’s HOPE scholars, even though there is more money in the Hope scholarship program today than there was last year,” he said.

“Those checks are smaller because our governor does not support the HOPE scholarship with all of his heart,” Taylor said. “If had been left up to Sonny Perdue in 1992, there would have been no HOPE scholarship program. There would have been no pre-kindergarten program. He could not capture the vision.”

Taylor blamed Perdue for a 30 percent tuition hike experienced by most Georgia colleges and universities over the last three years. He called the increase a tax on students and working families, which ultimately hurts Georgia’s workforce.

Taylor spoke out against a bill that would require voters to show state-issued identification at the polls and in favor of a better laws concerning DNA evidence in criminal cases. He also proposed more financial support for the families of Georgia soldiers deployed overseas.

Following his speech, Taylor said he was optimistic about the state of the Democratic Party gearing up for the 2006 elections.

“I think our party is in great shape. We simply have to focus on good candidates, and running good, disciplined campaigns,” he said.

“We need to focus on the important issues of schools, public safety and good jobs,” Taylor said. “We stay focused on those issues, we win elections.”

Monday, October 17, 2005

House GOP Leaders Set to Cut Spending.

According to The Washington Post:

Since Bush came to office, federal spending had grown by a third, from $1.86 trillion to $2.47 trillion, while record budget surpluses turned to record deficits. Conservative activists, led by talk show hosts and opinion columnists, had begun pressing Republicans hard on what they saw as Big Government Conservatism.

House Republican leaders have moved from balking at big cuts in Medicaid and other programs to embracing them, driven by pent-up anger from fiscal conservatives concerned about runaway spending and the leadership's own weakening hold on power.

Beginning this week, the House GOP lawmakers will take steps to cut as much as $50 billion from the fiscal 2006 budget for health care for the poor, food stamps and farm supports, as well as considering across-the-board cuts in other programs. Only last month, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and other GOP leaders quashed demands within their party for budget cuts to pay for the soaring cost of hurricane relief.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Democrats See Dream of '06 Victory Taking Form.

From The New York Times:

Suddenly, Democrats see a possibility in 2006 they have long dreamed of: a sweeping midterm election framed around what they describe as the simple choice of change with the Democrats or more of an unpopular status quo with the Republican majority.

That sense of political opportunity has Democratic operatives scrambling to recruit more candidates in Congressional districts that look newly favorable for Democratic gains, to overcome internal divisions and produce an agenda they can carry into 2006, and to raise the money to compete across a broader field. In short, the Democrats are trying to be ready if, in fact, an anti-incumbent, 1994-style political wave hits.

Already, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and soaring gasoline prices have taken a toll on the popularity of President Bush and Congressional Republicans; new polling by the Pew Research Center shows the approval rating for Congressional Republican leaders at 32 percent, with 52 percent disapproving, a sharp deterioration since March. (The ratings of Democratic leaders stood at 32 percent approval, 48 percent disapproval.)

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released Wednesday night, showed that 13 months before the midterm election, 48 percent said they wanted a Democratic-led Congress, compared to 39 percent who preferred Republican control.

But for Democrats to step into the void, many strategists and elected officials say, they must offer more than a blistering critique of the Republicans in power, the regular attacks on what Democrats now describe as a "culture of cronyism and corruption."

What they need, many Democrats acknowledge, is their own version of the "Contract With America," the Republican agenda (tax cuts, a balanced budget, a stronger military and an array of internal reforms) that the party campaigned on in the 1994 landslide election, when it won control of the House and the Senate.

To recapture the House, Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats. That is a difficult feat if - as some predict - the number of competitive seats is fewer than three dozen, thanks largely to redistrictings. To recapture the Senate, Democrats need to pick up six seats, also an extremely high bar given the seats up this year. And while the current political climate is bleak for Republicans, no one knows what it will be a year from now.

Reflecting that shift in assessments, Democrats are preparing for a midterm with broad, national themes and possibilities - like 1982, 1986 and 1994. Democratic leaders from the House, the Senate, the national party and representatives of mayors and governors have met periodically to try to produce their own campaign agenda for 2006, which they hope to unveil early next year, strategists and senators said.

That agenda will deal with energy independence, broader access to health care and college education, government reform, economic security and - the most divisive issue for the Democrats - Iraq and national security, Democratic strategists say.

Mr. Bush's approval ratings are, perhaps, the most closely watched political indicator at the moment. Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said, "In every midterm election season, a president with approval ratings as low as President Bush's has had his party taking it on the chin."

But much can change in 12 months. And Republicans note that while the popularity of Mr. Bush and the Congressional Republicans is down, the ratings for Congressional Democrats have not risen.

For Democrats, a Path Back to Power.

The following is the second post about a paper by Elaine Kamarck and Bill Galston. The first was in a 10-07-05 post entitled "Report Warns Democrats Not to Tilt Too Far Left."

This post is from The Washington Post and is a column by David S. Broder. It reads as follows:

In the welter of dissonant voices raised this year during the unending debates about the future of the Democratic Party, few have been as clear as those of Elaine Kamarck and Bill Galston.

The two political scientists -- she is at Harvard and he is at the University of Maryland -- were colleagues in the Clinton White House and collaborators on an earlier analysis, published in 1989, that helped set the direction for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 campaign.

Last week, under the auspices of the Third Way organization, they released their new compendium of polling data and political advice, "The Politics of Polarization." In 64 pages, notably devoid of academic jargon, and 24 easy-to-understand tables, they attempt to steer their party directly back toward the path to power.

Because that path aims down the political center, it will not be easily accepted by many of the activists in the organizations that control the Democratic Party at the grass roots and dominate its fundraising, whether they be Hollywood millionaires or Internet Deaniacs.

These men and women -- who provide most of the energy in Democratic campaigns -- ardently oppose both the domestic and international policies of the Bush administration and yearn for candidates who would reverse President Bush's direction on Iraq, taxes, gay rights, abortion and other issues.

Because of the work they do and the money they raise for the Democratic Party, elected officials -- especially in Washington -- heed their views. Their influence is reflected in Democratic votes against everything from the Central American Free Trade Agreement to the Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts.

Kamarck and Galston are making the case -- hard for these folks to acknowledge -- that victory for the Democrats requires more than ardent anti-Bush rhetoric. It requires, they say, a revision of Democratic doctrine on both national security and social and moral issues.

The perception that Democrats are weak on confronting terrorism and hostile to the culture of the deeply religious has cost the party dearly, especially among married women and Catholics. Galston and Kamarck calculate that the odds of a married woman supporting the Republican candidate rose from just under 40 percent in 1992 to nearly 55 percent last year. Clinton, a Baptist, carried the Catholic vote by nine points in 1992, while John Kerry, a Catholic, lost among his co-religionists by five points.

"Moral values" are particularly important to both groups. Kamarck and Galston are quick to point out, however, that this does not require Democrats to abandon their support for abortion rights or to condemn homosexuality. "Moral values" embrace more than gay marriage and abortion; the voters' definition includes "personal integrity, family solidarity, and the social compact," particularly concern for those in need of help.

This opens the way for Democrats to recoup ground if they find a candidate who conveys strength of conviction on national security -- the opposite, they say, of Kerry saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion [for Iraq and Afghanistan], before I voted against it." It would help if the candidate also had a solid marriage, a churchgoing habit and an ability to express sympathetic understanding of those who disagree with his or her personal support of abortion and gay rights.

The final table in their report is one of the most intriguing. It traces the changing partisan patterns of individual states, noting the increasing Democratic strength on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the rising Republican allegiance of the South and the Rockies. "The net result of these developments," they say, "is that the Midwest is far more central to presidential campaigns than it was two decades ago."

The six states tracking the national results most closely in the most recent presidential elections are New Mexico, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Not coincidentally, Catholics make up the largest religious group in each of these states.

Kamarck and Galston, avowedly neutral in the 2008 presidential race, were asked at a briefing on their report if they thought it would be an advantage to the Democrats to nominate a candidate from the Midwest. Their answer: It need not be a native of that region, but it ought to be someone who can speak comfortably to those voters.

It sounds to me as if they have made the case for Tom Vilsack, a Catholic from Iowa, or perhaps Evan Bayh, a Protestant from Indiana, both with strikingly able political wives and solid family values.

Others -- including Hillary Clinton, who has migrated from Illinois to Arkansas to Washington to New York -- might try to fit the mold. The real question is whether the activists in the Democratic Party will follow the logic Kamarck and Galston have laid out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Incumbent members of Congress seldom get defeated.

From Bill Shipp's Georgia from InsiderAdvantage:

Incumbents seldom get defeated; since 1962, House incumbents nationwide have been re-elected an average of 93 percent of the time. The last time a Democratic congressman from Georgia was defeated for re-election in a general election was 11 years ago, when Buddy Darden and Don Johnson were tossed out by voters angry with those two because of their support of the Clinton Administration.

Shipp: Governor's legacy is being shrouded in government secrecy.

Bill Shipp writes:

I've reported and written on a dozen governors in my day, and I can tell you one thing for certain: Nearly every governor said the office surprised him. Almost all experienced an unanticipated defining moment, which marked his tenure for history.

What is Perdue's legacy? Some contend that his decision to shut down public schools for two days to save motor fuel will become the most unforgettable image of the Perdue years. In the heat of the moment, that assertion sounded plausible.

Alas, in the age of information overkill, the school closings already are fading from memory as we approach an unknown new crisis just beyond the next horizon.

Come to think of it, Perdue has yet to clearly define himself.

After nearly three years in office, we hardly know Perdue. To be sure, his list of governmental achievements, for better or worse, are little more than digitized copies of the state Chamber of Commerce's legislative agenda. He has reduced spending on education, cut back on Medicaid, established several new Web sites on the Internet and - and - and -. And what?

At the end of nearly three years in office, the legacy of Perdue remains a cipher. A culture of secrecy in state government has allowed the public only fleeting glimpses of how, when and where important decisions are made.

These flashes of insight are never quite enough to give us a focused picture of the governor. To Perdue and his advisers, such fuzziness serves as a protective covering. To Perdue's well-paid team, this shield may be far more important than establishing a clear legacy for the state's first Republican governor in modern times.

Conservative Crackup - How the neocons have developed a political exit strategy.

From Newsweek by Howard Fineman:

President George W. Bush may have no military exit strategy for Iraq, but the “necons” who convinced him to go to war there have developed one of their own—a political one: Blame the Administration.

Their neo-Wilsonian theory is correct, they insist, but the execution was botched by a Bush team that has turned out to be incompetent, crony-filled, corrupt, unimaginative and weak over a wide range of issues.

The flight of the neocons—just read a recent Weekly Standard to see what I am talking about —is one of only many indications that the long-predicted “conservative crackup” is at hand.

The “movement” —that began 50 years ago with the founding of Bill Buckley’s National Review; that had its coming of age in the Reagan Years; that reached its zenith with Bush’s victory in 2000—is falling apart at the seams.

In 1973, Karl Rove met George W. Bush, and became the R2D2 and Luke Skywalker of Republican politics. At first, neither was plugged into “The Force”—the conservative movement. But over the years they learned how to use its power.

By the time Bush was in his second term as governor, laying the groundwork for his presidential run, he and Rove had gathered all of the often competing and sometimes contradictory strains of conservatism into one light beam. You could tell by the people they brought to Austin.

To tie down the religious conservatives, they nudged John Ashcroft out of the race and conducted a literal laying on of hands at the governor’s mansion with leaders such as James Dobson.

For the libertarian anti-tax crowd, they brought in certified supply-sider Larry Lindsey as the top economic advisor.

For the traditional war hawks they brought in Paul Wolfowitz, among others, go get Bush up to speed on the world.

For the traditional corporate types—well, Bush had that taken care of on his own.

But now all the constituent parts are—for various reasons—going their own way. Here's a checklist:

Religious conservatives

The Harriet Miers nomination was the final insult. Religious conservatives have an inferiority complex in the Republican Party. In an interesting way, it’s the same attitude that many African-Americans have had toward the Democratic Party over the years. They think that the Big Boys want their votes but not their presence or their full participation.

And what really frosts the religious types is that Bush evidently feels that he can only satisfy them by stealth—by nominating someone with absolutely no paper trail. It’s an affront. And even though Dr. Dobson is on board—having been cajoled aboard by Rove—I don’t sense that there is much enthusiasm for the enterprise out in Colorado Springs.

I expect that any GOP 2008 hopeful who wants evangelical support—people like Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum and maybe even George Allen—will vote against Miers's confirmation in the Senate.

Corporate CEOs

For them, Bush’s handling of Katrina was, and remains, a mortal embarrassment to their class, which Bush is supposed to have represented—at least to some extent.

These are people who believe in the Faith of Management—in anticipating problems and moving mass organizations. They also like to think of themselves as having a social conscience. And even if they don’t, they are sensitive to world opinion.

The vivid images from the Superdome were just too much for these folks. Recently, a prominent Republican businessman, whom I saw in a typical CEO haunt, astonished me with the severity of his attacks on Bush’s competence. And Bush had appointed this guy to a major position! Amazing.

Main Street: Smaller government deficit hawks

This is an old-fashioned but important core of conservatism: people who think federal spending should be relentlessly reduced, and that we should always view with suspicion any proposals to increase the role of the federal government in local and private life.

After binges of spending and legislating, backbenchers in the GOP, especially in the House, are in open revolt, having gathered around Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. John McCain in the Senate. They tend to view the “Leadership’s” spending habits with alarm.


An old term, but still applicable. With the fall of Communism in Europe and Russia, the old anti-Communist wing of the conservative movement lost its role. Now the isolationists of old are back, and with a new crusade: immigration.

The relatively unchecked flood of illegal immigrants into this country is indeed a legitimate cause for alarm. But in the eyes of this crowd—one leader is my MSNBC colleague, Pat Buchanan—the Bush Administration is doing nothing.


They think that the Middle East can be remade, and this country made safe, by instilling a semblance of democracy in the Fertile Crescent and beyond. But they seem to have given up on the ability of the Bush Administration to see that vision through.

They want more troops, not fewer; more money, not less; more passion, not the whispered talk of timetables for withdrawal.
Besides championing democracy, we need to show strength and resolve, they believe—and they are no longer convinced that Bush can show much of either.


This is the one faction that the president has yet to disappoint in a major way. He pushed through two major tax cuts, and is pushing more—targeted ones—in the wake of Katrina.

Deep in their collective memory bank, Bush and Rove remember what happened when Daddy moved his lips and raised taxes. But now that the son has been reelected, will he move his lips, too? If the conservative crack up is to be complete—and I think it will be—the answer is yes.

CIA rebukes Bush administration for not paying attention to prewar intelligence that predicted the factional rivalries now threatening to split Iraq.

The following is from today's Wall Street Journal online:

"[A] newly released report published by the CIA rebukes the Bush administration for not paying enough attention to prewar intelligence that predicted the factional rivalries now threatening to split Iraq, USA Today reports. Policymakers worried more about making the case for the war, particularly the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, than planning for the aftermath, the report says. The report was written by a team of four former CIA analysts led by former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr."

This piece made my mind flash back to something I wrote in a 10-5-04 post:

I have tried unsuccessfully to get what I am fixing to relate to Sen. Edwards' campaign prior to tonight's Vice Presidential debate. It concerns something Dick Cheney said while he was a private citizen on the lecture circuit about halfway between his service to Bush I as Secretary of Defense and becoming part of the Bush II team as Vice President.

What I heard I feel certain was said over and over as Mr. Cheney was on a lecture across the country. Some of the same thoughts are in Bush I's book, but dern if you hear anyting about it from the Kerry camp.

The lecture was at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, Florida, as part of something called the Florida Forum Series. This series seeks to bring some of the world's most widely known public figures to Jacksonville, Florida, with the series benefiting Wolfson Children's Hospital.

The last lecture I attended there was in September 2002, and the lecturer was Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a fascinating evening program and presentation wise.

Anyway, when Cheney was in Jacksonville in the mid-90's, he had no reason to fabricate, exaggerate, etc. Bush I had been retired, and Bush II was still just a cowboy.

After a fascinating lecture, a person in the audience asked the following question: Mr. Secretary, after American troops and U.S. led forces liberated Kuwait, why did we stop at Iraq's southern border; why didn't we go on to Baghdad and take Suddam out.

I remember the response as if it were this morning, someone having asked a question about which so many Americans such as myself had wondered.
Two reasons citizen Cheney said: First, the history of this region of the world and our own intelligence convinced us that as bad as Suddam was, his not being there would probably be worse. Without question the whole area could be rendered less stable, and just as surely civil war between the Shiites, Sunni and the Kurds would erupt, with more fighting and bloodshed than the liberation of Kuwait had involved.

And second and equally important reason he stated, was that the coalition was not with us; it strongly opposed and would not support going on to Baghdad. And just as was the case with the decison to retake Kuwait, having the coalition was deemed imperative.

But shift the clock forward several years, and Bob Woodward in his book Plan of Attack tells us that Cheney, unlike Powell, could not wait to get back to Iraq.

Thus if I were asking the questions tonight, I would ask the Veep how were things different in 1992 and 2002. If there were not WMD's and a link with bin Laden, had history changed; was having the coalition no longer important?

In a 9-23-04 post I provided another theory of mine as to why we went in, something I don't really think is true because I don't want it to be, even though I feel I have blood on my hands. The post provided:

This whole thing sort of reminds me of something that happened in 1991 when the Vice President was Secretary of Defense, and is a pet theory of mine of providing at least part of the answer as to why Cheney was so bound and determined to invade Iraq and get Hussein, with or without supporting evidence, and with or without the coalition we had when we went in Kuwait.

After American troops and U.S. led forces liberated Kuwait and then stopped at Iraq's southern border, Bush I encouraged Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south to take matters into their own hands and get rid of Suddam.

Such groups, and especially the Kurds, did just that, rising in revolt against Suddam. But no help was forthcoming from America, as Bush I withheld American military support when their uprisings drew savage retribution from Baghdad.

It is something that I wish I could forget but cannot. I have never blamed Bush I for this per se; rather it is something I regard as America as a country getting blood on its hands.

How the Republicans Let It Slip Away.

From The Washington Post by David Ignatius:

Watching the Republicans floundering over the past week, I can't help thinking of a school of beached whales. The leviathans of the GOP have boldly swum themselves onto this patch of dry sand, and it won't be easy for them to get back to open ocean.

The Republicans come to their present troubles from different directions: President Bush thought he was making a safe, pragmatic choice in nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, but this soulless maneuver enraged the party's right wing and set it on a fratricidal binge. Tom DeLay thought he was ramrodding a permanent Republican government, but he managed to get himself indicted and, well before that calamity, had angered House Republicans who concluded that "The Hammer's" leadership style was marching them off a cliff. Looming over all these little problems is the crucible of Iraq.

What's interesting is that most of these wounds are self-inflicted. They draw a picture of a party that, for all its seeming dominance, isn't prepared to be the nation's governing party. The hard right, which is the soul of the modern GOP, would rather be ideologically pure than successful.

Governing requires making compromises and getting your hands dirty, but the conservative purists disdain those qualities. They swim for that beach with a fiercely misguided determination, and they demand that the other whales accompany them.

The bickering over the Miers nomination epitomizes the right's refusal to assume the role of a majoritarian governing party. The awkward fact for conservatives is that the American public doesn't agree with them on abortion rights. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in late August found 54 percent describing themselves as pro-choice and only 38 percent as pro-life, roughly the same percentages as a decade ago.

That's the political reality that Bush has been trying to finesse with his nominations of John Roberts and Miers. That's why he said in the 2000 primary campaign that he wouldn't impose any litmus test (when other Republicans were demanding one) and would instead focus on a nominee's character and judicial philosophy. The realist in Bush understands that he can't easily force a nominee who is openly antiabortion on a country where a solid majority disagrees.

Bush has been successful when he has connected with the American center. Political scientist Gary C. Jacobson notes that after Sept. 11, 2001, Bush "enjoyed the longest stretch of approval ratings above 60 percent of any president in 40 years." In that post-Sept. 11 period, when Bush was fulfilling his campaign promise to be "a uniter, not a divider," his approval rating among Democrats soared to an astounding 81 percent.

Bush and the Republicans had a chance after 2004 to become the country's natural governing party. They controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. The Democrats were in utter disarray, leaderless and idea-less. When Bush took the podium in January to deliver his soaring second inaugural address, the future seemed to belong to the Republicans.

Bush squandered this opportunity by falling into the trap that has snared the modern GOP -- of playing to the base rather than to the nation. The Republicans behave as if the country agrees with them on issues, when that demonstrably isn't so. The country doesn't agree about Social Security, doesn't agree about the ethical issues that were dramatized by the torment of Terri Schiavo, doesn't agree about abortion. Yet, in a spirit of blind partisanship, House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced last year that bills would reach the floor only if "the majority of the majority" supported them. That notion of governing from the hard right was a recipe for failure.

What you sense now, as conservative and moderate Republicans alike take potshots at their president, is that the GOP is entering the post-Bush era. A war of succession has begun, cloaked in a war of principles. The cruelest aspect of Bush's predicament is that the conservatives are treating him with the same disdain they showed his father. What a denouement to the West Wing Oedipal drama: A son who did everything he could to avoid his father's humiliation by the conservative wing of the party is now under attack by the right himself.

Principles are a fine thing, but a narrow, partisan definition of principle has led the Republicans to a dead end. Their inability to transcend their base and speak to the country as a whole is now painfully obvious. Like the Democrats in their years of decline, they are screaming at each other -- not realizing how far they have drifted from the mid-channel markers that have always led to open waters and defined success in American politics.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Self-Inflicted Wound - Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers is a miscalculation that could cost him dearly. Can she still win confirmation?

From Newsweek by Eleanor Clift:

A good makeup artist could have erased those dark circles under Harriet Miers’s eyes as she appeared before the cameras to accept President Bush’s nomination to the Supreme Court last Monday. Described by White House aides as Bush’s “work wife,” she spent so many hours toiling in the West Wing that colleagues once thought her red Mercedes had been abandoned in the parking lot.

Dutiful she is, but Supreme Court material she is not. Before taking over as White House counsel earlier this year, she was staff secretary, a position of so little consequence it’s not even depicted on “The West Wing,” the fictional TV drama about White House life. Miers put in long hours and was the last person to put paper on the president’s desk, but she wasn’t mulling over constitutional issues.

With his presidency spinning out of control, Bush needed to reach high with this appointment. Instead he made the easiest decision possible. He reached for the person he knows best, a miscalculation that could cost him dearly. “This is a meltdown—this is what a Republican meltdown looks like,” says a Republican strategist with ties to the conservative wing of the party. At meetings on Capitol Hill and all over Washington, conservatives were in an uproar while party regulars were dumbfounded by Bush’s latest self-inflicted wound. “When you have economic difficulties, people dying in a war, political corruption and a government that is seen as unresponsive, in this ugly, harsh political environment, he needed to go above and beyond,” says the strategist. “He needed to pick someone who is potentially more conservative, but certainly more qualified.”

Conservatives gagged and liberals gasped when Bush said with a straight face in the Rose Garden that Miers was the most qualified person he could find. More evidence they’re drinking Kool-Aid in the White House: David Frum, a former White House speechwriter, reported on his blog that Miers once told him that Bush was “the most brilliant man she’d ever met.” What will happen when she has a conversation with Justice Antonin Scalia? Will her head explode?

Bush apparatchiks fanned out on Capitol Hill and around town to quell the insurgency. Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie met with a buzz saw when he briefed Senate aides. “Normally everyone lines up and people say you’re great and it’s really easy,” says a participant. Instead there was defiance. “You don’t know what you’re talking about … Don’t expect us to roll over,” they barked at Gillespie, who inflamed the situation when he suggested the attacks on Miers contained “a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism.” Bush probably thinks this is all about sticking it to the Ivy League establishment by sending them a graduate of Southern Methodist University.

An architect of the ’94 Republican revolution likened the changed attitude to what happened to Siegfried and Roy, the legendary Las Vegas act. “It used to be they would raise their hands and the tigers would kneel. Now it’s exactly the opposite, they raise their hands and the tigers attack.”

Just because Republicans are restive doesn’t mean that Miers won’t get confirmed. Conservative activists, the folks Ronald Reagan used to call the “professional conservatives,” can complain all they want, but confirmation is up to the Senate. “The Weyrichs of the world, with all due respect, don’t matter,” says a GOP vote counter. (Paul Weyrich heads the conservative Free Congress Foundation.) “If Brownback objects, then you pay attention.” Republican Sen. Sam Brownback is the go-to person for social conservatives. Initially cool to the nomination, Brownback—a staunch opponent of abortion—told reporters that he was still undecided after meeting with Miers on Thursday. Describing Miers as “a very decent lady,” Brownback noted that “no promises were made either way.”

Brownback’s ambivalence reflects how unsettled the nomination remains. Republican senators are getting bombarded with calls,” says a GOP consultant. “For the first time in a long time a real grass-roots movement is happening. This goes beyond the pooh-bahs in Washington, and it’s all about ’06 and not having the base fall asleep or go for a walk.”

Conservatives wanted a voice on the high court, an intellectual force who could shape opinion and bring others along. There’s no evidence that Miers is of that caliber. “Harriet’s [confirmation] hearing really matters,” says Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. “Roberts hit it out of the park that first night. It was over after that; the rest was going through the motions. How she does will make or break this nomination.”

Miers was in law school before Roe v Wade was handed down. “There’s been a revolution in constitutional law in the 30 years since her time in law school,” says Karen O’Connor, founder of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. “The [Supreme] Court has evolved in its thinking about abortion law, rights of criminal defendants, telecommunications. She’s going to have to take the equivalent of a bar review course. If that was me,” says O’Connor, who is a lawyer, “I would be physically ill knowing how much I had to learn in a short period of time.”

Friday, October 07, 2005

New CBS poll released this week on President Bush.

The Wall Street Jounal online reports:

A new CBS poll released yesterday, found the American public increasingly pessimistic about the war. In addition to giving Mr. Bush his lowest approval rate ever -- 37% -- it found that a growing number of Americans want U.S. troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible, rather than stay the course, and that the highest percentage ever thinks the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq. More alarming, perhaps, for the White House, is that his approval rating on the issue of terrorism -- by far his strongest area for a long time -- dropped below 50%, where it was in September, to 46%.

President Bush's Major Speech: Sounding Old Themes on Iraq. - If Mr. Bush still cannot acknowledge the flaws in his policy, how can he fix them?

An editorial from The New York Times:

We've lost track of the number of times President Bush has told Americans to ignore their own eyes and ears and pretend everything is going just fine in Iraq. Yesterday, when Mr. Bush added a ringing endorsement of his own policy to his speech on terrorism, it was that same old formula: the wrong questions, the wrong answers and no new direction.

Mr. Bush suggested that people who doubt that nation-building is going well are just confusing healthy disagreement with dangerous division. "We've heard it suggested that Iraq's democracy must be on shaky ground because Iraqis are arguing with one another," he scoffed. What he failed to acknowledge was that the Iraqi power groups seem prepared to go through the motions of democracy only as long as their side wins.

Just this week, the United Nations narrowly averted disaster when it convinced Shiite and Kurdish officials to drop a plan to fix the upcoming constitutional referendum to eliminate Sunni voters' capacity to vote down the constitution. But their promises to follow the rules seem likely to hold up only as long as the game goes as they want.

Americans want to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq, and Mr. Bush offered quite a bit. "Area by area, city by city, we're conducting offensive operations to clear out enemy forces and leaving behind Iraqi units to prevent the enemy from returning," he said. Best of all, there were "more than 80 Iraqi Army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces." Unfortunately, the real questions are how many of the cleared-out towns actually stay clear once American troops have gone, and how many Iraqi units are capable of fighting on their own, without American soldiers at their side. In both cases, the answers are far more dismal than Mr. Bush suggested.

As a candidate, Mr. Bush got a lot of mileage out of offering the same simple, positive thoughts over and over. But now the nation doesn't need more specious theories about why the invasion was a good idea and cheery assurances that the original plan is still working. If Mr. Bush still cannot acknowledge the flaws in his policy, how can he fix them?

Americans need clear guidelines for judging how long it makes sense to stay in Iraq. Are our troops helping create a nation, or simply delaying an inevitable civil war? Does a continued American presence help push the Middle East toward peace and democracy, or simply inflame hatred of the United States and serve as a rallying point for Al Qaeda? The fact that the president isn't willing even to raise the questions does not increase confidence in the ultimate outcome.

Given the state of the American adventure in Iraq and the way it has sapped the strength and flexibility of the United States armed forces, it was unnerving to hear Mr. Bush talk so menacingly about Syria and Iran. It was also maddening to listen to him describe the perils that Iraq poses while denying that his policies set them in motion.

It is hard to argue with his assertion that if militants controlled Iraq, they would be well positioned "to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation." It is also hard to resist the temptation to say he should have thought of that before invading.

Report Warns Democrats Not to Tilt Too Far Left.

From The Washington Post:

The liberals' hope that Democrats can win back the presidency by drawing sharp ideological contrasts and energizing the partisan base is a fantasy that could cripple the party's efforts to return to power, according to a new study by two prominent Democratic analysts.

In the latest shot in a long-running war over the party's direction -- an argument turned more passionate after Democrat John F. Kerry's loss to President Bush last year -- two intellectuals who have been aligned with former president Bill Clinton warn that the only way back to victory is down the center.

Democrats must "admit that they cannot simply grow themselves out of their electoral dilemmas," wrote William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck, in a report released yesterday. "The groups that were supposed to constitute the new Democratic majority in 2004 simply failed to materialize in sufficient number to overcome the right-center coalition of the Republican Party."

Since Kerry's defeat, some Democrats have urged that the party adopt a political strategy more like one pursued by Bush and his senior adviser, Karl Rove -- which emphasized robust turnout of the party base rather than relentless, Clinton-style tending to "swing voters."

But Galston and Kamarck, both of whom served in the Clinton White House, said there are simply not enough left-leaning voters to make this a workable strategy. In one of their more potentially controversial findings, the authors argue that the rising numbers and influence of well-educated, socially liberal voters in the Democratic Party are pulling the party further from most Americans.

On defense and social issues, "liberals espouse views diverging not only from those of other Democrats, but from Americans as a whole. To the extent that liberals now constitute both the largest bloc within the Democratic coalition and the public face of the party, Democratic candidates for national office will be running uphill."

Galston and Kamarck -- whose work was sponsored by Third Way, a group working with Senate Democrats on centrist policy ideas -- are critical of three other core liberal arguments:

· They warn against overreliance on a strategy of solving political problems by "reframing" the language by which they present their ideas, as advocated by linguist George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley: "The best rhetoric will fail if the public rejects the substance of a candidate's agenda or entertains doubts about his integrity."

· They say liberals who count on rising numbers of Hispanic voters fail to recognize the growing strength of the GOP among Hispanics, as well as the growing weakness of Democrats with white Catholics and married women.

· They contend that Democrats who hope the party's relative advantages on health care and education can vault them back to power "fail the test of political reality in the post-9/11 world." Security issues have become "threshold" questions for many voters, and cultural issues have become "a prism of candidates' individual character and family life," Galston and Kamarck argue.

Their basic thesis is that the number of solidly conservative Republican voters is substantially larger that the reliably Democratic liberal voter base. To win, the argument goes, Democrats must make much larger inroads among moderates than the GOP.

Galston, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, and Kamarck, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, in 1989 wrote the influential paper, "The Politics of Evasion," which helped set the stage for Clinton's presidential bid and the prominent role of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. In some ways, the report released yesterday showed how difficult the debate is to resolve.

Their recommendations are much less specific than their detailed analysis of the difficulties facing the Democratic Party.

They suggest that Democratic presidential candidates replicate Clinton's tactics in 1992, when he broke with the party's liberal base by approving the execution of a semi-retarded prisoner, by challenging liberal icon Jesse L. Jackson and by calling for an end to welfare "as we know it."

Monday, October 03, 2005

DeLay's Influence Transcends His Title.

The Washington Post reports in part:

For the indefinite future, Washington will remain Tom DeLay's capital. Dislodged by a criminal indictment last week from his post as House majority leader, DeLay in his decade of steering the Republican caucus dramatically -- and in many cases inalterably -- changed how power is amassed and used on Capitol Hill and well beyond.

Proteges of the wounded Texan still hold virtually every position of influence in the House, including the office of speaker. DeLay's former staff members are securely in the lobbying offices for many of the largest corporations and business advocacy groups.

But even more than people, DeLay's lasting influence is an ethos. He stood for a view of Washington as a battlefield on which two sides struggle relentlessly, moderates and voices of compromise are pushed to the margins, and the winners presume they have earned the right to punish dissenters and reward their own side with financial and policy favors.

His take-no-prisoners style of fundraising -- in which the classic unstated bargain of access for contributions is made explicitly and without apology -- has been adopted by both parties in Congress, according to lawmakers, lobbyists and congressional scholars. Democrats, likewise, increasingly are trying to emulate DeLay-perfected methods for enforcing caucus discipline -- rewarding lawmakers who follow the dictums of party leaders and seeking retribution against those who do not.

Most of all, DeLay stood for a blurring of the line between lawmakers and lobbyists so that lobbyists are now considered partners of politicians and not merely pleaders -- especially if they once worked for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers-turned-corporate lobbyists such as Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) and aides such as Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, remain among the most influential figures on Capitol Hill -- often more involved than lawmakers in writing policy and plotting political strategy.

In the House, DeLay enhanced the leadership's role by ending the practice of automatically promoting the most senior lawmakers to committee chairmanships and, instead, choosing loyalists to fill the powerful slots. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) was booted from the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee at the beginning of the current Congress because he repeatedly bucked DeLay and other GOP leaders on key votes. DeLay also arranged to have the chairmen elected by the committees themselves, whose members he also selected and was thus better able to control.

DeLay's fundraising focus has also permeated Washington. Over the years, DeLay has raised tens of millions of dollars for Republicans through nearly a dozen fundraising entities.

DeLay established as common practice the requirement that House GOP incumbents with safe seats collect at least some money for the party as a whole. Chairmen of committees were particularly on the line to raise large sums, Republican aides said. Unless they paid up, their chairmanships were in danger.

Department of Justice clears Georgia to use new congressional redistricting map in 2006.

The Associated Press reports that, as anticipated, the U.S. Department of Justice has precleared the new map drawn by Republicans for congressional elections next year.

The new map can be found at this site.

Political Pendulums - DeLay was a unifying force for the GOP. What his indictment says about fissures in the party — and its prospects in 2006.

Political Pendulums

By Eleanor Clift

Publicly Republicans are putting on a happy face, but they’ve moved on. They’re going to take care of themselves. Tom DeLay is yesterday. Forced to step down as House majority leader, he’s a symbol now, a symbol of the same cronyism and corruption that unseated the Democrats in ’94. The only difference is it took the Republicans a single decade to achieve the level of arrogance that it took four decades of Democratic rule to reach.

On a practical level, the DeLay indictment is far more damaging for the Republicans than anything else that’s happened recently. Politics is arithmetic, and DeLay was a unifying force. Within an hour after the indictment was handed down, conservatives muscled aside California Republican David Dreier, a nonthreatening moderate who had agreed to sit in for DeLay. Drier supports stem-cell research and opposes a gay marriage ban. The mini coup exposed fissures in the Republican Party that are only going to get worse.

Faced with the revolt, Speaker Hastert installed Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the current GOP whip and a blander but equally driven version of DeLay. “He may not be a hammer, but he’s at least a mallet,” says Marshall Wittmann, who formerly advised John McCain and is now with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Wittmann was on the Republican side in ’94 when the GOP captured 54 seats to catapult the party into the majority for the first time in 40 years. “I feel like I’m reliving those glory days,” he says, recalling the House banking scandal and the ouster of Speaker Jim Wright, events that set the stage for the climactic ’94 election. With DeLay’s indictment, the investigation of Senate Republican leader Bill Frist over a stock sale and the White House reeling from charges of cronyism, Wittmann says, “It smells like ’94 did for the Democrats.”

The wave of anger that tossed Democrats out of office a decade ago was not apparent until much closer to the election. Wittmann suggests half-jokingly that the Democrats ought to hire former speaker Newt Gingrich as a consultant. He more than anybody was responsible for putting the GOP on a war footing to take down the majority party and identify the issues voters could rally round. The Contract with America that unified Republicans was not unveiled until late September, six weeks before the election. Gingrich understood it wasn’t enough to simply oppose Democratic ideas. A quirky Texan by the name of Ross Perot had made the deficit a sexy political issue in ’92, and Gingrich went after the Perot vote, galvanizing independents for the Republican revolution with a balanced-budget amendment.

Now Gingrich is running for president as a moderate. That’s how far the pendulum has swung. He hasn’t declared yet, of course, but he’s busy creating himself for the opening that’s there for a reform candidate. He proved he has the skills for a revolutionary, but he had a tin ear when it came to governance. After toppling the Democrats as greedy insiders, the first thing Gingrich did after masterminding the Republican takeover was sign a multimillion-dollar book deal. Though he led them to the promised land, Republicans said privately had Gingrich been Moses, he would have penned something like, “How to Be an Effective Biblical Leader.” House Republicans chafed under Gingrich’s massive ego and grandiose style, eventually forcing him to step down as speaker.

DeLay was among those who plotted the coup that led to Gingrich’s resignation. The two men were never allies, and Gingrich must feel a measure of satisfaction at DeLay’s apparent downfall. Even though Gingrich is responsible as much as anyone for the nasty partisanship that characterizes politics at present, he has a different persona today. He’s magnanimous and bipartisan, a refreshing contrast to his former self and probably an accurate reading of where the country will be in ’08. We are a political lifetime away from the tactical opportunities that launched the Gingrich revolution in ’94, but the GOP’s woes will boost candidate recruitment and money for the Democrats. Within two hours of the announcement of the DeLay indictment, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fund-raising letter.

It’s impossible to predict whether Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle will be able to convict DeLay on the charges of conspiracy to evade state campaign finance laws. DeLay says he wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority), and Earle needs a piece of evidence, an e-mail or a witness, that ties illegal contributions to DeLay. “If this thing goes beyond January 1, he’s toast,” says a Republican lobbyist. “Nobody will care if he wins or loses a trial in August.” As if having leaders of the House and Senate under investigation weren’t enough, Republican fears that a “third shoe” could fall are looking more likely. The disclosure that Lewis Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was a source for jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller could yet lead to his indictment in the Plame CIA leak investigation. “Then every single body controlled by Republicans would have fallen to corruption,” says the GOP lobbyist, “and the Democrats would have a very strong argument.”

A lot can happen in a week. Bill Shipp pens a letter to Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor.

There has been little to write about on the political front for the past week or so. My last post of a week ago concerned the possibility that Max Cleland might well run for lieutenant governor, despite his having denied that he would do so.

But along with this story now things have begun to happen. Yesterday Jim Galloway reported in the ajc that "Ralph Reed, who has condemned gambling as a 'cancer on the American body politic,' quietly worked five years ago to kill a proposed ban on Internet wagering --- on behalf of a company in the online gambling industry."

But these two stories pale in comparison to a new column by Bill Shipp that also concerns the lietenant governor's race. Mr. Shipp writes this week:

If I were the Georgia Democratic Party chair in charge of trying to resuscitate the party's dying donkey, I would write Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor one more letter. Here is what it would say:

Dear Mark,

Don't run for governor next year. Run for re-election as lieutenant governor.

Believe it or not, the future of the state as well as that of the Democratic Party might be riding on the outcome of the election for lieutenant governor. In many political circles, the race for No. 2 is attracting more attention than the contest for governor.

Oh, I know what you are going to say. You'll tell me you've already been offered the re-election deal, and you've said no. So you want me to forget about it. You'll say you just don't want to be lieutenant governor any longer.

Since the last time this subject came up, the playing field has changed. Your chances of being elected governor have diminished.

Your odds of winning re-election to your present post are better than ever.

Ralph Reed, the Republican's premier candidate for lieutenant governor, is struggling, in some instances against leaders of his own party. Entrenched Republicans are fearful that Reed as lieutenant governor would usurp their power and prestige.

Meanwhile, one of Reed's pals, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has been indicted in Texas on a felony charge regarding campaign finances. The case is complicated, but you can bet Democrats will try to keep it in the national news until well into the next election season. DeLay has been forced to step down as majority leader, at least temporarily.

Democrats will see to it that the indictment stirs up dust in Georgia.

DeLay's political action committee ARMPAC has contributed more than $100,000 to the Georgia congressional delegation over the past few years. For next year's election, DeLay's PAC already has given $5,000 each to U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey and former U.S. Reps. Max Burns and Mac Collins.

However, the Georgian to whom DeLay is most frequently tied remains Reed. DeLay and Reed have taken golfing trips to Scotland with controversial powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff. David Safavian, President Bush's procurement chief, recently was arrested in connection with one of these golfing getaways.

Of course, DeLay and Reed have both been trying to put some distance between themselves and Abramoff in the past year.

Now, Ralph has the added chore of also shying away from DeLay.

At first glance, the Abramoff-DeLay-Reed trifecta looks like just another nearly indecipherable maze of K Street corridors and congressional offices, but the lingering scent of corruption is unmistakable.

Isn't it remarkable, Mark, that the Grand Old Party, which rose to power partly on a tidal wave of moral indignation against Clintonesque Democrats, is in danger of drowning in a sea of corruption-related allegations?

But I digress. Though Reed appears on paper to be the new Georgia GOP superman, he may not be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Several Republican state senators are quietly circulating a two-page memo on why they believe Reed can't win the 2006 election. Citing Reed's relatively high unfavorable poll ratings, the memo says, "As public coverage of Ralph's recent work as a lobbyist continues, that [unfavorable] ratio is clearly not going to improve."

Georgia's anti-Reed Republicans are determined to avoid a replay of the 2001 GOP convention when Ralph and his evangelical allies took the party by storm. They are ready to do nearly anything to shut the door on Reed's long-term ambitions, and they might be successful.

If you ran for re-election, Mark, you might find yourself defending the office against a little-known state senator named Casey Cagle.

Cagle, lacking the star power and high-level connections of Reed, ought to be a pushover for you, a Democratic incumbent with solid name recognition and an enviable record of achievements as both a legislator and lieutenant governor.

On the other hand, even an anonymous Republican in this overwhelmingly red state is likely to prevail in a lieutenant governor's election against Democratic nobodies.

As you have been advised before, a Taylor-Reed contest is a national race that would attract national dollars. Some Georgia Democrats will see it as a do-or-die gambit to save their political base. Look at it this way, Mark. If Democrat Taylor wins, he is in line to run for the vacant seat of governor in 2010. However, if Democrat Taylor drops the ball in either the primary or general election for governor next year, he is finished in state politics.