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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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back in the Limelight, Gore Insists He's Over Politics

The New York Times reports:

"I wanted it, and it was not to be," said Al Gore, the former vice president and two-time presidential candidate. "I am not pursuing it. I have been there, and I have done that."

Mr. Gore was on the telephone from New York, taking a break from promoting his book and documentary about global warming, to dismiss — with a combination of weariness and wariness, but with something approaching finality — speculation that his rising profile should be interpreted as the first stirrings of another bid for the White House.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Blacks May Have Power To Set Legislative Agenda For Democrats Next Year

Dr. Charles Bullock in InsiderAdvantage Georgia writes:

Each election produces changes in Georgia’s General Assembly. Some senior members retire while a few junior members have their careers cut short by a disappointed or changing electorate.

Recently some of the most dramatic changes have involved partisanship. The last two elections have seen Republicans increase their numbers in the Senate from 24 to 34. GOP gains in the House came more rapidly and dramatically. After the 2002 election the GOP could count only 72 members. Two years later their 99 adherents had seized control of the lower chamber.

When the House convenes again the Republicans will almost certainly have enlarged their ranks. Four senior Democrats filed to run as Republicans in 2006. Further augmenting the Republican contingent are the districts of several retiring Democrats in which voters have already switched their allegiance to the GOP except for their trusted local representative. But now with the House seat open enough of these voters are likely to extend their support for the GOP still further down the ticket.

Even though Republicans are likely to increase their numbers in the House, African Americans may be bigger winners in 2006. Retirements of a couple of Democratic senators will open seats in districts likely to elect African Americans. This could boost the numbers of black senators to a record high 13, which would almost certainly constitute a majority of the Democratic contingent in the Senate. Adding two senators to the Legislative Black Caucus would match the largest increase in black senators in any election.

House retirements could result in the lower chamber having 44 African Americans when it convenes in 2007. To find an election that added more than four to the Black Caucus House contingent, one would have to go back more than 30 years.

If the partisan makeup of the House in 2007 remains what it is after the switch of the four Democrats and if four additional black Democrats win, then African Americans will constitute 55 percent of their party’s caucus. If Republicans snare several of the seats being vacated by senior Democrats, the African-American share of the House Democratic Caucus might approach 60 percent.

African Americans gains could give the Black Caucus almost 60 percent of the Democratic Senate seats. If white Democrats make no gains in the Senate, their numbers would be down in single digits. That would drop white Democrats down to where Republicans were in the Senate in 1985.

African Americans will dominate the most senior ranks of the Democratic Party in the 2007 General Assembly. Three of the four most senior House Democrats will likely be black. In the Senate where members have less seniority with no member having been elected before 1990, 2007 may find that five of the nine Democrats who entered the chamber prior to 2000 are African American.

With African Americans likely to constitute a majority of the Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus can determine the identity of the Democratic leadership should it choose to flex its muscles. In the Senate, African Americans already hold two of the top Democratic posts with Macon’s Robert Brown serving as Minority Leader while Stone Mountain’s Gloria Butler is one of two Minority Whips.

In the House, two African Americans from Columbus hold high leadership posts. Carolyn Hugley is the Democratic Whip. Calvin Smyre, one of four representatives initially elected before1975 who is seeking reelection, remains as Democratic Caucus chair having had to relinquish the chairmanship of the powerful Rules Committee when Republicans took over the House last year. Nikki Randall from Macon is secretary of the Democratic Caucus so that African Americans hold three of the six top Democratic posts. If African Americans come to hold approximately 60 percent of the Democratic seats in the General Assembly they may expect to fill a majority of their party’s leadership posts.

As African Americans become the majority of the legislature’s Democratic Caucus, it will be important that they help steer a moderate course if their party is to develop the kind of record needed to achieve statewide success in Georgia. With moderates constituting a little more than 40 percent of Georgia’s electorate and conservatives being about as numerous, a winning Democratic strategy has to resonate positively with most moderates. Surveys consistently show that liberals make up less than a fifth of Georgia’s electorate so a leftward path will not lead to statewide victory.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ironically, Bush’s approach on immigration is a glimpse into what could have been—centrist politics with broad appeal. But it’s too late for that.

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek writes:

President Bush’s call for a “rational middle ground” on immigration injects a welcome note of sanity into the debate. But that’s not what Bush’s conservative base is looking for. They want red meat, and they won’t be placated by mostly symbolic moves like Bush’s proposal to dispatch the National Guard to the Mexican border and Senate votes to build a partial fence and limit the number of guest workers.

After five and a half years of governing from the irrational exuberant right, Bush’s ability to lead the country on a middle path has been lost. He may have stumbled onto the right message, but he’s the wrong messenger. It’s like his call to break our addiction to oil, which was a line in his State of the Union Message. From a former oilman who as president championed tax breaks for more drilling, it was a brazen left-hand turn, and it went mostly unheeded.

Now we’re in crisis mode with gas prices squeezing Middle America and right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan decrying the “invasion” by illegal immigrants and scaring voters about what he believes is the Mexican government’s secret plan to regain territory it lost in the Mexican-American war in 1848 by repopulating California and the Southwest with Mexican immigrants who will eventually take power through the ballot box. Buchanan, who talks about Bush more in sorrow than in anger, says that the president is trying to re-create the Texas of his youth when Hispanic migration had not yet overwhelmed American border communities. As for Buchanan, he appears to yearn for the homogenous Irish-Catholic neighborhood of his growing-up in a segregated Washington, D.C., in the ’40s and ’50s.

To Buchanan’s way of thinking, the richness of America’s diversity and the growing political clout of Hispanics is a cause for alarm, not for celebration. And it’s not just illegal immigration that worries him; he would like to shut the door to the world and curb legal immigration, as well. If Buchanan were 10 years younger, he’d be running for president. He’s doing the next best thing, rallying the Buchanan Brigades of campaigns past to ramp up the rhetoric and inflame the conservative base to burn the House down, if need be. Speaking on the Don Imus radio show, Buchanan predicted that if the House of Representatives goes along with a Senate-inspired “earned citizenship” proposal for illegal immigrants, the November election would be “like Jonestown—they’ll all be gone.” (Jonestown, Guyana, is where hundreds of followers of the cult leader Jim Jones committed mass suicide in 1978 by drinking a poisoned grape drink.)

Bush is flailing around trying to find the wedge issue that will win back his base, which makes him vulnerable to Buchanan’s nativist ranting. The irony is that Bush’s approach on immigration is a glimpse into what could have been, centrist politics with broad appeal, but it’s too late for that. He spent his entire presidency courting his conservative base, and they won’t put up with this betrayal. “This is the most deeply divisive issue in the party since his father raised taxes,” says Marshall Wittmann, who advised John McCain before joining the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Over at Third Way, another centrist group, there’s an office pool on how low Bush can go in the polls (entries range from 27 percent down to 21 percent). Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners, "I can't think of any single issue, in the 18 years I have been on the air, which has Republicans more up in arms than this one."

Bush is down in the polls because of his policies, not because he’s hit a patch of bad luck. These are self-inflicted wounds. Republicans held out as long as they could, but they’ve had enough, too, of a war that’s taking lives and draining resources and government spending that’s out of control. Just two months after Congress increased the debt ceiling, another hike is needed—the fifth since Bush took office—bringing the amount owed to almost $10 trillion dollars. Bush has built up more foreign-held debt in five years than all previous presidents together accumulated over 224 years. The rebellion over immigration has become the touchstone for conservative anger at Bush over a range of disappointments. “This is where they’re venting,” says Wittmann.

The likely outcome in Congress is that any bill the Senate passes that tilts toward moderation will almost certainly die when it cannot be reconciled with a House bill that says illegal immigrants are felons. The Republicans will then go into the November elections having failed to act on an issue consuming the country at a time when they control the White House and the Congress, a dereliction of duty in the minds of many if not most voters. Neo-Buchananism is on the ascendancy in the Republican Party, and the nativist sentiments unleashed in the immigration debate will end for good Karl Rove’s dream of building a permanent GOP majority, along with Bush’s failed promise to bring the country together.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Confidence In GOP Is At New Low in Poll

The Washington Post reports:

Public confidence in GOP governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying by wide margins that they now trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and other issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that underscores the GOP's fragile grip on power six months before the midterm elections.

Dissatisfaction with the administration's policies in Iraq has overwhelmed other issues as the source of problems for President Bush and the Republicans. The survey suggests that pessimism about the direction of the country -- 69 percent said the nation is now off track -- and disaffection with Republicans have dramatically improved Democrats' chances to make gains in November.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shipp: Cox needs to get campaign started

Bill Shipp writes:

If the Democratic primary for governor were a football game, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor's team would be leading 10-0 near the end of the second quarter. Cathy Cox's team would have fumbled at least twice and not even rolled up a first down. Secretary of State Cox had better get moving. Her chances of winning the Democratic nomination for governor are diminishing daily.

Just a few weeks ago, Cathy seemed a natural to win the Democratic contest on July 18. She had the right folks on her side. Her money-raising efforts were on track. Taylor, the other Democrat, appeared almost easy pickings.

"Look," I said to myself at the time. "We already have a Republican bubba governor. Do voters want to trade him in for a Democratic bubba? Democrats need a fresh face. Besides, the time is ripe for Georgia to elect a woman governor."

In October, your humble pundit wrote an open letter to Taylor. "Don't run for governor next year," I advised. "Run for re-election as lieutenant governor." I looked into the tea leaves and saw Cox trampling Taylor. If she didn't beat him, incumbent Republican Sonny Perdue certainly would. I like Mark. I didn't want to see him hurt.

Cathy's pre-kickoff warm-up had all the trappings of a great resurgence of progressive politics. Mark's material seemed old hat. Taylor catered too much to blacks like Andy Young. He shrugged off the Atlanta smart set. How could he do things like that and hope to win?

OK, I admit it now. The tea leaves were dead wrong.

With just two months left before the primary, Taylor is running wild on TV, scaring the daylights out of the entrenched Republicans. The general election is still half a year off, yet Perdue has already felt forced to mount a negative campaign to try to slow Taylor's momentum. Cox is still at the starting line. No paid TV for Cox is in sight.

What happened? Sure, she's short of cash. She apparently is saving up for a last-minute deluge of advertising to try to catch up. That could turn into a losing strategy.

Cathy has a statewide identification problem. Though she is fairly well-known and generally liked, many voters confuse her with the other Kathy Cox, the so-so Republican state school superintendent. In fact, some observers believe Kathy Cox won her first election as education chief because voters mistook her for Cathy Cox, the secretary of state.

The real Cathy Cox needs to stand up and start a statewide campaign before it's too late.

Impartial consultants say Cathy ought to begin TV advertising immediately, with a positive message to remind voters who she is and what she has done. They say such a change in direction could energize her fundraising efforts and restart the campaign.

If she waits much longer to begin her media efforts, Cathy will have little choice but to attack Taylor to try to suppress enthusiasm for his candidacy. In effect, she will be assisting Perdue in hanging onto the governor's office.

Another problem for Cathy has popped up - one that many of us never foresaw. Electing a woman governor doesn't look quite as fashionable as it did a few months back. Former state school superintendent Linda Schrenko's guilty plea in federal court has entered the picture. Schrenko admits she stole $600,000 in federal funds to help underwrite her failed 2002 bid for governor. She is expected to spend eight years in prison. Bizarre tales of her behavior as state education czar also are beginning to surface. To be kind, the first woman elected to a nonjudicial, statewide office comes across as unbalanced.

To be sure, Cathy Cox is not another Linda Schrenko. Cathy has been a first-rate secretary of state. She has shown competency and imagination in performing her official duties. Still, Cathy needs to remind voters that a good woman is not hard to find in Georgia politics.

The primary contest is far from over. Cathy may be a slow starter, but she remains a viable candidate for Georgia's top job. Before it's too late, she should remember what happened to her former boss, then-Secretary of State Lewis Massey, in 1998. He also appeared to be just the right person to win the governor's office to take charge of the post-Miller Democratic Party. However, he allowed Roy Barnes to get on TV first with the most ads in the Democratic primary. By the time Massey launched his effort, Barnes was unstoppable.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Democrats Are Fractured Over Strategy, Funds

The Washington Post reports:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have clashed angrily in recent days in a dispute about how the party should spend its money in advance of this fall's midterm elections.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who is leading the party's effort to regain majority status in the House, stormed out of Dean's office several days ago leaving a trail of expletives, according to Democrats familiar with the session.

The blowup highlights a long-standing tension that has pitted Democratic congressional leaders, who are focused on their best opportunities for electoral gains this fall, against Dean and many state party chairmen, who believe that the party needs to be rebuilt from the ground up -- even in states that have traditionally been Republican strongholds.

Emanuel's fury, Democratic officials said, was over his concern that Dean's DNC is spending its money too freely and too early in the election cycle -- a "burn rate" that some strategists fear will leave the party unable to help candidates compete on equal terms with Republicans this fall.

Many Washington Democrats think Dean is unwise to spend on field organizers and other staff in states where House and Senate candidates have little chance of winning. Dean has maintained that the party cannot strengthen itself over the long haul unless it competes everywhere.

Dean, arguing for a long-term perspective, said that the party must become a presence everywhere, even in very Republican states in the South and the Mountain West. He was elected on an outsider's platform that promised a "50-state strategy" as the best way to revitalize a party routed from both the White House and Congress during most of the Bush years. "We have gone from election to election, and, if we don't win, then we've dug ourselves into a deep hole and we have nothing to start with," he said. "That is a cycle that has to be broken."

"The way you build long-term is to succeed short-term," Emanuel countered.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Evenly Spreading Partisan Votes May Be the Key to Winning

The Washington Post reports:

With Democrats locked out of the White House and in the minority in Congress, it might seem that there just aren't enough Democratic voters to win elections. But political scientist Gary Jacobson says the problem is actually more complicated: The distribution of Republican voters is more politically effective across the nation.

Jacobson's research shows a little more than half of all the nation's 435 congressional districts over recent decades consistently favored Republican presidential candidates. A little less than 40 percent went for Democrats. (The remainder had a mixed pattern.) Jacobson, at the University of California at San Diego, said this is due to an "inefficient" distribution of Democratic voters, with many concentrations of 60 percent or more in urban areas and places with large numbers of minorities. Republicans, he found, are distributed more evenly, yielding more districts in which GOP voters have a slimmer but sturdy majority.

Jacobson's study highlighted another problem for Democrats as they labor to shed minority status: the decline in split-ticket voting.

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, about 40 percent of all House Democrats represented districts that voted for GOP presidential candidates. Many were in the South, where local Democratic politicians often disowned the "national" Democratic Party and many endorsed the GOP presidential nominee.

In the 1990s, the number of districts voting Republican for president but for a Democratic House candidate fell to a little more than 20 percent, and in this decade, down to 13 percent. "There has been a big increase in party-line voting at all levels," Jacobson said. Given the trends toward partisan polarization, Democrats face the uphill task of winning in states and districts where straight-ticket Republican voting has become increasingly common. Democratic strategists think that what polls show -- President Bush's unpopularity, combined with widespread unease over the Iraq war -- will be enough to overcome these trends this fall. But, according to Jacobson's analysis, the Republican tilt of many districts will make it hard for Democrats to hold on to whatever gains they make this year.

Rove Is Using Threat of Loss to Stir Republicans

The New York Times reports:

The prospect of the administration spending its last two years being grilled by angry Democrats under the heat of partisan spotlights has added urgency to the efforts by Karl Rove and Mr. Bush's political team to hang on to the Republican majorities in Congress.

Newly shorn of the daily policymaking duties he took on after the 2004 campaign and now refocused on his role as Mr. Bush's chief strategist, Mr. Rove is facing an increasingly difficult climate for Republicans, and an increasingly assertive Democratic Party.

The ambitious second-term agenda he helped develop has faltered even with a Republican Congress. His once-grand plans for creating a broadened and permanent Republican majority have given way to a goal of clinging to control of the House and Senate.

The prospect of Democrats capturing either, however, may be one of the best weapons Mr. Rove has as he turns to what he has traditionally done best: motivating his party's conservative base to turn out on Election Day.

Heading into the election, many conservatives are disheartened by the war in Iraq, upset at what they see as a White House tolerance for bigger government and escalating federal spending, and divided over issues like immigration. The abrupt resignation on Friday of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Porter J. Goss, promised to feed the impression of an administration that is off balance.

But White House and Republican officials, trying to turn vulnerability to advantage, say conservatives could be united and re-energized by the possibility that Democrats could put Mr. Bush and his policies on political trial by winning control of even one chamber of Congress.

Senate Republicans sent out a fund-raising letter this week seeking to use that possibility to fire up the base, warning that a Democratic majority would put fighting terrorism "on the back burner" and that "our worst fears" could be realized.

In regular West Wing breakfast sessions catered by the White House mess, Mr. Rove and the White House political director, Sara Taylor, have already been reaching out to nervous and vulnerable Republicans, three at a time, laying out an emerging three-prong attack on Democrats over national security, taxes and health care.

Democrats need a net gain of six seats to win control of the Senate, and 15 for the House.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If Warner could catch on, he would have a good chance of capturing the White House.

Today's Political Insider reports:

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner seems to be gaining early ground among the Democrats Who Write Checks hereabouts.

Kirk Dornbush, a major fundraiser for Sen. John Edwards in 2004 and Vice President Al Gore in 2000, is hosting a fundraiser for Warner’s PAC, Forward Together, at his home later this month. The general reception is $1,000 a head, and the host reception is a “give five or raise 10” – thousand, that is – event.

The host committee includes others who were with Edwards four years ago, including former House Speaker Terry Coleman and attorney Steve Leeds, as well as Kristen Oblander, who was no small shakes raising money for Sen. John Kerry last time.

It’s early, early, early, and some of the names on this host list may well show up on another candidate’s as time goes on. But Dornbush is sold. He likes Warner’s Southern appeal and entrepreneurial background, and says his campaign is growing at a scale “logarithmically different than anything I’ve seen.”

At the 2005 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner held on March 15, 2005, Gov. Warner did a fastantic job as keynote speaker. A write-up on his speech can be found at this post.