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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, September 26, 2006

No Silent Majority for Bush

From The Washington Post by E.J. Dionne, Jr.:

What could prove to be the most important factor in the 2006 elections is overlooked because it is unseen: The Republicans cannot try to curry favor with a "silent majority" that favors the Iraq war because a majority of Americans, both vocal and quiet, have come to see the war as a mistake.

President Bush's defenders have cast opponents of the war as weak on terrorism. Yesterday, Vice President Cheney accused Democrats of "resignation and defeatism." But the charges have not taken hold, because most Americans don't agree with the premise linking the war on terror with the war in Iraq.

And blame for the failures in Iraq has fallen not on some liberal coterie supposedly holding our generals back but on the choices of civilians in a conservative administration. Those civilians, and their allies outside the administration, find themselves under increasing fire from leaders of the military and the intelligence services for bad planning, flawed analysis and unrealistic expectations.

Moreover, the tone of the opposition to this war is quite different from the tenor of some sections of the movement against the Vietnam War. Reaction to "hippie protesters," as the phrase went, allowed President Richard Nixon to pit a hardworking, patriotic "silent majority" -- it was one of the most politically potent phrases of his presidency -- against the privileged, the young and the media, whom his vice president Spiro Agnew memorably characterized as "effete snobs" and "nattering nabobs of negativism."

As the historian and Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose noted, tiny minorities -- "they numbered less than 1 percent of the demonstrators," he wrote of a 1969 rally -- "waved Viet Cong flags . . . and even burned American flags" and served as "magnets to the television cameras." They were used to exemplify an entire movement.

By contrast, critics of the Iraq war, deeply influenced by the post-Sept. 11 climate of national solidarity, have been resolutely patriotic and pro-military. They have often chastised the administration for offering American troops too little in the way of body armor and armored vehicles, and for shortchanging veterans.

Among the most visible critics of the administration's approach have been generals, vets, parents with sons and daughters in the military, and foreign policy realists who think of themselves as moderate or even conservative opponents of what they see as the administration's radical direction.

That is why news over the weekend of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is especially troublesome for Republican electoral chances. By finding that the war in Iraq has encouraged global terrorism and spawned a new generation of Islamic radicals, the report by 16 government intelligence services undercuts the administration's central argument that the Iraq war has made the United States safer.

Nor is there any way to dismiss the assessment as partisan, left-wing or unpatriotic. That high-level government officials have offered their own criticisms of the war's impact makes it difficult for Republicans to force the argument into a classic "he said-she said" framework in which facts can be set aside and the claims of critics dismissed as political.

It is no wonder that the administration immediately insisted that news reports were "not representative of the complete document," in the words of a White House spokesman. The phrase was a classic instance of the non-denial denial, a defensive response from an administration that has tried, with some success, to remain on offense on the terrorism issue all month.

The conventional, and accurate, view of this fall's elections is that Iraq is a Democratic issue and the broader war on terrorism is a Republican issue. Accordingly, Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid were understandably eager to point to the report as a commentary on the president's "repeated missteps in Iraq and his stubborn refusal to change course," as Reid put it Sunday.

But beneath the conventional account is a more revealing truth: that over the past four years, the burden of proof on the Iraq war has been turned on its head.

During the 2002 election campaign -- before the war had actually begun -- Democratic candidates all over the country fled the Iraq debate and feared raising any questions about Bush's national security choices. In 2006 it's the administration trying to keep Iraq out of the campaign and to move the public conversation to anything else as an alternative to an accounting for its war decisions that so many middle-of-the-road Americans now regret. There is no silent majority to bail the president out.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Party down -- Democrats need more than a pep rally to salvage the November elections

From Creative Loafing:

Georgia Democrats were overdue for an upbeat moment. And state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond provided it Saturday with a speech designed to unite and energize the beleaguered party's state convention.

Thurmond evoked the state song, the Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell classic "Georgia On My Mind," when he thundered, "The melody of our state song is being drowned out by the cries of senior citizens. The melody ... is being drowned out by the cries of mothers and fathers who don't have jobs and who don't have insurance. The melody of our state is being drowned out by the cries of families going without housing.

"Hope is disappearing," Thurmond continued, "but a new day is beginning to dawn in our state. Don't give out. Don't give in. Don't give up. If we work together, pray together and most importantly, if we vote together, we can change this state. We can't allow ourselves to be separated. ... We are one. We are one. We are one!"

The crowd was pumped -- as crowds often get when Thurmond speaks. But the charismatic labor commissioner is far from the standard bearer this year for Georgia Democrats. Although Thurmond, a former state rep from Athens, last December considered a run for lieutenant governor, he opted instead to keep his slot as the eighth candidate down the Democratic ticket.

At the top of the ticket sits a very different type of candidate. Mark Taylor sent a clear message in his own speech Saturday that his campaign for governor will follow a playbook familiar to Democrats back when they controlled state government: Try to out-tough and out-conservative the Republicans.

While Taylor touted his "PeachKids" plan to provide health insurance for every child in Georgia, he also thundered against taxes. "The Big Guy," he said of himself, "likes big tax cuts." He hyped his role in passing Georgia's "two-strikes-and-you're-out" law, which targets violent offenders.

And he went after illegal immigrants, who have become a favorite punching bag for the state's politicians. After signing a bill to crack down on illegal immigrants last spring, Gov. Sonny Perdue two weeks ago unveiled a new program to crack down on them further. Not to be outdone, Taylor took another swing Saturday: "Who made Georgia the No. 1 state for illegal immigrants?"

"Sonny did!" the crowd screamed, to which Taylor flashed a Big Guy grin.

Particularly by trouncing Cathy Cox in the July primary, Taylor proved that when it comes to campaigning, he'll show up to fight. So far, however, he remains well behind Perdue by any measure. Perdue stretched his lead last week to 13 points in one independent poll and 17 points in another. And he's expected to lag even further in fund-raising when campaign contributions are reported again Sept. 30. Meanwhile, Democratic unity continues to be hampered by icy relations between Cox's people and Taylor's: She didn't even show up for the convention.

That leaves the No. 2 guy on the ticket with a difficult challenge. Jim Martin, the nominee for lieutenant governor, is a former legislator and state human resources commissioner from Atlanta. He's a Presbyterian church elder and Vietnam veteran with a formidable legislative record -- that rare progressive whom even Republicans have a hard time saying bad things about. On Saturday, he kept his focus on "faith, family and patriotism" and tossed a compelling cheer line to the partisan crowd: "No Republican is going to take these values away from me!"

It was a solid speech. But Martin must run in the shadow of a gubernatorial contest that seems week-by-week to be falling further from Taylor's grasp. While down-ticket Democrats may benefit from national voter dissatisfaction with Republicans, the Big Guy isn't likely to help them much unless he finds some way to shake up the race's dynamics.

Bill Shipp on Voter ID Law

Bill Shipp writes:

The Voter ID law is irrelevant in modern Georgia. It was enacted to solve a non-problem - polling-booth fraud, which is virtually nonexistent in our state. On the other hand, voter fraud involving absentee ballots is rampant. The legislature didn't touch absentee voting except to make absentee ballots easier to obtain with less identification. What's behind such moves? Try this: Republicans vote absentee; Democrats vote in person.

Georgia's Voter ID law has hurt Georgia and made the entire South look bad. It has not enhanced the electoral process. It has aggravated racial tensions and reinforced the perception among many that the new majority running the statehouse are bigots and morons.

Advocates of extending the Voting Rights Act used Georgia's Voter ID law as Exhibit A in their argument that the South remained a racist bastion. The VRA extension, singling out the South for special enforcement, sailed through Congress.

The national media have excoriated Georgia repeatedly for the Voter ID measure. They contend the law is plainly aimed at chilling black voter turnout. They are right.

That's too bad. Georgia was once a beacon of enlightenment on voting rights. In 1945, we led the South in abandoning the poll tax.
A constitutional provision adopted in the same year prohibits passage of new laws that hinder voting.

You might say you don't care what the national newspapers, bloggers and cable-TV pundits say. You should. The Wall Street bankers and others who ultimately decide our economic fate are tuned in. If The New York Times hints broadly that Georgians are a bunch of white racist crackers and the Voter ID law proves it - well, that is not good for business in the Peach State. Most of us outside the state Capitol understand that. We are surprised the state Chamber of Commerce has not informed its hired hands on the inside to cool it. This is 2006. Trying to keep people from voting is not hip. Ku Kluxery is out of style.

Both Parties Sensing Tighter House Races

From The Washington Post:

After months of unrelenting bad news, President Bush and his Republican allies have begun to change the mood, if not the overall trajectory, of a midterm election campaign that has tilted against them for a year.

A combination of good luck -- in the form of a sharp decline in gasoline prices -- and dogged persistence by the president's political team in trying to redefine the terms of the fall campaign has given a much-needed morale boost to beleaguered Republican candidates. The ebullience many Democrats exhibited throughout the summer has given way to more cautious assessments of how difficult the final six weeks may be.

Republicans remain very much on the defensive, anticipating losses in the Senate and possible loss of control in the House. Surveys show that voters strongly disapprove of the performance of this Congress and continue to express far greater willingness to vote for Democrats over Republicans in House races in November.

But top strategists on both sides believe the battle for the House will be hard-fought to the end. Democrats need to win 15 seats to take control of the House and six seats to recapture the Senate.

Democrats see independent voters, who continue to register disapproval of Bush and Congress, as the key to victory. Republicans, citing low turnout in many primaries this year, believe many of those independents will not vote in November and are focused on mobilizing their own base.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

G.O.P. Gains Big Fund-Raising Advantage

From The New York Times:

The Republican National Committee has amassed a significant fund-raising advantage, according to campaign finance records filed Wednesday, feeding Democrats’ fears about remaining competitive in the intense final weeks before the midterm elections.

The Democrats’ House and Senate campaign committees have been unusually successful raising money compared with past election cycles. House Democrats have nearly as much as Republicans, while Senate Democrats have $10 million more than their Republican counterparts.

But that edge is being offset by the fund-raising of the Republican National Committee, which has said it would spend more than $60 million to make up for any shortcoming by the party’s Congressional committees.

The new fund-raising reports show that at the beginning of September, Republicans had $39 million in the bank, compared with $11 million for Democrats.

The disparity is caused by the decision of the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, to take a longer view of turning around the party by devoting most of the money he has raised to rebuilding state organizations across the country. Last week, the committee said it would provide $12 million to finance voter turnout efforts, only $2.6 million of which would be directed toward House campaigns, a point of bitter contention among Democrats and relief among Republicans.

“The advantage that we have is based on the fact that because we all work together, we’ve been able to be more strategic and our dollars will go further,” said Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. “We’ve been building our turnout operation since 2005.”

Only 25% in Poll Approve of the Congress

From The New York Times:

With barely seven weeks until the midterm elections, Americans have an overwhelmingly negative view of the Republican-controlled Congress, with substantial majorities saying that they disapprove of the job it is doing and that its members do not deserve re-election, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The disdain for Congress is as intense as it has been since 1994, when Republicans captured 52 seats to end 40 years of Democratic control of the House and retook the Senate as well. It underlines the challenge the Republican Party faces in trying to hold on to power in the face of a surge in anti-incumbent sentiment.

But for all the clear dissatisfaction with the 109th Congress, 39 percent of respondents said their own representative deserved re-election, compared with 48 percent who said it was time for someone new.

What is more, it seems highly unlikely Democrats will experience a sweep similar to the one Republicans experienced in 1994. Most analysts judge only about 40 House seats to be in play at the moment, compared with over 100 seats in play at this point 12 years ago, in large part because redistricting has created more safe seats for both parties.

The poll also found that President Bush had not improved his own or his party’s standing through his intense campaign of speeches and events surrounding the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The speeches were at the heart of a Republican strategy to thrust national security to the forefront in the fall elections.

Republicans continued to hold a slight edge over Democrats on which party was better at dealing with terrorism, though that edge did not grow since last month despite Mr. Bush’s flurry of speeches on national security, including one from the Oval Office on the night of Sept. 11.

In the poll, 50 percent said they would support a Democrat in the fall Congressional elections, compared with 35 percent who said they would support a Republican. But the poll found that Democrats continued to struggle to offer a strong case for turning government control over to them; only 38 percent said the Democrats had a clear plan for how they would run the country, compared with 45 percent who said the Republicans had offered a clear plan.

Overall discontent with Congress or Washington does not necessarily signify how people will vote when they see the familiar name of their member of Congress on the ballot, however. Democrats face substantial institutional obstacles in trying to repeat what Republicans accomplished in 1994, including a Republican financial advantage and the fact that far fewer seats are in play.

Thus, while 61 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the way Congress was handling its job, just 29 percent said they disapproved of the way their own “representative is handling his or her job.”

As part of the Republican effort to gain advantage on the war in Iraq, Republicans have accused Democrats who want to set a timetable for leaving Iraq of wanting to “cut and run.” But 52 percent of respondents said they would not think the United States had lost the war if it withdrew its troops from Iraq today.

The Republicans continue to be seen as the better party to deal with terrorism, but by nowhere near the margin they once enjoyed: it is now 42 percent to 37 percent. When asked which party took the threat of terrorism more seriously, 69 percent said they both did; 22 percent named Republicans, compared with 6 percent who said Democrats.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For Governors in G.O.P. Slots, a Liberal Turn

From The New York Times:

Here are the things that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be bragging about on the campaign trail: an initiative to lower greenhouse gases with the onus on big companies, a $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage and a program to open up access to prescription drugs.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, who six months ago fashioned himself a Republican reformer bent on hobbling entrenched Democratic institutions, is not just tolerating positions generally associated with liberal candidates. Rather, he is using them as the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, marking the first time in a generation that a Republican governor here has clung to the left during a re-election fight.

The strategy is not unique to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign. Across the nation’s 36 races for governor, Republican candidates in states heavy with moderate or Democratic voters are playing up their liberal positions on issues including stem cell research, abortion and the environment, while remaining true to their party’s platform on taxes and streamlining government.

Governing Republican and campaigning Democratic is not a new technique; George E. Pataki, the New York governor, has made a career winning elections as a Republican in a mostly Democratic state. But political experts say that the strategy is particularly pervasive this year, as Republicans seek to distance themselves from an unpopular president and to respond to what is widely recognized as polarization fatigue among many voters.

“The conservative side of Republican party has been so dominant in recent years that we haven’t seen a lot of this phenomenon at work until this year,” said Bruce E. Cain, the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Now, Mr. Cain said, the easiest way for Republicans to “stay competitive is to take deviations from the standard G.O.P. lines.

In many ways, the strategy reflects the dynamics of local contests, in which voters are willing to overlook the party affiliation of a candidate if they believe he stands with them on one or two important issues, or pushes through policies that are inherently nonpartisan and that will improve their daily lives.

“The ideology that binds Republican governors is getting things done for their constituents,” said Philip A. Musser, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “From the broadest perspective, voters in these races go into the booth caring less if governor is pro life or pro choice and more about whether he is going to reduce their property taxes or make their life easier at the D.M.V.”

Shipp: Republicans should continue dominance in Georgia politics

Bill Shipp writes in The Athens Observer:

Enjoy two-party politics while you can. Democrats struck out in the last two statewide elections. They may go down swinging again on Nov. 7, ending a 26-year stint of competitive Democrat vs. Republican politics in Georgia.

Unless Mark Taylor can stage an election upset, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue seems destined to waltz to re-election. Democrat Jim Martin is the undisputed underdog in the race for lieutenant governor against GOP state Sen. Casey Cagle.

The longer-term future looks equally bleak for Democrats. U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the Republican who drove Democrat Max Cleland from the Senate six years ago, is up for re-election in 2008. Democrats do not have a capable challenger in sight.

Another resounding Democratic defeat puts the Republican Party in full charge of our political destiny. Just as in the old days of Democratic control, voters' choices will be limited. Major candidates will sing virtually the same tune. The candidate who can sing loudest will emerge the winner. The lyrics to that victory song are yet to be decided, but Democratic history may offer a clue. Until 1964 and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, every important Democratic candidate in Georgia chanted, "I'm a segregationist." After 1964, many white Democrats used code words to continue the same message.

Today's looming sea change is rooted more in race than in any fundamental shift in ideology. Modern Georgia Republican leaders sound, look and act just like yesteryear's Democratic chieftains. In several cases, like Perdue, the new GOP generals are simply Democratic retreads.

In post-2006 elections, the main events will likely occur in the Republican primary, possibly between rural and suburban candidates.

Remember this well-worn newspaper phrase from the 20th century: "Winning the Georgia Democratic primary is tantamount to election"? Substitute "Republican" for "Democrat." That's what our political future looks like.

From around 1964 until 1980, underdog Republicans made slow but sure progress toward parity, but they were not within striking distance of a major statewide office.

Then a little-known Republican upstart, Mack Mattingly, ended the Democratic monopoly on high offices. He defeated Sen. Herman Talmadge and became the first Republican senator from Georgia since Reconstruction. Although Mattingly turned out to be a one-termer, he had released the GOP genie.

The genie notwithstanding, a Democratic coalition of rural whites and blacks held onto power in Atlanta until 2002 when Gov. Roy Barnes lost to Perdue. In that same election, Vietnam War veteran Cleland fell to Chambliss, who portrayed the triple-amputee former infantry officer as sympathetic to our terrorist enemies. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor led the Democratic survivors of their party's train wreck. Taylor had carefully separated himself from the doomed Barnes-Cleland nexus.

The 2004 Senate election to replace retiring renegade Democrat Zell Miller signaled the Democrats' total collapse. They nominated Congresswoman Denise Majette, an eccentric African American with no chance to capture the vacant Senate seat. Johnny Isakson, a Republican once considered too moderate for most Georgia voters, won Miller's seat in a landslide.

What does such a sea change portend for Georgia?

Sen. Chambliss may glide to an easy re-election.

And the next governor - the one who will succeed Perdue - is all but certain to emerge from the ranks of Republican primary contestants. House Speaker Glenn Richardson, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland or a promising but presently little known legislator may go for governor.

Of course, a couple of possibilities could spoil the above scenario:

• Taylor might catch fire in the closing days of the election campaign. Even if he doesn't win, defeat by a very narrow margin could rekindle Democratic flames. A few years ago, both North Carolina and Virginia were declared "Republican forever" states. Democrats now govern both.

• On the national level, Republicans could reject centrist Sen. John McCain of Arizona and turn to a whacko as their presidential choice. If that should happen, even Georgia voters might think twice about swimming outside the nation's mainstream.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Congressman Jim Marshall: Partisan politics to blame for loss of middle ground

From The Macon Telegraph:

The extremes of party politics have sapped the middle-of-the-road leadership out of American politics, and the partisan process behind the drawing of congressional voting districts is to blame, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall said Monday.

The redistricting process - handled in Georgia by the General Assembly - should be nonpartisan, Marshall, D-Ga., said. Currently there are so many "safe" Republican and Democrat districts designed to protect one party or the other that candidates cater to voters in the extremes of their own party instead of the electorate as a whole, he said.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

In Campaign Ads for Democrats, Bush Is the Star

From The New York Times:

From Rhode Island to New Mexico, from Connecticut to Tennessee, President Bush is emerging as the marquee name in this fall’s Congressional elections — courtesy not of his Republican Party but of the Democrats.

A review of dozens of campaign commercials finds that Mr. Bush has become the star of the Democrats’ advertisement war this fall. He is pictured standing alone and next to Republican senators and members of Congress, his name intoned by ominous-sounding announcers. Republican candidates are damned in the advertisements by the number of times they have voted with Mr. Bush in Congress.

Not surprisingly, given that Mr. Bush’s job approval rating continues to hover around 40 percent, it is hard to spot the president in any of the Republican advertisements that were reviewed. In what may be taken as an indication of changing Republican tastes, Senator John McCain of Arizona is popping up everywhere.

The White House has entered this campaign season looking to seize control of the political dialogue by moving the debate away from issues like Iraq and to Mr. Bush’s role in the campaign against terrorism. The decision by Democrats to invest in advertising directly attacking the war in Iraq, the administration’s war on terrorism and the once overwhelmingly popular president is a marked turn from how they handled these issues in 2002 and 2004.

The strategy has risks. In part, the goal of the Democrats’ advertisements is to rile up their base. But Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster, said that the constant attacks on Mr. Bush appeared to be accomplishing something Republicans had been unable to do: riling up Republican base voters.

“One thing we are seeing in our polling is that the Democratic campaign is helping to jazz up Republican voters,” Mr. Bolger said. “There are two concerns among Republicans: Is our base going to turn out, and how are we going to get out swing voters. The Democrats are taking care of our first concern.”

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Taylor Campaign Employing Most Interesting General Election Strategy In Georgia History; Hard-Hitting Ads Around The Corner

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia (the following was posted on InsiderAdvantage Georgia's web site on September 15, and thus is not news coming out of the Democratic Convention that was held on Saturday, September 16):

InsiderAdvantage has learned that Democratic polls mirror those seen earlier this week in the media, indicating the odd phenomenon of the Libertarian candidate for Governor of Georgia receiving somewhere between six and eight percent of the vote. This may account for why Lt. Gov, Mark Taylor has seemed reluctant to "heat up" the race for Governor in September, as otherwise should be the case. Most experts have surmised that Taylor's coffers are running low and that his ability to deliver a powerful punch and sustain it on air is simply not there.

But sources close to the Taylor campaign confirmed that "The Big Guy" and his team have recognized the fact that no major poll, including their own internal numbers, shows Governor Perdue over 50% in the ballot race. A source close to Taylor told InsiderAdvantage as late as Thursday night that the Taylor campaign now believes it has a legitimate chance of moving Perdue's favorable numbers down in the upcoming weeks. The source admitted that not all of the voters who might shift to Perdue would go to Taylor, but as the source noted "if this trend continues, it could bolster the Libertarian to a point that it would keep Sonny well below 50%"

That would force the race into an unprecedented gubernatorial race runoff right in the middle of the chaos surrounding Thanksgiving and give the Taylor campaign a chance to see more affluent and mobile voters (many of whom vote Republican) caught up in holiday activities--thus providing Taylor a better chance at turning out his vote. As the source put it: "Just think, all of those local races with Republicans on the ballot would be gone...it would be nothing but an incumbent Governor who couldn't win it straight up..."

The source emphasized that the Taylor campaign intended to stage a vigorous effort in the coming days hoping to win the race in the General and would abandon any attempt to emphasize Taylor as a candidate. "We can't win this by making people love Mark, they've got to want to turn out the current Governor" the source stated.

Doug Monroe begins new blog. He reports Cathy Cox will not run against Saxby in '08 & shares her recent statement about her position on Mark Taylor.

On September 15 Doug Monroe launched a new blog, Peachtree Screed.

In one of his first posts he reports:

Secretary of State Cathy Cox says she won't run for the U.S. Senate in 2008. This is the first time that Cox. . . has publicly ruled out the race.

I sent her some e-mail questions a few weeks ago [with some political questions, including] whether she will vote for Mark Taylor for governor this year and whether she's had any contact with him since the primary. Cox wrote:

"I made clear my support for Mark Taylor during my concession speech on election night. But I cannot, and will not, take any sort of formal role in his campaign. As Georgia's chief election official, charged with certifying the final election results, there is a provision in our election code, which I wrote, by the way, that prevents me from formally endorsing candidates or taking an active role in campaigns. We put that provision into law after the 2000 presidential election, when Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was roundly criticized for chairing George Bush's Florida campaign even as she dealt with certifying the election and reviewing the recount. The restriction we have in Georgia protects the integrity of the process, it's a good provision, and I'm going to abide by it."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Democrats Form New Group for Fund-Raising and Ads

From The New York Times:

Sensing both political danger and opportunity, a top Democratic operative and a group of major party donors have banded together to deliver a barrage of late advertising and on-the-ground action to secure Democratic victories in November.

The operative, Harold M. Ickes, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and informal adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a group of allies are soliciting money for a new organization called the September Fund.

They hope to raise and spend as much as $25 million to influence not only crucial Congressional races but also other campaigns and ballot initiatives at the federal and state level.

Mr. Ickes was among the chief organizers of several groups that raised more than $200 million from wealthy liberals and labor unions in 2004 to try to defeat President Bush.

After months in which Democrats have fretted about how much support they would get from those sources this time around, Mr. Ickes is turning to many of the same donors in hopes that a surge of spending in the fall campaign’s final weeks will cement Democratic gains against a president and a Republican-led Congress whose approval ratings are sagging.

The September Fund, like the groups Mr. Ickes helped organize in 2004, is set up under a loophole in campaign finance law that allows political groups to escape federal donation limits that apply to party committees and candidates. Such groups, called 527 groups for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code, cannot advocate the election or defeat of any candidate but can engage in issue advertising that draws distinctions between the two parties.

Federal law bars such groups from coordinating their activities with candidates or party committees, although many of the people running them, like Mr. Ickes, have longstanding ties to top party figures.

In a memorandum to potential donors, Mr. Ickes and the other organizers of the fund warned that while Democrats appeared united in their political goals, Republicans had $80 million more than Democrats to spend on fall races.

On the Republican side, Club for Growth has supported conservatives in primaries against moderate incumbents in Michigan and Rhode Island. Progress for America is running advertisements on national cable television and in Missouri praising Republican strength in combating terrorism.

In R.I., a Model for Voter Turnout - Employing Senate Primary Strategy May Give GOP an Edge

From The Washington Post:

The turnout campaign that Republican operatives used to help pull Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee to victory in the Rhode Island primary was a potent demonstration of how money and manpower can transform a race even in an unfavorable political environment -- and a preview of the strategy that national party officials say they plan to replicate in the most competitive House and Senate races over the next 55 days.

In the past two national elections, in 2002 and 2004, Republicans outperformed Democrats in bringing their backers to the polls, but many Democrats and independent analysts have suggested that the competition may be different this year, in part because of slumping morale among GOP activists. But Chafee's performance -- combined with reports of late-starting organization and internal bickering on the Democratic side -- suggest that the Republican advantage on turnout may remain intact even as many other trends are favoring the opposition.

The Republican National Committee, convinced that Chafee is the party's only chance of keeping a seat in a Democratic-leaning state, spent $400,000 to ship 86 out-of-state volunteers and several paid staff members to Rhode Island. They targeted not just Republicans but also independent voters during the final days of the campaign, following a blueprint developed months ago by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Chafee campaign.

In June, GOP leaders used a similar turnout program to help lobbyist Brian Bilbray win a special California election for the House seat vacated by indicted GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

While Democrats are confident they are on track to capture the House and possibly the Senate, top party leaders are privately expressing concerns about the RNC's $30 million financial advantage over the Democratic National Committee and how the money will be used to maximize turnout in pivotal races.

Events this week put the GOP edge in sharp relief. While the RNC was fine-tuning its "microtargeting" program in Rhode Island, Democrats were announcing they had finally resolved a months-long dispute between Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) over a budget for mobilizing voters.

The DNC will spend $12 million to help Democrats up and down the ballot this fall. Some party leaders privately acknowledge that House Democrats in particular are only beginning to put in place an operation to turn out voters and that Republicans are many months ahead in planning.

Republicans said the combination of the Chafee win and new polling data showing renewed voter confidence in GOP anti-terrorism policies suggest their election plan could limit losses and protect their congressional majorities. An ABC News poll released yesterday found that Bush's relentless focus on terrorism in the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks benefited the White House and the GOP. Republicans held an edge of seven percentage points when respondents were asked which party they trust to handle terrorism, a 14-point change from last month.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Perdue quip about tax break draws Democratic criticism

From The Macon Telegraph:

Gov. Sonny Perdue's quip on a radio call-in show about a law he signed that saved him about $100,000 in state capital gains taxes drew fire Wednesday from Democrats who said it showed he was out of touch with regular Georgians.

Perdue was appearing on WAOK radio on Tuesday when a caller who identified himself only as "Brian" told Perdue he was "a big fan."

The caller went on to say that he had graduated from the University of Georgia, like Perdue, and had married his high school sweetheart.

"The one thing I haven't been able to do is find a way to have a friend of mine write me a bill that saves me a $100,000 on my taxes," "Brian" said. "I was wondering how I might be able to get that done."

"Well, you get elected governor Brian," Perdue fired back.

Also on the above, see the ajc's Political Insider:

Four years ago, with his race on the edge and a TV camera pointed square at his face, Gov. Roy Barnes sought to deflect criticism arising from the deaths of several foster children in state custody.

Look, he said, “Out of 20,000 children, you’re going to have children die every day.”

It was a massive blunder. Upstart Republican Sonny Perdue took what little money he had, and blanketed the state with Barnes’ voice on a TV ad, echoing, “Children die every day…every day….every day.”

The shoe may have slipped onto the other foot during Tuesday’s afternoon rush-hour.

[The gaffe was] Perdue’s first public comment about a serious situation: Legislation passed in 2005, proposed by his business attorney, state Rep. Larry O’Neal (R-Perry), which allowed the governor to defer taxes with the purchase of some Florida acreage.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Democrats Answer Cheney

From The Washington Post by E.J. Dionne, Jr.:

Perhaps Vice President Cheney should quit his current job and work within a political system more to his liking, the kind in which those in charge can protect national security by telling everyone what not to say and what not to think.

Cheney seemed terribly impatient with democracy Sunday on "Meet the Press" when he suggested that those who oppose President Bush's Iraq policies are helping -- excuse me, validating -- the terrorists.

Our allies in the war on terror, Cheney said, "want to know whether or not if they stick their heads up, the United States, in fact, is going to be there to complete the mission."

Then the punch: "And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States. Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."

Meaning what, exactly? If Cheney doesn't like "the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," is there any other "kind," short of a lock-step endorsement of all of Bush's choices, he'd endorse?

It's no wonder that Cheney isn't happy with the spread of democracy to the American foreign policy debate. Not only did Cheney have to answer Tim Russert for a whole series of spurious prewar claims and badly mistaken predictions. He must also be distressed with how different the political world is now from what it was four years ago, when he and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld began building their case for the Iraq war.

Back then, Democrats were petrified. They desperately wanted to change the subject from foreign policy to . . . well, anything else. Cheney loved it when tormented Democrats failed to see that they could never win the electorate's confidence if they left national security to the other party.

Yes, there were honorable exceptions proposing alternatives to the administration's approach, including (from somewhat different points of view) Sens. Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Richard Durbin and the late Paul Wellstone. But far more than was healthy, the foreign policy debate back then was largely a Republican and conservative affair.

That's changed. As the administration's failures have become obvious to an American majority, Democrats have begun to play the opposition's essential role of offering alternatives. Voters trying to get beneath slogans such as "cut and run" might usefully consult two speeches given in the past week, one by Biden, the other by Sen. John Kerry. These days Biden is seen as a bit more "hawkish" than Kerry, but what's striking is that both speeches focused on ending the impasse Bush's policies have created.

Both emphasized what should be a central element in the debate, the potential disaster looming in Afghanistan. The administration, Biden said last Thursday, "has picked the wrong fights at the wrong times, failing to finish the job in Afghanistan, which the world agreed was the central front in the war on radical fundamentalism, and instead rushing to war in Iraq, which was not a central front in that struggle."

On Saturday, Kerry condemned the administration's "stand-still-and-lose strategy" and called on the administration to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan to quell the Taliban insurgency.

Biden made an important point in arguing that elections alone, absent efforts to "build democratic institutions and bolster moderates," do not guarantee democracy.

Biden also pushed his proposal for radically decentralizing Iraq's government so that Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds can find "breathing room in their own regions" and create a circumstance in which most American troops could be home "by the end of 2007, without leaving chaos behind."

Kerry's speech put greater emphasis on the need to "redeploy" from Iraq, but even the Democrats' 2004 nominee argued for leaving a "residual force to complete the training" of Iraqi troops and "deter foreign intervention."

These speeches reflect a growing consensus within a broad swath of Democratic opinion: First, that Iraq is a blind alley, a distraction from the war on terrorism, not its "central front." Second, that the United States needs a responsible way to disengage from Iraq, reengage in Afghanistan and prepare itself to deal with the rising power of Iran, so far a real winner from Bush's Iraq policies.

The administration, in the meantime, is offering -- stasis. It seems to define victory as maintaining our troops in Iraq through the end of Bush's term without telling us exactly why doing so will make the situation there any better.

A debate about alternative futures is what the country needs. Who can be surprised that Vice President Cheney doesn't want it to happen?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cathy Cox Won't Be At State Democrat Convention This Weekend; She'll Be Out Of Country

According to InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

When the Democrats gather next Saturday in College Park to hail Mark Taylor as their standard bearer going into the fall elections, Cox will be out of the country on a family trip, a knowledgeable source said.

“She and her sister have had it planned for a long time. She’s not trying to send a message or anything else,” the source said.

Typically, state conventions are a time to celebrate the ticket, heal wounds and united for the fall push, but Taylor and Cox have had a little trouble burying the hatchet after their bitter primary campaign.

“Cathy Cox has been invited to come and speak at the convention,” said State Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn. “We invited her months ago and extended that again recently. We would love for her to be there.”

However, a source said that when Cox was given the date of the convention "months ago" it was reported to her as Sept. 9, rather than its currently-scheduled date of Sept. 16, and that the error was only corrected during the past two weeks - long after her trip was scheduled.

Taylor spokesman Rick Dent said, "It's a shame. We'd love to have her there. She'd get a great response."

In a Pivotal Year, GOP Plans to Get Personal - Millions to Go to Digging Up Dirt on Democrats

From The Washington Post:

Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

The hope is that a vigorous effort to "define" opponents, in the parlance of GOP operatives, can help Republicans shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall.

Because challengers tend to be little-known compared with incumbents, they are more vulnerable to having their public image framed by the opposition through attacks and unflattering personal revelations.

And with polls showing the Republicans' House and Senate majorities in jeopardy, party strategists said they have concluded that their best chance to prevent big Democratic gains is a television and direct-mail blitz over the next eight weeks aimed at raising enough questions about Democratic candidates that voters decide they are unacceptable choices.

John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University and the author of a book on negative advertising, said Republicans and Democrats alike lack positive issues on which to run because of divisions over the war and economic policy. This will be a "very negative campaign and probably a more negative campaign than any in recent memory," Geer said.

As Republicans try to localize races, Democrats' hopes for the most part hinge on being able to nationalize the election and turn it into a referendum on the Iraq war, President Bush, and the performance of the Republican Congress -- all faring poorly in polls this year.

Bush will try to make terrorism the issue nationally, casting the election as a choice between two distinct approaches for protecting the nation from attack. Beyond that, however, most Republicans want to distance their elections from the national context.

As in past elections, the bulk of negative advertising this year probably will be delivered by party committees -- a strategy that allows the candidates to distance themselves from the trash-talking messages that turn off some voters.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

'Mortgage Moms' May Star in Midterm Vote

From The Washington Post:

Every election cycle has its own important set of undecided, or swing, voters. In 2000, it was the "soccer moms," targeted by both parties with appeals based on education and quality-of-life concerns. In 2004, it was the security moms, normally Democratic-trending women whose concerns about terrorism helped give Bush his margin of victory.

This year could mark the emergence of what might be called mortgage moms -- voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families' financial squeeze. Democrats are betting that this factor is strong enough to trump security or cultural values issues.

Polls show that swing voters -- the category that candidates most want to attract -- are unhappier than the rest of the population about their economic circumstances. According to a recent survey by Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times, six in 10 self-described independents said the economy was doing badly, and seven in 10 said the country was on the wrong track. A Fox News poll, taken at the end of last month, showed that 23 percent of Americans consider the economy the most important factor they will weigh when they cast their ballot in November -- more than those who cited Iraq (14 percent) or terrorism (12 percent).

The gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced, has slowed a bit since the beginning of the year but is still growing at a respectable annual rate of 2.9 percent. And the unemployment rate is near its five-year low.

But the sour mood is not simply a matter of psychology. Since 2003, the inflation-adjusted median hourly wage of most workers has fallen by 2 percent, according to the Labor Department. And this summer marked the first time since 1991 that the annual inflation rate exceeded 4 percent for three consecutive months, driven partly by $3-per-gallon gasoline.

Then there is debt. According to a study by the Federal Reserve Board, the ratio of financial obligations -- primarily mortgage and consumer debt -- to disposable personal income rose to a modern record of 18.7 percent earlier this year. The amount of mortgage debt alone has more than doubled since 2000, to nearly $9 trillion. And in July, for the 16th consecutive month, consumers in the aggregate spent all of their disposable income and dipped into savings or borrowed to finance the things they bought.