WASHINGTON, Oct. 19
[The Note begins today with a series of sentences that simultaneously will infuriate both conservatives and liberals, and explain the current state of the midterm elections.]
Despite the fact that many of the Democrats' House and Senate candidates are quite liberal (read: "too liberal for the people they hope to represent") and/or have things in their backgrounds that would normally be ample fodder for disqualification by the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Mehlman machine, fewer than five Democratic candidates in the whole country in contested races are even close to being successfully branded (so far) as too liberal and too kooky.
The Old Media -- giddy with excitement over the prospect of the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Mehlman machine losing, filled with guilt over complicity in an Iraq war it wants ended, flush with anticipation over two years of anti-Bush leaks from a gavel-wielding Henry Waxman, and substantially more interested in revelations about congressional pages than in trying to tell voters the truth about whether or not the economy is strong and getting stronger -- can barely contain itself on its secret morning conference calls with Howard Dean and George Soros, during which it was agreed just this morning that, yes, we can keep the meta-narrative ("The Democrats are going to beat Bush and run Congress!!") going for another 19 days, without interruption.
Although conservatives think the New York Times/CBS poll is always biased against them, that the Los Angeles Times and Gallup is almost always biased against them, and that the ABC News/Washington Post poll is occasionally biased against them, the Right pretty much has agreed over the years that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is rock solid. Today, that's a problem.
To be a cockeyed optimist in the Republican Party today means to believe that:
-- Today's polls are a mere snapshot, and there is plenty of time for things to change.
-- Republicans will keep control of the House by four seats and the Senate by one or two, leaving virtually no working majority on anything.
-- There will be an intervening national security event that will focus the minds of independents and rally the base.
-- Not only will increasing numbers of Democratic candidates be disqualified as liberal and kooky in the coming days -- via television advertising and more targeted forms of voter contact -- but the votes and quotes of Nancy Pelosi and various committee-chairs-in-waiting (and the ethics of Harry Reid) will totally change the current dynamics, once again focusing the minds of independents and rallying the base.
-- The Democrats have nothing to match the 72-Hour task force that has turned out conservatives in amazing numbers in the last two national elections.
-- Democrats have no idea how to close a deal.
--That in the end, Republican voters will act based on their feelings about their individual members of Congress and not about the national party -- ironically, a referendum rather than a choice, which is the opposite of the Rove-Mehlman mantra that won in 2002 and 2004.
But then there is that Wall Street Journal/NBC set of digits. In a story that's chock-full of must-read quotations from Republican pollster Bill McInturff, the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes and John Harwood report that according to their poll President Bush and his party are in "worse shape than Democrats were in the October before they lost control of Capitol Hill a dozen years ago." LINK
"For months, the Republican pollster has espoused 'McInturff's Thesis: If there's a decisive election, it's because the other party becomes a credible alternative.' Until now, he has argued, voters' doubts about Democrats were standing in the way of the party making significant gains. But yesterday, the Republican pollster agreed with Mr. Hart that voters now see Democrats as at least 'a marginally acceptable alternative.'"
Looking at poll results that show half of independents wanting Democrats to take charge, while only a quarter of them back Republicans, McInturff said: "It's very unusual to see a majority of independents pick one political party."
And then there's his kicker quote on how voters view the situation in Iraq.
"By 40% to 31%, a plurality of voters now see the situation in Iraq as a civil war among Iraqis, rather than a war between American troops and foreign terrorists there. Significantly, Mr. McInturff said, that assessment is shared by those who voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 and those who supported Democratic Sen. Jon Kerry for president -- groups that agree on little else."
"If Americans continue to see U.S. troops caught in the middle of a civil war, Mr. McInturff said, 'that will ratchet up the pressure to terminate our deployment in Iraq.'"
President Bush, who does not govern by the polls (although he sometimes campaigns based on them) is out politicking for two embattled GOP candidates today. First, he campaigns for Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) at 2:00 pm ET at Keystone College in La Plume, PA. Despite hailing from a district that went for President Bush in 2004 by 20 points, Sherwood is in an extremely competitive race with Democrat Chris Carney as a result of an extramarital affair and an allegation that he had choked his former mistress.
At 5:40 pm ET, Mr. Bush campaigns with Sen. George Allen (R-VA) at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, VA. Allen is neck and neck with challenger Democrat Jim Webb after a pretty rough summer on the stump for the incumbent.
Continuing the thematic, the House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl testify before the House ethics committee in Washington, DC. Trandahl arrived at 9:04 am ET to begin his testimony, reports ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a rally at 3:15 pm ET for Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley (D-MD) in Baltimore, MD.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends the 61st Annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, NY at 7:20 pm ET.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks at 3:30 pm ET at the Minnesota DFL College Forum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a Montgomery County Republican Committee Dinner at 7:30 pm ET in Eagleville, PA.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) heads to Valley Glen, CA to discuss education policy and reform with California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides (D-IL) at 1:00 pm ET at the Los Angeles Valley College.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Nevada gubernatorial candidate Dina Titus (D-NV) discuss senior citizen issues at 4:00 pm ET in Las Vegas, NV.
Newt Gingrich speaks at 8:45 pm ET at the Lean Sigma Healthcare Transformation Summit in Tempe, AZ.
George interviews George:
Be sure to check out George Stephanopoulos' newsy and fascinating exclusive interview with President Bush here: LINK
On "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said President Bush displayed "a mixture of conciliation and threat" with regard to North Korea.
As for the President's outlook on the electoral landscape, Stephanopoulos described the President's perspective as a bit of "forced optimism."
The Washington Post: LINK
Politics of Iraq:
Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg turn in a must-read story in the New York Times looking at how Democrats are embracing the unpopular Iraq war as an election issue and how Republicans have stepped away from the Rove strategy of turning a weakness into a strength by wrapping themselves around the President's Iraq strategy. LINK
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-DSCC) plans to hold a 1:00 pm ET press conference call pegged to this story. See the Schumer quotes for a sense of what the call will sound like.
"One-Day Iraq Toll Is Highest for U.S. In Many Months," blares the front page of the Washington Post. LINK
"'Dramatic change of direction' coming for Iraq: 'Plan Bs' include partition, overthrow of government," blares the front page Washington Times story by Sharon Behn. LINK
The Hotline's Chuck Todd wisely explains why this election cycle is similar to 1994 and why it is not. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook explores how the 2006 campaign battlefield is expanding and all on Republican turf. Hook Notes that the AFL-CIO is directing some of its $40 million GOTV effort to Tennessee and Virginia, with the Senate, perhaps, more in play than previously thought. LINK
Under a "Conservative voters likely to stay home" headline on the front page of the Washington Times, Ralph Z. Hallow has conservative campaign consultant Rick Shaftan saying: "'The Republican leadership spent $1 million on helping Chafee, and then it wonders why conservatives don't think they're wanted in this party,' Mr. Shaftan said. 'They think the leadership wants them to come out every year, shine your shoes, then go sit in the back of the bus, take their Bibles and read them and shut up.'" LINK
In a story about the DNC borrowing $5 million to $10 million to target more House and Senate races, the Washington Times' Donald Lambro quotes the Rothenberg Political Report saying "we are increasing our target range of likely Democratic gains to 18-25 [House] seats, and we cannot completely rule out the possibility of a tidal wave that could produce a Democratic gain well above that." LINK
Ian Bishop of the New York Post reports on more cash being squeezed from the DNC after prodding by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). LINK
Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe reports on the calls -- from the likes of wardrobe adviser Paul Begala -- for the DCCC to take out a loan and fund an expanded field of congressional candidates in an attempt to ride a potential wave to large gains. LINK
The Washington Post's Peter Slevin reports that nine former Kansas Republicans will be on the November ballot as Democrats in a state that voted "nearly 2 to 1 for President Bush." LINK
Susan Page of USA Today has a comprehensive look at television ad campaigns across the country and how influential they remain in the world of modern campaign messaging. LINK
The Way to Win:
The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 is being widely read and widely commented on.
Buy your copy of the fresh Random House book about American politics by Mark Halperin of ABC News and John F. Harris of the Washington Post here. LINK
Jacob Weisberg of Slate says The Way to Win is "a new book that anyone seriously interested in the mechanics of contemporary politics ought to read." LINK
For today's launch of hotsoup.com, the community website "for the millions of Americans who want a voice in the public square and the ability to influence their nation's course," the top book that is recommended is The Way to Win. LINK
And, in his Tuesday Tonight Show monologue, Jay Leno said this: "According to a new book, The Way to Win, Democrats who support Hillary Clinton were worried about rumors that Bill has started cheating again. That's what it said in the book. So they sent someone to confront him about it. And Clinton said there was nothing to the rumors. And believe me, when Bill Clinton denies he's having an affair, you can take that statement to the bank." [applause]
And Halperin is on NY1's Inside City Hall, talking about Hillary Clinton's presidential prospects on the eve of her first Senate re-election debate against Republican John Spencer. (Listen live anywhere in the world at 7 pm or 10:30 pm ET tonight. LINK -- look for "Live Audio Stream.)
Or dispense with the electronic media and buy The Way to Win now. LINK
"The Foley scandal has dropped off the front pages and House Republicans are aggressively trying to shift attention in the final weeks of the campaign season to the healthy economy and the damage they say would be done if Democrats take control of Congress," reports the Washington Times' Charles Hurt. LINK
The Washington Times' Donald Lambro warns that Democrats would "seek to overturn or change just about everything President Bush and the Republicans have done since 2001." In particular, the article stokes fear that House Ways and Means Chair Charlie Rangel would push to rollback all of the Bush tax cuts, not only those benefiting the rich. LINK
Pelosi said last week that the tax-cut rollback would only affect people earning $250,000 a year or more.
The Clintons of Chappaqua:
"With fewer than three weeks until the midterm elections, former President Bill Clinton resumed his role as chief communicator of the Democratic Party on Wednesday in a speech that wrapped policy objectives in soaring rhetoric about bringing Americans together behind a single purpose," ledes Anne Kornblut's New York Times coverage. LINK
The Washington Post's Dan Balz reports that former President Clinton's speech accused the governing GOP majority of demonizing opponents, leaving Americans to fend for themselves, and leaving the United States isolated internationally. LINK
New York Daily News: LINK
George F. Will writes of the "economic hypochondria" in the news and on the stump this year as he looks at the minority party's attempt to find the negative in good economic times. LINK
Will makes a more compelling case than most Administration spokespeople do, but will the networks and papers buy into the thesis? (No.)
Foley: ethics committee investigation:
"In what could prove to be the turning point in the investigation of former Rep. Mark Foley's (R-Fla.) interaction with House pages -- and what Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his staff did or did not know about it -- the House ethics committee will take testimony today on the Foley case from former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl," writes Roll Call's Susan Davis.
USA Today curtain raises today's testimony too. LINK
Foley: political fallout:
The Washington Post's Michael Powell turns in a near must-read on Jack Davis, the "white Anglo-Saxon millionaire owner of a non-union factor," who is running against the "beefy" Tom Reynolds with the "haunted look of late." LINK
"Davis, a big Lou Dobbs fan, wants to impose cliff-high tariffs on goods from 'Red China' and build tall fences on the border with Mexico. And no amnesty for illegal immigrants; it would just encourage them. 'I see radical Mexicans saying President Polk took their land in the war with Mexico.' He whacks the table. 'Well, here's what I say to you. You lost that war, baby!'"
As he was exiting his newsmaker luncheon at the National Press Club on Wednesday, NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-NY) was asked by ABC News if he was curious as to why Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) felt the need to speak with him about the discomfort that former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) had caused a former congressional page in the spring of 2006 if the matter had supposedly been addressed by others in the fall of 2005.
Reynolds refused to answer, saying that he has answered three hours worth of questions about Foley -- a reference to the many press inquiries he has answered on the subject.
Foley: the gay Republican angle:
In what is one of the more bizarre corrections to a political story we have seen in some time, the Los Angeles Times Notes that it is not George Allen's campaign manager who is apparently gay, but his communications director. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers takes a must-read look at Colorado where Republicans find themselves in some trouble in three House districts.
The Rocky Mountain News writes up the 14th O'Donnell vs. Perlmutter debate in the last 20 days in the competitive open seat in Colorado's seventh congressional district. LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper writes in his blog, "Political Punch," that President Bush is doing everything he can to prevent a Democratic takeover of Congress, including campaigning today in Pennsylvania for embattled Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA). LINK
Larry Eichel of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Iraq war is the central question in three house races in suburban Philadelphia. LINK
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) is still deciding whether or not to release a letter from the House ethics committee which he claims would clear him of the recent allegations. A source says the letter discusses the claims that Weldon helped his daughter get a job and dismisses them, report Todd Mason and John Shiffman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. LINK
"Rep. John Sweeney may have failed to properly report a 2001 trip with a lobbyist and former Capitol Hill staffer now cooperating in a federal investigation of congressional corruption, but aides insisted Wednesday he did not knowingly violate any rules," reports the Saratogian. LINK
Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL) gets the nod (again) from the Chicago Tribune editorial board. LINK
John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader dedicates most of his Granite Status column to the two House races in the New Hampshire and reports that Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH) is not pleased with a Mother Jones story alleging that his campaign manager, Debra Vander Beek, continued to receive her government salary while she was employed by Bradley's campaign. Bradley's financial officer is claiming that she never took her entire campaign paycheck. LINK
Sometimes all politics is local. Last night's OH-01 debate between Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Democratic challenger John Cranley began with the issue of Section 8 housing, Notes the Cincinnati Enquirer's Wilkinson. LINK
Democratic congressional candidate Bruce Braley continues his criticism of Republican opponent Mike Whalen for getting millions in tax breaks by moving his corporate headquarters from Davenport, IA to Moline, IL, Notes the Quad-City Times. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman reports that outside groups have dumped more than $3 million into two Iowa congressional races, the NRCC has spent $1.5 million in the 1st district battle between Whalen and Braley. LINK
Sen. DeWine's (R-OH) new television ad gets personal and negative in his latest attempt to save his job, reports the Columbus Dispatch's Torry and Riskind. LINK
Roll Call's Erin P. Billings looks at the 50-50 scenario in the Senate -- a real possibility admit both Democratic and Republicans privately. We've not seen it since 2001.
The Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni curtain raises today's Bush and Clinton fundraisers in Virginia. LINK
"Mr. Bush's private fundraiser, to be held at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, is expected to raise $500,000 to $600,000 and energize the Republican faithful. First lady Laura Bush also is expected to raise $100,000 at a Northern Virginia fundraiser with Mr. Allen's wife, Susan."
Matt Franck of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) opened a debate Wednesday with a series of personal attacks against Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill, while McCaskill pledged to stick to the issues saying, "I think he's a good man. . . I don't think he's comfortable attacking my character like he is. They have convinced him that he needs to do this." LINK
Responding to concerns raised that she would have a conflict of interest in elected, McCaskill -- whose husband often profits from government contracts -- said "I'll do whatever's necessary to make sure there's no ethical conflict," per Matt Stearns of the Kansas City Star. LINK
Bonna de la Cruz of the Tennessean writes that as Senate candidates Bob Corker (R-TN) and Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) struggle to gain political ground, they are digging up old political baggage to use against each other. LINK
The Associated Press reports that former Gov. Tom Kean (R-NJ) made his first campaign trip for his son Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. (R-NJ), where he accused Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) of being involved in a "culture of corruption". LINK
Bob Novak has Clinton foe John Spencer, who has not received financial support from the RNC, NRSC, or Bush friend Jack Oliver, saying, "I've been stabbed in the back." LINK
The AP's Michael Rubicon reports that Senate candidate Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) followed up on his pledge during a Monday debate with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and released his tax returns. LINK
Is there really such thing as a civil debate in politics today? Well, Josh Brodesky of the Arizona Daily Star describes how last night's debate in the Senate race between Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Democratic challenger Jim Pederson "was like a meeting of old friends." They also did discuss immigration, Iraq, education, and energy policy. LINK
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Republican challenger Mike Bouchard tried to define themselves and each other in their second and final debate last night, Notes Kathleen Gray and Tina Lam of the Detroit Free Press. LINK
More from the Detroit News: LINK
The Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer on Sen. Lieberman sitting pretty. LINK
Lieberman (I-CT) was the target of rapid-fire exchanges during Wednesday's debate with the entire five-man U.S. Senate field, Democrat Ned Lamont questioned how Sen. Lieberman would fare in "the real world" if he told his boss he couldn't fix something in 18 years, Notes the Hartford Courant's Pazniokas. LINK
Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver is maintaining a small lead over Republican opponent Jim Nussle according to television station KCCI's poll, Notes the Des Moines Register. LINK
Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland's rented apartment in Columbiana County has triggered a complaint challenging his voting residency that might endanger his right to vote in November, Notes the Cleveland Plain Dealer. LINK
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Strickland continues to emotionally defend himself against Republican opponent Ken Blackwell's accusations of a cover up regarding an indecency charge of a former aide. LINK
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Jason L. Riley writes that Ken Blackwell's real problem "isn't his opponent so much as Ohio's disastrous GOP governor, Bob Taft, and a state party establishment that has self-destructed."
Bay State gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey's (R-MA) latest political ad against opponent Deval Patrick (D-MA) may have gone too far, reports Andrea Estes and Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe. LINK
More from the Boston Herald: LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
Peter Nicholas of the Los Angeles Times looks at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides' strategy of going after Gov. Schwarzenegger's character. LINK
"Angelides, the Democratic state treasurer, has in recent days moved off his core message that the governor's budget priorities and overall stewardship are lacking, and tried to make Schwarzenegger's past behavior an issue."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he "found the groove" in his third year of office and Sacramento has been grooving ever since with the just-completed legislative sessions one of the most productive in recent memory, Notes an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK
Meanwhile, the top of the Los Angeles Times editorial page reads "Angelides Under a Bus." LINK
Politics of lobbying:
The Boston Globe's Rick Klein makes Note of an ABC News video showing top Democratic Senators in close comforts with lobbyists on the posh island of Nantucket. LINK
You can see the video here: LINK
Richard Simon of The Los Angeles Times writes up the big money from special interests to lawmakers (on both sides of the aisle) in Washington. LINK
Presidential hopefuls from both parties have invaded Michigan in the past two days with visits from Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Notes Mark Hornbeck and Charlie Cain of Detroit News. LINK
In a must-read story that illustrates seven vital points about presidential politics and modern journalism (and eight more points about how the Boston Globe treats hometown presidential candidates), Scott Helman and Michael Levenson of Globe report on efforts by the campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney's (R-MA) to gain the White House through some Mormon momentum. "Over the past two months, Romney's political operatives and church leaders have discussed building a grass-roots political organization using alumni chapters of Brigham Young University's business school around the country." LINK
Read every last word, including the conflicting stories of Romney advisers and ask yourself: why were the Globe reporters tipped off to staking out a meeting, and where did they got the leaked documents?
The Des Moines Register's Tim Higgins writes that while campaigning in Des Moines yesterday, Sen. McCain criticized political campaigns and called for the end of controversial political groups that can spend money on campaigns around traditional campaign laws. LINK
Sen. McCain stressed the need for more troops in Iraq and the need to reserve the option of military action against North Korea if it continues to develop nuclear weapons during a filming for the show "Hardball" at Iowa State University, Notes the Des Moines Register's Lisa Rossi. LINK
A new Quinnipiac University poll out this morning shows Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) trouncing her opponent John Spencer (R-NY) 65 to 30 percent and five percent of those polled are still undecided.
Casting and counting:
Ian Urbina of the New York Times paints the doomsday Election Day scenario with new voting technology and procedures being put to the test this year. Be sure to Note the calming words from the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. LINK
The Chicago Tribune warns that Chicago and Cook County officials have not fixed some of the problems with electronic voting that they first discovered during last spring's primary. John McCormick has the story. LINK
Garry Rayno of the New Hampshire Union Leader reports that a new style ballot is causing problems for candidates with longer names when they are shrunken almost illegibly to fit into the space. The Secretary of State's office is trying to resolve the problem before November 7. LINK
David Saltonstall of the New York Daily News Notes the complicated seating chart at the annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner in New York City tonight, where "the seating chart for the event also provides a road map for who's up and who's down in New York politics -- with proximity to the podium regarded as a key sign of political juice." LINK
More Thursday schedule items:
First Lady Laura Bush heads to New Orleans, LA for two events held in the city's Custom House. At 10:00 am ET she participates in the Preserve America Summit and at 11:00 am ET she tours the Audubon Insectarium and participates in a youth breakout session on Preserve America.
Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) debate at 7:00 pm ET tonight in Toledo, OH.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) debates Democratic challenger Barbara Ann Radnofsky at 10:00 pm ET in San Antonio, TX.
Sen. Lincoln Chaffee debates Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse at 7:00 pm ET.
Fox News' Sean Hannity campaigns at 6 pm ET for gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (R-OH) at a rally in Cincinnati, OH. Blackwell, is facing Democrat Ted Strickland in Ohio's gubernatorial race.
Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI) is joined by baseball legend Hank Aaron at 1:15 pm ET at Carson Park in Eau Claire, WI. Doyle is up against Republican Mark Green this November.
Democracia USA, a national non-partisan Hispanic civic engagement program, holds a news conference at 1:30 pm ET to announce its registration of over 100,000 new Hispanic voters in 4 key electoral states at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.