By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Delay Of Game. The Senate has scrapped plans to vote on whether to extend all or some of the Bush-era tax cuts, a move that delays the already red-hot debate until a lame-duck session after the November elections. House leaders are likely to follow suit. So, what does it mean for either party’s prospects between now and Election Day? It appears to be a wash, according to the Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery: “Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate argued that a pre-election tax battle would put Republicans on the defensive, forcing them to justify borrowing billions of dollars to pay for tax breaks for the nation's 3 million wealthiest families. Some Republicans were nervous about that prospect. But Democrats were equally divided, with many party conservatives arguing that the ailing economy — and a contentious election season — made this a bad time to raise anyone's taxes.” That doesn’t meant the tax issue won’t come up on the campaign trail, but candidates from both parties won’t have to explain their votes. Still Democrats, who favor extending the tax cuts for the middle class, were trying to spin the issue into a midterm talking point, accusing Republicans of holding those cuts “hostage.” Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged: “We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done.”
Castle Comeback? Call it the Murkowski syndrome, but defeated Delaware GOP Senate candidate Mike Castle is doing more than just thinking about jumping into the race between Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons. Congressman Castle is reportedly commissioning a poll to gauge his chances in a three-way match up. According to Politico’s David Catanese, a GOP source “did not have specifics on when Castle’s team would conduct the poll, but viewed it as a practical step even if the nine-term congressman was unlikely to re-enter the race.” Castle has said he’s interested, but aides have cautioned the odds he actually will are quite low — “under 5 percent” — a spokeswoman for the congressman said earlier this week.
Could the poll results change his mind? Perhaps, but here’s the rub: Republicans leaders will want nothing to do with him if he does mount a write-in candidacy. "I'm against it," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Huffington Post’s Lucia Graves reports. Just to underline his point, Cornyn added: "As a chairman of a party committee it's our responsibility to support the nominee — the choice of the primary voters — and that's what we're going to do." Ditto Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.: “The position of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is that when voters of the state have nominated a Republican nominee that's the person we support.”
“Pledge” Redux. It sounds like a cross-party game of telephone. On Wednesday night before GOP leaders unveiled their “Pledge To America,” President Obama predicted: “If the other party takes control of Congress, they plan to pursue — and I’m quoting here — the “exact same agenda” as they did during the last administration. The exact same agenda.” Then on Thursday at the unveiling of the “Pledge,” House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said: “We are not going to be any different than what we’ve been.” Democrats immediately pounced on the Boehner remark. Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz accused the GOP of simply pursuing “more of the same failed ideas that they've been pushing for years.” In fairness, Boeheher’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question about where Republicans stand on social issues, but it’s a sound bite that's likely to get used over and over again between now and Nov. 2 by Democrats who want to show that the GOP would take the country back to the Bush years.
The Axelrod Exit. As speculation swirled this week about whether — or more likely when — White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will decamp from the Washington to pursue the job he’s always wanted (mayor of Chicago), senior adviser David Axelrod, the president’s message man, weighed in on his own departure on Thursday. "I've been pretty clear to anybody who has ever talked to me about this that at some point, I'm going to go back and start working on the re-election campaign," Axelrod said in an interview with Reuters. "The president and I have always had an understanding about that. Nothing has changed.” The C.W. is that Axelrod will leave sometime in early 2011 to get back into campaign mode for Obama 2012.
ON SUNDAY’S “THIS WEEK”: ABC’s Christiane Amanpour sits down with Axelrod to talk about the Democrats’ message heading into the midterm elections as well as the role politics played in setting Afghanistan policy (h/t Bob Woodward). Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will also join Amanpour to detail GOP efforts to make big gains in Congress in November and assess the impact of the Tea Party on establishment Republicans. Amanpour also sits down with Queen Rania of Jordan for a conversation about a range of foreign policy issues. Finally, a roundtable with conservative commentator George Will, Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile, former Bush political strategist Matthew Dowd and Ron Brownstein of the National Journal .
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Karen Travers mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon debates with Allan Lichtman, professor of history at American University. They will also sit down with Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason. Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.
Fighting Words In Nevada. A fist-fight broke out on Thursday night at the end of a Nevada Senate candidate forum with GOP contender Sharron Angle. The scuffle came at the tail end of the event where Angle “got booed, heckled, mocked and interrupted during an hour-long question-and-answer session at Faith Lutheran Jr./Sr. High School in Las Vegas,” according to the Las Vegas Sun’s Delen Goldberg. Angle’s opponent, incumbent Sen. Harry Reid, did not attend in person, but provided pre-taped answers to questions posed by the moderator. The fight reportedly occurred after Reid supporters walked out of the auditorium when Angle was still speaking. From the Sun’s report, which also features a slideshow of the contretemps: “Kelly Tanaka said an unidentified man pushed her over and punched her friend Thursday after the forum. The man was detained by school officials. The 27-year-old Tanaka said the fight occurred because she walked past the man, not because she supports Reid and he backs Angle.”
Colbert In The House. The House Judiciary Committee, that is. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert will testify before Congress at 9:30 a.m. at a hearing on “Protecting America’s Harvest” alongside United Farm Workers President President Arturo S. Rodriguez, who Colbert interviewed on his show, “The Colbert Report." The Daily Caller reported that Colbert will testify “in character,” which does not sit well with some Republicans. Rep Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has dismissed the hearing as a “joke.” (NOTED: If you like what you see this morning, mark your calendars for Oct. 30, 2010. That’s when Colbert and his Comedy Central counterpart, Jon Stewart, plan to hold dueling events on the Washington Mall. Colbert has dubbed his “The March To Keep Fear Alive,” while Stewart will hold the “Restoring Sanity Rally.”)
Michelle, My Belle. Is President Obama’s biggest fear in politics his own wife? “I feel grateful that Michelle so far, at least, has not run for any offices I’ve been running for. She would beat me thoroughly,” the president said in his opener before the first lady’s speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Thursday. And, as ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports, he didn’t stop there: “Bill Clinton understands where I’m coming from here. He knows what it’s like to be married to somebody who’s smarter somebody who’s better looking somebody who’s just all around a little more impressive than you are.”
Test Your Tea Party Knowledge. How much do you know about the conservative movement that’s been sweeping the nation? Take our ABC News Tea Party Quiz and see if you have the I.Q. of a “Washington Insider.”
THE NUMBER: $1.2 Million
The amount of money that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is pouring into the West Virginia Senate fight. The race was expected to be something of a slam duck for Democrat Joe Manchin, the state’s popular governor, but with polls showing the battle between Manchin and GOP candidate John Raese tightening, the NRSC is launching a television ad today that will run for two weeks in West Virginia and Washington, D.C. media markets, according to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. The ad ties Manchin directly to President Obama: “Joe Manchin supports Barack Obama’s big government agenda,” the ad’s narrator says. “We don’t want a rubber stamp for Obama; we can’t afford Joe Manchin in Washington.” As Cillizza points out: “That the NRSC is willing to put its money where its mouth is puts Senate Democrats in an interesting spot. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has a number of endangered incumbents they need to protect in places like Colorado, Wisconsin, California and Nevada — but also can't afford to ignore a seat like West Virginia where they have a top-tier candidate in a winnable race. Does the DSCC respond with ads hitting Raese? Or let Manchin handle it on his own?”
Oprah’s On … With Christie And Booker. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker will appear on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” today to discuss the much-talked-about $100 million donation from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark school system. The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports: “Christie and Booker will proclaim that the long-troubled Newark schools, which have been under state control for 15 years, are going to be placed under Booker’s authority. Together, Booker and the school system will embark on a massive program of educational change long opposed by teachers unions.”
Clinton On The Trail. Fresh from the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York this week, former President Bill Clinton plans to hit the campaign trail in a big way on Sunday. Watch for his appearances on behalf of Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal as well as Maine’s gubernatorial nominee Libby Mitchell, and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree.
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