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First Thoughts: Ted's Talk

On Ted’s Talk… And on Barack’s and Bill’s own health-care talk yesterday… Cuccinelli and McAuliffe square off at 7:00 pm ET debate, which will air in the DC area on NBC4… Further breaking down the NBC4/NBC/Marist poll… Christie’s still up big in New Jersey, per new poll… Walsh, Connolly, head to mayoral run-off in Boston… And Byrne, Young advance in congressional run-off in Alabama.

Senate TV via Reuters

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), denounces "Obamacare" as he speaks on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this still image taken from video, September 24, 2013.

*** Ted’s Talk: Here are three things you need to know about Sen. Ted Cruz’s marathon speech on the Senate floor. One, it was not technically a filibuster, because it wasn’t stopping any of today’s action in the Senate. Two, the legislation that the Senate is considering is the House GOP effort to fund the government and also defund the president’s health care law, so some Republicans are puzzled why Cruz is waging this crusade since the legislation is exactly what Ted Cruz begged the House to do. “We’d be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we’re in favor of,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said. And three, there’s only one real beneficiary of this long speech -- Ted Cruz. Indeed, probably taking the criticism he received from House Republicans to heart, Cruz’s speech creates the illusion he’s doing something when he really isn’t; in fact, he’s risking nothing other than the ire of his fellow Republican senators. Earlier this year, we saw two ACTUAL filibusters that received just as much attention -- from Rand Paul on drones and Wendy Davis on abortion. But unlike Cruz’s marathon speech, those filibusters actually disrupted business and in the process brought attention to an issue that hadn’t been receiving much of it in their particular spheres. You can’t say the same thing about the president’s health-care law or this tactical effort. Nothing’s been disrupted … other than C-Span 2’s Tuesday night programming.

President Obama discusses the political headwinds his administration has faced in offering universal healthcare to non-insured Americans.

*** Versus Barack’s and Bill’s Talk: Speaking of the health-care law and the attention it has received, both President Obama and former President Bill Clinton spoke about the new law at yesterday’s Clinton-palooza at the Clinton Global Initiative. “Clinton, acting as host, lobbed the questions; Obama answered with the eagerness of a guest on a daytime TV talk show,” the AP says. To our eyes, it was a mostly dry affair -- driving home the point that it’s MUCH easier to come up with soundbytes denouncing the law than it is coming up with soundbytes to champion it. That’s always been the Obama administration’s disadvantage here. If there was a positive of yesterday’s Barack-Bill conversation, it was to drive home the point that the Democratic Party is united on health care. They might disagree with the message and even a few of the new rules, but they’re mostly united behind the substance and certainly united against making real changes. And as we’ve told you before, when it comes to policy/budget disputes, the party that is united almost always beats the party that isn’t. Indeed, it’s hard to look at the GOP right now in Washington and view them as a party that’s united. Even Marco Rubio, who has been actively supporting the Cruz Ted Talk, admitted the division issues in a Hugh Hewitt interview: “I think we’re united on getting rid of Obamacare. We’re not united on the best way to do it. And I think it’s proven to be counterproductive. But you know, I’m still hopeful that that will change here in the next few days.”

*** As for the actual Shutdown Showdown: After Cruz is finished with his 20-plus hour speech that is bordering on simply being a publicity stunt, the work of the Senate will continue as scheduled. Sometime this week, Democrats will strip out the defunding measure on the health care law and send back a government funding bill to the House. But there’s some talk that Democrats might change a few things on the so-called “continuing resolution,” including shortening the time period covered or even allowing an amendment or two that MIGHT be a sweetener for some Republicans, including getting rid of the tax on medical devices. As for where House Republicans are going, ask yourself what’s more likely -- they force a showdown over funding the government which could result in a shutdown of 2-3 days or they hold their fire for now and pick a larger fight over the debt ceiling? It’s hard to imagine they have the political capital to do both.

*** Cuccinelli, McAuliffe square off in debate: Six weeks until Election Day in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe will participate in a debate -- moderated by one of your authors -- at 7:00 pm ET. It will be televised in the Washington area on NBC4, as well as other NBC affiliates throughout the state. The debate comes as a new NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll shows McAuliffe with a five-point lead over Cuccinelli among likely voters, 43%-38%. So the pressure is on Cuccinelli to change the dynamics of the race, and for McAuliffe to prove he’s ready to be governor. Another of your authors sets the stage for tonight’s debate. “If history is any guide, Ken Cuccinelli should be cruising to victory in Virginia’s governor race. The party that controls the White House has lost the governor’s mansion in every election here since 1977.  The opposition research file on Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe is inches thick. And many establishment Democrats still have lingering doubts about picking McAuliffe in the first place. But with less than six weeks until voters head to the polls in the crucial swing state vote, Cuccinelli is behind.”

*** Comparing Cuccinelli and McAuliffe on the candidate qualities: Heading into tonight’s debate, here are some other numbers from our new NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll. McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli on candidate qualities like who better understands Virginians’ problems (40%-34% among registered voters), who do you trust more to do what’s best for Virginia (40%-36%), who is closer to your position on abortion (46%-28%), who cares more about the middle class (39%-31%), and which candidate shares your values (40%-33%). But Cuccinelli leads on two qualities -- one of which McAuliffe has made the centerpiece of his campaign. Per the poll, the GOP nominee edges McAuliffe on who is better for business (39%-36%), and he leads on who has the better experience to be governor (40%-34%). The poll also shows that 31% of voters think McAuliffe is too liberal, 6% think he’s too conservative, and a plurality of 41% say his ideology is about right. By comparison, 43% say Cuccinelli is too conservative, 8% think he’s too liberal, and 36% say he’s about right. Notice on the “about right” on ideology: McAuliffe has a five-point advantage, identical to his five-point advantage overall.

*** Star Scientific gets more traction than GreenTech: And here are some final findings from our poll: The Star Scientific/Jonnie Williams controversy for Cuccinelli has gotten more traction than McAuliffe’s GreenTech controversy. According to the poll, registered voters -- by a 29%-2% margin -- say the Star Scientific controversy has given them a more negative opinion about Cuccinelli, with 25% saying it hasn’t made a difference  and another 44% saying they don’t have an opinion or don’t know enough about it. By contrast, voters by a 17%-2% margin say McAuliffe’s past work for GreenTech has given them a more negative opinion about the Democratic nominee, with 22% saying it hasn’t made a difference and with another 59% not knowing enough about it. Finally, the poll shows that a majority of Virginia voters – 54% -- favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriage.

*** Poll: Christie up big in New Jersey: Virginia, of course, is the marquee gubernatorial race this November. The other one -- in New Jersey -- is looking to be a blowout, as expected. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Gov. Chris Christie (R) is crushing Barbara Buono by more than 30 points among likely voters, 64%-30%.

*** Walsh, Connolly head to run-off in Boston: In Boston last night, “State Representative Martin J. Walsh and City Councilor John R. Connolly emerged Tuesday atop a crowded field vying to become Boston’s next mayor, propelled by well-funded campaigns that outmuscled and outorganized the competition,” the Boston Globe writes. This ensures that the next Boston mayor will be a white Irish-Catholic male -- in a city where whites are the minority.

*** Byrne, Young advance to GOP run-off in Alabama: Finally, in the race to fill the congressional seat vacated by former Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), Republicans Bradley Byrne and Dean Young advanced to the Nov. 5 GOP run-off, Roll Call reports. “Byrne — who lost a GOP primary for governor in Alabama in 2010 — received 33 percent, while Young received 25 percent, with 61 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press… Republican operatives have described Young as a popular candidate among the more rural parts of the southwestern Alabama district. Young made news this cycle when he told a local TV station that he is, ‘Against homosexuals pretending like they’re married. If you want to have homosexuals pretending like they’re married, then go to the Democrat party.’” Roll Call adds that whoever “wins the GOP runoff will face the Democratic nominee, Burton LeFlore, on Dec. 17.”

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