From NBC's Domenico Montanaro South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who has been the subject of affair rumors, is up with an ad alluding to those charges. She talks about the "dark side" of South Carolina politics, and at the end pointedly introduces her spouse.
"This is my husband, Michael," Haley says in the ad.
Two more sitting members of Congress lost in elections last night in Alabama, bringing the total now to five: SEN--Bob Bennett (R-UT), Arlen Specter (D-PA); HOUSE--Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Parker Griffith (R-AL), Artur Davis (D-AL) lost in GOV primary.
Courtesy of AP, check out this midterm stat:
More than 2,300 people are running for 471 House and Senate seats in the midterms. It's the highest number of candidates in at least 35 years, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the Federal Election Commission, which began tracking candidates in 1975. ... The field is heavily Republican, with almost twice as many GOP candidates as Democrats, and several hundred independent and third-party challengers.
Don’t ignore Obama’s economic speech today. It’s a sign of things to come… Is the Pacific trip up in the air? … Another incumbent bites the dust in Alabama. … Is Artur Davis’ loss a surprise, or not surprising at all? … Immigration’s key role in GOP primaries, but does it fizzle in general elections? … Only the third-ever all-female governor’s race. … and when the truth isn’t good enough.
From NBC’s Chuck Todd, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg *** ’Bam On The Run: President Obama’s trying to make a big case on the economy today on his latest stop on his White House to Main St. tour in Pittsburgh, PA. (He speaks at Carnegie Mellon University at 1:30 pm ET.) But it isn’t going to get noticed in today’s oily news cycle. But don’t ignore the speech. It should be read carefully; because the themes in it will be themes he touches on again, as he tries to sell the recovery (read: fall 2010 and 2012.) By the way, many economists expect big numbers from Friday’s jobs report, but keep in mind it'll be heavy with Census hires.
*** On Oil: The White House is clearly trying to divorce BP now after a shaky marriage. NBC’s Pete Williams reported that a Justice Department investigation of the company began "some weeks ago" into whether criminal and civil laws were violated in the Gulf Oil spill. (By the way, BP’s stock fell 15 percent yesterday after it admitted “top kill” didn’t work. Now, it’s on to the “cut-and-cap” containment strategy.) It was also intriguing yesterday that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t immediately say Obama is staying with his Indonesia trip later this month. Critics will say if this trip was canceled once for something more political -- the health-care vote. So if it was postponable for the health care vote, how is it not postponable for this? As awkward as the international diplomacy may be re: canceling for a second time, remember, the president HAS to return to the region later this year for an economic conference.
*** Filling Space: We’ve noted some of the legitimate criticism of this president on the oil crisis, particularly on the P.R. front. But it seems some talkers and columnists have gone into overdrive. There's not much since the weekend that is new as it relates to Obama and the oil spill to warrant further criticism, but they don't know what else to talk about. They have that video without much new to say -- and there’s nothing like having to talk over video when there isn’t much to add. The analysis can't be the same, so the default to fill the space is often more “questions” about the president and the administration’s response. This is a dangerous period, politically, for the administration as it is kind of like an August around Washington with Congress out of session and all eyes only on one story, one region and one president.
*** ‘Yesterday’...: … Another incumbent went down to defeat. Parker Griffith became the latest incumbent to lose, and by a wide margin, 51%-33%. He thought when he made his party switch from Democrat to Republican, it would help his chances at reelection in November and perhaps he would have been right but he'll never know. Instead, he went the way of Arlen Specter. His party switch and his conservative bona fides became the main issue in the primary. And Mo Brooks, a county commissioner, won handily, clearing the 50 percent threshold and avoiding a runoff even against two other candidates. Brooks now becomes the favorite this fall and will likely become the first Republican ever elected from this district to Congress. Party switchers always struggle. But THIS is clearly NOT the year to try it.
*** ‘Maybe I'm Amazed’...: Or maybe not that Rep. Artur Davis lost. Davis was expected to cruise to victory in the Democratic primary for governor of Alabama -- and make history as the first African American in the state to win his party's nomination for the office. But black voters and leaders didn’t rally around Davis. Instead, he lost by a wide margin, 62%-38%, to state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is white. Sparks was the one who was able to get the “support from the state's four major black political groups,” AP writes. Why? Davis snubbed black leaders, saying he and black voters needed “no permission” from black groups. Plus, Davis voted against health care -- maybe a good position in Alabama in a general election, but a tough one to get around in a Democratic primary when half the electorate is black and so is the president of the United States. Davis' defeat is a good lesson for any African American or Hispanic politician who thinks they automatically will get support based on skin color or ethnicity. By the way, the two candidates who may be most intrigued by Davis' defeat are Roy Barnes and Thurbert Baker, two Democrats running for governor in Georgia where some believe race could play a role in how the primary turns out.
*** Byrne, Baby, Byrne (and James or Bentley): Sparks will take on the winner of state community college chairman Bradley Byrne and either businessman Tim James or Robert Bentley. (The top two will face off in a July 13th runoff, but the margin between James and Bentley is too close to call yet). By the way, speaking of Ag Commish, Dale Peterson, who gave us that entertaining ad (with all the jump cuts and the rifle) failed to qualify for the runoff for that office. In yesterday’s races, just one of the candidates with the most provocative ads might make it through -- James -- who got wide attention for his English-only ad that helped boost him. That ad and Susana Martinez’s win in New Mexico are signs of just how big a role immigration is playing in GOP primaries this cycle. The question is, does immigration translate to a general election. Remember, immigration played an out-sized role in many GOP primaries in 2006 but fell flat in the general. The president is meeting this week with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed into law that state’s controversial immigration bill, who is on his Council of Governors.
*** 'She's a Woman': We mentioned Martinez in New Mexico. The county prosecutor won last night, giving national Republicans their preferred candidate. That means New Mexico will elect its first female ever to be governor this fall, since Martinez’s opponent will be Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D). This will be just the third all-female gubernatorial matchup in U.S. history. The others, NBC’s Sarah Blackwill points out, were Kay Orr vs. Helen Boosalis in the 1986 Nebraska governor’s race and then, in 2002, Linda Lingle against Mazie Hirono in Hawaii.
*** ‘Getting Better’? After a string of races in which the NRCC didn’t get its preferred candidate, allowing opponents to push the Tea Party/ideological divide storyline, the NRCC got a win in MS-1. Impressively, in a three-candidate field, state Rep. Alan Nunnelee avoided a runoff by getting more than 50 percent, and now gives the GOP a very good shot at flipping this seat in the fall. By the way, Gallup shows Republicans with a 49%-43% lead in the generic ballot, their largest lead ever in the poll. Republicans are rightfully enthusiastic. But with this Gallup poll be very careful. It has a tendency to swing like an EKG report right after you go running.
*** When the truth isn’t good enough: What strikes us about the flap over Illinois Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk’s award in the military is let’s say he’s only guilty of rounding off the edges. In this day and age, you’re not going to get away with rounding the edges. But what puzzles us, what makes no sense about this, is that his record -- on its own -- is admirable. And his opponent Alexi Giannoulias (D), as Kirk points out, never served. So what was he doing? The truth seemed good enough, but apparently wasn’t for Kirk.
*** The Rest of the Day: Before heading to Pittsburgh, President Obama meets with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq (remember Iraq?). When Obama returns to Washington, he and the first lady will host a concert in honor of singer Paul McCartney. McCartney is being awarded the Third Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress. Vice President Biden is in New York City touting the stimulus and what it's done for jobs and infrastructure in the state at 2:45 pm ET. Dr. Jill Biden receives an award from the group behind Sesame Street at 7:00 pm ET in New York City.
*** 'Jet'-setter: Tune into MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, as Mitchell reports live from Israel, as she covers the Gaza flotilla story.
*** More Midterms: In Illinois, Bloomberg reports there’s “another video featuring U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois making false claims of being the U.S. Navy’s intelligence officer of the year.” … Charlie Crist laments fair-weather friends. … A liberal group is running ads targeting senators on climate-change legislation.
Countdown to CA, IA, ME, NJ, ND, SC, SD, and VA primaries, and AR run-off: 6 days: Countdown to Election Day 2010: 153 days
Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement of a criminal and civil investigation into the oil spill “follows calls by numerous lawmakers -- including some of Capitol Hill’s toughest oil industry critics -- for criminal inquiries,” The Hill writes. “In a letter sent last month, eight members of the Environment and Public Works Committee asked Holder to probe whether BP made ‘false and misleading statements to the federal government regarding its ability to respond to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.’”
“Oil from BP's out-of-control Gulf of Mexico oil spill could threaten the Mississippi and Alabama coasts this week, forecasters said yesterday, as public anger surged over the country's worst environmental disaster ever,” the New York Post writes.
“BP's engineers can't stop the gushing oil spill, but a young genius from Long Island says she found the solution in less time than it takes most people to finish a crossword puzzle,” the New York Post writes. “[She] proposes surrounding a pipe with deflated automobile tires, inserting it into the leaking riser, and then inflating the wheels to form a seal,” and calls it the “seabed reatread.”
The Daily News has a grisly account of “what President Obama didn't see when he visited the Gulf Coast: a dead dolphin rotting in the shore weeds.”
“The Obama administration ignored international pressure to condemn Israel on Tuesday, backing the Jewish state's Gaza blockade and its right to protect itself,” the Daily News writes.
“A plurality of Americans said they would prefer Republicans to leave the new healthcare law alone and not repeal any parts of it” according to a new “60 Minutes”/Vanity Fair poll, The Hill reports.
“President Barack Obama may use Congress’ Memorial Day break to use recess appointments to install a handful of pending nominees,” Roll Call writes.
ALABAMA: “Alabama Republican Rep. Parker Griffith was soundly defeated in a Republican primary [last night], the second party switcher to lose an intraparty fight in the past two weeks,” the Washington Post writes.
“Congress lost its second party-switching Member in as many weeks Tuesday when freshman Rep. Parker Griffith was defeated in the Republican primary in Alabama's 5th district,” Roll Call writes.
In the governor’s race, “U.S. Rep. Artur Davis was overwhelmed by a white Democratic primary opponent who had garnered support from the state's four major black political groups. Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks won the Democratic primary with 62 percent of the vote to Davis's 38 percent,” the AP writes.
“Representative Artur Davis of Alabama, who sidestepped the state’s black political leadership in hopes of building a diverse coalition of voters in his campaign for governor, was rejected Tuesday by Democratic primary voters, with the state agriculture commissioner, Ron Sparks, seizing a decisive victory,” the New York Times’ Zeleny writes. “Mr. Sparks, who is white, won endorsements from the state’s four major black political groups, while Mr. Davis intentionally declined to seek their support. But his strategy of trying to appeal to a broad base of voters in the primary race fell short, ending his quest to become the state’s first black governor 47 years after Gov. George Wallace stood in the Alabama Capitol and proclaimed ‘segregation forever.’”
MISSISSIPPI: “State Sen. Alan Nunnelee won the Republican nomination for Mississippi's 1st Congressional District seat Tuesday and will try in November to unseat Travis Childers, a Blue Dog Democrat who's being targeted by the national GOP,” the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.
NEW MEXICO: “Susana Martinez, a prosecutor from southern New Mexico, won the Republican nomination for governor Tuesday night and will face Democrat Diane Denish in a general election race deciding who becomes New Mexico's first woman governor,” the AP writes. “It will be the third woman against woman gubernatorial general election matchup in U.S. history.”
The New York Times reports that “20 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its chairwoman, are asking the House to severely restrict the powers of an independent ethics office that has spent much of its first full year investigating accusations of wrongdoing among black caucus members. A resolution introduced late last week by Representative Marcia L. Fudge, Democrat of Ohio, and co-sponsored by 19 other black caucus members, would prohibit the release of most investigative reports prepared by the Office of Congressional Ethics. It would also prevent the office from initiating its own inquiries, unless a sworn complaint was filed by an individual with personal knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing.”
The Hill on the politics of energy legislation in the wake of the BP oil spill: “[Senior Democratic aides] want to make the energy debate a referendum on big oil companies and the nation’s dependence on oil... Centrist Democrats disagree, saying that drawing a sharp contrast with Republicans will only make the debate more partisan and alienate the potential GOP allies needed to pass comprehensive reform.”
CONNECTICUT: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal still holds a lead over Republican candidate Linda McMahon in the state’s Senate race, a poll for the liberal blog Daily Kos poll finds, “giving further corroboration that Blumenthal is not being immediately damaged by the the controversy surrounding his past misleading statements about serving in Vietnam,” the left-leaning Talking Points Memo writes.
FLORIDA: “Since he quit his party, [Gov. Charlie] Crist says he has discovered that people he thought were friends turned out to be only Republican friends who dropped Crist after he left the GOP,” The Hill writes. “Still, he insists he has no regrets about his decision, and offered criticism for the GOP activists who took a stand against him after he supported President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.”
ILLINOIS: “Another video featuring U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois making false claims of being the U.S. Navy’s intelligence officer of the year has surfaced as he campaigns for a seat once held by President Barack Obama,” Bloomberg reports. “A Senate campaign Web video made the intelligence officer of the year assertion as an image of Kirk, 50, in a fighter jet is shown. Previously, the only reported video of Kirk making the claim was on C-SPAN during a 2002 congressional hearing.”
NORTH CAROLINA: “Americans United for Change has launched a series of ads attacking various lawmakers who oppose clean energy legislation,” the News & Observer writes. “The group is spending $100,000 to run the ad next week attacking [Sen. Richard] Burr in Wilmington and Greenville.”
From NBC's Pete Williams Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed today that a federal investigation began "some weeks ago" into whether criminal and civil laws were violated in the Gulf Oil spill.
Holder said the government is looking into whether a variety of federal laws were violated, from the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws to whether false statements were made to federal investigators and regulators.
"If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be very forceful in our response," Holder said.
He made no mention of an investigation during his prepared remarks at a news conference today. But asked by a reporter if one was underway, he said, "We have begun both a criminal and as well as a civil investigation as is our obligation under the law. Our environmental laws are very clear, and we have a responsibility to enforce them."
"There are federal charges that can include a wide range of things that have happened, everything from birds that have been harmed or killed, to the spill itself, and then with regard to the untimely and tragic deaths of those eleven rig workers," Holder said.
A senior Justice Department official said this does not mean that investigators have found any evidence that BP or the other companies involved in the spill willfully violated the law.
"The simple fact that there's oil in the Gulf is evidence of a crime," the official said.
Rep. Parker Griffith, who switched parties last year from Democrat to Republican, and now faces a competitive GOP primary, where his party switch is the main issue.
It’s Tuesday, and in this mid-term election year that means it’s almost certain that voting is going on somewhere in the United States. The primary season is well underway, and this week brings contested races in Mississippi, New Mexico, and Alabama to watch. We previewed the races this morning in First Thoughts.
Here's an expanded look at the story lines and questions to keep an eye on as results roll in:
1. Could Alabama take a step toward electing its first black governor? 2. Will Griffith go the way of Specter? 3. How will a GOP establishment pick fare in Mississippi? 4. How much of a boost are ads worth in Alabama? 5. Will Republicans position themselves to flip the New Mexico governor’s mansion?
From NBC's Ali Weinberg A battle between Israelis and pro-Palestinian activists aboard a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships headed to Gaza that left at least nine dead is used by both the liberal and conservative blogosphere to make their respective political points regarding foreign policy.
And just as the oil seeping from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico shows no sign of subsiding, neither does criticism of the way the oil spill is being handled, both by BP and the Obama administration.
“If there's a better example of how not to address a flotilla of charity ships, I doubt it,” AMERICAblog’s Chris in Paris wrote. “As an avid supporter of Israel, this event is extremely upsetting. The state of Israel is going down a very dangerous path which will not do anyone, any good.”
ThinkProgress’ Ben Armbruster wrote, “In a damage control effort, Israeli officials and their right-wing American supporters are now trying to deflect blame onto the activists, saying that there was no reason for them to be trying to breach the blockade to deliver supplies because there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Countering the Israeli defense, Armbruster cited a U.N. fact-finding mission describing the Israeli blockade of Gaza as “collective punishment.” More: “A U.N. official said last week that the formal economy in Gaza has ‘collapsed,’ and 60 percent of households there were short on food. The Guardian notes that according to UN statistics, ‘around 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water.’”
On the question of whether the Israeli army’s response to the flotilla’s attempt to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip was proportional, the conservative blogger Michael Rubin wrote at NRO: “When attacked, why should not a stronger nation or its representatives try to both protects its own personnel at all costs and, in the wider scheme of things, defeat its adversaries?” He continues: “Ultimately, it may be time to recognize that, in the face of growing threats to Western liberalism, strength and disproportionality matter more to security and the protection of democracy than the approval of the chattering class of Europe or the U.N. secretary general, a man whose conciliatory policies as foreign minister of South Korea proved to be a strategic disaster.”
Responding today about reports of additional plumes of oil beneath the surface of the sea, AMERICAblog’s Chris in Paris condemned both the oil company and the White House: “This brings us back to the same old problem of Obama failing to take charge of this. Let BP use their expert engineering (however pathetic it may be or sound) to do the deep water drilling to add the relief wells but beyond that, shut them down now.”
More: “BP should not be involved in the process of cleanup other than paying the bill. They shouldn't be telling scientists about the environment when the only thing BP knows is how to kill the environment. They shouldn't be confiscating tainted clothing that could be used in legal action against BP. How thick is this team at the White House that they can't get this into their heads? For an arrogant bunch, they sure look like 98 pound weaklings who get sand kicked in their face five times a day for weeks on end.”
Balloon Juice’s John Cole shrugged his cyber-shoulders at BP’s latest attempt to plug the hole, the Lower Marine Riser Package: “I’m not going to even bother crossing my fingers,” he writes.
And Daily Kos wrote that BP’s nickname for the attempt, “cut and cap,” is a misnomer: “The only problem with BP's ‘cut and cap’ operation is that it won't cap anything,” wrote Jed Lewinson. “At best, it will allow BP to salvage some of the oil (hopefully a substantial amount), but it won't stop the leak, and it won't keep oil from escaping. And whenever there's a serious storm, the drill site will need to be abandoned, and the oil will flow without restriction, just as has been for the past six weeks, except the flow rate will be around 20% greater because the salvage operation requires BP to make a clean cut on its riser piping, giving BP's containment dome easier access to the leaking oil at the expense of increasing the flowrate. Let's hope we don't have to endure the worst case scenario, an unabated flow of oil and gas through August.”
HotAir’s Ed Morrissey contrasts the White House’s assurance that BP operates at its with recent announcements from Obama which Morrissey sees as attempts to distance the administration from the oil company’s operations: “Unfortunately for the White House, Barack Obama has yoked himself to BP by insisting that the federal government has been in charge since Day 1 and continues to dictate all of BP’s actions in response to the spill. Obama deliberately took ownership of the response in Thursday’s press conference. It’s a little late now to start putting distance between BP and the federal government, especially in the present tense, when everyone now expects the federal government to run the show.”
Red State’s Vladimir focused on the economic toll foreseen as a result of Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium, announced last week. He quoted from a Times-Picayune article today which reported, “Within a very short time, [LA Economic Development Secretary Stephen] Moret believes the state will lose 3,000 to 6,000 direct and indirect jobs. If the suspensions are maintained, it could rise to 10,000 jobs. And if the moratorium persists while oil prices rise, the state could lose 20,000 jobs over the next 12 to 18 months in the form of lost direct and indirect jobs.”
Vladimir calls the Times-Pic story “one of the bigger ‘duh!’ headlines of the year,” adding, “maybe this is payback, Chicago-style.”
From MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell Elizabeth Edwards is denying a report that she is grooming her oldest daughter, Cate, to take care of her youngest children when she dies.
"There is no truth whatsoever to the story that I am trying to deny John custody of the children after my death," Elizabeth wrote me in an email.
The New York Daily News reported that Elizabeth was trying to deny John Edwards custody of their children, Emma 12, and Jack, 10, to keep them away from Rielle Hunter. Elizabeth called the story "nonsense."
From NBC's Ali Weinberg Two Senate campaigns we've been watching closely released multiple campaign ads today. In Arkansas, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Blanche Lincoln, Lieutenant Gov. Bill Halter, is up with two new ads, one lamenting Washington's excess and ineffectiveness, and one featuring an elderly voter praising Halter's stewardship of entitlement programs while he was Deputy Commissioner of Social Security in 1999.
In Connecticut, three ads show voters thanking Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal for his service... as the state's Attorney General.
HALTER: I’m Bill Halter and I approve this message. VO: We’ve tried to tell them. But Washington is still out of touch with our lives. The bailouts? They have to stop. From credit card rates to CEO pay, someone needs to stand up to Wall Street. And our retirement? We need it protected. But all over Arkansas there ARE signs that change is possible. HALTER: The only way we can change Washington is if we change who we send there. VO: Bill Halter. The only choice for change.
PAULINE WILDMAN: I started work when I was 16, spent years as a waitress, and paid into Social Security and Medicare all my life. Without Social Security Id be out on the street. When Bill Halter was in charge of Social Security, he fought to protect it from cuts. But Blanche Lincoln is different. LINCOLN: There are reasonable spending cuts that can be made, Medicare and Social Security (quote from Lincoln in final debate.) WILDMAN: She supports more tax cuts for millionaires, while cutting Social Security. She has lost touch with people like me.
SARAH: My husband and I went downstairs to find our house on fire. We were left with nothing and were absolutely stunned when we received the bill to clean the waste and devastated because that money was coming out of what were eligible for to rebuild the home. I called Attorney General Blumenthal and he ended up getting that bill greatly reduced for us. Everyone I know has a story about Richard Blumenthal or how he helped their mother or their best friend. I have no idea how he does it. But I’m glad he does. BLUMENTHAL: I'm Dick Blumenthal and I'm proud to approve this message.
GARY: When they initially told me I had the leukemia, they told me I only had thirty days to live. GAYLE: Here he is sick in the hospital with the insurance carrier wanting to send us to Washington State. Richard Blumenthal stepped in and fought the insurance company. We’re living proof that he was there and he made a difference in our lives. GARY: I think he really cares about what happens to people. GAYLE: Richard Blumenthal, for us, worked a miracle. BLUMENTHAL: I’m Dick Blumenthal. I’m proud to approve this message.
LAURA: The first time my son Skyler had a regular formula he blew up like a balloon and he practically died in my arms. The only formula that he could have was going to cost us $1,200 a month and the insurance company did not want to pay. I called the Attorney General’s office and Richard Blumenthal made me feel like this was the most important thing. Today Skyler will watch Richard Blumenthal on TV and say, "hey mom, there’s the man who saved my life." BLUMENTHAL: I'm Dick Blumenthal and I approved this message.
From NBC's Athena Jones WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Tuesday a "full and vigorous accounting" of what led to the biggest oil spill in the nation's history was necessary to show that deepwater drilling was safe enough to continue.
The Rose Garden remarks, part of his administration's ongoing efforts to show it is in charge of resolving the disaster, came after the president met with the co-chairs of a bipartisan commission he has created to investigate the incident and find ways to avoid another catastrophe.
Obama said that only after the commission's review "can we be assured that deepwater drilling can take place safely. Only then can we accept further development of these resources as we transition to a clean energy economy. Only then can we be confident that we've done what's necessary to prevent history from repeating itself."
The president has already called for a six-month moratorium on exploratory deepwater drilling and the implementation of new safety measures for offshore oil and gas drilling, but this is the farthest he's gone in suggesting that drilling at such depths might need to be stopped for a longer period.
Former Florida Gov and Sen. Bob Graham and former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly will lead five others on the commission, including scientists and engineers still to be named.
The commission, whose report is due in six months, will be authorized to hold public hearings and request information from the government, from non-profits and experts in oil and gas industry at home and abroad and from relevant companies including BP, Transocean, Halliburton and others. The president, who has highlighted serious lapses in government oversight of the industry in recent days, said the co-chairs had his full support to "follow the facts wherever they may lead, without fear or favor."
"If the laws in our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change," Obama said. "If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region."
Attorney General Eric Holder today became the latest in a long string of administration officials to head down to the Gulf. Holder was in the region to survey the areas affected by the spill and to meet with state attorneys general and US Attorneys in the area.
BP's repeated attempts to staunch the flow of oil from the sea floor have proved unsuccessful. The government ordered the company to halt the "top kill" method over the weekend for fear it could worsen the problem. Now the company -- which says it has already spent some $990 million on efforts to stop the spill and mitigate the damage -- is trying another method to funnel the oil to a tanker on the surface.
Both the company and the government have warned that like the other attempts, this latest method faces a tough series of challenges, because it has never been attempted at a depth of 5,000 feet. Even if it works, the process of cutting the pipe, capping it and channeling it to the surface could temporarily increase the flow of oil.
During his Friday trip to the Gulf, his second since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, the president announced a tripling of manpower in those places where oil has hit shore or was within 24 hours of impact. More than 20,000 men and women are engaged in response efforts in the region, more than 17,000 National Guard members across four states have been authorized to help and more than 1,700 vessels are aiding in response, the president said, calling it "the largest cleanup effort in the nation's history."
Former Vice President Al Gore famously embraces wife Tipper Gore on stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
From MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell and Adam Verdugo NBC News confirms that after 40 years of marraige Al and Tipper Gore are separating. The Gores have nothing further to add to statement and will not have anything more to say. They ask for privacy at this time.
A source close say it was a mutual decision. The Gores said it was "a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration." Both are still living in Nashville.
President Obama attempts to speak in Chicago Sunday to commemorate Memorial Day before heavy rains forced the crowd to seek cover.
From NBC's Chuck Todd, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg *** Obama's Very Tough Week: For those in the White House, last week might be known as the toughest week yet on the job. Oil spill dominated the media's attention, but there were a slew of other mini-wildfire-like crises on his plate, including Iran, North Korea, European debt causing havoc, and this doesn't count the Sestak silliness. And this week, on the international front, things haven't gotten any easier (see: Israel and flotilla). And to add insult to injury, the president’s Memorial Day speech was interrupted by a major downpour, and a car in his motorcade blew a tire. As The Washington Post’s Ann Kornblut wrote in her pool report yesterday, “Yes, it's that kind of day.” Yes, it’s been that kind of week… Today, Attorney General Eric Holder heads to the Gulf region, which could be a sign of things to come as the government tries to show its keeping the pressure on BP. The president will meet with his “BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs” and make a statement at 12:15 pm ET. He also meets with Peruvian President Alan García at 6:00 pm ET.
*** Mo-Dowd’s advice: For now, the president is being re-defined before our eyes via this oil spill. Like every story that seems so big it will linger for years and then doesn't, there is probably a fair amount of over-analysis going on and lots of hyperbole. But one column from the weekend seemed to find a balance and capture what some longtime Obama supporters as well as the detractors and that's this Sunday piece from Maureen Dowd. She writes, in part, "For five weeks, it looked as though Obama considered the gushing that became the worst oil spill in U.S. history a distraction, like a fire alarm going off in the middle of a law seminar he was teaching. He'll deal with it, but he's annoyed because it's not on his syllabus." She also points out, smartly: “Presidencies are always about crisis management. … F.D.R. achieved greatness not by means of imposing his temperament and intellect on the world but by reacting to what the world threw at him.” And: “Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down. The pattern is perverse. The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.” Obama’s leadership style can be distant and dispassionate. That can be the perfect persona on the international scene and is something George W. Bush lacked and something George H.W. Bush, though, found out can be a problem at home. Domestically, that style isn’t what people respond to. Lots of times, the job is consoler-in-chief; and for some, that's all they want to hear, oh, and yeah, plug the dang hole.
*** Enough oil to fill a football stadium: It became clear over the weekend that the gushing oil will likely be a political problem for the White House into August. BP admitted the "top kill" failed. White House environmental adviser Carol Browner on Meet the Press called this the "biggest environmental disaster" in the country's history. Now, BP moves to Option C, a containment dome that would just siphon off the oil but not shut down the flow from that pipe. The company says we'll know by the end of the week if it worked. By the way, it's been 43 days since the oilrig explosion. If oil continues to pour out of that pipe until Aug. 20th, that will make it 123 days. If it continues to flow at the same rate, three times as much oil will spill out in the next three months than already has. At the government-estimated minimum of 12,000 barrels, or 660,000 gallons, a day will be almost 1.5 million barrels of oil (more than 81 million gallons) that have flooded the gulf. That would be just about enough to fill a football stadium.
*** If it's Tuesday...: Voters go to the polls in Mississippi, New Mexico and Alabama. The races to watch are all GOP primaries -- in in MS-1, AL-5, AL GOV, NM GOV. Polls close in Alabama and Mississippi at 8:00 pm ET and in New Mexico at 9:00 pm ET. MS-1 is held by Democrat Travis Childers, but it's a seat Republicans are targeting -- and should have a good chance at flipping -- this fall. But there's a tough three-way primary between national Republicans' preferred pick state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, small-town Mayor Henry Ross, and Angela McGlowan, a former Fox News contributor, who has faded. This race is likely headed to a runoff, and Democrats think they have a good shot of holding the seat in the fall if Ross wins. If that happens, it's another penny in the change jar of races Republicans should win and would put them in the strongest possible position to take back the House.
*** Will Griffith go the way of Specter? When Parker Griffith switched parties from Democrat to Republicans last year, he stepped into an already-tough primary between county commissioner Mo Brooks and Les Phillip, a former Navy pilot. (One Week Ahead watcher quipped that before Griffith entered, this would have been a choice between "Mo" or "Les.") Griffith's party switch has been the main issue in the race. And Phillip, who is black, gave us an incendiary ad featuring Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and painting the election as a choice between himself and Barack Obama. "And they're not going to call me a racist," Phillip says in the ad. This district has voted for a Republican for president in every election since 1980, but it has never sent a Republican to Congress. This race is also likely headed to a runoff.
*** Most provocative ads of 2010: The state of Alabama, particularly the Republican primary in the governor's race has provided some of the most provocative ads this cycle. They have featured the mocking of front-runner Bradley Byrne for supposedly having been in favor of teaching evolution and not taking the Bible literally enough, as well as businessman Tim James' English-only ad. "This is Alabama," he says. "We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it." (By the way, James has seen an up tick in his poll numbers since the airing of those ads. He's likely headed for a second-place finish and a runoff with Byrne.) And don't forget, the third candidate is Roy Moore, the former chief state Supreme Court justice, who was ousted from the bench for refusing to remove a 5,300-pound display of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse.
*** Can GOP flip NM Gov? Republicans are hoping Susana Martinez, a county prosecutor, survives this bitter primary with former state party chairman Allen Weh. The two have fought over Weh's ads that allege Martinez didn't pay taxes on employees. The state party asked Weh to pull the ads it called untruthful. The RGA thinks Martinez, who has Sarah Palin's backing, has the best shot at flipping this seat, currently held by Bill Richardson. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) is favored in the fall.
*** Remember, elections are choices: Democrat Alexi Giannoulias has his own highly publicized family bank problems in the race for Barack Obama's former Senate seat. But, as the Chicago Tribune writes, "Character issues came to the fore Memorial Day in the U.S. Senate race as Democrat Alexi Giannoulias accused Republican Mark Kirk of embellishing his military record and being a typical Washington insider." The Washington Post broke the story: "The Republican candidate for President Obama's old Senate seat has admitted to inaccurately claiming he received the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award for his service during NATO's conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s." There are lots of flawed candidates running against each other. Think McMahon-Blumenthal, Sestak-Toomey, Reid-whoever. It’s a reminder that elections are choices.
*** Friday dump alert: What better time for the White House to come clean about the cable crack story of the Sestak "job" offer than on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The White House lawyer put out a memo saying Sestak was offered an unpaid advisory job while staying in Congress, that the offer was initiated by Rahm Emanuel and carried out by former President Bill Clinton in hopes of clearing the field for Arlen Specter. So how much blood can the Republicans squeeze out of this turnip now? Just asking, but is Darrell Issa going to call for an investigation into the president's illegal gambling activities after his admission last week that he rooted for North Carolina in 2009 so he could win a few dollars? The Sestak story is another example of how Republicans can drive a story just by paper statements. But the White House again showed its inability to anticipate and head off the potential firestorm that things it views as small and insignificant turn into. At the very least, it furthers the notion that the White House isn't "changing the ways of Washington" and as David Brooks said is operating with"politics as usual."
*** Michelle Obama's clout: Michelle Obama will be in Reno, NV, today for a "Let's Move" event at 2:45 pm ET. And who will be there with her for the cameras to see? Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader who's in a tough reelection fight. Reid will also join Obama at an event in Las Vegas at 6:00 pm ET. By the way, the first lady isn't a bad person to appear with if you're Reid. While her husband remains perhaps the most popular politician in Washington, she gets even better marks. The last time the NBC/WSJ poll looked at her favorability, back in January, she had a 55%/14% fav/unfav; President Obama was 52%/35%. There was a time she wasn't so popular, of course. Back in July 2008, she was 34%/31%. Since the campaign, she has largely steered away from politics, focusing instead on non-controversial items like supporting military families and wives and eliminating childhood obesity. During the entire health-care debate, she gave just one speech on the importance of health care. It’s somewhat surprising, especially since she is a former hospital administrator. She's one of the most accomplished first ladies to come into the White House in her own right, and she has largely focused instead on very traditional topics.
*** Also this week…: President Obama heads to Pittsburgh tomorrow ahead of Friday's jobs report on his latest White House to Main St. tour stop focusing on the economy. … The Obamas will also host a concert in honor of singer Paul McCartney tomorrow. … On Thursday, the trial begins for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery in the alleged attempted selling of Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
The New York Times jumps into the Alabama governor’s race, looking at Artur Davis’ chances on the Democratic side and that he’s trying an “Obama Coalition Style in Alabama Race.”
The Montgomery Advertiser reports that most political observers “expect a runoff in the Republican primary for governor, where seven men are running for the nomination, and “consider former two-year college system Chancellor Bradley Byrne and Greenville businessman Tim James the frontrunners.”
An Alabama GOP source is quoted in Talking Points Memo as saying that that Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith's two challengers, Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks and businessman Les Phillip, “are competing for the same voters against Griffith. ‘I'd give him probably a 60% chance of getting to 50 plus one,’ the source said, explaining that Griffith is favored to win but also that a runoff could be trickier for him.”
The Washington Post looks at today’s primary in the Republican primary for New Mexico governor and a donor who gave a lot of money to Susana Martinez. But the key issue? Immigration. “[I]t was Martinez's ads hammering former state party chairman Allen Weh on immigration as well as Martinez's endorsement by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) last month that have been the main forces behind her recent surge.”
Likely 2012 GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty said on Meet the Press that the economy is growing and admitted that it's, in part, because of the stimulus. But he said that growth is "phony."
Yet private sector growth has outpaced public jobs, like those for the Census, according to latest jobs reports. Pawlenty said it would become clear in 2011 and 2012 that the economy wasn't growing the way it should. But Republicans continue to put themselves in the difficult position of sounding like they're rooting for failure. As Pawlenty himself said, the administration will deserve "due credit" if/when the economy turns around.
“There's no clear [presidential] favorite among Republican voters in three key 2012 primary states, a new poll found Monday,” The Hill reports. “A survey of GOP voters in Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan found support for different candidates in each state.”
“Senator Scott Brown, while still opposing repealing the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, said that he would not mount a filibuster to prevent the Senate from voting on whether to permit gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military,” the Boston Globe writes.
“Lawmakers say that heightened election-year politics and harsher travel rules are behind the decrease in member CODELs over the Memorial Day recess,” The Hill writes. “‘It’s because of the optics in a political year -- if you go anywhere but a war zone you get whacked, which is too bad because there are important things to learn outside of combat zones,’” Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) is quoted as saying.
“The always-fractious relationship between House and Senate Democrats hit a dramatic low last week that resulted in Members leaving for the Memorial Day recess having failed to extend unemployment benefits or avert a pay cut for doctors under Medicare,” Roll Call writes.
“Minority Leader John Boehner said last week that he believes it will largely be Democrats who determine whether he becomes Speaker of the House next year. The Ohio Republican told Roll Call in an interview that the midterm elections will be 80 to 90 percent about the policies promoted by Democrats in Congress and the White House, having little to do with anything Republicans put forth.”
AP's Espo: “It's midway through President Barack Obama's term, and high unemployment, an outbreak of anti-incumbent fever and political history are pointing to strong Republican gains in the fall. Yet to a degree unimaginable a few months ago, the party's fate is tied to conservatives with tea party support, scant or no political experience, and views or backgrounds that are largely unknown to statewide electorates.”
“As the midterm elections near, Democrats have been forced to confront more directly the possibility that their House majority is in danger,” The Hill writes. “And now, front-line members of the Democratic caucus are being asked to sound the warning of a GOP takeback, hoping enough of the electorate will be convinced to keep Democrats in power.”
Rothenberg Political Report’s Nathan Gonzales makes a good point that just because the NRCC didn't get its preferred candidates in some races not to write those off automatically as Democratic wins in the fall. And he says look no further than 2006 for proof of that when Democrats won in some places where they didn't get their preferred candidate.
“Senate Republicans, positioned for significant gains but hoping a volatile political climate doesn’t turn against them, intend to add the “check and balance” argument to their messaging arsenal,” Roll Call writes.
ARIZONA: 'Broken Windows,' Broken Metaphors: Arizona Sen. candidate J.D. Hayworth (R), who is challenging incumbent John McCain, took some liberties on Meet the Press citing New York's "Broken Windows" policy out of context. It's true that as mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani (R) went after what was considered small crimes -- turnstile jumpers, jaywalkers, graffiti, squeegee men, prostitution. But to equate that to immigration is a false comparison. Mid-90s Mayor Giuliani (pre-presidential candidate) famously had this to say in 1994, per the New York Times: "Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens. If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you're one of the people who we want in this city. You're somebody that we want to protect, and we want you to get out from under what is often a life of being like a fugitive, which is really unfair."
CALIFORNIA:CQ: "A Boxer-Fiorina race would test whether a self-described economic and social-issue conservative Republican can prevail in a Democratic-leaning state where successful statewide Republican candidates, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, more often than not have tacked to the political center."
FLORIDA: “Faster than you can say multimillionaire, [Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum’s] aura of inevitability was shattered by a political neophyte who started spending money like Florida has never seen,” the Miami Herald writes. “By the end of next week, controversial businessman Rick Scott of Naples will have spent about $11 million on TV and radio ads over six weeks -- more than Charlie Crist spent overall in his lavishly funded 2006 primary against Tom Gallagher. Scott is on pace to spend $30 million by the Aug. 24 primary.”
ILLINOIS: “The Republican candidate for President Obama’s old Senate seat inaccurately claimed to have received the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award for service during NATO's conflict with Serbia in the late 1990s,” the Washington Post reported Sunday. Rather than Rep. Mark Kirk be given the award, bestowed yearly, upon an individual, “[a] professional group, the National Military Intelligence Association, gave Kirk's unit -- based in Aviano, Italy -- an award for outstanding service in 2000.”
“Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primary, is flirting with the idea of backing Republican nominee Mark Kirk in the general election,” instead of Giannoulias, Politico writes.
“Dogged for weeks by his family bank's implosion, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias on Wednesday finally got something he has sought since winning the Feb. 2 primary -- a warm embrace from the White House,” the Chicago Tribune writes. On Saturday “to a crowd the White House estimated at 2,000, Obama noted the presence of ‘treasurer and soon-to-be-senator Alexi Giannoulias.’”
In the flap over Mark Kirk’s military service, an adviser to Kirk says, “He misidentified the award he won and acknowledged as much. Not an exaggeration as there is no hierarchy between these awards as the Taylor Intelligence Award is equally distinguished.” He added, “We are not going to let an ethically-challenged, failed mob banker who cost the FDIC hundreds of millions when his bank collapsed and the state of Illinois tens of millions when he squandered college savings money to criticize the honorable and distinguished service record of a Naval officer when the only uniform he has ever worn was for a basketball team."
INDIANA:Stu Rothenberg reflects on the life and time of Mike Sodrel, the perpetual candidate, who lost his primary bid for yet another run against Baron Hill.
NEVADA:NPR jumps into the Nevada Senate race and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s chances.
Republican candidate Sue Lowden writes an op-ed for Politico, in which she defends her now-infamous chicken bartering observation: I want to set the record straight, clarify my position and shed light on the real motives behind this attack. The comment I made about bartering was not, and was never intended to be, a policy proposal. It was an example of how struggling families are working to pay for medical care in any way they can during these tough times.”
And the Las Vegas Sun reports that Democratic political action committee Patriot Majority is up with a new ad featuring man-on-the-street lampoons of Lowden’s comments.