The middle strikes back… Fear and loathing at the Values Voter Summit… Newt Gingrich -- an unserious man?... The 2012 Gang of Moderates?... Obama to campaign for Sestak, while Biden stumps for Strickland… DSCC hits O’Donnell with new TV ad, as O’Donnell becomes the first Senate candidate (we know of) who has admitted to dabbling in witchcraft… Abercrombie wins Hawaii’s Dem gubernatorial primary… And profiling OH-18.
*** The middle strikes back: After Christine O’Donnell’s victory last week, the middle of the Republican Party is now striking back. First, Lisa Murkowski announced late Friday that she was mounting a write-in bid, which has the potential to complicate the Alaska Senate race for Republicans (she refers to her GOP foe, Joe Miller, as an "extremist"). Next, on “Meet the Press,” Colin Powell said the Tea Party movement isn’t really addressing the issues. “I want to cut spending. I want to have lower taxes. But how do you do that?” he asked. Third, GOP Sen. Susan Collins took this shot at fellow Sen. Jim DeMint: “It is a new and shocking development to have a member of our conference opposing incumbent Republicans.” And fourth, the Sunday New York Times front-paged a story how New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg -- once a Republican and now an independent -- is working to help elect centrist Democrats and Republicans. “Look, people are angry,” he told the Times. “Their anger is understandable… Anger, however, is not a government strategy. It’s not a way to govern.”
*** Fear and loathing in DC: But there was plenty of anger at last week’s Values Voter Summit in DC, where Mike Pence won the presidential-preference straw poll. Here was Alabama Republican Dale Peterson, who was featured in some of the more colorful TV ads this cycle: “I may get arrows and bullets shot at me or something, but we've got a guy that hates America, I'm just gonna go ahead and say it. OK. Until we get rid of Barry, or Barack, or-- I haven't seen his little feet on that birth certificate, so I don't know what he is, alright.” Here was Gary Bauer: "The cause of the violence is an Islamic culture that keeps hundreds of millions of people right on the edge or murder and mayhem 24 hours a day!” And here was Newt Gingrich: “On the one front, we have a secular, socialist machine led by Obama, Pelosi and Reid, and on the other front we have radical Islamists, who would fundamentally change this country into a system none of us would recognize.”
*** An Unserious Man: Indeed, for someone who has been admired for his ideas, Gingrich in the last two years has been reaching in the bottom of the barrel in American politics. In addition to his comments at the Values Voter Summit, Gingrich said that the best way to understand Obama was through his “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." And in 2009, he called Sonia Sotomayor a racist. If he runs in 2012, are these comments enough to disqualify him as a serious presidential candidate? Bottom line: He is on his way to forfeiting legitimacy as serious voice inside the Republican Party. In fact, both Powell and Bill Clinton ganged up on Newt on “Meet” yesterday. Here was Powell: “Mr. Gingrich does these things from time to time with a big, bold statement... And he does it occasionally to make news and to also stir up dust.” And here was Clinton: “Well, keep in mind, after the 1994 election, one of the first things that Speaker Gingrich said was that Hillary and I were the enemy of normal Americans.” But at what point is Gingrich no longer excused for this talk with, "Oh, it's Newt being Newt." He's not an unfiltered politician, but someone who is actually very careful about what he says; this isn't the crazy aunt or uncle in the basement.
*** The Gang of Moderates: Here’s one other point we want to make about the middle striking back: Note these senators who are all up in 2012: Snowe, Dick Lugar, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, Bob Corker, Bob Casey, and Jim Webb. What do they all have in common? They’re all moderates, and all of them could face -- potentially -- tough primaries or general elections two years from now. Don’t be surprised if these folks try to work with each other to stay elected. It will be an interesting caucus to follow. This gang (of something or other) is going to make a comeback, and if they actually stick together they COULD, become a governing force. The Balkanization of the Senate appears to be inevitable.
*** Pence: I’m a Christian first: And here’s another point we want to make about the Values Voter Summit: It shouldn’t be surprising that Pence won the straw poll. Why? Because out of all the potential 2012ers, he made his Christianity front and center. “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order,” he said. And note his use of the word "conservative" before "Republican"; that's also something the base likes to hear. They are angry enough at the Republican Party, so branding one's self as a "conservative" is how many of these Washington Republicans or establishment Republicans can attempt to show some distance from what the base has NOT liked about the GOP.
*** Obama’s day: At noon ET, President Obama participates in a town-hall discussion on jobs that’s sponsored by CNBC. Then, later in the afternoon, he heads to Philly to host three fundraising events for Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak and the DNC. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden today campaigns for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
*** DSCC hits O’Donnell in TV ad: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is airing a new TV ad in Delaware that hits O'Donnell (R) for not paying her previous campaign aides, for racking up debt during her '08 campaign, and for not paying her taxes. “We don't know a lot about Christine O'Donnell. But here's what we do know: She'll fit right in, in Washington,” the ad’s narrator says. “O'Donnell spends money she doesn't have. Hired employees she didn't pay. Stiffed businesses. Didn't pay her taxes.” Of course, the biggest story involving O’Donnell is the video clip of her admitting that she “dabbled into witchcraft.”
*** M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I: We'll have more on the Alaska Senate race later this week, as well as the power these indie/third party candidacies might have in helping the Democrats hang on to House and Senate seats they'd otherwise lose. But keep this in mind about Alaska: The Democrats may not be able to put this Senate seat in play, even with Murkowski write-in bid. The base Democratic vote has proven to be VERY weak in federal races in non-presidential election years. In the seven House or Senate general elections dating back to 1990, the average percentage for the Democratic nominee for either race is 27%. The high was 40% in the 2006 House race; the low was 11% in the 2002 Senate race (Stevens win). The generic Dem vote in Alaska is a lot lower than in most states. And Check out Murkowski's Web site; there’s no use of the word "Republican.” She'll be appealing to some union members (huge chunk in Alaska actually) and some Democrats.
*** Aloha and goodbye to the primary season: In the final competitive primary of the cycle, ex-Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie “crushed former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann 60 percent to 38 percent” in the Democratic primary for governor, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported. In the general election, Abercrombie will face Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R).
*** 75 House races to watch: OH-18: The Democratic nominee is two-term incumbent Zack Space, and the GOP nominee is state Sen. Bob Gibbs. McCain won 53% of the vote in the district in 2008, while Bush got 57% in ’04. As of June 30, Space had $1.3 million in the bank, versus Gibbs’ $200,000. Space voted for the stimulus and cap-and-trade, but voted no on health care. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate the contest as Lean Democrat.
*** More midterm news: In Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal has a TV ad responding to attacks from Team McMahon.
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 43 days
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