Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Month in Review, January, 2013: Bo Mo, Cantor Banter, Old Joe and Bad, Bad Scotty Brown (February 6, 2013)

President Obama is clearly feeling his oats.  Gone is the weak-kneed negotiator desperately tacking center/center right in the hopes of finding a blue state plurality.  President Obama 2.0 sets his own agenda, stares down his opponents (it works!) and points a leftward course.  Where has this guy been?  (Easy answer:  same guy, but with post-election mojo fueled by a 52.5% post-election average approval rating.)

January was rather busy, especially for a government better known for paralysis.  Having won a partial victory on tax increases after a brief New Year’s Day adventure over the fiscal cliff, Obama quickly avoided the “next cliff,” with the Republicans deciding to postpone a fight over raising the debt ceiling by three months.  The next move on the debt  front – the sequester, due to take effect on March 1 – is an interesting one, as some Republicans, previously fearful of massive defense cuts, are now viewing the sequester cuts as being possibly better than any alternative negotiated outcome.   We’ll see what that deadline brings, and the Budget fight that follows, as well as the next round of the debt ceiling debates. 

But for now, Republican soul searching seems to be yielding more moderate rhetoric.  Eric Cantor, of all people, is itching to get the Republicans off their single-minded focus on government spending.  A Cantor aide was quoted in the New York Times as follows (presumably with Cantor’s blessing):  “We cannot win the hearts and minds of Americans if we are just talking about numbers, day in and day out. There are a lot of things Republicans care about.”  Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, was even blunter.  He said the Republicans had to “stop being the stupid party.” 

On the policy front, Obama is pushing hard for initiatives nowhere to be found in his first term, gun control (driven by the Newtown tragedy) and immigration (driven by Obama’s 71/27 election win among Hispanics).  Fresh from flexing his muscles successfully on the various tax/debt ceiling standoffs, he is clearly intending to make his second term a meaningful and progressive one.  Certainly his Inaugural Address, generally rated as an improvement over his first one (less na├»ve, more determined), is indicative of a revived, dare I say it, liberal agenda, encompassing not only those initiatives but embracing action on climate change and gay rights.

Second terms are usually disastrous.  From Franklin Roosevelt (the court packing failure), through Eisenhower (Sherman Adams scandal), LBJ (Vietnam), Nixon (need I say more), Reagan (Iran-Contra), Clinton (Monica), Bush 43 (need I say more) there is a 70-year track record of consistent squandering of presumably validating re-elections.  Obama surely has a chance to reverse that if the many “green shoots” of the economy turn into a robust recovery, if Iran (Iraq, Egypt, Syria et al) doesn’t spiral out of further control, if he stays out of scandal trouble, if he doesn’t overreach…..if, if, if, if, if!

Future Elections

Our focus here is on elections, and the next big one is coming up soon:  the “annual” Massachusetts Senate election, scheduled for June 25th.  My long-ago-predicted scenario came close to playing out…Scott Brown did lose to Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton did step down as Secretary of State, John Kerry was named to replace her, and a special election to replace him has been set.  But Scott Brown will not be running again.  Apparently unhappy with the prospect of running for the same seat for potentially four straight years (because the winner of the 2013 special election will indeed have to run again in 2014), he passed.  Lots of “big names” on the Dem side also passed, among them Ben Affleck, Ted Kennedy, Jr. and Victoria Kennedy.  So this sets up an election between unknowns, which bodes better for the Democrats to keep the seat, with establishment-backed Ed Markey (who represents the 5th district in the House) likely heading the Democratic ticket.

As for 2014, once again the Democrats will face a daunting task to keep their Senate majority (now 55-45), from strictly a numbers standpoint.  As of now, 35 of the 100 seats will be up for election, and the majority of them (21) are currently Democratic seats.  In the coming months I’ll be refining various scorecards and measures to see how it is shaping up.

A quick count shows Democrat vulnerability in at least ten states:

·         Alaska (Begich)
·         Arkansas (Prior)
·         Iowa (Harkin retiring)
·         Louisiana (Landrieu)
·         Massachusetts (assuming the Dems win in 2013 and Scott Brown decides to run in 2014)
·         Minnesota (Franken)
·         Montana (Baucus)
·         North Carolina (Hagen)
·         South Dakota (Johnson)
·         West Virginia (Rockefeller retiring)

Each of the 14 Republican seats up for re-election seems reasonably safe for the GOP.  Thus, the Democrats would have to win half of the ten in order to maintain the majority.

With GOP rhetoric moderating, election tactics seem to be following suit.  The ever-imaginative Karl Rove and his American Crossroads Super PAC are getting set to do battle with stupid – I mean, “unelectable” – Republican candidates.  His first target is right wing nut Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, an early contender for retiring Democrat Tom Harkin’s Senate seat in 2014.  Rove wants King shoved aside for a better candidate, and not have Iowa go the way of, say, Delaware in 2010 and Missouri and Indiana in 2012:  Senate seats the Republicans should have won but lost due to a particularly stupid – that is, “unelectable” – candidate finding his or her way to the top of the ticket (Christine “Not a Witch” O’Donnell, Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin and Richard “God’s Will” Mourdock, respectively.)

And 2016?  Well, have you noticed that Hillary Clinton’s language regarding a 2016 run has already softened?  And Joe Biden, if anything, has as much as said he’ll run, but does everyone realize a President Biden would be 74 at the time he would take his oath in January, 2017?  Personally, I feel almost certain that if Hillary is in, Biden will back off.  He will not want to get trounced by Hillary in a final primary run.  But I bet he’d take on Andrew Cuomo and the unknowns who are out there if Hillary stays on the sidelines.

And as for the Republicans, oh my.  Will the moderates – Christie, Bush, Daniels --  come out to play?  Will the conservatives finally put a decent candidate forward, and is he young turks Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio?  Will the primary process be altered?  Too much for even me to consider right now!  But stay tuned!

You want a song?  Oh yes, here's the tune of Jim Croce's big hit, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown"...

Well the red side of the Bay State
Is the smallest part of town
But if you go down there
You better just beware of a man named Scotty Brown

Now Scotty's got good approval ratings
You see he’s up about fifty-four
And the Chicago boys fear he just might pull a double
And grab that special seat once more

Cause he’s bad bad Scotty Brown
He turned the Bay State upside down
Handsomer than JFK
And waitin’ for another day

He’s got an old GMC Canyon
He’s got a spread inside Cosmo
He used to drain long jumpers
For that old Tufts varsity, for their elephant Jumbo

Now Scotty, he whipped Coakley
He’s no non-telegenic hack
He smashed Harry Reid’s superduper majority
And brought the filibuster back

Cause he’s bad bad Scotty Brown
He turned the Bay State upside down
Handsomer than JFK
And waitin’ for another day

But he lost to Lizzy Warren
She had the brand and she had the bucks
But when the GOP got rid of Susan Rice
You thought old Scotty’s back in luck

So the GOP went knocking
They said it’s yours again, Scott, our dream
And when you win again this coming June
You get to run again in ‘14

And then Scotty got to thinking
His mind a-closin’ like a steel trap
“I got a bright old future, maybe in the Statehouse
Why do I need that Senate crap?”

Cause he’s bad bad Scotty Brown
He turned the Bay State upside down
Handsomer than JFK
And waitin’ for another day
Handsomer than JFK (oh lawd)
Still waitin’ for another day….

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