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BLOG ARCHIVE: NOVEMBER 2005

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WEDESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

OHIO: Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (D) unexpectedly quit the race for Governor on Tuesday, ensuring clear sailing next year for Congressman Ted Strickland's bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Coleman said he came to his decision about ending his campaign over the Thanksgiving holiday, explaining he needed to spend more time with his family and be focused on the duties of his current office. Only a few months ago, it appeared Coleman would be largely unopposed for the Dem nomination. Strickland still faces a relatively minor primary challenge from former State Representative Bryan Flannery. Also, some Ohio newspapers speculated talk show host and former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer (D) could still jump into the race, but that now seems unlikely. State Senator and former Congressman Eric Fingerhut (D) -- who was the Dem nominee for US Senate in 2004 -- also signalled his intention to enter the race. "Michael Coleman’s withdrawal from this race leaves a void ... This race needs a candidate who understands that Ohio is facing competition from around the world for good jobs and opportunities for our citizens," said Fingerhut. Strickland would also be considered the frontrunner over Fingerhut, if he enters the contest. On the GOP side, recent polls show Secretary of State Ken Blackwell leading a hotly contested race against Attorney General Jim Petro and State Auditor Betty Montgomery. In related news, term-limited Governor Bob Taft II (R) continues to be an albatross hanging from the neck of Ohio Republicans. A new Zogby/Toledo Blade poll shows Taft -- who pled guilty to misdemeanor ethics violations a few months ago -- now has an unimaginably bad approval rating of only 6.5%. Nearly half of all respondents said Taft ran a "purposely corrupt" administration, and 61% said Taft should have resigned when he pled guilty in August. Not trying to sound too cynical here, but I think Stalin or Imelda Marcos could possibly score ratings of 6.5% in the US today (even on a bad day). Taft's spokesman dismissed the poll results, explaining "Governor Taft does not govern by the polls."
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.30.05 | Permalink |

MICHIGAN: The last entrant into the GOP contest for US Senator is also clearly the strongest candidate to win next year's primary, according to the latest EPIC/MRA poll conducted for state newspapers. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard is at 27%, followed by Evangelical pastor Keith Butler at 12% and college professor Jerry Zandstra at 11%. The same poll, however, showed incumbent US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) leading each of the Republicans by wide margins exceeding 20%.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.30.05 | Permalink |

NEW YORK: A top state Republican called on Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro (R) to quit the race against US Senator Hillary Clinton (D). State Senator Majority Leader Joe Bruno praised Pirro's qualifications but urged her to abandon the race against Clinton and instead switch to a different statewide race that a GOP candidate may have a better shot of winning. "Senator Bruno is a respected majority leader and I appreciate his confidence in my abilities. However, I am a candidate for US Senate," answered Pirro, in a released statement. Pirro is backed by retiring Governor George Pataki, but is facing opposition from Conservative Party leaders because of her pro-choice views. Pirro will face former Yonker Mayor John Spencer and tax attorney Bill Brenner in the GOP primary.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.30.05 | Permalink |

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Doug Duncan for Governor (D-Maryland).

FREE SPEECH ZONE: One of y'all amusingly suggested this name -- derivative of the fenced, black-topped, heavily policed areas, located blocks away from political conventions, where demonstrators are herded to enable them to exercise their first amendment rights far from the view of those they came to protest -- for our daily open thread. Comments continue to be fairly evenly split on the concepts of "one daily thread "versus "one thread per item." We had several hundred comments posted yesterday under our new format -- but the problem probably was that we simply had too many topics available for commenting. Yeah, I know ... baby steps. So, let's try it today with a few less items.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.30.05 | Permalink |

TUESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

GUILTY: Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) pled guilty to corruption charges and resigned from office in Monday. He admitted to tax fraud and criminal conspiracy charges for accepting over $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for working to influence the Defense Department to award valuable projects to favored contractors. Cunningham chaired a key House Appropriations subcommittee on armed forces. Cunningham reportedly used the bribes to buy a California mansion, a DC suburban condo, a yacht, and a Rolls Royce. Under the plea deal, Cunningham will forfeit to the federal government his $2.5 million mansion and approximately $1.8 million in cash and other goods, plus face up to ten years in prison and be fined up to $350,000. A decorated Vietnam War combat pilot and former Navy "Top Gun" school instructor, the legislator said he was "truly sorry ... The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office. I know I will forfeit my reputation, my worldly possessions -- most importantly the trust of my friends and family." The resignation will also necessitate a special election primary in January for the heavily Republican CD-50 seat. Cunningham had previously announced plans to retire next year, prompting a large crowd to already jump into the contest. State Senator Bill Morrow (R), former State Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian (R) and multimillionaire businessman Alan Uke (R) appear to be among the first tier of candidates for the special election. College professor Francine Busby (D) -- the nominee against Cunningham in 2004 -- is again running.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

MORE HILL CORRUPTION: And, speaking of financial corruption in Congress ... what's the status with the federal criminal investigations of Congressmen Bob Ney (R-OH) and Bill Jefferson (D-LA)? Ney is deeply ensnared in the broad Abramoff-Scanlon-DeLay corruption probe. As for Jefferson, the FBI several months ago seized a large amount of cash -- purported to be bribe money -- found hidden in a freezer in Jefferson's New Orleans home. Don't be surprised to see these two soon be indicted on charges of accepting bribes in unrelated cases -- plus possibly more indictments of others tied to the Abramoff mess.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

IDAHO: The gubernatorial primary is still six months away, but the major party nomination contests have already played out. Two-term Governor Dirk Kempthorne (R) is retiring. Congressman C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) -- a colorful former four-term Lieutenant Governor -- launched his campaign for Governor in December 2004. Otter's early start and major fundraising advantage helped convince current Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch (R) to announce he will seek re-election next year instead of challenging Otter. "I think it's probably a wise decision on [Risch's] part," said State Senator Dean Cameron (R). Newspaper publisher Jerry Brady (D) -- the '02 nominee against Kempthorne -- is unopposed for the Dem nomination. He also welcomed Risch's decision. "It seemed terribly likely that Otter was going to beat Risch. I'd rather it be Brady vs. Otter than Risch vs. Otter. That's what we're going to have in November anyway, so let's start talking about it now," he told the Idaho Statesman. While Brady is a credible candidate, I'd rate this open seat race as "GOP Favored" because this is the reddest of Red States.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

MASSACHUSETTS: A new State House News Service tracking poll shows the Dems well positioned to recapture the Governor's Mansion next year. According to the poll, Governor Mitt Romney (R) -- who appears likely to pass on the race in favor of making a 2008 White House run -- had an approval rating of 47% favorable versus 43% unfavorable, indicating an 8-point drop in support over the past few months. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey -- who will likely be the GOP nominee if Romney passes on the race -- had an approval rating of 33% favorable versus 30% unfavorable. In specific general election match-ups, Democratic frontrunner Attorney General Tom Reilly looks very strong. Reilly led Romney by a vote of 52% to 36%, and led Healey by an even wider vote of 56% to 25%. Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin (D) also led Romney, but just by 5-points. Galvin led Healey by 21%. Romney held a narrow 2-point lead over former US Assistant Attorney General Deval Patrick -- but Patrick held a 12-point advantage over Healey. Romney -- who this week becomes chair of the Republican Governors Association -- has promised to make a public decision on seeking re-election by the end of the year.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

NEW JERSEY: Governor-elect Jon Corzine (D) told the Bergen Record he will announce his choice for his soon-to-be-vacant US Senate seat within the next two weeks. Despite Corzine claiming he is still giving a wide range of prospects "serious consideration" for the job, Congressman Bill Pascrell (D) met with Corzine and says he believes the choice is already down to just three men: Congressmen Bob Menendez (D), Rob Andrews (D) and Frank Pallone (D). Of those, Pascrell said he believes Menendez is the heavy favorite to win the appointment. "I think [Corzine] has a great deal of respect for Bob's intellect, his wherewithal and his ability to get things done -- and it's a great plus for the State of New Jersey to have a Hispanic Senator," said Pascrell, who noted he would also like to be considered for the job. Menendez already has over $4 million in his campaign account, giving him a more than twice the cash-on-hand for next year's election over any of the other potential contenders.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Butch Otter for Governor.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

OPEN THREAD: This is a test ... this is only a test ... For the next few days, I'll try a return to multiple threads and see how it plays out. Perhaps this will improve the relevancy of the comments in the threads and level of civil discourse -- while still having the open thread for the more chat room type discussions (plus all the name-calling, partisan bickering, etc., that many of you seem to enjoy).
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.29.05 | Permalink |

MONDAY NEWS UPDATE.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS: While "officially" nearly all House Republicans continue to express support for the quick return of Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) as the House Majority Leader -- hoping he can quickly put his criminal charges behind him -- that may not be what some of them are really thinking. As previously reported, Congressman Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) said he would prefer having Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO) -- the Acting Majority Leader -- remaining in the post permanently. Now conservative columnist Bob Novak reports that Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) is "quietly enlisting support from fellow House Republicans to elect him as Majority Leader in January." Novak also reported NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds (R-NY) appears to be Boehner's runningmate for the Majority Whip position. Reynolds denies he is seeking the Whip job, saying he instead is focusing on his NRCC duties for the 2006 election cycle.

IRAQ: Congressmen Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ike Skleton (D-MO) were both injured on Sunday in Baghdad when the military vehicle in which they were riding overturned. Murphy was airlifted to a US military hospital in Germany to have an MRI performed because of possible neck injury. Skelton -- who was less seriously injured -- was sent to a local hospital in Bagdad "for evaluation." Congressman Jim Marshall (D-GA) was also in the vehicle, but was uninjured. The injuries to Murphy and Skelton are reported to be minor.

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Surfrider Foundation. As I spent Sunday out surfing, this seemed a natural choice for today. But "political"? You bet! This non-profit international environmental group works to preserve our oceans, waves and beaches -- and uses the website, blog, email action alerts, etc., to direct those activities. Over 40,000 members and 60 chapters in the US.

OPEN THREAD DEBATE (CON'T): Here is something to keep discussing and give me some feedback (either here in the thread or by email): Should we continue to have one thread per day -- regardless of how many items we post -- or should we go back to how we had it during the 2004 campaign where every item had its own comment thread? The comments posted in the weekend blog ran about 2:1 for keeping it as is, while the emails ran 2:1 in favor of returning to separate threads for each item. My concern is doing something to improve the quality and relevance of the comments -- while still giving people a place to engage in nasty, partisan, personal exchanges, if they so desire.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.28.05 | Permalink |

WEEKEND OPEN THREAD.

OPEN THREAD: In addition to posting whatever political topic is on your mind today, here is something to discuss and give me some feedback (either here in the thread or by email): Should we continue to have one thread per day -- regardless of how many items we post -- or should we go back to how we had it during the 2004 campaign where every item had its own comment thread?

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: SinceSlicedBread.com - A very cool idea from the SEIU to promote citizen participation to improve our nation.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.26.05 | Permalink |

FRIDAY NEWS UPDATE.

DC CORRUPTION PROBE EXPANDS: According to the Wall Street Journal, the US Justice Department investigation into possible influence-peddling and bribery by indicted Republican lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon has now been expanded to include their dealings with four federal legislators, 17 past or present congressional staffers, and two former mid-level Bush Administration officials. Scanlon pled guilty earlier this week in a plea bargain and is now cooperating with the prosecutors. Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) has already been named as a central focus of the expanded probe for allegedly accepting "a stream of things of value" in direct exchange for using his office to help the lobbyists' clients. According to WSJ, those elected officials now joining Ney under federal investigation for possible bribery and corruption purportedly include US Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA). Of the seventeen Hill staffers targeted, five are reported to have worked in DeLay's office. The newspaper reported federal prosecutors are particularly interested in learning more about why Burns "helped one of Mr. Abramoff's clients -- the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan -- win a $3 million grant from Congress [while] Mr. Burns was the chairman of a key Senate subcommittee that allocated the funds to the tribe." The allegations include reports Burns received illegal favors and over $130,000 in campaign contributions for assisting Abramoff. The newspaper said it was not yet clear why Doolittle is part of the investigation, although WSJ reported that "the Justice Department subpoenaed documents more than a year ago from Mr. Doolittle's wife, a Republican fund-raiser [and] Mr. Abramoff also hired Kevin Ring, a top Doolittle aide." Other recent news articles also alleged prominent Religious Right political consultant Ralph Reed -- a 2006 GOP candidate for Georgia Lieutenant Governor -- was also involved with Abramoff's activities. Reed -- a close Abramoff friend since the early 1980s -- reportedly financed large portions of anti-lottery and anti-gambling campaigns he was hired to run with millions of dollars Abramoff funnelled from his Indian gaming clients through the bank accounts of the Christian Coalition and other groups. In 2002, Abramoff purportedly worked secretly with Reed to force the closure of a casino owned by the Tigua Indian tribe -- which then created an opening for Abramoff to get the same tribe to hire him to lobby Congress to reopen the casino.

P2008: Compared to the Abramoff corruption investigation, this story is relatively minor league (pun intended). New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) admitted an autobiographical story he's used for years about once having been drafted by the Kansas City A's to play pro baseball was false. Richardson now explains we should mark this one down as an error, as he was confused and had thought he was drafted, but now agrees he actually wasn't.

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.25.05 | Permalink |

THANKSGIVING NEWS UPDATE.

ARIZONA: Eleven-term Congressman Jim Kolbe (R) -- a GOP centrist and a respected leader on free trade issues -- announced his retirement on Wednesday. Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in Congress, has faced vigorous challenges from right and left yet won by comfortable margins in nearly all of his past races. The 63-year-old incumbent blamed the nasty climate in DC as the leading reason for his retirement: "I have both the energy and the enthusiasm for the job I do, and I am confident that I would win re-election if I chose to run ... [but] the mood on Capitol Hill is not a pleasant one. There's a divisiveness that I think we haven't seen in a long time and I worry about that. I like to think that I've been a moderating influence on that." Kolbe said he may like to teach when his term ends. US House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) both quickly called on Kolbe to reconsider and seek re-election. Kolbe's CD-8 seat could produce a competitive race, although the voting history leans Republican. Kolbe -- who has held the seat since 1984 -- told the Arizona Republic that his open seat is "going to be a tough district for another Republican to hold on to." See our Arizona page for a list of some of the names in play.

NEW JERSEY: Outgoing Acting Governor Dick Codey (D) -- whom all polls showed was the favored choice of NJ voters and the DSCC's choice to be appointed to Governor-elect Jon Corzine's (D) soon-to-be-vacant US Senate seat -- announced Wednesday he does not want the job. Codey, who will return to his former job of Senate President when he leaves the Governor's Mansion, explained he and his wife enjoy their current life in New Jersey and have no desire to live in Washington. Codey's withdrawal sets the stage for intense jockeying by the various Congressmen who want the interim appointment to bolster their candidacies for the Senate seat next year.

NEBRASKA: US Senator Ben Nelson (D) is in good shape for re-election next year against two of his leading GOP opponents, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll. Nelson led wealthy former Ameritrade COO Pete Ricketts by a vote of 52% to 29%. Nelson also led former State GOP Chair David Kramer by a 57% to 25% vote. Rasmussen did not poll Nelson against former Attorney General Don Stenberg (R).

ROGER AND ME REDUX: You've gotta appreciate the great holiday timing shown by General Motors in announcing plans this week to close a dozen vehicle manufacturing plants. The move will result over time in layoffs of 30,000 auto workers. "The decisions we are announcing today were very difficult to reach because of their impact on our employees and the communities where we live and work ... Frankly, we've done it in the fairest and most cost-effective way we could do it," said GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, who Forbes reported currently earns over $4.8 million a year in his salary, bonuses and other compensation.

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Blog for Ohio, the official campaign blog of State Senator Marc Dann (D), a candidate for Ohio Attorney General.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.24.05 | Permalink |

WEDNESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

OREGON: Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) officially ended the speculation he would not seek a second term next year in the face of rather weak poll numbers. Instead, Kulongoski filed official paperwork on Tuesday to launch his 2006 re-election bid. He faces at least a dozen announced opponents to date, including Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and an Independent. Kulongoski's biggest threat. however, comes from the potential comeback candidacy by former Governor Jon Kitzhaber (D) -- the target of a draft effort -- who says he isn't planning on running, but declines to firmly close the door on the race.

P2008: Add another name into the Democratic mix of potential candidates: US Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). According to The Washington Note blog, Dodd spoke this week at a DC insiders' dinner and movie event co-hosted by journalist Margaret Carlson and US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). At the event -- which was also attended by Chris Matthews, Terry McAuliffe, Matt Cooper, Tony Blankley and others -- Dodd "conveyed his interest in running for the presidency in 2008. He said this pretty directly to [former DNC Chair] Terry McAuliffe ... By the time official sounding remarks were made, Margaret Carlson introduced Dodd as the Senator who might or might not be running." Dodd flirted with a White House run in 2004 -- he even seemed on the verge of announcing and promised to run an "unorthodox" campaign -- but, as a new father (his son was born in 2001), Dodd ultimately decided to pass on the 2004 race.

DELAWARE: Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D) decided to select a caretaker to serve as the state's next Attorney General. Minner created the vacancy in the statewide elective post by appointing longtime Attorney General Jane Brady (R) to a state judgeship. Attorney and military reserve officer Joseph "Beau" Biden III (D) -- son of US Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) -- took advantage of the looming vacancy by announcing his 2006 candidacy for the post. Biden's announcement, however, did not prompt Minner to select him. Instead, she tapped Chief Deputy Attorney General Carl Danberg (D) as the new AG -- a move praised by Brady. Danberg immediately announced he will not seek the office next year and is instead supporting young Biden's candidacy.

OHIO: It's just a rumor, but the current buzz in the Buckeye State is that Congressman Ted Strickland (D) will ask his friend Congressman Sherrod Brown (D) to be his runningmate for Lieutenant Governor next year. Brown is currently a candidate for US Senate in the primary against attorney and Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett (D), with the winner facing incumbent Mike DeWine (R) in the general election. The move -- if it happens -- would leave Hackett unopposed in the Dem Senate primary. Strickland and Hackett are both from the more centrist, pro-gun faction of the Demicratic Party, while Brown is a more traditional liberal.

TEXAS: Texas District Court Judge Pat Priest heard legal arguments on Tuesday on the Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). While DeLay is seen as having a fairly good shot at having the judge throw out the state criminal charges, Judge Priest said he will need about two weeks to deliberate before issuing his ruling..

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Real Clear Politics. Lots of news and op-ed links, updated daily, with a conservative slant. (See, I told you this award is not about ideology, party, etc.)
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.23.05 | Permalink |

TUESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

TEXAS: Legal observers in Texas believe there is at least a 50/50 chance that the state judge in the criminal conspiracy case against former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) will be dismissed at Tuesday's court hearing. If that takes place, look for DeLay to immediately return to DC and seek reinstatement as Majority Leader. The key issue before Judge Pat Priest on Tuesday's motion to dismiss is whether the alleged crimes were actually crimes under Texas law when they took place in 2002.

MARYLAND: The latest Rasmussen Reports poll on the US Senate race here shows the contest remains very competitive. Congressman Ben Cardin (D) led Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele (R) by a vote of 49% to 41%. However, if former Congressman Kweisi Mfume wins the Dem nomination, Steele led Mfume by a 45% to 44% vote. Steele has lost ground against both Dems since the previous Rasmussen poll. Of the three major candidates, only Mfume has a disapproval rating disastrously larger than his approval rating. President Bush also scored a dismal 38% approval rating in the state.

UTAH: According to a new Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll, US Senator Orrin Hatch (R) could potentially have more problems next year than he anticipated. The poll showed 45% of voters said Hatch "should be re-elected" next year to a sixth term, versus 48% who said they wanted to "give someone new a chance to serve." Said Hatch's campaign manager to the newspaper: "We feel comfortable with these numbers."

P2008: Outgoing Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D) is on a political swing through New Hampshire this week. On top of that, check out the new website for Warners's PAC -- Forward Together PAC -- which will convince you he's running for President. Officially, the wealthy former Nextel founder Warner says he created the PAC because he wants "to be a significant voice in the debate on how we move our country forward." Translation: Yup, he's running for President.

NEW YORK: According to the New York Post, US Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is trying to cause problems for the gubernatorial aspirations of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D).The newspaper reported that Schumer "is secretly encouraging Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi" to make a primary challenge to Spitzer. Schumer and Spitzer are long-term rivals within the party and purportedly strongly dislike each other. Even if Suozzi enters the contest -- including with Schumer's help -- he would still be an underdog against Spitzer and his soon-to-be $20 million campaign treasury. In related news, Schumer is also stepping on Dem toes across the state line in New Jersey. As the chair of the DSCC, Schumer told reporters he is interviewing potential US Senate candidates to determine their suitability for appointment to the soon-to-be vacant seat -- even though that decision will lay squarely in the hands of Governor-elect Jon Corzine (D). Corzine is reportedly displeased with publicity hound Schumer for trying to meddle with his appointment process.

SITE OF THE DAY: Our Site of the Day Award winner: Taegan Goddard's PoliticalWire.com. A great resource for political headlines.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.22.05 | Permalink |

MONDAY NEWS UPDATE.

OHIO: Congressman Bob Ney (R), chair of the House Administration Committee, must be rather nervous these days. On Friday, Michael Scanlon -- a former Tom DeLay congressional aide and former partner of indicted DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- pled guilty in a plea bargain to one federal felony related to a corruption conspiracy. Scanlon also offered to testify in related cases, in exchange for leniency consideration in his sentencing. According to court papers, Scanlon pled guilty and admitted he "provided a stream of things of value" to an unnamed Congressman -- referred to as "Representative No. 1" -- who, in return, "agreed to perform a series of official acts," including "agreements to support and pass legislation, agreements to place statements into the Congressional Record," and held meetings with their clients. Attorneys involved in the case, including Ney's own attorney, confirmed for the media that Ney is the "Representative No. 1" referenced in the Scanlon indictment. According to the New York Times, Ney received "gifts, tickets and meals ... including a now infamous golfing trip to Scotland ... in exchange for helping Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff with their [Indian tribe gaming] clients." Speaking through his attorney, Ney denied any wrongdoing and offered to cooperate with prosecutors. Ney also claimed he "was tricked by Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff into assisting their clients." The wording of the indictment, interestingly, also suggested other unnamed Members of Congress are under criminal investigation in the case. Because of Ney's ethics problems, Democrats were recently able to recruit Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer -- a former State Representative and Vietnam War veteran -- to challenge the incumbent next year. With mounting bad press like this, the Ohio CD-18 race moves into the competitive "Leans GOP" category if Ney is the GOP nominee.

VIRGINIA: A quick update on the still unresolved race for Attorney General. With nearly everything counted, Bob McDonnell (R) leads Creigh Deeds (D) by just 341 votes out of over 1.9 million cast. The initial count is winding down -- with lawyers and observers from both sides involved -- and should be completed sometime before the November 28 certification deadline. After that, a recount is certain to be demanded by whichever man ends up losing in the first count.

ILLINOIS: The Illinois Libertarian Party voted at their convention earlier this month to not field any statewide candidates next year. It will be the first time since the 1970s that the LP failed to nominate any statewide candidates in the Land of Lincoln. Party leaders claim the move will allow them to rebuild their financial resources. Despite the absence of the LP, the Constitution Party and Green Party are both running statewide candidates in Illinois next year.

SITE OF THE DAY: During the 1998 election cycle, Politics1 gave out an award to political websites -- irrespective of ideology, party, electoral viability or candidate -- that effectively used the net to advance their causes. The criteria -- while certainly subjective ("I'll know it when I see it") -- required any one (or a combination) of the following: good content, sharp design, clever humor, creativity, innovation in organizing, use of new online tools, etc. Well, as you can surmise, I've brought back the concept of the Politics1 Site of the Day Award (and also added it to the above site directory). There won't be a new winner every day, but I'll try to name one as frequently as possible. So, without further ado, let me present our first Site of the Day Award winner: Pete Ashdown for US Senate (D-UT). Based on a visit to his campaign website, one could nickname internet executive and US Senate challenger Pete Ashdown the "open source candidate." FYI: Open source is tech talk for a program that has its source code freely shared so that programmers can possibly improve upon it and widely redistribute it to others. While many campaigns have blogs -- and so does this site -- Ashdown goes much further in allowing richer public participation on his campaign website -- and in the campaign itself. If you want to see full citizen involvement opportunities in a campaign, click on the "Collaborate" menu option. Ashdown is in an uphill fight against incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch (R), who is a seeking a sixth term.

MOVIE REVIEW: When controversial liberal filmmaker Michael Moore was invited to speak at Utah Valley State College in October 2004, young local filmmaker Steve Greenstreet thought it would develop into an interesting story on free speech. He was right. The end result was the film This Divided State (now available on DVD). From the start, both sides waged a pitched battle of words in the local media, on campus, in the city of Orem, and ultimately in the courts. Conservatives in the very Red State wanted to block Moore from speaking, and attempted to impeach the student body president and VP who approved it. As a compromise, the school brought in conservative Sean Hannity to speak just days before Moore's speech. In the end -- even though both Hannity and Moore ultimately were able to go forward with their scheduled events -- the fight showed the real rift that exists and the threat to our freedoms (especially in light of the movie's postscript). Sadly, most Americans appear to no longer tolerate those across the political divide and have lost the ability to respectfully debate issues as a community. A balanced presentation, fairly respectful of both sides. I agree with the Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and others who recommended this very thought-provoking film.

BOOK REVIEW: I received a book in the mail the other day that made me chuckle, so I wanted to share it with you. Okay, I'll say right up from it is a book -- Clueless George Goes to War -- that will likely only amuse progressives and libertarians. If you couldn't tell, the book is intentionally evocative of H.A. Rey's beloved Curious George series of children's stories. Editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley manages to deftly touch upon the 9/11 attack, the Iraq War, the influence of Vice President Cheney, and the Patriot Act in this slim (32-page) paperback book. Consider it to be a very amusing children's book intended just for adults.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.21.05 | Permalink |

WEEKEND OPEN THREAD.

QUICK TAKES: In remarks on the House floor on Friday, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) called Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) -- a decorated Korean War and Vietnam War combat veteran -- a "coward" because of his new position on the Iraq War. She was later forced to return to the House floor to withdraw her remarks and apologize to Murtha ... Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald signaled he plans to bring more charges in the CIA-leak probe case. He announced he will begin presenting evidence to a new grand jury.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.19.05 | Permalink |

FRIDAY NEWS UPDATE.

IRAQ: In a major -- and unexpected -- blow, the Bush Administration lost the support of a key Democratic Congressional hawk who had been a staunch supporter of the Iraq War. Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) -- a conservative Dem from a blue collar district -- is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who served in the US Marine Corps for 37years. In strong remarks delivered Thursday, Murtha called for the immediate start of US troop withdrawals from Iraq. "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region ... Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the US can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home," said Murtha. Pundits immediately speculated that Murtha's shift may also embolden other centrists on the fence to come out against the war and for a quick withdrawal. In response, US House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) quickly shot back at Murtha: "I am saddened by the comments made today by Representative Murtha. It is clear that as Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant on Armed Services, Representative Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury, this is done while the President is on foreign soil ... Representative Murtha and other Democrats want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world." White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Murtha is "a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party." Retorted Murtha: "Lashing out at critics doesn't help a bit." Buckle your seatbelts, folks, because this fight on the Hill is going to get very personal and very rough.

FLORIDA: It seems this week's Quinnipiac University poll on the gubernatorial race -- which most derided as an outlier -- may not have been so off the mark. A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows Congressman Jim Davis (D) leading Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) by a vote of 41% to 38%. When Davis is matched against State CFO Tom Gallagher (R), the two men were tied with 40% apiece.

PATRIOT ACT: Just as Congress appeared on the verge of reauthorizing the Bush Administration's controversial Patriot Act, a bipartisan group of Senators threatened to block passage. US Senators Larry Craig (R-ID), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Sununu (R-NH), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) issued a joint letter Thursday stating that "if further changes are not made, we will work to stop this bill from becoming law." The six expressed "deep concern" the compromise version of the Patriot Act will still fail to "protect innocent people from unnecessary and intrusive government surveillance." House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) agrees with the White House and wants to retain virtually all of the government's current powers under the Act. Observers believe the six may have the influence to derail the delicate compromise and kill the Act if they don't win the protections they are seeking.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.18.05 | Permalink |

THURSDAY NEWS UPDATE.

WISCONSIN: A new Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College poll shows that Governor Jim Doyle (D) appears to be in better political shape for re-election than had been previously believed. According to the poll, Doyle currently leads both of his announced GOP opponents in potential general election match-ups. Doyle led Congressman Mark Green (R) by a vote of 45% to 32%. Doyle led Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) by a 46% to 31% vote. A new poll by a Republican polling firm -- released this week -- showed Doyle leading the two challengers by margins of 6-points or less.

P2008 - BIDEN OFFERS NEW FLAVOR OF WAFFLE: In an interview this week with KDKA TV and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, US Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) criticized potential rival John Edwards (D-NC) for apologizing for his previous Senate vote in support of the Iraq War. "I think [Edwards] did made a mistake. He voted for the war and against funding it, I think that was a mistake. The only regret I had voting for the war is that I never anticipated how incompetent the Administration would be in using the authority we gave them to avoid war," said Biden. Oh, okay ... so he was for the war only, soft of, conceptually ... but not for the war in actuality. Talk about a stance that by contrast makes John Kerry's tortured inability to explain his Iraq position during the 2004 campaign look good. Or compare Biden with US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) -- another likely 2008 White House candidate -- who stuck his neck out in June to suggest a firm Iraq troop withdrawal date. While only one Dem Senator was willing to co-sponsor Feingold's proposal a few months ago, 40 Senators voted for the idea this week. John Kerry also jumped on the withdrawal bandwagon this month -- at least, in part -- calling for a December pull-out of 20,000 US troops. If the anti-war crowd is looking for a candidate, Biden won't likely be on the list.

P2008 - FEELING A DRAFT? Some political fans don't want to wait for potential candidates to jump into the White House race. We've already reported on the Draft Condi Rice (R) and Draft Brian Schweitzer (D) folks. Today we wanted to mention two others. Based in Chicago, the Draft Rudy Giuliani for President committee filed FEC paperwork on Wednesday to urge the former NYC Mayor to seek the GOP nomination. The Draft Mark Warner President '08 (D) folks are trying to encourage support for the outgoing Virginia Governor. Another prospect garnering much draft support is Senator Russ Feingold (D). You've got RussForPresident.com, Friends of Feingold, New Jersey for Feingold, Feingold for Michigan, and several more. You've also got Americans for Bayh, touting Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN).

STAY AWAY: Last week conservative Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) said he would not want President Bush's help next year in his congressional re-election race. In fact, Hayworth said he planned to avoid appearing at any events in the state with the President. This week, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell (R) said she did not want the President's help in her race, either. "I don't think President Bush will want to campaign for me ... As an individual I always respect the President, but we don't always agree on policy," said Rell, who noted for reporters she supports expanded stem-cell research, gay civil unions and abortions rights.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.17.05 | Permalink |

WEDNESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

FLORIDA #1: A new Quinnipiac University poll gives us a new update on the upcoming race for Florida Governor. The GOP primary continues to be close, with State CFO Tom Gallagher leading Attorney General Charlie Crist by a vote of 38% to 36%. On the Dem side, Congressman Jim Davis is at 25% versus State Senator Rod Smith at 15%, with -- do the math here -- a whopping 60% undecided. Several leading Florida Democrats tell Politics1 that there is an ongoing, behind-the-scenes effort to get Davis and Smith to avoid a primary by agreeing to run as the party's ticket next year for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Both, however, want the #1 spot so it is unclear if this will resolve itself. The other suggested option is for Davis and Smith to agree to run a polite, all-positive primary campaign with the winner selecting the second place finisher as the runningmate. In either instance, the goal is for the Dems to unite in the hope the Republicans continue with what looks to be a very negative, personal, and divisive primary that will weaken them for the general election. Here are the Q-poll numbers for potential general election match-ups: Davis-40%, Crist-39% ... Davis-41%, Gallagher-38% ... Crist-41%, Smith-36% ... and Gallagher-41%, Smith-36%.

FLORIDA #2: More bad news today for the US Senate campaign of Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R). First, her campaign manager quit and released a statement that he did so because Harris wanted to spend too much time tending to her current House district and not focusing on a statewide effort. On top of that, State House Speaker Allan Bense (R) is rumored to be reconsidering the US Senate race he passed on just a few months ago following a heavy recruitment effort by Governor Jeb Bush, the NRSC and Karl Rove. Finally, a new Q-poll on the US Senate race shows Harris would lose to incumbent Bill Nelson (D) by a lopsided 55% to 31% vote -- with Nelson grabbing the support of nearly a quarter of Republican voters.

OREGON: Governor Ted Kolongoski (D) could be in trouble if his predecessor tries for a comeback in the primary, but otherwise he's polling pretty well right now. An independent poll conducted last month by Riley Research -- but released this week to state newspapers -- shows former Governor John Kitzhaber leading Kulongoski by a 29% to 27% vote in a hypothetical primary contest. Those are pretty weak numbers for a scandal-free incumbent. Kitzhaber has said he doesn't plan to run for Governor in 2006, but left lots of room in recent comments that encouraged the ongoing draft effort. Even without Kitzhaber in the race, the incumbent is already facing announced primary challenges from two state legislators and a county commissioner -- but they only polled 3% each. On the Republican side, former State GOP Chair Kevin Mannix had 29%, followed by former Portland School Board Member Ron Saxton and State Senator Jason Aktinson with 6% apiece. Mannix defeated Saxton in the 2002 GOP primary for Governor, but then lost a close general election to Kulongoski. In related news, GOP State Senator Ben Westlund in speeches this past weekend strongly implied he will soon announce his candidacy for Governor as an Independent candidate.

NEVADA: State GOP Chair Paul Adams sent State Controller Kathy Augustine (R) a private letter last week telling her he did not want her to seek any political office next year when she is term-limited from her current job because her candidacy "as a Republican will be an embarrassment to the Nevada Republican Party." Adams wrote the party "cannot embrace a candidate who has been censured, fined and impeached for an ethics violation." Augustine gave a copy of the letter to a friendly campaign consultant, who proceeded to spread the word about it. When asked about the letter, Adams told the AP: "She admitted to ethics violations and was impeached and censured. That would be in my opinion an embarrassment to the party and I stand by it." Augustine -- who is thinking about running for either Lieutenant Governor or State Treasurer -- is the only state official ever impeached and convicted in Nevada's 141-year history. "I think I have quite a stellar work record, in what I've accomplished in office," said Augustine, who added she plans to tell reporters next month "what really went on" in the events that led to her impeachment for using state resources on her re-election campaign. Last year, Augustine was fined $15,000 by the State Ethics Commission after she admitted to three willful violations of state ethics law. From her conduct here, it sounds like she's defiant and definitely planning to run for office next year.

MISSOURI: Today's reporting seems mainly about poll numbers, so here's another one for you. The new Rasmussen Reports poll on the US Senate race here shows freshman incumbent Jim Talent (R) trailing State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) by a 47% to 45% vote. That represents a two-point gain for McCaskill since the last poll. Part of Talent's problem may be his ties with President Bush, who has only a 38% approval rating in the state. This race is definitely a toss-up.

WASHINGTON STATE: The latest Rasmussen Reports poll shows US Senator Maria Cantwell (D) holding a comfortable lead -- 52% to 37% -- over wealthy insurance executive Mike McGavick (R). Key reason for the lead: Cantwell has a 57% favorable and 37% unfavorable rating, while McGavick is much worse at 35% favorable and 34% unfavorable. Based upon history, big insurance company execs are rarely popular with voters.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.16.05 | Permalink |

TUESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

TEXAS: A new independent poll conducted for Texas Weekly gives a good snapshot of next year's gubernatorial primaries. On the GOP side, Governor Rick Perry leads State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn by a vote of 61% to 26%. On the Dem side, former Congressman Chris Bell leads little-known middle school assistant principal Felix Alvarado by a much closer vote of 28% to 15%. Country music singer and novelist Kinky Friedman (Independent) is also running.

WEST VIRGINIA: Former West Virginia University basketball coach Gale Catlett (R) became the latest GOP recruiting target to announce he would not run against US Senator Robert C. Byrd (D) next year. With Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, Secretary of State Betty Ireland and Catlett now officially out of the race, the only remaining prospects appear to be a handful of second and third tier hopefuls. This moves the aging Byrd into the "Democrat Favored" category -- and nearing the realm of "Safe Dem." In Indiana, the same story is playing out with US Senator Dick Lugar (R). It appears that the Dems cannot find a real candidate against Lugar when he seeks a sixth term next year.

NEW JERSEY: Wealthy investment executive Doug Forrester (R) spent over $35 million from his own pocket on the campaign and lost last week's gubernatorial contest by a surprisingly wide 11-point margin -- especially surprising after several polls had showed him closing to within 3-4 points in the final two weeks. Speaking this week with the Newark Star-Ledger, Forrester blamed President Bush for his political demise. "It's disheartening because, given the collapse in public opinion about Bush and the Republicans nationally, a state like New Jersey is ripe for almost complete domination by the Democrats ... It was not a foolish thing [for Corzine] to pound that [Bush] issue so hard," explained Forrester. The poor handling by the Bush Administration of Hurricane Katrina "was the tipping point" that made a GOP victory in the state impossible, he added.

ILLINOIS: All of the Democratic state legislators rumored to be interested in a primary challenge to Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) next year have now withdrawn their names from consideration. State Representative Lou Lang (D) -- one of those who most recently flirted with a Gov run -- said he now believes it is too late and too expensive for anyone to mount a serious primary challenge to the incumbent and his $14 million campaign treasury. "For someone who brings a political background, money, organizational skills and has groups behind him, even now I would think it's too late ... I do have to say that in the last two or three months [Blagojevich] has begun to turn the corner and is heading in the direction we had hoped to see when he was elected," Lang told the Chicago Tribune. The filing deadline for the March 21 primary is just over a month away (December 19). With time running out, former Chicago Alderman Edwin Eisendrath (D) -- a failed 1990 congressional candidate and Clinton Administration HUD official -- says he's considering the race. "I've been asked to consider it ... I'm very flattered that people have asked me," Eisendrath said, but declined to name any who talked to him about the race.

NEW YORK: According to the New York Times, the NY Republican Party is bitterly split on the upcoming gubernatorial contest to succeed retiring Governor George Pataki (R). According to the newspaper, "ideological divisions, personal rivalries and individual agendas that are undermining any semblance of party unity as the 2006 elections approach." An example: The Pataki wing of the state party is quietly threatening to help liberal Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) win the seat if billionaire businessman Tom Golisano (R) -- a three-time former Pataki opponent and frequent Pataki critic -- is the GOP nominee. The Pataki group is backing former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (R) as Pataki's sucessor. Also noted: Conservative attorney Ed Cox abrutly quit the US Senate race when Pataki endorsed his pro-choice rival Jeanine Pirro, only to have prominent Republicans like Congressmen Vito Fossela, Peter King and John Sweeney refuse to subsequently throw their support behind Pirro. The Chair of the NY Conservative Party -- a frequent GOP "fusion" ally in statewide races -- said his group is leaning towards nominating former Yonker Mayor John Spencer (R) as its candidate against Pirro.

SUPREME COURT: US Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito's road to the high court just got quite a bit rougher when a letter surfaced that he wrote as part of his 1985 application to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan Administration. "I am and always have been a conservative and an adherent to the same philosophical views that I believe are central to this administration ... I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion," wrote Alito. While Alito remains likely to win confirmation -- at least, as of now -- expect Senators to grill him heavily on this document.

JUST WONDERING: Having taken time in recent days to read a bunch of the blogger postings here on the site, I found it rather interesting that some of our regulars -- most of whom seem to be decent, thoughtful, polite folks of widely differing views -- include a David Duke-style anti-Semite, a few coarse and nasty homophobes, and a handful of other boarish types. I'm a believer in free speech -- even for idiots -- so I haven't banned any of these fringe gadflies from posting. That said, I have one question for them: If you're a rabid anti-Semite or homophobe -- particularly if coupled with hard right views -- why do you spend so much time coming back daily to argue points on a website operated by an outspoken gay, Jewish, liberal Dem whom you despise?
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.15.05 | Permalink |

MONDAY NEWS UPDATE.

GOVERNORS: Time magazine consulted academics, political analysts and former Governors to name the best and worst of America's current Governors. The five best: Kenny Guinn (R-NV), Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Janet Napolitano (D-AZ), Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) and outgoing incumbent Mark Warner (D-VA). As for Huckabee -- a likely P2008 White House hopeful -- Time wrote: "Like [Bill] Clinton, Huckabee has approached his state's troubles with energy and innovation, and he has enjoyed some successes ... Huckabee is now a mature, consensus-building conservative who earns praise from fellow Evangelicals and, occasionally, liberal Democrats." As for the other P2008 hopeful on the list -- Warner -- Time wrote that Warner "may finally have figured out what it will take for their party to start winning in the South again. All sides agreed the morning after the election that what carried Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine to victory -- in a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since LBJ -- was Warner's popularity. ... The real political miracle is the fact that Virginians have only grown to love him more as he has slashed popular programs and raised taxes ... He slashed spending for everything but education, cutting $6 billion in costs, eliminating 3,000 state jobs and even shutting down driver's license offices one day a week. That gave him credibility as a fiscal conservative, which became important when he discovered that spending cuts were not enough to put the state on sound financial footing for the rest of the decade. Given his one-term limit, it would have been tempting for Warner to simply paper over the problem and pass it on to his successor, as other Governors had done before him. Instead, he pulled together an unlikely coalition that won enough GOP votes to pass a $1.4 billion tax hike, the largest in Virginia history -- and put the state on the road to fiscal stability." Look for Warner and Huckabee (and even Napolitano, a few speculate she's also interested in running) to reprint this article in lots of Presidential campaign literature. Time also named the nation's worst Governors: Kathleen Blanco (D-LA), Bob Taft (R-OH) and Mark Sanford (R-SC).

VIRGINIA: Last week's race for Attorney General remains unresolved. WIth the initial tabulating of paper and provisional votes continuing, State Delegate Bob McDonnell (R) now leads State Senator Creigh Deeds (D) by just 410 votes out of over 1.94 million votes cast. With the likely recount looming -- it would be only the second statewide recount in Virginia history -- this one could take a while to sort out.

UTAH: US Senator Orrin Hatch (R) lost a potential primary opponent last week, but he gained a new challenger since then. The new opponent has a familiar name: disabled veteran and environmental activist Julian Hatch (Green), who also is a distant cousin of the incumbent. Any Hatch-versus-Hatch confusion would likely benefit wealthy internet executive Pete Ashdown (D) but -- in a state so heavily red that President Bush carried it last year by a 45-point margin -- Senator Hatch still should be viewed as a heavy favorite to win again.

WHITE HOUSE: Coming just days after his trip last week to South America, President Bush is heading overseas again. This time the President is visiting Asia, hoping to improve the US image abroad. US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a frequent thorn-in-the-side to the Bush Administration, quickly offered up the idea of the Administration ending its opposition to his proposed blanket ban on the use of torture on US prisoners as a way to do just that. The seven-day trip is expected to receive a much warmer welcome from more friendly allies than those he met with last week. In more bad news for the President, two national polls out this weekend show a majority of Americans now believe the President is not honest.

CUBA - AN EDITORIAL: Before I even get into this topic, I'll start by prefacing my remarks with this disclaimer: Cuban leader Fidel Castro is a dictator who suppresses the political freedoms of his opponents. That said, it is time for the decades-old economic and travel embargo to end. Even at the height of the Cold War, Americans were allowed to travel to the Soviet Union and American farmers were free to sell products to the Soviets. I like to think exposure of regular Soviet citizens to US tourists help defeat the negative stereotypes they were fed and increased their desire for freedom of speech, religion and travel. We never had an embargo on trade or travel to the USSR, nor to any of the other communist nations behind the Iron Curtain. As for the few other remaining communist nations of the world today, we have full diplomatic, travel and trade relations with all except for North Korea. Yet, with Cuba, US citizens still cannot freely travel there, nor trade with the Cubans, except under very limited circumstances dictated by the US government. Violators are heavily fined by the US government. Congress attempted several times to end these restrictions in recent years -- even seeing these bills pass the House and Senate with bipartisan support -- before the Republican leadership (particularly Tom DeLay, who vowed he will do whatever it takes to keep the embargo in place) killed it in conference. Despite DeLay's position, some Republicans remain prominent in their attempts to promote trade with Cuba and end the embargo, including Governors Dave Heineman (R-NE) and John Hoeven (R-ND) and US Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). It's time to end the misguided embargo, exchange ambassadors, and freely allow travel to and full trade with Cuba. Keeping the restrictions in place will not bring about Castro's downfall (or it would have already done so years ago) -- as only the natural end of the aging process seems likely to bring his lengthy rule to a close. Worse yet, continuing the embargo makes the US look inhumane to the Cuban people, diplomatically naive, and foolishly stuck in the defunct Cold War.

POST-HURRICANE WILMA RECOVERY REPORT: We're grateful to have had electricity restored last week at our house after 16 days without, but we still have no phone or cable service -- and see about a quarter of all traffic lights remain non-functioning (note: that's a big improvement). As for electrical service, our non-elected Florida Public Service Commission approved a massive rate hike for all Florida residents to cover the added storm costs to FPL (our electric company) -- which will enable them to turn a near-record profit this year. Why don't investors share in these risks and costs, along with the customers? Further, the Miami Herald reported that callers to the PSC who wanted to file complaints against FPL found their calls being transferred directly back to FPL -- as the agency refused to record any complaints against the utility. A spokesperson explained the PSC believes FPL "was doing a good job." All of this seems a pretty solid argument for returning to an elected PSC.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.14.05 | Permalink |

WEEKEND OPEN THREAD.

We've got beautiful weather these days here in South Florida -- sunny, breezy, low humidity, nice temperature -- so I'm spending much of this weekend outdoors. And, even if it's not good for running up our traffic stats at Politics1 -- I'd urge all of you to go outside and take advantage of what looks to be a great weekend in most parts of the nation. Mountain bike, hike, climb, run, surf, inline skate, kayak, sail, fish, or whatever makes you happy. But ... if you still want to talk politics between now and the Monday update, here's an open thread for you. Enjoy.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.12.05 | Permalink |

FRIDAY NEWS UPDATE.

PENNSYLVANIA: According to the latest Philadelphia Daily News/Keystone poll, US Senator Rick Santorum (R) continues to fall further behind in his race for re-election. The numbers: State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) - 51%, Santorum - 35%. The poll also found the pro-life Casey leading his liberal primary opponent -- College Professor Chuck Pennacchio -- by a lopsided vote of 67% to 5%. In the gubernatorial contest, the poll showed Governor Ed Rendell (D) now has a disapproval rating nearly identical with his approval rating. In the GOP primary for Governor, the Keystone Poll showed former Lieutenant Governor Bill Scranton at 27%, former pro-football player Lynn Swann at 24%, State Senator Jeff Piccola at 3%, and retired businessman Jim Panyard at 0%. A new Rasmussen Reports poll also released Thursday shows Casey leading Santorum by a similarly wide vote of 54% to 34%. When President Bush visits the state Friday, Santorum' staff already made it clearly known he will not be there because the Senator has an "unavoidable scheduling conflict" elsewhere.

ALASKA: Governor Frank Murkowski (R) these days is sounding less like a candidate for re-election next year. "I'll think about it [later]. I'm just not ready to do it," said a vague Murkowski to the Anchorage Daily News, when asked if plans to run again next year. Murkowski is already facing GOP primary opposition, including possibly from his own Lieutenant Governor.

UTAH: State House Majority Whip Steve Urquhart (R) this week ended his 2006 primary challenge to US Senator Orrin Hatch (R). Urquhart told the Salt Lake City Deseret News that Hatch -- who is seeking a sixth term next year -- "was too strong financially and politically for him to have a chance against him."

CONGRESS: Talk about negative feelings, but according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, this is the first time since 1994 that a majority of Americans -- as a general proposition -- want to dump their individual Member of Congress. Question: In the 2006 election for U.S. Congress, do you feel that your representative deserves to be reelected, or do you think it is time to give a new person a chance? Answer: Re-elect My Incumbent - 37%, Elect a New Person - 51%.

MICHIGAN: Flamboyant and controversial trial attorney Geoffrey Fieger (D) is at it again. In 1998, as the Dem nominee for Governor, Fieger referred to Jesus as "just some goofball who got nailed to the cross" and implied that then-Governor John Engler (R) was not really the father of the triplet daughters born to his wife. This time, as part of his '06 campaign against Attorney General Mike Cox (R), Fieger hinted to reporters that Cox "disgraced the office of Attorney General and it will come out." Cox took the bait and this week admitted he had an extramarital affair and subsequently told his wife about it in 2003. Cox, however, went further and alleged that Fieger was "a bully" threatened "to expose him unless Cox dropped an investigation into Fieger's alleged violation of campaign-finance laws" in a 2004 State Supreme Court contest, according to the Detroit Free-Press. "I have been blamed for a lot of things, but this is the first time I have been blamed for another man cheating on his wife," replied Fieger, who also said Cox was "amazingly sick." While Fieger is a candidate for Attorney General. most believe he is unlikely to be able to win the nomination against his announced opponents at the state convention next year dominated by party and union leaders.

IOWA: One day after being ticketed for running a stop sign and causing a fatal car crash, Shenandoah Mayor Gregg Connell (D) suspended his 2006 dark horse campaign for Governor. In his statement suspending his campaign, Connell also wanted to explicitly let people know alcohol was not involved in the crash because he does not ever drink alcohol.

VETERANS DAY: Here is an amusing message I saw posted today in the window of a business: "We will be closed on Veterans Day, November 11th, in honor of those who fought to end the fighting."
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.11.05 | Permalink |

THURSDAY NEWS UPDATE.

TORTURE: US House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and the Bush Administration want an investigation to find the Member of Congress who they believe leaked information to the Washington Post about the US operating secret prisons ("black sites") in Eastern Europe where the CIA reportedly interrogates and possibly tortures suspected terrorist and guerrilla detainees. "The leaking of classified information is a serious matter and ought to be taken seriously," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who somehow managed to keep a straight face while making this comment. The fact that the Administration wants to find the source of the leak seems to confirm existence of the secret prisons and CIA torture chambers -- despite President Bush's claim last week that "the US does not torture." US Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) said he believes the info in the Post came from someone who attended Vice President Cheney's closed door strategy meeting for Republican Senators last Friday -- possibly implicating one of Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) allies who are pushing for adoption of the torture ban amendment. "Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those [secret] jails," said US Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC). Congressman Chris Shays (R-CT) said he would have no problem investigating the leak if the probe would also include an investigation into those secret US prisons hidden abroad and what the CIA does there.

GAY RIGHTS: Ballot outcome depends on the specifics and state. In Texas, 76% of voters on Tuesday approved a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. However, in Maine, 57% of voters cast ballots to keep a civil rights law that protects gays from discrimination in hiring, housing, etc.

IOWA: Shenandoah Mayor Gregg Connell (D), a candidate for Governor next year, was involved in a fatal car crash on Tuesday that killed another motorist. The other motorist, David Juhl, died at a hospital from crash injuries. Connell was ticketed by the police for running a stop sign. While Connell was the first Dem to jump into the gubernatorial contest months ago, he was viewed as an underdog in the race.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.10.05 | Permalink |

WEDNESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

DEMS SWEEP 2005 GOV ELECTIONS; SEVERAL INCUMBENT MAYORS UPSET- Democrats won both off-year gubernatorial contests on Tuesday, including the Virginia contest where President Bush made an election eve visit to bolster the GOP nominee. Here are the highlighters from yesterday's gubernatorial and key mayoral elections:

NEW JERSEY - US Senator Jon Corzine (D) won a comfortable victory to become the Garden State's next Governor. In the nasty battle of the multi-millionaires, Corzine defeated investment executive Doug Forrester (R) by a vote of 54% to 43%. Eight other candidates split the remaining 3% of the vote. Corzine not only rolled up big numbers in Democratic strongholds, he even carried Republican areas like Bergen County. Returns also indicated the Dems were likely to expand their majority in the State Assembly. As we reported yesterday, the next big contest will be for the appointment to Corzine's soon-to-be-open Senate seat. The latest buzz is it that Corzine -- at the urging of the DSCC -- will likely appoint popular Acting Governor Dick Codey (D), as polls show he is the only Dem in the mix who leads likely GOP nominee Tom Kean Jr. in next year's US Senate race. Codey initially expressed disinterest in serving in DC, but newspaper reports say he now may accept the post if it is offered. Even if Codey gets appointed by Governor Corzine, other potential primary candidates next year include Congressmen Bob Menendez, Frank Pallone, Rob Andrews and Bill Pascrell.

VIRGINIA - In what only a month ago would have been an amazing upset win, the Democrats held onto the Governor's Mansion in Virginia. Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine (D) defeated former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) by a wider margin than most had expected. The numbers: Kaine - 52%, Kilgore - 46%, and State Senator Russ Potts (Independent) - 2%. Term-limited Governor Mark Warner's (D) immense personal popularity hekped carry Kaine to victory, coupled with Kilgore running a clumsy campaign in the closing weeks and the Dems attempting to link him to an increasingly unpopular President. In the other two statewide contests -- races in which the GOP candidates were widely expected to romp to victories -- both were surprisingly close. In the race for Lieutenant Governor, conservative State Senator Bill Bolling (R) appears to have defeated liberal former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne (D) by a vote of 51% to 49%. With 99.6% of the vote counted in the race for Attorney General, State Delegate Bob McDonnell (R) was barely leading State Senator Creigh Deeds (D) by a vote of 50.05% to 49.87% -- a difference of less than 3,500 votes out of over 1.9 million cast. Look for the AG race to remain undecided until every last vote is counted and -- even then -- this one is headed to a recount. These two races are also significant because -- with Virginia Governors prohibited from seeking re-election to consecutive terms -- the sitting LG and AG will be the frontrunners for Governor in four years. Kaine's victory will also help boost the 2008 Presidential campaign prospects of Warner, as the vote showed he still has draw with voters in what is a fairly reliable Red State. No big legislative changes were expected in the state as there were less than ten competitive races in the entire state -- and a majority of the state legislative incumbents went entirely unopposed.

NEW YORK CITY - As expected, first-term Mayor Mike Bloomberg (R) scored a landslide re-election victory over former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (D). Bloomberg -- a GOP centrist and billionaire businessman -- spent over $70 million from his own pocket on the campaign and walloped Ferrer by a vote of 56% to 41%. Polls showed Bloomberg captured a large share of Democratic crossover votes in this heavily Democratic city. More amazingly, this was the fourth consecutive GOP mayoral win in the Big Apple.

ST. PAUL - Democrats got their revenge against Mayor Randy Kelly (D) on Tuesday. Last year, Kelly crossed party lines to actively support President Bush in Minnesota. Despite Kelly's support, Bush failed to carry a single precinct against John Kerry last year in the heavily Dem city. On Tuesday, former City Councilman Chris Coleman (D) thrashed Kelly by a landslide vote of 69% to 31%. According to newspaper exit polls, nearly two-thirds of voters said Kelly's endorsement of Bush heavily influenced their decision. Kelly is the first St. Paul Mayor to lose for re-election in 30 years.

MINNEAPOLIS - Incumbent Mayor R.T. Rybak (D) won re-election over Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (D) by nearly a 2-to-1 landslide. Rybak was a liberal outsider and reformer first elected four years ago, while McLaughlin was tied to city's old DFL political machine and powerful labor unions.

CLEVELAND - City Council President Frank Jackson (D) ousted Mayor Jane Campbell (D) -- his former ally -- by a 54% to 46% vote in this non-partisan race. Campbell, the city's first female mayor, was unpopular because of her handling of the city's financial problems, in which she cut police, firefighter and teacher positions.

BOSTON - In a fairly sedate contest, Mayor Tom Menino (D) easily beat City Councilor Maura Hennigan (D) by a 62% to 38% vote to win a fourth term.

HOUSTON - Mayor Bill White (D) won re-election to a second term with an astounding 91% of the vote against four minor challengers.

DETROIT - Talk about stunning comebacks, but for much of Tuesday (based on exit polls) and into the evening, it appeared as if former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix (D) -- running as a reform candidate -- defeated controversial incumbent Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) in a high turnout vote. With just over half the ballots counted, Hendrix was holding a 10-point lead. But, by 2:30 am, an amazing GOTV effort and strong support from younger voters appears to have saved the day for Kilpatrick. With 99% of the votes counted, Kilpatrick jumped out to a 53% to 47% lead. Kilpatrick finished second in the primary and trailed in every pre-election poll. In directly related news, FBI agents obtained a court order just before polls closed Tuesday evening preserving all absentee ballots and other City Clerk's Office election records as part of a probe into possible Detroit voter fraud. The move was intended to prevent tampering with the ballots by several suspected members of the City Clerk's staff, who allegedly solicited bribes to fix close elections.

ATLANTA - First-term Mayor Shirley Franklin (D) easily won re-election, capturing over 90% of the vote over her two unknown challengers. Franklin will be barred from seeking re-election in four years due to term limits.

SAN DIEGO - In early returns, retired San Diego Police Chief Jerry Sanders (R) was leading surf shop owner and City Councilwoman Donna Frye (D). With just about 30% counted, including the absentees, Sanders led by a surprisingly wide vote of 57% to 43%.

POST-HURRICANE WILMA RECOVERY REPORT: "I'VE GOT THE POWER!" - No, that isn't a Howard Dean line (well, not in this context anyways) as -- after 16 days without electricity -- we have it restored again. A special thanks to the dedicated work crews from Chain Electric in Hattiesburg, Mississippi -- post-disaster contract workers for our utility company (FPL) -- who worked for almost two full days just to restore power to our block. I was standing out in the dark this evening with my neighbors, watching them finish the work and power us up. When the streetlight came on, one of the workers pointed up at it and joked: "Don't be alarmed -- that's a new thing called electricity. You folks probably aren't very familiar with it." We gave the crew a round of applause and one neighbor gace them a case of iced beers. We still don't have cable, and we entirely lost our phone service again today (although our DSL, which works over the same phone lines, oddly is fine) -- but I'm just happy to have power again.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.09.05 | Permalink |

TUESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

ELECTION DAY PREVIEW: PART II - Yesterday we reported on the top mayoral contests around the nation. Today -- Election Day -- we do our final pre-race report on the gubernatorial contests.

  • NEW JERSEY - US Senator Jon Corzine (D) was the prohibitive favorite in this open seat race from the start. His potential to self-finance his campaign from his vast personal wealth -- coupled with his role as a US Senator -- convinced even Governor Dick Codey (D) to not run in the primary. Thus, while Corzine coasted to an easy nomination, a crowded field of Republicans battled it out in a nasty primary. A pack of social conservative hopefuls divided the base, allowing moderate Doug Forrester to narrowly win the GOP nomination. Forrester is a multi-millionaire investment executive and the '02 GOP nominee for US Senate. Corzine -- the former Goldman Sachs chairman -- is even wealthier and spent $63 million out of his own pocket to win his US Senate seat in 2000. Forrester has run a smart campaign, and taken advantage of just about every break he could get. He may have alienated pro-life Republicans by running TV spots touting his pro-choice views -- but he is gambling these Republicans will still vote for him over a pro-choice Democrat. Forrester even attacked Corzine for his personal life, running a late spot featuring Corzine's ex-wife. That one was a cheap shot -- a desperation move in the final days to narrow the gap -- but those type of personal spots rarely produce good results. The poll numbers have moved up and down quite a bit in the last three weeks, although Corzine has never lost his lead (although Forrester moved to within 3-4 points of Corzine in a few polls). My prediction: Corzine wins by a margin of around six points. And stay tuned: The jockeying will immediately begin for the appointment to Corzine's soon-to-be-open Senate seat. The latest buzz is it that Corzine will likely appoint Codey to the Senate seat. That sets off a potential '06 Dem Senate primary between Codey and Congressmen Bob Menendez, Frank Pallone, Rob Andrews and Bill Pascrell.
  • VIRGINIA - Polls throughout the first half of this year made former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) the initial frontrunner. But, by mid-summer, rising disapproval numbers for President Bush and the Republicans on national issues -- coupled with term-limited Governor Mark Warner's (D) immense personal popularity in the state -- moved Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine (D) into a close second. A well-executed campaign by Kaine -- coupled with an inept effort by Kilgore's team (particularly the backlash from the death penalty/Hitler ad) -- turned the race into a virtual tie over the final two weeks. Late polls give Kaine a small edge. The wild card in the race was GOP State Senator Russ Potts, who is running as an Independent and espousing a pro-choice and pro-tax hike agenda to the left of both Kaine or Kilgore. Polls show Potts drawing almost evenly from both men, but he remains stuck at around the 4-5% mark. Even a late night, election eve visit to the state by President Bush on behalf of Kilgore will not likely be enough to help the GOP nominee. Kaine has the momentum to win. My prediction: Kaine-50%, Kilgore-46%, Potts-4%. However, the GOP will win the races for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.

ILLINOIS - State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka (R) announced Monday she will challenge Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) next year. Topinka is a centrist and former GOP State Chair, strongly backed by popular former Governor Jim Edgar. Recent polls showed Topinka was the strongest potential Republican against Blagojevich and also is best positioned to win the primary. Topinka held a 2-to-1 lead over her nearest primary rival in one poll last month. With Topinka now firmly in the Guv race, look for a few of the other current GOP gubernatorial candidates to move into other statewide contests.

OHIO - A new independent poll just confirmed what many have been saying for a while: US Senator Mike DeWine (R) is very vulnerable next year. According to the Columbus Dispatch poll, DeWine trails rival Congressman Sherrod Brown (D) by a 35% to 31% vote. Equally bad for DeWine, he manages to hold only a two-point lead -- 32% to 30% -- over attorney and former Congressional candidate Paul Hackett.

MARYLAND - Add Governor Bob Ehrlich (R) to the list of vulnerable incumbents. The latest Baltimore Sun poll shows that Ehrlich would currently lose his office to either of the Democrats in the race. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) led Ehrlich by a vote of 48% to 33%. Ehrlich did better against Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan (D), but still trailed the Dem by five points. In the primary contest, O'Malley smashed Duncan by a 19-point margin. In a sign a real troubles for Ehrlich, 33% of Republicans wouldn't commit to supporting him for re-election. In the open US Senate contest, the race is much more competitive. While Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele is essentially unopposed for the GOP nod, the Dems have no clear primary favorite. The Dem numbers: Congressman Ben Cardin-30%, former Congressman Kweisi Mfume-28%, college professor Allan Lichtman-2%, psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren-2%, and developer Josh Rales-1%. In general election match-ups, Cardin would easily beat Steele (43% to 32%), but Steele led Mfume by just one point (39% to 38%).

POST-HURRICANE WILMA RECOVERY REPORT - FPL -- the electric company -- did a lot of work on my block for hours on Monday so I am hopeful that Tuesday (a/k/a: Day #16 without electricity here at the house) will be our last day without power.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.08.05 | Permalink |

MONDAY NEWS UPDATE.

ELECTION DAY PREVIEW: PART I - Lots of other sites "do politics," but Politics1 first and foremost has always been a site about US elections -- so today is the kind of reporting day we enjoy. Besides the hot gubernatorial contests on Tuesday in New Jersey and Virginia, there are several significant mayoral contests taking place around the nation. Here is a brief look at those races:

  • NEW YORK CITY - Incumbent Mayor Mike Bloomberg (R) is expected to cruise to a landslide victory over former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (D). A liberal Republican and billionaire publishing magnate with a sky-high approval rating, Bloomberg has picked up key endorsements from prominent Democrats around the city. Look for Bloomberg to win by around a 2-to-1 margin.
  • DETROIT - Incumbent Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) -- embattled by lots of bad press related to the city's financial deficit and embarrassing personal revelations -- finished 14-points behind former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix (D) in the non-partisan August primary. How did Kilpatrick respond to the setback? Last month Kilpatrick announced he was removing his trademark large diamond-stud earring for the remainder of the campaign. "As long as I'm Mayor of this town, I'll never put it back in," he promised. Did the sans earring strategy work? An EPIC/MRA poll last week showed Hendrix leading Kilpatrick by a vote of 49% to 39%. Kilpatrick is endorsed by third place candidate Sharon McPhail (D), former Presidential candidate Al Sharpton and Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (the Mayor’s mother). Hendrix has the support of former Mayor Dennis Archer, fourth place candidate Hansen Clarke, organized labor, and the city’s two major newspapers. Hendrix will win this race by several points. Another contest to watch here is Detroit City Council, where Motown music legend Martha Reeves -- former lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas (1960s hits: "Dancing in the Streets" and "Heat Wave") -- is competing in the run-off for an at-large seat.
  • MINNEAPOLIS - Incumbent Mayor R.T. Rybak (D) is facing a challenege from Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (D) in this non-partisan election. Both candidates are well-financed. McLaughlin -- who is tied to city's old political machine -- has the strong backing the city's powerful labor unions. Rybak -- elected four years ago as a political outsider -- is an outspoken liberal who touts a record of fiscal conservatism in dealing with the city's economic woes. While the race appeared close for quite a while, voters seems to have rallied behind the incumbent in the closing days. A Minneapolis Star-Tribune/Minnesota Poll released Sunday showed Rybak leading by a 55% to 33% vote.
  • ST. PAUL - Moving right across the river in the Twin Cities area, St. Paul Democrats are going to get revenge against Mayor Randy Kelly (D). Kelly was a vocal supporter last year of President Bush, crossing party lines to campaign for the Republican. Senator John Kerry and other leading national Dems made a point this year of helping Kelly's challenger, former City Councilman Chris Coleman (D). Kelly's support for Bush appears to have inflicted fatal damage, as a recent University of Minnesota poll showed that less that 10% of the city's Democrats said they would even consider voting for Kelly now. And, despite having Kelly's support, Bush failed to carry a single precinct against Kerry last year in the city. That same poll last week showed Coleman leading the incumbent by a lopsided 61% to 26% vote. Kelly will be the first St. Paul Mayor to lose for re-election in 30 years. A second prediction: Don't feel too sorry for Kelly as he'll likely land a federal appointment within the next few months from President Bush as something like a Regional SBA Administrator, State HUD Director, FEMA District Chief, etc.
  • SAN DIEGO - An interesting contest here, where voters clearly want change after the wave of City Council corruption indictments, convictions and resignations. Surf shop co-owner and City Councilwoman Donna Frye (D) and retired San Diego Police Chief Jerry Sanders (R) are facing-off for the open seat. The maverick Frye "won" last year's Mayoral election with a plurality as a write-in candidate -- in that she scored more votes than the two men who actually were in the run-off -- although the courts soon invalidated her win by throwing out nearly 5,000 of her write-in votes on technicalities. Both Sanders and Frye are portraying themselves as reform candidates. Sanders outraised Frye by a 3-to-1 margin with strong backing from the city's establishment and business community, and he now leads by 5-6 points in the late polls. In a city that has not elected a Democrat as Mayor in 15 years, look for Sanders to win a very close race.
  • BOSTON - In the non-partisan contest, low-key Mayor Tom Menino (D) will easily defeat Councilor Maura Hennigan (D) to win a fourth term. Menino largely ignored his challenger throughout the campaign -- agreeing to only one televised debate, which ran live the same time the Red Sox were on TV in a baseball playoff game.
  • HOUSTON - Mayor Bill White (D) is expected to score an outright win with a landslide majority of the vote Tuesday against his four challengers, easily avoiding the need for a December run-off. Some local pundits predict White is likely to finish with 80% or more of the vote.
  • CLEVELAND - Mayor Jane Campbell (D) -- the city's first female mayor -- is is trailing badly in her run-off contest with City Council President Frank Jackson (D). In the eight-candidate October primary, Jackson finished 11-points ahead of Campbell. Voters appear unhappy with her handling of the city's financial problems, in which Campbell eliminated police officer, firefighter and teacher jobs. A Cleveland Plain Dealer/Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday showed Jackson leading by a 52% to 37% vote. Race is also playing a factor in the divided city, in that Campbell is white and Jackson is black. While Jackson is running strongly in both white and black neighborhoods, Campbell's support is negligible in black areas. The "Anyone But Campbell" sentiment of voters will help Jackson win this race by a comfortable margin.
  • ATLANTA - Mayor Shirley Franklin (D) is a heavy favorite to win re-election in this non-partisan race against her two gadfly challengers. Franklin should be able to easily win a majority, avoiding a December 6 run-off.

CHENEY ENDORSES USE OF TORTURE - In a closed door meeting with Republican US Senators on Friday, Vice President Dick Cheney urged them to allow the US to torture suspected terrorist prisoners of war under certain circumstances. US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) -- who was tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War -- is the key sponsor of the legislative amendment to prohibit the US from torturing any prisoners of war, suspected terrorists or detainees. McCain said if the US does not honor the Geneva Convention protections, then those who capture US soldiers will not honor it either. Cheney said an exception must be carved out to allow the CIA to torture suspected terrorists in order to learn crucial information, and says the Bush Administration will likely veto the spending bill it is currently attached to unless the amendment is removed. The amendment was approved by a 90-9 vote in the Senate last month. The House Republican leadership, however, is delaying conference action on last month's bill, which also has strong support in the House -- in large part to avoid an embarrassing setback for the President. In response, McCain said: "I would hope that no one seeks procedural maneuvers to thwart overwhelming majorities in both chambers. A bicameral, bipartisan majority in support of this amendment will prevail ... If necessary, and I sincerely hope it is not, I and the co-sponsors of this amendment will seek to add it to every piece of important legislation voted on in the Senate until the will of a substantial bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress prevails." And, sure enough, on Friday afternoon the Senate by unanimous voice vote added the amendment to a military spending bill. In an interesting op ed on Friday, Milt Bearden -- the Reagan Administration's clandestine CIA Chief in Pakistan responsible for covert ops and getting weapons to the Mujahideen guerrillas fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s -- also endorsed the ban on torture. By the 1990s, these same former Mujahideen factions evolved into the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the private armies of the various Afghan warlords. Under Reagan the US described the Majahideen as "freedom fighters" -- although the Bush Administration's terminology now for these same fighters would be "non-military combatants." Bearden noted that, except during the early days of the fight, both the Soviets and Muslim guerrilla fighters honored the Geneva Convention for the treatment of POWs and even engaged in prisoner exchanges.

POST-HURRICANE WILMA RECOVERY REPORT - Monday will be Day #15 without electricity here at the house. Power is getting closer, in that some homes within sight of mine got their power restored over the weekend -- but most of us in my neighborhood are still waiting. I also visited the beach on Sunday and saw the storm did major damage there, washing away a large swath of the beach sand.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.07.05 | Permalink |

WEEKEND OPEN THREAD.

Just an open thread to keep you occupied until I post the Monday update. Today (Saturday) was Day #13 without electricity, thanks to Hurricane Wilma. All in all, thanks to a small generator that we run about ten hours each day, we're doing fine (and I'm able to get online and post updates). What is interesting is that this hiatus from electricity has given me the unique perspective of writing these updates without having seen any TV coverage of political events.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.05.05 | Permalink |

FRIDAY NEWS UPDATE.

ARKANSAS - A new University of Arkansas poll produced some surprising results. While retiring Governor Mike Huckabee (R) -- a P2008 hopeful -- scored a decent 58% approval rating, the same respondents gave President Bush only a 38% approval rating. In the race for Governor, the poll showed Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) leading former Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R) by a 47% to 40% vote.

WHITE HOUSE - A new Zogby poll shows President Bush with an approval rating of just 39%, which the Zogby described as a "historic [Presidential] low" since they've been polling. This same week, a new CBS News poll showed the President with a 35% approval rating -- noting the number is the lowest they've ever recorded in history -- except for the 27% for President Nixon in the days immediately before he resigned in disgrace during the Watergate cover-up scandal.

VIRGINIA: A new Roanoke College poll out Thursday shows Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine (D) sprinting further ahead of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R) during these closing days of the race. The numbers: Kaine-44%, Kilgore-36%, State Senator Russ Potts (Independent) - 5%. The same poll also found a virtual tie in the race for Lieutenant Governor and a 5-point GOP advantage in the race for Attorney General.

VERMONT - Get used to saying "US Senator Bernie Sanders" (Independent) next year. According to a new WCAX-TV/Research 2000 poll, the self-proclaimed socialist Congressman with the wild mane of white hair leads likely GOP nominee Rich Tarrant (R) by a very lopsided 64% to 16% vote. The same poll showed Governor Jim Douglas (R) cruising to an easy re-election victory next year over former Democratic State Chair Scudder Parker (D) by a 45-point margin.

POST-HURRICANE RECOVERY REPORT - The bad news: This is Day #12 without electricity here at the house and the ocean swimming at the beach is now prohibited until further notice due to high levels of bacterian and other water contamination. The good news: the "boil water" order was lifted for our city and the evening curfew finally ended.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.04.05 | Permalink |

THURSDAY NEWS UPDATE.

NEW JERSEY - US Senator Jon Corzine (D) is either widening his lead over businessman Doug Forrester (R) in next week's race for Governor ... or the gap is rapidly narrowing. It all depends on which new polls you want to believe. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Corzine leading by a big 50% to 38% vote. At the opposite outlook is the a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll placing Corzine at a mere 4 point advantage (44%-40%). Most recent polls are consistent with the Q-poll numbers, but we'll have to wait until next Tuesday night to know which pollsters are more accurate than others.

CALIFORNIA - Despite one of his more famous movie tag lines, maybe he won't be back after next year's elections. A new Los Angeles Times poll shows California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) trailing either of his likely Democratic opponents. State Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) leads Schwarzenegger by a 37% to 34% vote. Likewise, State Controller Steve Westly (D) leads the Guv by a 38% to 33% vote. Also, by a 64%-26% vote, likely voters said California was on "the wrong track."

POST-HURRICANE RECOVERY REPORT - Yeah, yeah ... I know this is a short entry today ... but Wednesday was Day #10 without electricity here at the house. The temperature dropped a few degrees (a good thing) and no rain in the forecast (more good news, after yesterday's flooding rains).
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.03.05 | Permalink |

WEDNESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

HAWAII - Just a day after the Honolulu Advertiser reported popular Governor Linda Lingle (R) is on track to raise at least $6 million for her re-election campaign, liberal Congressman Neil Abercrombie became the latest Democrat to announce he would not challenge her next year. Abercrombie said he doesn't want to give up his 15 years of seniority on Capitol Hill. Although Lingle is only the state's first GOP Governor in 40 years -- and, FYI, both the state's first female Governor and first Jewish Governor -- not a single Dem of any significance has stepped forward to run. With Abercrombie out, Dems are now hoping either Hawaii County (Big Island) Mayor Harry Kim or retired Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue will jump in. Kim is expected to soon announce his decision, while Donahue appears to be leaning towards making the race.

NYC - New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (R) is headed to such a safe re-election win next week that this will be the last time we report any polls on the contest. A new WNBC/Marist Poll shows Bloomberg leading former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (D) by a landslide 62%-31% vote. The latest Q-Poll also shows Bloomberg holding a 59%-31% advantage.

MARYLAND - In both Congress and the Governor's Mansion, Joe Steffen worked as a close political aide to Governor Bob Ehrlich (R). The Baltimore Sun reported Steffen had a reputation over the past decade of being "Ehrlich's dirty-tricks operative." A few months ago, however, Steffen was fired from his cushy job in the Ehrlich Administration when he was identified as the anonymous source posting online rumors of marital infidelity involving Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D). O'Malley is a leading Democratic candidate against Ehrlich next year. Steffen -- affectionately dubbed the "Prince of Darkness" a few years ago by Ehrlich himself -- was also reportedly the person Ehrlich used to identify mid-level and lower-level at-will state employees who were Democrats in order to target them for firing. Ehrlich told reporters he agrees Steffen was compiling lists of state employees -- secretaries, clerks, and others -- for firing, but insists party affiliation had nothing to do with it. Instead, explained Ehrlich to the Washington Post, Steffen was merely helping make room "for objective, competent people who were with the program." After being abandoned by his GOP friends in the wake of his firing -- friends who he said had falsely promised to "take care of him" after he was dumped -- Steffen now appears ready to get even with Ehrlich. First, Steffen this week said he would cooperate with the Dems in Maryland Legislature investigating the possibly improper attempted purge of state workers (although Steffen agrees party affiliation had nothing to do with those identified for firing). Second -- and more significant -- Steffen said he wants to be the Libertarian nominee for Governor next year. "For better or worse, my name ID is pretty high. There is never a better time to put the Libertarian Party on the map," he said. Steffen acknowledges his candidacy may hurt Ehrlich more than the Democratic nominee by siphoning away some conservative votes and by keeping the Ehrlich-Steffen scandal stories in the news throughout the whole campaign -- but says he doesn't care. "I'm not looking to help or hurt anybody," he said, adding he simply supports having "the most limited government possible."

THIRD PARTY NEWS. According to an interesting report on Small Government Blog -- a pro-Libertarian Party site -- it appears the LP is financially on the ropes. The site obtained a copy of the LNC Treasurer’s Report, which states the party isn't raising enough to cover operating expenses and complains paid LP staffer refuse to follow the Treasurer's instructions.

POST-HURRICANE RECOVERY REPORT - Another day marked by more unpleasant warmth, plus heavy rains and high humidity (a 100% humidity index even as I write this at 10:00 pm Tuesday night) ... and still no electricity here at the house. Fort Lauderdale remains under a late night curfew, and we're still under a boil-water order because of contamination.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.02.05 | Permalink |

TUESDAY NEWS UPDATE.

OHIO - Congressman Mike Oxley (R), 61, is expected to announce his retirement this week -- possibly as early as Tuesday. Oxley -- Chair of the House Financial Services Committee -- was first elected to Congress in a 1981 special election. He is best known as the co-author of the 2002 post-Enron corporate reform law commonly referred to as "Sarbanes-Oxley." Oxley's CD-4 seat is heavily Republican, so the real fight here will be in next year's GOP primary.

P2008 - Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) just made a third speaking swing through Iowa. This time he sounded much more unambiguously like a Presidential candidate. '[I want to] help shape the discussion ... I don't know of any better place to do it than in Iowa ... [I'd] like to be a participant in the dialogue on these major issues. If that means I'm a candidate, then I'm a candidate," said Gingrich.

NEW JERSEY - Two more independent polls show US Senator Jon Corzine (D) holding a safe lead over businessman Doug Forrester (R) with just one week to go until election day. The latest Bergen Record/Research 2000 poll shows Corzine leading by a 51% to 42% vote. A new WNBC/Marist poll showed virtually identical numbers: Corzine-51%, Forrester-41%.

SUPREME COURT - A bit of editorializing here ... President Bush nominated conservative US Court of Appeals Judge Sam Alito to the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court. I'd agree -- in terms of a purely neutral review of his resume -- he appears qualified to serve. However, when reviewing Alito's rather radical right agenda (as gathered from his written court opinions), I don't want to see "Scalia II" on the Court (actually, I don't like having Scalia on the Supreme Court either, but there's not much to do about that now). Alito is far outside the mainstream. Thus, Dems have a simple solution: filibuster. Why? If we don't use it, Alito will be confirmed ... and if we try it and fail, Alito will also be confirmed ... but if it succeeds, maybe the President will nominate a more unifying jurist for the vacant seat. So, from the way I see it, we've got nothing to lose. Besides -- if this isn't one worth fighting over -- then I don't know when the Democrats would ever find a cause worth fighting for.

POST-HURRICANE RECOVERY REPORT - Sorry, but it is unpleasantly warm and humid -- still no electricity here at the house -- so no long entry today. Just not in the mood to spend a lot of time typing at the laptop.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 11.01.05 | Permalink |

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PressThink
Commentary Today
TheCapitol.Net: Blog

DEM/LEFT:
DNC Blog
DCCC Blog
DailyKos
Lefty Blogs
Howard Dean/DFA
OurSenate.com
Frameshop
Emerging Dem Majority
Think Progress
AmericaBlog.com
Amer Prospect: Tapped
Arianna Huffington
Al Franken
BAG News Notes
Eric Alterman
D.I.Y. Politics
TNR: &c
FishBowl DC
TNR: &c.
The Raw Story
Blogging of the President
Joe Trippi
Swing State Project
Media Matters
Josh Marshall
Wonkette
MyDD
Working for Change
Crooks & Liars
Mathew Gross
ACT Blog for Victory
Penndit
Progressive Dems: Blog
Atrios/Eschaton
Off the Kuff
Tom Tomorrow
Mother Jones
Jerry Springer
TruthOut
Dem Bloggers
Liberal Oasis
Penndit
AtariDemocrat
Henry Lewis
BuzzFlash
Brad Blog
Louise Slaughter
Dem Underground
Jared Hall

GOP/RIGHT:
RNC (GOP.com)
Club for Growth
National Review: Corner
C-Log
Real Clear Politics
Andrew Sullivan
John Ellis
Mickey Kaus
Virginia Postrel
RedState.org
WSJ Opinion Journal
Free Republic
Instapundit
Drudge Report
Hugh Hewitt
Daniel Drezner
Daily Pundit
Bully Pulpit
Outside the Beltway
Little Green Footballs
World Mag Blog
Right Wing News
Volokh Conspiracy
Brothers Judd
David Frum
Right Wing News
PoliPundit
Power Line
Hedgehog Report
Right Voices

OTHER:
ThirdPartyWatch.com
Centrist Coalition
Liberty for Sale
Ken Sain: Greens


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