Steve Benen

Steve Benen's blog is The Carpetbagger Report.

Recent Articles

Wish Upon a Czar

When it comes to food safety and public health, it's been a rough spring. Just over the last several weeks, highly publicized E. coli outbreaks, poisoned pet food, and other bacterial contaminations have undermined the public's confidence in the monitoring of the nation's food supply. Worse, these problems have led to the deaths of three people and possibly hundreds of pets, and many more illnesses. President Bush, however, has a plan. He could , of course, endorse stronger federal regulations, or perhaps commit to improving a flailing Food and Drug Administration that, by its own admission, has known about domestic contamination problems for a while now but insists it's too overwhelmed to act. But the president prefers a different tack: He has appointed a new "food safety czar." Last week, the administration announced that Dr. David W.K. Acheson, who had been the chief medical officer at the FDA's food safety center, would immediately assume the responsibilities of the newly-created...

Charmless Offensive

Fred Barnes, the prominent conservative pundit and executive editor of The Weekly Standard , seems predisposed to support John McCain's presidential campaign, but believes the senator's operation has gone astray. In a recent column , Barnes recommended a series of steps McCain could take to get back on track. At the top of the list: abandon the cozy relationship with the national media. "In 2000, his aides joked that McCain's base was the media," Barnes wrote. "In truth, it was. And that's why he lost. Press support and the backing of voters are two different things." The advice seems counterintuitive. Whether they like the national media or not, presidential candidates realize the pitfalls of antagonizing those who buy ink by the barrel (or run programming by the Nielsen-monitored second). One of the biggest hurdles between a candidate and the electorate are the reporters who shape the narrative of the campaign. The goal for most candidates, therefore, is to keep the hostility...

ONE MORE PREDICTIONS POST.

ONE MORE PREDICTIONS POST. Is it too late for one more set of dart-throwing educated guesses? As the resident contributor to TAP 's Midterm Madness , I feel compelled to embarrass myself with as many wildly inaccurate predictions as my colleagues. As it turns out, my take is close to Rob , slightly more optimistic than Sam , and right on track with Ezra . * House: Democrats +23 * Senate: Democrats +5 (wins in OH, PA, RI, MT, and MO; just short in VA, AZ, and TN) * Governor: Democrats +7 (wins in NY, OH, MA, CO, AR, MN, and MD; just short in NV, ID, FL, and AK) In terms of unexpected results, I think Idaho will surprise some people with just how well Democrats do today; Michigan's statewide races will not be as competitive as Republicans had hoped; and Rick Santorum , after a bitter farewell address, will announce tomorrow that he's joining Fox News, where he'll co-host a show with Bob Novak called, "If You're Different, You're Wrong." And if, by chance, Democrats fall short, I promise...

HURRY UP AND WAIT.

HURRY UP AND WAIT. It's safe to assume just about anyone with even a passing interest in politics is anxious to see what happens today, but it's worth taking a moment to remember that, in some of the very close races, it's possible we may not know the results tonight, or even tomorrow. [E]lection experts warn that the number of voters forced to cast provisional ballots Tuesday because of eligibility questions could delay some results in tight races for days or weeks. New statewide voter databases, strict ID requirements and other factors may increase the percentage of voters whose paper ballots must be reviewed by local officials. If there's a question about a voter's eligibility, he or she will still be able to cast what's called a "provisional ballot," the validity of which will be determined after other votes have been tallied. It's likely to come up with a voter goes to the wrong precinct, lacks required ID, is listed by a slightly different name than appears in state databases,...

BRING ON THE LAWYERS.

BRING ON THE LAWYERS. Roll Call reported last week that in addition to the parties, candidates, and voters who've been gearing up for today, the lawyers are also ready to go to work -- if they have to. With an usually high number of competitive House and Senate contests on tap this Election Day, lawyers, consultants and strategists are already beginning to mobilize for what could be a divisive and expensive aspect of the post-election process: recounts. The fact that many states will be using increasingly controversial electronic voting machines -- in some cases, for the first time -- increases the likelihood that some results will be in dispute. "Most cycles there are three or four races that are unresolved in the days immediately following the election," said Chris Sautter , a Democratic recount consultant and lawyer. "Because of the large numbers of races in play this cycle -- combined with the changes brought on by the Help America Vote Act -- there will be a greater number of...

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