Politics

The Little Picture: A Boxer Rebellion.

In defiance of a growing narrative of anti-incumbent sentiment, and recent poll data that bodes poorly for Democrats' prospects in November, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California is apparently maintaining a lead over Carly Fiorina , her Republican opponent. The latest numbers from Rasmussen place her at 49 percent over Fiorina's 42 percent (with a 4.5 percent margin of error). (Flickr/ jasondefillippo )

Bill Clinton's Still Got It.

(Flickr/ sskennel ) CNN reports that Democrats plan to deploy former President Bill Clinton at every opportunity as midterm campaigning ramps up and Democrats seek to build momentum in swing states where President Obama isn't particularly popular. Already, Democratic strategists plan to use Clinton in his home state of Arkansas, where Sen. Blanche Lincoln faces a tough re-election battle against Congressman John Boozman , and Kentucky, where Democratic nominee Jack Conway is facing off against Tea Party favorite Rand Paul . Clinton's continued popularity is a factor in this decision, but it's also the case that his presidency fits into the narrative Obama is trying to establish for fall's elections: Like Clinton, Obama is only trying to clean up after years of Republican management. To be honest, I've never been a huge admirer of the Clinton administration, but I have always been impressed by Clinton's performance on the campaign trail. Not only is he a tireless campaigner, but he can...

Does the House of Representatives Need More Members?

An interesting find from The New York Times ' Peter Baker : The Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether the House of Representatives should be enlarged to produce a fairer distribution of political power. ... A group of voters appealed to the court after a special three-judge panel in Mississippi last week rejected their lawsuit seeking to at least double the number of seats in the House in the interest of evening out the sizes of Congressional districts. The disparity in size isn't actually that great; most districts fall in the 600,000 to 800,000 range, with only a few dozen districts exceeding or falling below that range. Indeed, most advocates for enlarging the House are less concerned with the population disparity between districts than with the sheer size of each district. As of the 2000 census, the average House member represented approximately 646,000 people. By contrast, when the House first froze its size in the decade following the 1910 census, the average member...

WSJ on the Lookout for Health-Care Commies.

Let's say you're an opinion writer, and you really, really want to write that Donald Berwick , the new head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, is a communist. Sure, he's not actually a communist , but why should that stop you? You can try taking some remarks he made about Britain's National Health Service out of context to falsely portray him as a lover of everything you don't like about the NHS, but that only gets you so far. Well, how about Cuba? Sure, Berwick has never actually said anything about Cuba's health-care system that would indicate he thinks it tells us anything at all about what course reform should take in America. But Fidel Castro is a jerk! And Michael Moore praised Cuba's health-care system, and he's a jerk too! Isn't that a good enough basis to say that Donald Berwick wants to turn our system into something like Cuba's? It is, apparently, if you're The Wall Street Journal . Bret Stephens , one of the Journal 's opinion writers, gives us this in his...

A Depressing Discourse.

Paul Krugman , upon hearing the news from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that "virtually every Republican" believes the Bush tax cuts increased revenue, engaged in a little debunking . At the end, he confesses,"How am I supposed to pretend that these are serious people? The facts really do have a well-known liberal bias." That's not exactly how I'd put it -- maybe liberals have a factual bias -- but I had the same thought the other day when I read this quote from a Republican congressional candidate: "We have already seen our freedom of health care abolished and with that an encroachment on religious freedoms; for example Obamacare will make hospitals, even Catholic hospitals, provide taxpayer funded abortions," he said. "This goes against the Catholic religious belief." Our "freedom of health care abolished"? What does that even mean? Maybe he's referring to the individual mandate, but wouldn't that be freedom from health care, and I'm guessing he hasn't even thought it...

Rick Barber: Too Crazy for Alabama.

Alabama congressional candidate Rick Barber first entered the national spotlight last month, after releasing an ad called "Gather Your Armies ," which included a fantasy conversation with the Founding Fathers and an explicit call for violent revolt. A few weeks later, he went viral with a second ad that featured, among other things, a zombified Abraham Lincoln, slavery, and the Holocaust: Unfortunately for Barber, his Tea Party credentials and extreme disdain for the federal government were a little too much for the Republican voters of Alabama's 2nd District, who opted to nominate his opponent in the Republican primary, Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby . Roby first faced off against Barber in June but didn't earn enough votes to avoid a runoff. In the runoff, Roby walked away with 60 percent of the vote to Barber's 40 percent, and with the primary now behind her, she's well positioned to score a win in the general election against freshman Democrat Bobby Bright . The voters...

Lightning Round: Ideologically Conservative, Operationally Liberal, etc.

The only thing the new Washington Post /ABC News poll tells us about the midterm elections is that the public is politically schizophrenic . The president, Democrats, and Republicans all fare poorly in the "trust" category, but the public still trusts Democrats more than Republicans on the economy and to "make the right decisions." Naturally, this means a narrow majority plans to vote for the GOP instead of Democrats this November. In what is surely the biggest news of the year -- if not the decade -- disgraced public figure Newt Gingrich has told a wire service that he's "never been this serious" about a presidential run. This might even be the most serious Gingrich has been since he last published a book about the secular-socialism of the Democratic Party. You might even say that destiny is calling Gingrich's name. The problem with prioritizing "small government," as Ezra Klein correctly notes , is that you then assume your political opposition wants "big government." Obviously,...

The Little Picture: Jacob Lew to Head OMB.

Jacob Lew , the deputy secretary of state for management and resources, at a forum held by the OECD in 2009. Today, President Obama announced he would nominate Lew to succeed Peter Orszag as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. It will be the second time Lew has held the post, after a previous stint during the Clinton administration. (Flickr/ OECD )

NOM's Maggie Gallagher for Big Government.

In response to last week's court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in the states, anti-gay-marriage crusader Maggie Gallagher predictably called the proceedings a "sham trial" and the judge's decision a "moral outrage" and "intellectually absurd." Which is what Gallagher seems to say about every gay-rights trial that does not go her way. What's interesting about her comments on CBN is that she accuses the Massachusetts judge of defining "marriage" for the rest of the country: Nobody is saying that the state of Massachusetts doesn't have the right to define marriage for state purposes ... [But] what Massachusetts is now saying that they have the right to overturn and decide what the federal government defines as marriage. The more important point, however, is that this is not a case of a federal court in Massachusetts deciding what marriage means for the whole country; it's quite the...

The Impossibility of a "Grand Bargain" on Abortion and Contraception.

To follow up on Monica's post about Dana Goldstein 's terrific article about the coming battle over contraception, it's also important to emphasize what Republican opposition to contraception reveals about cultural conservatism. As Atrios says , there's a common argument among pundits who fancy themselves centrists on abortion -- E.J. Dionne and Will Saletan , for instance -- that holds that we can bridge the cultural divide by focusing on reducing unwanted pregnancies and hence reduce abortion rates . One would think this would be desirable from those who want to outlaw abortion altogether. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it ignores the broader set of assumptions about women and sexuality on which actual opposition to abortion is based. Consider anti-choice Republicans, who consistently opposed expanding contraceptive use: Given the choice between reducing abortion rates and controlling female sexuality, they will always choose the latter. Thus the idea that...

Too Many Vacancies.

Taegan Goddard flags a piece in t he Philadelphia Inquirer noting that, of President Obama 's 73 appointments to the federal bench, the vast majority have been women and minorities. To be more precise, nearly half have been women, 25 percent have been African American, 11 percent Asian American, and 10 percent Hispanic. Only 30 percent of Obama's appointees have been white men, compared with two-thirds for George W. Bush . While that's great, it's also true that Obama has had far fewer nominees confirmed than the previous five presidents. In a report released last year, the Alliance for Justice found that in Obama's first year in office, the Senate confirmed a mere 23 percent of Obama's judicial nominees. By contrast, Presidents Carter and Reagan had 91 percent of their nominees confirmed in their first year. That number dropped to 65 percent for George H.W. Bush , 57 percent for Bill Clinton , and 44 percent for George W. Bush. As I've written before , you can attribute the dismal...

GOP Likely to Win on the State-Level Too.

Generally speaking, gubernatorial races tend to slip under the radar, and this year isn't any different. Thirty-seven states are holding gubernatorial races this fall, and with the exception of California and Texas, they've mostly gone unremarked on by mainstream outlets. That's a shame: Not only do governors have a tremendous impact on the policies that directly affect most Americans, but governorships are often proving grounds for more ambitious politicians. Four of the last six presidents came from state houses, and 12 former governors now reside in the Senate. This year's gubernatorial elections are a little more important than most; these elections will have a lasting impact on next year's round of redistricting, and while both parties are working hard to win, Republicans are most likely to come out victorious. According to predictions by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, if states held their gubernatorial elections today, the GOP would walk away with a seven-seat...

Financial Reform Inches Toward a Vote.

Just a quick update on the state of financial reform: We're edging closer and closer to the endgame. Now that Sens. Susan Collins , Olympia Snowe , and Scott Brown have confirmed their support, Democrats ought to have the 60 votes they need to pass the bill and send it to President Obama's desk. Predictably, Ben Nelson is saying he's still considering the legislation. That's pretty much par for the course; should Nebraska's man-in-the-middle once again seek suitable tribute for his vote -- some kind of home-state giveaway, perhaps -- the bill might be delayed until West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin appoints a replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd . However, I'd bet on the bill passing the Senate and becoming law before the week is out. In case you'd like a deeper view of what that law will look like, I'll be on a panel this morning at the New America Foundation discussing just that with a group of very smart folks. You can view a live-stream here starting at 10 a.m. -- Tim Fernholz

The Little Picture: Progressive What?

A speaker at the San Francisco Progressive Convention, though who attended may be a more complex question than it would appear: A new poll suggests that a majority of Americans are not sure what the word "progressive" means or if it applies to their political outlook. Even self-identified progressives are split, with 45 percent calling themselves "liberal," 32 percent calling themselves "moderate," and 22 percent calling themselves "conservative." (Flickr/ Steve Rhodes )

Preparing for a Scandal-Happy 112th Congress.

One of the strangest things about the current political moment is the fact that conservatives are actually quite amenable to the idea of impeaching President Obama . It's not clear what "high crimes and misdemeanors" they had in mind, but as of last December, a whopping 35 percent of Republicans supported impeachment, and I wouldn't be shocked if those numbers were now higher given Obama's incredibly low stature with conservatives. I'm not sure if there are any congressional Republicans interested in impeaching Obama, but there are plenty interested in chasing as many scandals as possible. Indeed, if this Washington Post profile of GOP House staffer Larry Brady is any indication, the Obama administration can expect a torrent of investigations if Republicans regain power. Brady is the minority staff director of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and will wield subpoena power if his boss, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), ascends as majority chairman. Already, Brady has worked...

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