Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Daily Strike-3/14/09-Food Safety and The Strike's Favorite Congressional District

Good Saturday and welcome to the Daily Strike. Let's see how this weekend is being spent here in Washington.

SATURDAY ADDRESS: The President didn't use his weekly radio/YouTube to discuss the ailing economy, the upcoming fight over his budget, or his proposals for health care and energy reform. Instead, he discussed food safety, which is another great "elections have consequences" moments. The President announced the formation of a Food Safety Working Group to prevent further outbreaks of foodboren diseases like Salmonella. He also used the address as an opportunity to show that government can be a force for good. One of the most fundamental roles of government is to protect its citizens. We need to fulfill this responsibility when terrorists get Visas and when farmers bring in diseased cows (a loophole that Obama has promised to close). He's also announcing an investment in food safety with money going to improved laboratories and more food safety inspectors.

LULA: The President also met today with the leader of Brazil, Luis Inacio Lula de Silva. The President said that he was impressed with the"progressive, forward-looking leadership that President Lula has shown throughout Latin America and throughout the world." Lula is part of a generation of new left-wing leaders in South America, but doesn't have the nationalist dictator-like instinct of Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales in Bolivia. Brazil has been an innovator in clean energy, an area, obviously, of interest to the Obama administration.

THE STRIKE'S FAVORITE CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: It looks like the race to succeed newly appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in New York's 20th Congressional District will come down to the wire. Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco went into the race with some natural advantages. As a longtime legislator, he had high name recognition and a good network of donors. He also had a largely favorable political makeup in the district. Even though the 20th went narrowly for Obama, it has more registered Republicans than Democrats. A few weeks ago, the Tedisco campaign released a poll that showed him routing his Democratic challenger, bussinessman Scott Murphy. Recently though, a couple of polls have shown the race within the margin of error. Siena University released a poll a few days ago showing Murphy within 4 points of Tedisco.

So how did Murphy close the gap? In my opinion, it was the incredibly poor work of the Tedisco campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Tedisco, inexplicably, would not take a position on the stimulus package, the signature piece of legislation of the new administration. He claimed that Murphy's support of the stimulus was to distract the public from his "shoddy voting record." WHAT?? Meanwhile, the NRCC is running vicious ads acusing Murphy of being a creature of Wall Street. I have a hard time believing that a voter who is outraged at the ways of Wall Street will suddenly turn to the Republican party, but I digress. The NRCC was getting so negative, in fact, that Tedisco yesterday announced that he would be taking control of the campaign. He wants to make his ads focus on his positive record, and not attacking Murphy. The NRCC, unfazed, says that they still want to inform voters of "Murhpy's Wall Street ways."

What a mess for the Republican Party. The NRCC, moreso than any other campaign committee, has been known to run especially negative ads. After the 2006 cycle, various Republican candidates complained that the committee's negative attacks contributed to Democratic victories. The track records isn't exactly stellar. The Republicans have lost 54 seats in the House since 2006. The combination of an incredibly tone-deaf NRCC running negative ads, and Tedisco not taking a position on the stimulus could be just the boost Murphy needs for victory. Both parties see this as an important early referendum on the Obama administration. Because each side is afraid of losing, they're trying to temper expectations. Let's just say that if Murphy pulls this off, the Republican party will be in deep deep trouble. If you can't beat a political novice with a well-known, well-liked politician in a relatively conservative district, you've got problems. We'll keep a close eye on this election, which takes place on March 31st.

The other two empty seats in the House are those of Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Emanuel's seat will almost certainly go to Mike Quigley, who won the Democratic primary a few weeks ago. The seat is overwhelmingly Democratic. Solis' seat will be filled by a special election in July, with a primary being held in May.

That's it for today. See you tomorrow!

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