Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Daily Strike-5/12/09-Crist-Crossed

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. It is my preference (especially during a non-election year) to talk about what's going on NOW and not what might happen in 2010, but today I can't resist the urge.

CRIST: Today, Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that he will run for the open Senate Seat vacated by Senator Mel Martinez. Crist would appear to be the overwhelming favorite to win this election, given his enormous name recognition and sky-high approval ratings.

I want to dissect the implications of this decision by looking at the political ripple effects. The National Republican Senatorial Committee recruited Crist hard, seeing him as their best chance of keeping the Florida Senate seat. The Washington establishment, led by NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, will certainly be willing to give Crist some money. Crist, though, will face a serious challenge in winning over Florida Republicans. Former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio, a staunch conservative, has already announced that he will challenge Crist in the primary (which is only opened to registered Republicans). This is going to be a great test for the Republican party. I'm interested to see if they'll be ok voting for the likeable, electable moderate Governor or apply a strict litmus test on Crist's support for the stimulus. Rubio already released an ad with scary music highlighting Crists' connection with Obama. Republican's stubborn insistence on only accepting candidates who agree with them on every issue could hand this seat over to the Democrats. I would enjoy nothing more than watching Republicans continue to shoot themselves in the foot by continually narrowing their party's tent.

For that to happen, Democrats need to find a formidable candidate. That might be hard to do, because Democrats will be much more drawn to the open Governor's seat. The only major candidate out there right now on the Democratic side is Kendrick Meek, a young African-American Congressman. If Crist wins the primary, Meek will go down in a landslide. If Rubio wins, Meek (or any other Democrat who joins the fray) would be in pretty good shape.

As for that aforementioned Governor's race, the biggest Democratic prospect is state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. Sink declined to enter the Senate race earlier this year, and probably didn't want to go up against Crist in a Governor's race. Now that Crist is out of the race, Sink will almost certainly test the waters. No word on who might jump in on the Republican side. We'll keep an eye on what happens in The Sunshine State.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Health Care is the theme for the week, apparently. Today, Obama held another meeting with business executives and government officials to highlight examples of companies who have cut health care costs for their employees. Don't worry liberals, the meeting also included the President of a restaurant workers union! Obama called said that he is "geared up" for a health care offensive as the debate heats up in Congress. Obama commented that his administration is zeroing in on health care "because I think the country is geared up, businesses are geared up, families are geared up, to go ahead and start solving some of our extraordinary health care system problems." Hopefully he directs this pressure towards waffling members of Congress who are too timid to accept a bold plan of reform.

The President also sent a reply letter to the group of health care stakeholders he met with yesterday. Obama talked tough with these folks, saying that he expects them to follow through on their promise to propose specific cost-cutting proposals. It's almost as if the President read criticism that the meeting didn't mean anything because the stakeholders didn't pledge to do anything specific.

The President travels to Arizona State tomorrow to give the commencement address.

THE SENATE: The Senate resumed consideration of the Credit Card Bill of Rights today, after Senators Shelby and Dodd agreed on a compromise last night. The Senate took one record vote on a Coburn (R-OK) amendment that would allow guns in public parks. How this relates to credit cards, I have no idea. Don't you just love the Senate's rule allowing non-germane amendments? Fortunately for Coburn, there are some Democrats who care more about their perfect NRA ratings than public safety. The amendment passed by a vote of 67-29. All no votes were from Democrats, including the newly anti-gun Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), who had received an 100% NRA rating when she was in the House. Gun-toting, spineless Democrats are Baucus (MT), Bayh (IN), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Byrd (WV), Casey (PA), Conrad (ND), Dorgan (ND), Feingold (WI), Hagan (NC), Kohl (WI), Landrieu (LA), Leahy (VT), Lincoln (AR), Merkley (OR), Nelson (NE), Nelson (FL), Pryor (AR), Reid (NV), Sanders (VT) (the socialist? really?), Shaheen (NH), Specter (PA), Tester (MT), Udall (CO), Warner (VA), Webb (VA) and Wyden (OR). I included this long list for dramatic effect.

A couple nomination related items: Senator Clown finally dropped his nonsensical hold on the nominee to head FEMA, Craig Fugate. Mr. Fugate used to work for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and was strongly supported by most Republicans in the Senate, including Florida's own Mel Martinez. Clown, being the clown that he is, held up the nomination for a month so he could get "answers to various Hurricane Katrina relief effort questions." That, or he was simply playing politics. Fugate was confirmed tonight by unanimous consent.

Also coming to the floor will be Harold Koh, the nominee to be general counsel to the State Department. The only Republican to support him on the Foreign Relations Committee was ranking member Richard Lugar (R-IN). Koh's nomination has faced strong opposition from conservatives for a reason unknown to me. His name has also come up in conversations about potential Supreme Court nominees.

THE HOUSE: The House spent the day on a bunch of suspension bills. They move to bills of substance (including military procurement, public school energy efficiency, and the war funding bill) tomorrow. We'll give you full rundowns of the bills then.

That's it for tonight. Please leave some comments!!

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