Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/28/10-Post-SOTU

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. We're coming to you tonight from New Haven, CT, home of Yale University and birthplace of Ricci v. DeStefano. Now to the day in politics...

STATE OF THE UNION: I was overall pleased with the President's State of the Union last night. I was especially impressed by how he narrowed in on the factors inhibiting our nation's progress, like hyper-partisanship, the United States Senate, and corporate influence in Congress. He also showed something that has been sorely lacking over the last several months: passion. He struck a very good chord last night by saying that he won't quit, and the nation won't quit, despite his recent political setbacks. I also liked his courage in calling some people out, like the Supreme Court for their horrible decision last week in the Citizens United case, Congressional Democrats for being weak willies, and Congressional Republicans for being obstructionist. In that sense, his speech was very bold.

My major issues with his speech is that he didn't fundamentally change the economic narrative that threatens his legislative agenda. In fact, he added to it. I cringed when he said that Congress should be tightening its belts during a recession. No, Mr. President, it shouldn't, and you know that! As we've talked about numerous times before, the President is feeding the narrative that somehow cutting government spending will help us make it out of the recession. This unfortunate view is represented by his ill-advised freeze of discretionary spending, which will take effect in 2011.

Also, some of the President's policy proposals, especially relating to jobs, were not very ambitious. It might be politically wise for the President to seek the low-hanging fruit, like capital gains tax cuts on small businesses, but he will need to do a lot more to ignite the kind of job creation that we all want. The Senate seems to be following the President's lead, and will vote on a small jobs bill that won't be nearly large enough to make a big impact. He also gave Congress little guidance in how to proceed on health care. I appreciate how he implored them to "get it done," but I thought he could have give more concrete instructions to Congressional Democrats.

Overall, the speech was good in that it allowed the President to regain the trust and respect of people who were doubting him the most, like soft Democrats and independents. He was strong and reassuring, and hopefully his performance will give him so political capital so that he can get some legislative accomplishments. The way Congress is right now, that's not looking promising.

THE PRESIDENT: The President and Vice President were in Tampa Bay, Florida today to unveil a $1 billion grant to build a high-speed rail line. I'm a huge fan of high speed rail, and one of the best things Obama has done thus far is use stimulus money to spur this important investment in our infrastructure. The event in Tampa Bay doubled as a bit of a political rally. The President, surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, said that he has "no apologies" for his work thus far.

The President will hold an event in Baltimore tomorrow to officially announce a new plan to give tax credits to small businesses that hire new workers.

THE SENATE: It was a very busy day in the United States Senate. Senators finished up a bill that was raise the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion. Republicans wanted Democrats to own this unpopular measure, so they voted en masse to let the United States default on its loans. The bill only passed with the support of all 60 Democrats. And yes, Republican Scott Brown, who won last week's Senate race in Massachusetts, did not want to be seated in time to take this difficult vote, so he let Massachusetts' interim Senator Paul Kirk (D) do the dirty work. The House will take up the bill next week, and will send it to the President by next Friday. When the President signs the bill, our debt ceiling will be high enough to last us through the November elections.

Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate voted on a few amendments. The first amendment, offered by Senator Brownback (R-KS) would establish a commission to review Congressional spending and federal agencies. The amendment failed to get the 60 votes needed for passage, despite the support of Democrats Bayh (IN), Bennet (CO), Hagan (NC), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Merkley (OR), Nelson (NE), Nelson (FL), Shaheen (NH), Tester (MT), Warner (VA) and Webb (VA). Republicans Cochran (MS), Gregg (NH) and Snowe (ME) voted no.

The second amendment, offered by Senator Sessions (AL) would have established a five year cap on discretionary spending. You don't need me to remind you why this is a horrible idea. It's a shame that it got 56 votes, though it was short of the 60 votes needed for passage. Democrats Bayh (IN), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Carper (DE), Hagan (NC), Klobuchar (MN), Lieberman (CT), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (NE), Nelson (FL), Pryor (AR), Shaheen (NH), Tester (MT), Udall (CO), Warner (VA) and Webb (VA).

Finally, the Senate voted to re-institute pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. These rules require all new spending to be offset with tax increases or spending reductions. It was abandoned by Congress in the early years of the Bush administration. The amendment passed 60-40 on a pure party line vote. Republicans objected to these rules because it might result in tax increases. Of course, taxes have NOTHING to do with cutting the deficit. Absolutely nothing!

The Senate then turned to the nomination of Ben Bernanke for another term at the Federal Reserve. Bernanke faced opposition from both parties due to his performance ahead of the 2008 financial meltdown, but he ended up being confirmed relatively easily by a vote of 70-30. The "no" votes were pretty much split between the two parties. Bernanke will now serve at the Fed until at least 2014. Prior to a vote on the nomination itself, the Senate voted to cut off debate on the nomination by a vote of 77-23. See, people? You can oppose something but choose not to filibuster it!

The House was out of session today as the Republicans began their annual retreat. Both chambers will come back into session next Monday.

That's it for tonight! Our next entry will be Monday morning. See you then, and leave comments!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/27/10-State of the Union Night

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I'll just run over a couple of quick items before I get ready for the State of the Union. You can keep track of my thoughts on my LIVE twitter feed by clicking here. It will be a blast.

CONGRESS: Boy, the news is pretty bad on all counts again today. Congress has, of course, come to no conclusion on how to proceed with health reform. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that she would have the votes to adopt the Senate health care bill if the Senate promised to take up a package of changes through the reconciliation process. There's a bit of a game of chicken going on, though. The Senate thinks that the House must pass the bill first, because it would be against the rules to amend a bill that hasn't been enacted yet (who cares!?!?!? do it anyway!). The House doesn't want to act unless they get assurances from the Senate. Meanwhile, no one is talking about the American people who will suffer if this bill is not enacted.

The Senate did not take votes today. They will vote tomorrow on the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second term at the Federal Reserve, and on Friday they'll vote on final passage of a bill to raise the debt ceiling through the end of the year.

The House voted on a couple of inconsequential land management bills, plus a suspension bill that extends small business tax breaks. More proof that Republicans blindly oppose everything the Democrats propose? They voted en masse against a bill to establish a national historic site in the Virgin Islands.

RACE RATINGS: I have changed three Senate race rankings on the right side of your screen, all of which benefit Republican candidates. I have changed the Pennsylvania race from "Tossup" to "Lean Republican." Almost every poll I've seen recently has shown incumbent Democratic party-switcher Arlen Specter losing to Republican Pat Toomey. It's not a good year to be an old, entrenched incumbent. Especially not a Democrat. Or a turncoat.

I am also changing the Arksansas race from "Tossup" to "Lean Republican." Incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln has suffered a huge drop in approval, and was losing in some polls to relatively unknown Republican challengers. Today, Republican Rep. Jon Boozman indicated that he will probably run against Lincoln. Since he is a well-known Republican, in a Republican state, in a Republican cycle, I'm saying he's the favorite.

In Ohio, I now rate the race to succeed retiring Republican Senator George Voinovich as "Lean Republican." Most polls recently have shown the Republican candidate, former Bush OMB Director Rob Portman leading his Democratic challengers, Lee Fisher and Jennifer Brunner. Again, considering the Republican-friendly environment, I think Portman has to have the advantage.

That's it for now. See you over at the Twitter feed and enjoy the President's State of the Union. It's an important one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/26/10-The Lost Argument

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I'll keep this entry short, because you need to read The Big Picture's entry below. It really sums things up nicely.

WORST DECISION REDUX: I'm still fuming about President Obama's apparent decision to freeze non-defense discretionary spending for the next three fiscal years. It is stupid both policy-wise and politically. I failed to fully articulate this yesterday, but the worst part about the decision is that it concedes the argument over economic policy to the Republican party. We've been trying to argue for the past year that we must invest money not to end the recession, which would create jobs and tax revenue. The Republicans argued that we should "tighten our belts" in Washington, which would somehow ensure economic growth. Our argument is right, there's is wrong. Yet, by proposing to freeze discretionary spending, we're tacitly admitting that we're wrong. The policy may not be the worst thing in the world if we cut unnecessary spending, like farm subsidies, instead of key social programs. But even if the policy isn't so bad, the optics are absolutely horrible.

HEALTH CARE: According to a New York Times article out tonight, Democrats are in "no rush" to pass health reform. Some lawmakers think that the earliest the bill could pass at this point would be the end of February. And we know how many deadlines we've already missed to this point! The obvious solution, which would be to have the House pass the Senate bill, and for both chambers to pass a "sidecar" reconciliation bill that would make changes to the measure. For this to work, Democrats need to cobble together 218 votes in the House, and 50 votes in the Senate. This should seemingly be easy, but many Democrats are so scared by last week's Senate election in Massachusetts that they may not be ready to support the bill. In the Senate, a few moderate Senators, like Nelson (NE) and Lincoln (AR), have already said they would oppose a reconciliation bill. As others have noted, both of these hypocritical Senators have supported numerous reconciliation bills in the past. Of course, we can lose 9 Senate Democrats and still get this done. The key is for 50 Senate Democrats to sign a letter saying they would support a reconciliation bill making corrections to the Senate legislation. This would, according to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, give House Democrats confidence that there would definitely be changes to the bill.

There, unfortunately, is very political will to get this done. Democrats are too scared of their pending electoral prospects to pass a bill at this point. There is virtually no discussion among any lawmakers about the consequences of inaction: 30 million Americans not having health insurance. The only consequences they ever talk about are political consequences. It makes me sick.

SENATE: The Senate continued to work on a bill to raise the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion. In order to pass the bill, many Senators wanted to include some sort of mechanism to control our spiraling debt. Today, the Senate voted on a series of amendments. The key vote was on a bipartisan amendment from Senators Conrad (D-ND) and Gregg (R-NH) that would set up a bipartisan commission that would propose cost-savings measures that would then be subject to an up-or-down vote in Congress. The amendment attracted support from a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans, but failed to get the 60 votes necessary to pass. Liberal Senators were too afraid that the commission would attack entitlement programs, and Republicans were worried that they would propose tax increases. (I don't want to resort to relativism here. Every Democrat just voted for the biggest deficit busting bill in years, health care reform, and every Republican voted against it). The vote failed 53-46. 35 Democrats and 18 Republicans voted yes, while 25 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted no. The Senate also voted on an amendment by Senator Baucus, which sought to assure that Social Security wouldn't be cut by any deficit commission. The amendment passed 97-0. No freedom-loving Republican was willing to vote to cut that socialist program!

The Senate is currently voting on a few more amendments, all of them from Senator Coburn. These amendments seek to rescind funding from various agencies. I expect all of these amendments to fail. The Senate will presumably move on to final passage of the bill tomorrow. On Thursday, the Senate will vote to cut off debate on the renomination of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. At this point, I guess he will get the 60 votes needed to advance.

The House just worked on a few suspension bills today.

That's it for tonight. Tomorrow, of course, is the State of the Union. I will probably write an entry before the address, but you can get my thoughts on the speech LIVE on my Twitter account. See you then!

The Big Picture: Twelve Facts Of Our Time

During the first half of last year, we liked to comfort ourselves that everything would work out for the success and continuing popularity of President Obama and his agenda because of the Three Big Truths:

1) Obama was personally very popular, both broadly and deeply.

2) The Republican Party was deeply unpopular.

3) The moment - an economic crisis caused by big banks and a right-wing anti-government political establishment - meant that people were extraordinarily open to a major course correction.

However, a series of new facts - combining and multiplying their effects in a vicious loop - have emerged to radically undermine any confidence that Obama and his agenda will be successful.

Two Facts that were obscured by the singular catastrophe of the Bush Administration and the excitement of the very long presidential campaign:

1. As Obama was inaugurated, the American public remained deeply uninformed about the most basic elements of politics and economics.
Actually, worse than uninformed, they are misinformed - partly by intentionally lying politicians and partisan media, partly by lazy, shoddy conventional wisdom from the mainstream media, and partly by listening to their own common sense which makes sense in the relative simplicity of their daily lives but is nonsensical with all the externalities and unintended consequences of our very complicated society. Three crucial examples are the power of the President, the relative size and significance of different items in the budget and deficit, and the causes of economic growth and decline.

When it comes to the power of the President, both sides of the partisan divide actively mislead the public that he has much more power than he actually does under the Constitution. Lazy shoddy media is always saying what the President did or didn't do, failing to account for the power of Congress. And the public thinks, "clearly the President is the most powerful person, he's the one I should hold responsible for what does and doesn't happen" - which is common sense, but in fact often untrue.

In terms of the budget and deficit, the partisan sides are always harping on some hot-button issue, radically inflating its importance out of all proportion to its actual size in the budget (see: earmarks, the deficit, and for Democrats, "tax credits that ship jobs overseas"). The lazy shoddy media fails in its most basic responsibility: to provide the proper perspective. There is rarely a proper point of comparison, universal standards are not upheld (sometimes budget items are reported for 1 year, sometimes for 10 years; sometimes total costs are in unfunded mandates, others are paid for) - and these are CRITICAL differences. And for the public, all the numbers are so impossibly large that, as study after study has shown, people have no real sense of the difference between say $100 million over five years and $600 billion in 1 year. It's all just a lot of money. People are always prone to the "that may not sound like much in Washington, but it is to you and me" argument in favor of cutting something. It all amounts to selective deficit disorder.

And with the reasons for economic growth, the midpoint of the two political parties would hold that tax cuts and deregulation are the crucial engines, inequality and small government are great for economic growth, and that you should symbolically cut social service money to show fiscal discipline in a recession to somehow restore growth while leaving massive and much more wasteful expenditures (the military budget) alone. The media fails to explain that the government should reduce deficits in a time of growth and increase deficit spending during a recession, that tax cuts are generally not nearly as efficient as targeted spending with high-multipliers, and that we've had our best growth when we had more economic equality, more government spending, more regulations, and a more unionized workforce to boot. The media highlights government waste and ignores all the good government does. And the American public thinks that because they need to tighten their belts when their paychecks diminish, that this daily-life common sense applies to the government. But common sense here is dead wrong. And people usually see government in the most annoying and mundane elements of their lives - taxes, the DMV, the post office, the bus, because government provides all the services that can't make a profit- negatively impacting their perception. And people tend to remember the one bad event over the ten satisfactory encounters. These have much worse effects on public perception of the government than private business because few people see their encounters with every different private entity as one cohesive "private business", but all government encounters are with "the damn government".

This uninformed state has been growing worse and worse for decades and was definitely NOT ended by the earth-shattering events of 2008.

2. The government is functionally incompetent because of the power of the filibuster and the hold in the U.S. Senate
The Strike and Ezra Klein have had much to say about this still-largely-unknown fact, and I won't repeat what they have said. Suffice to say, it is nearly impossible to pass even minimally effective policy when dealing with the filibuster and the hold. There are just way too many hoops to jump through, way too many opportunities for grandstanding and hostage-taking.

Two Facts which Barack Obama successfully campaigned against, but which remained as true after his election as before:

3. Powerful entrenched interests which benefit from the status quo possess enormous influence to stop any change that threatens their bottom line.
The most obvious facet of this influence is how corporations and the wealthy can use raw money to own politicians, federal bureaucrats, and the media - a full "regulatory capture". But perhaps even more significant is "intellectual capture" - corporations, especially Wall Street, are so influential that they set the terms of the debate, they define conventional wisdom; most insidiously, they set the outward limits of the possible, so that many possible solutions to our problems are just automatically off the table. It's almost funny to look back at the Democratic primaries when Obama and Edwards were debating how you deal with powerful interests - Obama said they must become part of the solution, Edwards says you have to fight them. But neither admitted the much more important fact that whether a President uses negotiation or confrontation, it doesn't really matter. The powerful interests have the muscle to fend off either approach.

4. A significant majority of Congress is motivated ONLY by a) the desires of their powerful owners and b) taking the path of least resistance to a comfortable re-elected, based on the most cynical of political calculations: subscribe to conventional wisdom and appeal to the electorate's most knee-jerk, fearful, prejudiced, selfish, and shortsighted instincts, and you're home free.
This would include pretty much all Republicans and, most devastatingly for us, a large proportion of Democrats. We should have never forgotten this truth about the Democratic Party after the Democrats' disgraceful performance during the Bush Administration: voting for tax cuts and pre-emptive invasions based on lines and anti-consumer bankruptcy bills and right-wing ideological Supreme Court justices and on and on. Democratic base voters' revulsion to this fact was the key reason Obama beat Hillary. But we forgot that her much more beholden, much more cynical Senate Democratic colleagues remained in pivotal positions.

Four facts whose importance we stupidly minimized as they developed last year:

5. No matter what Obama did, the Great Recession wouldn't just help Democrats win in 2008 and then fade away during Obama's first year, but instead would get much worse on Obama's watch
. I didn't come close to fully appreciating how bad things would get, exacerbated by the already-slashed government safety net being even further cut by the recession-accelerating reverse-automatic-stabilizers of state and local balanced-budget requirements. Unemployment and foreclosure and bankruptcies are some of the worst things that can befall people, and they've swept across the country this year worse than any times since the 1930s. And with people being uninformed of what caused the crisis and what would get us out, the seeds were laid for massive anger at whoever was in charge as it was happening. Given that we had long been saying that the American economic system was deeply flawed, that for decades we had under-invested in our people and infrastructure, that the working and middle classes were falling further and further behind, even in "good" times, we should have anticipated a longer and more devastating downturn.

6. The political consequences of the Wall Street Bailout would be far more lasting than we anticipated, dealing a crucial blow to any remaining public trust in government
. Considering that a) immediately afterward government seemed to look as good as ever with Obama's inspiring election and inauguration, b) most of the bailout was actually repaid with interest, c) no one is actually feeling any direct negative consequences of the bailout (the bailout didn't throw people out of their jobs or their homes, unlike many other policies of the 2000s), I didn't think it would have the devastating effect it has had. It seriously increased the degree of difficulty for Obama to persuade the government of his activist-government approach.

7. The federal government's anti-unemployment and anti-foreclosure policies were definitely inadequate
. Basically, we should have listened to Paul Krugman. Back when the stimulus was first introduced, he criticized it as much too small to stop the recessionary cycle, to keep the unemployment rate down, to cover state budget shortfalls. He predicted - with a healthy dose of appreciation for all components of Fact #1 - that the result would be that people would feel that the stimulus, and therefore activist government intervention in general, didn't work. Liberal credibility on the economy would be severely damaged. I wish Krugman wasn't so prophetic all the time.

8. From the day after the Inauguration - and maybe since shortly after Election Day actually - the anti-government, "bailout and stimulus are just big government pork" argument immediately garnered more popular support than Obama's narrative
. This was in large part because Obama didn't ever explain his narrative effectively, as I covered in the last post. And misinformed public opinion was prey to the Fox News/Tea Party simplistic Big Lie narrative. It's important to recognize that this "narrative capture" started very early, even when Obama's approval ratings were high and the Republicans' were in the toilet. As Democrats were seen continuing the Bailout policies and packing a stimulus full of wasteful "pork", the dominant narrative of Obama's administration as "Wall Street Liberal" was set in those first couple weeks.

And now, a year into Obama's Administration, as he tries to turn around his Presidency in tomorrow's State of the Union, we have to face these new Three Big Facts:

9. The anti-government "tea party" message has completely dominated the debate and now defines conventional wisdom; any other viewpoint is barely hanging on to the leftmost inch of the bounds of what's considered possible
. All of the above underlying factors contributed to this new fact, which was driven home with certainty by Obama's horrific proposal to bow to the tea partiers and freeze non-security discretionary spending for the next three years. Even though we have facts and logic on our side, even though we have the appealing, clearly reasonable Obama and the tea partiers are represented by unpopular figures with no intellectual credibility like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and that their way completely failed and caused the Great Recession, they have crushed us in the court of public opinion. Take a minute to let that sink in.

10. The Democratic Party does not stand for anything
. Sure there's rhetoric in the party platform, but this past year, and especially this past week, has clarified that the party is not based in any shared vision of what to do with political power. It was unified in '06 and '08 to get power, but once it has it, there is not even the most basic consensus on what to do. Can you name one proposal that a solid majority of Congressional Democrats would support and proudly advocate? The clearest possible example is refusing to pass health care reform even though Democrats have a huge majority. A large proportion of Democrats are FAR more amenable to voting for funding the war in Afghanistan, unpaid-for, to big tax cuts for the rich, and to maintaining big profits for energy companies, drug companies, health insurance companies, and Wall Street, than to even the most compromised, watered-down shred of the Obama agenda. The result is you have hard-core party loyalists like the Strike and I seriously stating that we don't care whether or not Democrats retain the House and the Senate. Once again, I should have seen this coming - this is the same party and the same people that, as stated above, have only the crassest motivations and showed very clearly what they stood for during the Bush Administration.

11. Without major changes to these facts, it's almost impossible to see how anything substantive can be accomplished in Congress.
I mean, a central plank of the party for 70+ years has been health care reform, and the party had 60 votes in the Senate and a huge majority in the House, and couldn't pass a bill that bent over backwards, over and over again, to accommodate the centrists. So what could possibly be passed through Congress? The combination of misinformed voters, the filibuster and hold, the Cynical Majority in Congress, and Tea Party Narrative Capture renders it basically impossible. If you can think of a substantive accomplishment - even something small-scale and watered-down, as long as it actually improves people's lives - that you think can pass Congress, please leave us a comment with your idea!

One final fact that gives us a shred of hope:

12. We still have a strong majority of the country that voted Democratic, that the polls show support the underlying elements of the Obama agenda; and President Obama is, I think, still committed to getting substantive things done, and still possesses the talent to educate and persuade the public, and the bully pulpit from which to do it

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/25/10-One Year Anniversary: THANK YOU READERS!

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Today is the one year anniversary of this blog. I can't believe we've made it this far! Thanks to The Big Picture for his support and contributions. Also thanks to Small Town Roots and Sister Strike for contributing a couple of entries. And, of course, thank you to our loyal readers! I wish we were as happy this year as we were this time last year, but that's life I guess.

2010 HOUSE ELECTIONS: You'll notice to the right of your screen that I have added my predictions for the 2010 House elections. I project that the Democrats will hold 229 seats, the Republicans 182 with 24 tossups. I think, in reality the picture is a lot worse for Democrats. These top line numbers include races that I deem to be "leaning" Democratic. Most of these seats are Democratic incumbents who are vulnerable given the political environment. If the environment continues to get worse, a lot of these lean Democrat seats could fall to the GOP, along with a large majority of the tossups. I only have 4 GOP seats rated more competitive than "likely GOP." Basically, the best case scenario this point is for the Democrats to lose about 25 seats.

WORST...IDEA...EVER: President Obama apparently will propose a three year freeze on discretionary spending during Wednesday's State of the Union address. This is a horrible, horrible idea for so many reasons. For one, discretionary spending is a tiny part of the federal budget. Freezing current levels will only save about $250 billion over ten years, hardly a dent in the deficit. Secondly, the effort is playing into the GOP/moderate Democrat/mainstream media meme that we should be cutting spending during a recession. In fact, we should be doing the EXACT opposite. The government should be spending money when the private sector can't. Finally, the effort will be exposed as completely phony, because Democrats raised discretionary spending by 10% over the past year, and that does NOT include the stimulus bill. This may give Obama some brownie points with the DC press corps, but it represents a callous disregard for Americans who will suffer the effects of arbitrary budget cuts. This is a profound mistake by President Obama, the worst of his presidency besides expanding the war in Afghanistan.

THE SENATE: The House was out of session today, but the Senate was surprisingly keeping somewhat busy. By a vote of 89-0, the Senate confirmed Rosanna Peterson to be a District Court Judge in Washington. The Senate will return to the bill raising the debt ceiling tomorrow.

That's it for now. For my one-year anniversary present, call your member of Congress and tell them to a) support the health care bill and b) OPPOSE freezing discretionary spending.

The Weekly Strike-1/25-1/31

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. I'm sure many of you are thinking, "do we have to pay attention to politics again? Can't we just pretend it doesn't exist and focus on football?" I wish.

STATE OF THE UNION: President Obama will deliver his first official State of the Union address on Wednesday, and it will be the most crucial speech of his presidency thus far. After a horrid political month, the President needs to reset the debate in Washington. The President will have the attention of the American people, and he will need to use that attention to explain specifically what he's doing, why he's doing it, and why his approach will work. His address also needs to inspire rank-and-file Congressional Democrats to get off their you-know-what's and legislate on behalf of the American people. The speech will also be a great way for him to debut his new hard-core populist rhetoric. He needs to show the American people that he is on their side against the big banks and insurance companies. Otherwise, the American people will not trust him to help solve their problems. I think he should call out the GOP in his speech as well, and tell them that while knee-jerk opposition makes for good politics, it is dangerously bad for the country. Finally, and most importantly, the President needs to recapture the rhetorical magic he had on the campaign trail. Since he became President, Obama hasn't been able to inspire people and lift their spirits. He hasn't been able to make people hopeful about the future of the country. Wednesday night is his chance to reignite the American people. We'll have comprehensive coverage of the speech as it happens this week.

Governor Bob McDonnell (VA) will be giving the Republican response. As I said last week, this is a very good choice for the GOP. He is a fresh-faced, moderate-seeming guy from a swing state. And he has the easiest job in politics: following up last year's performance by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

One major focus of the State of the Union will be jobs and the middle-class. The President and Vice President today will preempt the address by rolling out a solid package of middle-class initiatives. The initiatives include:

1. Doubling the child and dependent tax credit.
2. Limiting a student's federal loan payments to 10 percent of his/her income.
3. Creating a system of automatic IRA's.
4. Expanding tax credits to match employee's retirement savings.
5. Expanding financial support for families that are taking care of elderly relatives.

Congressional Democrats would be utter fools not to pass these reforms immediately.

HEALTH CARE: What to do about health care? Democrats have been scrambling since Scott Brown's win last week to find a way to pass health reform. The easiest path would be for the House to accept the Senate's health bill, and then for both chambers to make changes through the reconciliation process. There are early indications that when the dust settles, Democrats will take this correct course of action. Some politically endangered Democrats just want the health care issue to go away, and therefore will have a tough time supporting a final bill. But they should remember that they have already voted for a reform bill, and that vote looks an awful lot worse if the whole process ends in failure. At least if the bill passes, people will begin to see the immediate effects of the legislation (like the immediate banning of preexisting conditions-based coverage denials for children). Plus there's that whole insuring 30 million people thing. Nobody ever really talks about that anymore.

Health care reform, though, is still certainly in flux, and it's prospects could change by the hour. I'll be interested to see what President Obama says about health reform in his State of the Union.

THE HOUSE: The House has a pretty light schedule this week. They will work on suspension bills tomorrow and Wednesday, and then will do a couple more inconsequential land management bills on Thursday. Can somebody tell the House to start writing some bills? They've been stuck in a major holding pattern since the New Year began.

THE SENATE: The Senate has a much busier week. This evening, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Rosana Peterson to be a District Judge in Eastern Washington. She should be confirmed easily. The Senate will then move back to a bill raising the U.S. debt limit. Senators will vote on several amendments that will offer different versions of task forces designed to reduce U.S. debt. We'll see whether any of these amendments are adopted. Without the assurance that the administration will address the deficit, Republicans and centrist Democrats will not vote for an increase in the debt limit, and would thus allow the United States to default on its loans.

The Senate will also presumably vote on the nomination of Ben Bernanke to serve a second term at the Federal Reserve. Bernanke's nomination seemed in peril last week when several Democrats expressed opposition. Over the weekend, though, the administration and Senate leaders expressed confidence that Bernanke will be confirmed with bipartisan support.

RANKINGS: If you glance over to the right side of your screen, you will see our updated Senate rankings and our newly created Governor rankings for this upcoming election. The Senate landscape is looking even worse for Democrats than it did last week. News is out this morning that Joe Biden's son Beau Biden will not run for the Senate in Delaware, which pretty much hands the seat to Republican Mike Castle. We are changing this race from lean GOP to likely GOP. In Indiana, a Rasmussen poll out this morning shows that potential challenger Rep. Mike Pence (R) would beat incumbent Democrat Evan Bayh. Pence has not committed to the race yet, and Rasmussen has a bit of a Republican lean, so Bayh is still considered the favorite. But we are downgrading his seat from Safe Democrat to Lean Democrat. This is going to be a very, very tough cycle for the Democrats in the Senate.

That's it for now. See you tonight!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/22/10-Devastating Realization

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike, where we will close out a dark, dark week in politics. I think we could all use a relaxing weekend full of football and anything else that can take our minds off of what has happened this past week. Leave some comments! I appreciated the comment left on our last entry, you're keeping us socialists on our toes!

WHY I'M DEPRESSED: Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was depressing for a number of reasons, but it was seemingly most devastating because Democrats lost their 60-vote filibuster-proof majority. Yesterday, though, it occurred to me that Democrats have gotten very little done with this majority. After a productive legislative session in May and June, in which Democrats passed good anti-tobacco and credit card legislation, Congress has passed hardly any major pieces of legislation. We have completely squandered our opportunity and responsibility to govern.

I blame this mostly on the Senate. The House has taken the lead in passing Cap-and-Trade, financial regulation, a progressive health reform bill, and a jobs bill. But the House has adopted the attitude that since they've done the heavy lifting, they should shift the burden over to the Senate. As a result, the House has been pretty much stagnant (besides the health care bill) for the last several months.

I know that the big ticket items are complicated and politically risky. I get that. But Congress hasn't even passed the sort of small, progressive measures that help people in their everyday lives. The Senate has yet to take up the President's student loan bill. They haven't taken up a bipartisan food safety bill. They haven't even unveiled any sort of jobs package, even something little, like tax breaks for small businesses or clean energy projects.

There is a lot of blame to go around for this inaction. The Republicans have used nihilistic delay tactics that have made legislating extremely difficult. But the Democrats have let them use these tactics and haven't challenged them aggressively in the public arena.

Democratic politicians have been telling us that if we just vote for enough of them, they will help solve the problems of working people. We have given them full control of government, and it is starting to hit me that they have done very little. This is painfully disappointing to me.

BERNANKE: Something very interesting is happening right now in the United States Senate. Ben Bernanke, the current Fed chairman, needs 60 Senate votes to be confirmed for another 4 year term. So far, about 14 Democrats have indicated that the plan to vote against him. That means that Bernanke needs the support of 15 Republicans. Majority Leader Reid had wanted a vote on his nomination in the next couple of weeks, but he has so far been unable to line up enough support. I sympathize with the opposition. Bernanke oversaw our financial system when it completely crashed, and he completely failed to anticipate the effects of the housing crisis. He has, however, done a decent job since the crisis occurred in 2008. It looks like his nomination might fail, which could really throw a lot of things into flux. It would also be more proof of the populist uprising in this country that swept Brown to victory in Massachusetts. Obama would have to nominate someone else, and ideally he would choose someone who cares about protecting consumers from the excesses of Wall Street, like Elizabeth Warren (who oversees the TARP watchdog group). We'll have more on the Bernanke nomination on Monday.

That's it for now. I'd rather not discuss my continued anger about House Democrats' refusal to take up the Senate bill.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/21/10-The Pathetic, Cowardly and Discombobulated Democratic Party

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. These are some very tough times in Washington, probably the toughest for progressives since Bush's reelection in 2004. At least during 2005-2006, we got to revel in President Bush's failure and unpopularity. Today, the Supreme Court issued one of its worst and most catastrophic decisions in the past half century, and that's not even what's making me the most angry tonight.

HEALTH CARE: In the wake of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday night, Democrats could have come back with a unified message: we lost because we have lost touch with voters, the voters expect us to deliver for them, and we need to get to work for the American people. They could have saved the squabbling and strategic decision making for private conversations. Instead, Democrats are acting like chickens with their heads cut off. I've been absolutely astonished at how the Democrats have acted since Tuesday's loss, most notably on the issue of health reform.

In my book, Congress has a reasonable and relatively easy path to achieving health care reform in the very near future. The House could pass the Senate version of the health care bill, and then both chambers could take up a package of changes as part of a reconciliation bill, which would only require 51 votes in the Senate. That plan, requires that 218 out of 256 Democrats cared more about the people of this country than their own egos or political futures. That does not seem to be the case. Progressive Democrats have ruled out voting for a bill that covers 30 million people because they're upset about a few odds and ends, and they're bitter at what happened to reform in the United States Senate. Some liberals have gone on TV and declared reform dead. Conservative Democrats are going out in public and questioning their President's ambitiousness and the scope of his agenda. House leaders have openly admitted that they don't have the votes to pass the Senate bill, yet they seem to making no effort to win over their members. President Obama has thus far been silent on the subject.

This is just a disastrous response, and it is callous considering how many lives are at stake.

Some Democrats are discussing paring down the bills and passing only the "popular" items to try and get bipartisan support. There are two glaring problems with this. One, no matter what you do, Republicans will not support a health care bill. Period. Their strategy of opposing this bill vociferously is working wonders. Why stop now? Two, the bill only works when the parts make up the whole. If you simply prohibit companies from denying coverage for a preexisting condition, a bunch of sick people will come into the system, and premiums skyrocket. That's why you have an individual mandate, so that healthy people can come into the system and pool the risk. If you're forcing people to buy insurance, you want to make sure they can afford it, so you give them subsidies. (And so on and so forth). This approach just makes no sense to me.

This is gut-check time for House Democrats. They have the option of doing great good for the American people. They can all go around and say "we don't have the votes" or "not happening," but they have the power to make it happen. They have a power to save thousands of lives per year, and they can't bring themselves to act.

As many others have noted, if this died, the Democratic base has no legitimate reason to show up at the polls in November. If huge Democratic majorities can't pass our major priorities, what's the point of electing a huge Democratic majority in the first place? And that's my health care rant of the day.

SUPREME COURT DECISION: As if this week couldn't get any worse, the Supreme Court issued a devastating decision overturning rules that prohibit corporate (and union) contributions to political campaigns. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that campaign finance laws violate the 1st amendment right to free speech. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion, and he was joined by the conservative block of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Justice Stevens wrote strongly-worded dissent, and he was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor (yay Sonia!).

This decision is pretty simple. It pretty much gives corporations more influence with politicians than they already have. It will help undermine the basic tenets of democracy, that everyone should have an equal voice in government. It disgusts me that people and entities with more money now have access to more "political speech." The Democrats should start a grassroots movement to overturn this decision with a constitutional amendment. I won't hold out hope for that happening any time soon.

TOUGH TALK: There is one piece of decent news today! The President has introduced some populist proposals that would represent major advances in financial regulation. The President is proposing, based on advice from former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, would propose new restrictions on what banks do and how big they can get. Let Dr. Ezra Klein explain:

The early reports aren't so clear on how the administration will handle size (some imply it's just the bank tax while others focus on vague, new regulatory powers), but the new limits seem pretty defined: Banks that have both a commercial banking division (where they take your money) and a proprietary trading division (where they invest in things like sub prime mortgages to increase their money) will no longer be able to use the cash from their commercial accounts to finance the trades in their proprietary accounts.

The devil is in the details of course, but this is a very positive announcement both policy-wise and politically. In terms of policy, it would be the equivalent of a 21st century Glass-Steagall Act, and would help to protect consumers. It goes much further than the financial regulatory plans currently being debated in Congress. Politically, it can help Obama and the Democrats get back on the side of the little guy. We are daring the Republicans to stand with the big financial institutions. But of course, we first need to get Congressional Democrats aboard, which will be painstakingly difficult.


-In Congress today, the House passed a few land management bills. They also passed a few suspension bills, including one offering condolences to Haiti. Ron Paul voted AGAINST that.

The Senate is working on a bill to increase the debt limit through the end of this year so that the government doesn't default on its loans. Republicans know that we can't actually default on our loans, but they will vote against increasing the debts so that the Democrats must incur the burden of a tough vote. True patriots they are! The first vote today was an amendment offered by Senator Thune (R-SD) that would end the TARP program. Republicans have tried variations of this amendment several times, and it has failed every time. This time, the amendment, which needed 60 votes to pass, failed by a vote of 53-45. Democrats taking the political bait to end TARP were Bayh (IN), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Feingold (WI), Feinstein (CA), Lincoln (AR), Nelson (NE), Nelson (FL), Pryor (AR), Tester (MT), Udall (CO), Webb (VA) and Warner (VA).

-Republican Bob McDonnell, the newly sworn-in Governor of Virginia will give the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address. This is a very strong choice for the GOP. McDonnell was a very attractive pragmatic conservative candidate in the VA-Gov race this past fall.

That's it for today, everyone. Try to keep your spirits up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/20/10-A Somber Anniversary

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Exactly one year ago today, The Big Picture, his friend, Lady Strike, and I braved frigid temperatures on the national mall to watch President Obama's historic inauguration. At that point, we thought that Obama could do no wrong. We thought he would usher in a new era of liberal governance with huge Democratic majorities. Not to pour it on too much, but boy times have changed!

MA-SEN: Last night's loss really, really hurt. It was indeed a stomach punch, a death blow, whatever you want to call it. Perhaps even more disturbing than Brown's victory has been the Democratic party's reaction to it. Even before the polls closed, Democrats had formed a circular firing squad. The Coakley campaign blamed the national party, the national party blamed the Coakley campaign, etc. Every Democratic operative was more concerned about saving their own hide than they were about winning the race. After the election, liberals like Barney Frank (MA) and Anthony Weiner (NY) said on national TV that health care reform might be dead. Senate Democrats like Evan Bayh (IN), Jim Webb (VA) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) basically said that health care might need to wait until another day. The Democrat's sense of panic and despair lead me to believe that they think yesterday's message was: don't do anything!

I don't think that was the lesson of last night. I do think there were many lessons from last night, that all Democrats need to heed quickly.

1. Democrats must remember why they're Democrats. We are the party of the people. We are the party that fights for the little guy against the powerful. Republican Scott Brown ran as an "average Joe" against the big bad guys: political machines, corruption, big government. Democrats both locally and nationally did absolutely nothing to shed the "elitist" label. Obama had to continue the Bush bailouts, I understand that. But the Democrats did not have to cut secret deals with Pharmaceutical companies and the AMA to pass health reform. They didn't have to water down a credit card bill because lobbyists told them to. They didn't have to abandon the idea of a Consumer Protection Agency. The common thread here is that Democrats too often have been perceived as a in bed with powerful special interests. For a party that supposedly wants the government to be more trusted, they are certainly not helping themselves. Republicans will also be reactionary anti-government. Their anti-government sentiment is only an effective political weapon when the government is not making people's lives better.

2. You can't take voters for granted. Putting aside the national implications, Martha Coakley's loss is a lesson to any political candidate: never assume you are going to win an election. Coakley basically stopped campaigning after her December primary win. She didn't go around the state and shake hands with voters, she even scoffed at the very notion of standing outside Fenway Park in the cold to meet voters. For better or worse, voters respond strongly to this sort of arrogance and disregard. The only way to win an election, even in politically favorable territory, is to earn every vote.

3. If you're going to have an ambitious, complicated, far-reaching agenda, it better be successful. An aggressive legislative agenda that delivers for the American people is political gold. An aggressive legislative agenda that gets buried in the weeds of deal-making, special compromises and carve-outs can be ok in the long-run if people feel positive effects. An aggressive legislative agenda that gets buried in the weeds AND ultimately fails is catastrophic.

There is a lot more to say about what happened in Massachusetts, and it will certainly take me a long time to get over the fact that Ted Kennedy's replacement might kill health care reform. But Democrats need to keep their heads up. Put things in perspective: we still have huge majorities, and the American people expect us to deliver on our promises. Here are some pieces that give more insight into last night's debacle.

CONGRESS: That's right, Congress still exists and Democrats still have to take care of the nation's business! The Senate reconvened today for the first time since their pre-Christmas vote on health reform. Senator-elect Scott Brown was not sworn in yet, but Democrats at all levels are saying that they won't try to pass health reform before he is seated. The best option, in my view, is for the House to adopt the Senate's version of the bill, and then for both chambers to pass a separate bill making changes to the original bill under reconciliation. There is no indication at this point that House Democrats are willing to go along with this option, but I think they'll soon realize that they have no other choice.

The Senate did vote today 97-0 to confirm Beverly Baldwin Martin to be a U.S. Circuit Judge.

The House voted on a slew of suspension bills, including one that makes charitable contributions to the Haiti relief effort tax deductible (good news). They also voted on a couple of Indian land measures.

Hang in there, folks! We'll see you again tomorrow night.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Late Night Strike...Stomach Punched

This one really really hurts. I'll need to recover for another 24 hours before I say more, but in case you haven't heard, Scott Brown has defeated Martha Coakley in the race to succeed Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, and he will become the Republicans' all-important 41st Senator.

The Daily Strike-1/19/10-What to Watch For in MA

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. This is just a quick entry to give you an idea of what to watch for when the votes are counted in tonight's special Senate Election in Massachusetts. You can follow my instant reactions on my Twitter account by clicking here. I'll be giving more analysis on what this election means in the coming days. I'll give you a hint: Obama and the Democrats need to make some serious changes.

Overall, the great Nate Silver projects that Republican Scott Brown has a 75% chance of winning tonight's election, based on all pre-election polling. Silver has never steered me wrong, so I'll hop on his bandwagon and agree with him. I think Coakley will have to pull some sort of rabbit out of her hat to win, possibly a massive voter turnout operation in the liberal parts of the state. Brown needs to transfer the enthusiasm he's seen at his rallies to the voting booth. Unfortunately, there will be no exit polling on this race, so we'll have to watch health care reform potentially die precinct, by precinct. Here's what you should be looking at when the votes start pouring in:

1. Turnout, turnout, turnout. Anecdotal reports suggest that turnout is high across the state, but it's unclear which candidate will benefit. If turnout is high in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, Coakley does well. If turnout is high in the southern Boston suburbs, or in Central Mass., he will probably pull it out.

2. The map. I was trying to get an understanding of the political map in Massachusetts. The last truly competitive race statewide happened in 2002, when Republican Mitt Romney won the statehouse. In that election, Democrats ran well in Western Mass (the Berkshires), Boston proper, and the western and northern suburbs of Boston. Romney did well in the southern Boston suburbs and on the islands (Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard etc.) as well as the center of the state. To figure out who's doing well as the numbers trickle in, we'll need to know in which counties the votes have been counted. Rumor has it (according to Washington Post's The Fix) that heavily Democratic areas near Boston, like Somerville, Cambridge and Arlington, report their results early. If Brown does well in these areas, the race is over.

3. The leaks. The people with the best information will be those that are getting precinct-by-precinct vote tallies. These political operatives usually leak information to hyper-active political news outlets, like or Take these tidbits with a grain of salt: a lot of these leakers have partisan affiliations. But you can discern a sense of the mood in each camp by what "unnamed advisors" are saying.

4. Screw the whole thing and do something else. Due to Brown's lead in the polls, this might be the most appealing option out there to progressives. What else can you do on this Tuesday night?

-4 hours of The Office on TBS
-Watch Hockey: Sharks vs. Kings on TCN Ch. 8 in the DC area
-Baking! What makes you feel better than eating something sweet?
-Reading. Haven't picked up a book in awhile? Tonight's the night!
-Watch election returns. No not from this election, that's too depressing. Watch YouTube
videos of Obama's victory in 2008.
-Exercise...hit the gym, go for a run. Always a good choice.
-Hang out with those who know nothing about politics. For me, that's my cat. He has no idea that the Democrats are potentially squandering their 60-vote majority.

If the election gets too depressing, my Twittering may cease, and I may join you all in doing these more interesting activities.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Weekly Strike-1/18-1/24

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the week in politics. I hope you are all enjoying your three day weekend. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day.

MA-SEN: The biggest story of the week is tomorrow's Senate election in Massachusetts to replace the late Ted Kennedy. This race will determine whether Democrats will keep their current 60 vote filibuster-proof (in theory) majority, or whether the Republicans will have their 41st vote to obstruct the Obama agenda. In the short-term, the election will determine whether health care reform, most notably the delicate compromises being worked out at the White House, will survive. Beyond the practical implications of this election, this race carries enormous symbolic meaning. If Republican Scott Brown wins, Republicans will feel more confident in their "just say no" tactics as a winning political strategy. Vulnerable Democrats will see that if their party is losing in Massachusetts, things are really grim, and it might be time to start running for the hills.

It's hard to get a firm read on where the race is right now. Since I last wrote on Friday, it seems that there has been a slight halt to Scott Brown's momentum. I'm not sure how reliable internal polls are, but Democrat Martha Coakley's own polls showed her down by 3 points on Friday, and they now show her up by 2 points. It's possible that President Obama's visit yesterday has awakened despondent Democrats, who are now more likely to to head to the polls. On the other hand, all independent polling I've seen since Thursday has shown Brown ahead, including a poll released last night from the Democratic firm, PPP polls. These polls reflect what voters were thinking BEFORE Obama's appearance, however. The PPP poll showed that almost 20% of Obama voters would vote for Republican Scott Brown. I'd like to believe that some of these voters will change their minds after hearing Obama's speech yesterday.

Coakley has run an extremely uninspired campaign in a difficult political environment for Democrats. In some ways, this race is a perfect storm for the Republican party, and that's why I would say that Brown is the slight, slight favorite at this point. The x-factor is turnout. If Coakley's turnout operation is as good as it has been hyped, then it's possible she could pull this thing out. For the sake of President Obama's agenda, I hope she does. God speed.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President will be keeping a very close eye on this race, but he also has a full plate of other matters. Today, he will participate in a service event in D.C. to honor Martin Luther King Jr. He will also host a reception at the White House with African American seniors and their grandchildren on the civil rights movement. The President's schedule of the rest of the week has not been released, but I expect that he'll spend some considerable time on the relief efforts in Haiti, and facilitating additional compromises on health reform. In the event that Scott Brown wins, Obama will probably start groveling at the feet of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the one Republican who has expressed one iota of interest in supporting health reform.

Also, Wednesday will be the one year anniversary of Obama's inauguration. It's hard to believe that it's really been a year. Many of us wish we could go back in time to the jubilation of inauguration weekend, and not be stuck with the harsh realities of governing. But alas, the fight goes on.

THE SENATE: The Senate comes back into session this week. On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Beverly Baldwin Martin to be a Circuit Judge on the 11th District Court of Appeals. I expect her nomination to pass relatively easily.

The Senate will then vote on amendments and final passage of a bill that raises the statutory debt limit. The Senate approved a temporary increase in the debt limit prior to the August recess. Congress must raise the ceiling again by February lest the U.S. default on its loans.

What the Senate turns to next will depend on the situation in Massachusetts. If a winner is declared on Tuesday night, the new Senator will be sworn in anytime from this Wednesday to early February, depending on when the Bay State issues an election certification.

THE HOUSE: The House is once again in a holding pattern, waiting for the Senate to act on a whole host of items. This week, the House will vote on a series of suspension bills tomorrow and Wednesday. On Thursday, the House will vote on a trio of bills dealing with Indian water rights (the biggest issue of our time, of course).

That's it for now. I will not be writing you until tomorrow evening, when I will be live-twittering the results in Massachusetts. You can follow along here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/15/10-Why Massachusetts Matters

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I didn't expect to be devoting so many of my entries early this year on political races, but I am forced to due to the political tsunami taking place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

MA-SEN: As morbid as I've been about this race over the past few days, I'm actually feeling even worse today. For one, Republican Scott Brown has all of the momentum. His supporters are enthused and ready to get out and vote. He got a blaring headline today in the Boston Herald about his new found lead in the Suffolk poll that read "GREAT SCOTT!" Every political pundit from left to right is talking about how he could pull off the upset of the century. In fact, rumor has it that Coakley's own internal polling is now showing her behind.

On the contrary, Democrat Martha Coakley seems to be really floundering right now. She's made a bunch of gaffes, like when she seemingly criticized her opponent for campaigning in the cold outside Fenway Park. More to the point, she's shown absolutely no passion on the campaign trail. She has given no real indication to voters what she stands for or why she's in this race to begin with. She assumed for weeks that she was going to coast to a victory, so she basically didn't campaign much. She held rallies with her core supporters, but she did no traditional politicking (shaking hands) nor did she air a single advertisement. In a normal political environment, Coakley might have been able to get away with this in a liberal state like Massachussetts, where voters are naturally inclined to support Democrats. Unfortunately, this is not a normal political environment. The environment is playing out in the following ways, all of which are bad for the Democrats:

1. Republicans are angry. They are passionately angry. They don't like Obama, they don't like his policies, and they want to do whatever they can to rebuke him. Translation: they will come out to vote enthusiastically.

2. Independents are souring on the Democrats. They don't think that Democratic policies are helping to ease the economic crisis. They don't like that the Democrats have been so ambitious with a left-wing legislative agenda. If they WERE going to pursue such an ambitious agenda, why aren't things getting better yet? Independents right now are polling about 2-to-1 for Republican candidates from Virginia, to New Jersey, to Massachusetts.

3. Democrats are frustrated and turned off. They worked so hard to get Obama elected and 2008, and so far what they've gotten are legislative setbacks, gridlock, and broken promises. Few of them will turn to the Republican party (although the Suffolk poll showed that 17 (!) percent of Democrats were supporting Brown), but many of them will simply become disinterested in politics for awhile, and maybe they don't show up at the polls.

This perfect storm of negative dynamics for the Democrats, combined with a less than adequate campaign from Coakley, has made the race a toss-up at best. Many pundits today are calling Brown the new presumptive favorite.

A Brown win would be, simply, catastrophic for Democrats. Let's list the reasons.

1. Health care reform. Without 60 votes in the Senate, the Democrats probably don't have the votes to enact an emerging House-Senate compromise on health reform. To get health reform passed, they'd either have to try and pick off Republican Olympia Snowe (unlikely, in my view), hold a vote before Brown got seated, or the House would have to accept the current Senate bill verbatim. None of these options is particularly appealing. The optics of Democratic members of Congress approving a bill that voters in the most liberal state have seemingly rejected would not be good. Plus, knowing the weak willed Democrats in both the House and Senate, you know Brown's loss would send them running for the hills.

2. The rest of Obama's agenda would also be imperil. It's bad enough that Brown would be the 41st Republican vote, enough to sustain a filibuster. A Brown victory would show vulnerable Democrats across the country that they are in a world of trouble. These freaked out Democrats will run away from the Obama agenda altogether, or they will opt for retirement, making the 2010 November election landscape even more perilous.

News just came out an hour or so ago that President Obama will be traveling to Boston to campaign with Coakley on Sunday. The President, even if the Suffolk poll, is viewed favorably among voters in Massachusetts, so his appearance should seemingly be quite helpful. It also could be a great way to get Democratic voters fired up and involved. On the other hand, Obama's visit carries political risks. If he shows up and she loses, it will be evidence that his campaigning prowess is limited, even in a dark blue state. Furthermore, Obama's appearance might draw the ire of Republicans, and give them even more reason to show up to the polls.

Simply put, Democrats could be in for an extremely painful, difficult night on Tuesday. We don't know yet what the exact electorate will look like, meaning there's a lot we won't know until the results start pouring in. But no matter what happens, this has been an unnecessary, brutal headache for the Democrats, and it's keeping me up late at night.

If you live in Massachusetts, please go vote for Martha Coakley. If not, make a few calls, or donate a couple of bucks.

I'll see you on Monday morning. Maybe we'll have some better news by then.

Stomach Punch Update: The Fist Extends

Tonight, a poll came out from Suffolk University showing Republican Scott Brown beating Democrat Martha Coakley by 4 in the Massachussetts Special Election. The most trusted man in poll analysis, Nate Silver, concludes that this race is now a pure tossup, and after seeing this poll, I'll have to reluctantly agree. I don't know how we got ourselves into this situation, but I honestly don't know if Coakley is gonna pull it out at this point. What a catastrophe for the Democratic Party.

Accordingly, I am changing the MA-SEN race from "Lean Democratic" to "Tossup."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/14/10-A Deal...With Major Caveats

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I'm trying to stay positive on the Massachusetts Senate election and health reform. *Deep Breath*.

HEALTH CARE: There is some potentially very good news on the health care front this evening. The White House has reached a deal with the major unions on a contentious issue, the so-called excise tax on high-cost insurance plans. Unions were opposed to the tax, because oftentimes, union workers get great health benefits in lieu of higher wages. Under the Senate bill, the excise tax would apply to plans over $23,000 and would be indexed with inflation (slightly more than the increase in the Consumer Price Index). Under the compromise, the threshold of the plan would move to $24,000, and unionized workers would be exempt from the tax until 2017 so that they'd have the opportunity renegotiate their benefits package. Also, vision and dental packages wouldn't be included in the taxable benefits. There are also reports that as part of the deal, the health insurance exchange would be open to more employers after 2017.

I think this is a very good deal for both unions and the White House. The excise tax is important because it can discourage people from buying high-cost plans, and thus can help bend the proverbial "cost curve." With the deal in place, unions will have time to make negotiate benefits packages that won't be subject to the tax.

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that House and Senate leaders are close to resolving the other remaining issues. It is possible that they could submit a final bill to the Congressional Budget Office by tomorrow evening. Nothing can stop us now! Nothing....!!.....

MA-SEN:....except this stupid Massachusetts Senate race! Every deal the White House makes will be for naught of the Democrats don't win in the Bay State. A new poll out today from Research 2000 shows Democrat Martha Coakley with an 8 point lead over Republican Scott Brown. Curiously, both of the major political prognosticators, Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg, decided today to change the race to "tossup." I'm not sure why they did this today, when the only poll that came out seemed favorable to Coakley.

The Democrats are pouring loads of money into the race, and they apparently have a very strong get-out-the-vote operation. They will need that operation to make up for an enthusiastic Republican Party. At this point, I'm still saying the race leans towards Coakley.

HAITI: The President had to pay a good deal of attention today to the crisis in Haiti. Having watched TV footage last night, it was pretty gruesome. The President has asked former Presidents Bush (43) and Clinton to launch a public relations campaign to solicit contributions for the victims. A bunch of liberals are complaining about the fact that President Bush is involved in this, especially considering his performance during Hurricane Katrina. But I'm glad Obama tapped Bush, especially if it encourages Republicans to help the government's rescue efforts. I think everyone deserves a chance to do some good....

That's it for today. See you tomorrow! We'll be looking out for the results of a Suffolk poll of the MA-SEN race tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/13/09-Negotiating Marathon

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Countdown to the Massachusetts Senate Election is 6 days. I wish we could just get it over with.

HEALTH CARE MEETING: House and Senate Democratic leaders met for over 8, yes 8, hours today at the White House trying to hammer out a deal on a final health reform package. So far, there is no word whether a deal was reached at the meeting. There are several issues we know are under discussion. Among them are the level of subsidies, whether to make the health insurance exchange federal or state-based, and how to fund the bill. There are a lot of smaller differences between the House and Senate bills that must be hashed out as well. Apparently, the President said that no one could leave until a deal was hashed out. If he was able to pull off a deal in this meeting, he will be somewhat of a miracle worker.

Of course these negotiations are complicated by the situation in Massachusetts. The Republican candidate in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy has vowed to block health reform if he is elected next Tuesday. Democrat Martha Coakley would be the bill's key 60th vote. Democrats are negotiating under the assumption that either Coakley will win, or that Democrats can stall the swearing in of Brown long enough for health care reform to pass. We will give full details of the President's meeting when they become available.

HAITI: Obviously, everyone is pretty shocked about the horrible earthquake yesterday in Haiti. Apparently, over 100,000 people, a staggering number, are believed to have died. In the country's capital of Port-Au-Prince, every single hospital has collapsed, along with the President's palace. I can only imagine what is going on in the poorest neighborhoods. I hope you all donate some money to the victims of this tragedy.

Even the worst tragedies can't pass without some insane statements from the Right Wing. Rush Limbaugh said today that Obama will use the earthquake to boost his credibility with "light-skinned" and "dark skinned" blacks in this country. Even worse, Pat Robertson said that the Haitians had this coming because they had "made a deal with the devil." I don't want to sink to their level by talking about this more, but wow, they're nuts.

THE HOUSE: The House today passed several bills under suspension of the rules. They also voted not to override President Obama's non-veto veto of an unnecessary spending bill by a vote of 143-245. This vote is a sign of true blind partisanship. This was a bill that was a stopgap funding measure, and it was unnecessary because Congress passed their spending bills on time. The President vetoed the bill, and Congress is constitutionally obligated to vote on whether to override the veto. The vote should have been an afterthought. This was just a technicality! But 140 Republicans and 3 Democrats (Filner of CA, Carney of PA and Taylor of MS) decided to vote yes on overriding the veto just for the hell of it.

That's it for now, have a good night.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/12/10-Stomach Punch Scenario Update

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Make sure to catch The Big Picture's excellent entry laying out exactly what President Obama and Democrats must do to win in the court of public opinion. Also, thanks to those who have left comments. Keep them coming!

MA-SEN: Oy vey. Two new polls in the Massachusetts Senate race to replace Ted Kennedy are making me very, very nervous. An internal Democratic poll apparently showed Democrat Martha Coakley leading Republican Scott Brown by only 5 points. This is down from a margin of 14 points last week. Similarly, Rasmussen now shows Brown behind by only 2 points after being down 9 points last week.

Democrats at least now have a sense of urgency about this race. On Friday, Coakley will be campaigning with President Bill Clinton and Senator John Kerry in Boston. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Committee are pouring millions of dollars into the race which will be used primarily for advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. Democratic donors were apparently sent a "panic" email deploring them to donate to Coakley's campaign.

The trajectory of this race right now is deeply troubling. Coakley needs to have a very strong final week, and a very organized ground game to avoid the upset. She also must explain the stakes of the race more clearly to Massachusetts overwhelmingly Democratic electorate: a Brown win means the end of health reform, probably. I don't think she's made that case convincingly enough yet.

I hope some other polls come out in the next couple of days so we can get further insight into this race, but the way things are looking now, we may be up for a long election night next Tuesday. In the meantime, we are downgrading this race in our rankings from "Likely Democratic" to "Lean Democratic." Another Rasmussen-type poll and we may call this a tossup. Also, partially because I'm in a bad mood, and partially due to reading more into these races, I've changed the PA (Specter) and IL (Open) Senate races from "Lean Democrat" to "Toss Up." My Senate projections have changed accordingly.

THE HOUSE: The House gaveled in today for the first time in 2010. They are currently establishing a quorum. They will vote tonight to dispose of President Obama's first (not really) veto. See yesterday's Weekly Strike for more information on that. The House comes back tomorrow to work on some suspension bills. On Thursday and Friday, the House is out of session while the Democratic caucus goes on their annual retreat. I would guess this retreat will be a lot more sober than last year's.

House and Senate leaders will be at the White House tomorrow to discuss health care. The results of the Coakley/Brown race will certainly be the elephant in the room there.

The Senate is out of session until next Wednesday.

That's it for tonight. See you tomorrow!

Long past time for Obama to explain that we're right, and centrists and Republicans are destructively wrong

I agree with the Strike that it's time to FREAK OUT, and I'm not just talking about the Massachusetts Senate race. I'm talking about President Obama and the Democratic Party seeming to concede defeat, first in the court of public opinion, then with enacting the policy of the progressive agenda, and finally with the 2010 elections, even though we should by every measure have the upper hand. Consider these basic facts. 1) We have won two consecutive elections in a landslide (and conservatives were crushed, twice). 2) We are facing massive problems caused by corporate-conservative irresponsibility and shortsightedness that demand serious, responsible, farsighted solutions. 3) The progressive infrastructure came prepared: we have actually have devised solutions that are reasonably true to our values and possibly big enough to meet the challenges we face, but that avoid old liberal errors by being nuanced, flexible, politically shrewd, not top-down. This is true of addressing unemployment, of health care (for expanding coverage, expanding choice, bringing down costs, delivery system reforms), of climate change/green energy (cap and trade or the carbon tax: both address the problem head on, and refund the money to consumers, while creating more jobs, SHOULD be very popular), and especially financial reform, where the problems desperately need addressing. 4) The man pushing the agenda, commanding the biggest megaphone, is an enormously gifted persuader and educator. These are very big advantages.

Sure, there are major institutional obstacles to enacting the agenda, and especially to creating a recovery package or health reform, for instance, at its most coherent and politically popular. But politics is always that way - when a majority in a diverse county has to agree, the result will never be as sensible as the perfect construction of a single academic. Stopping the bleeding of the financial crisis, passing the Recovery Act, about to pass health care: these are massively impactful, desperately needed major policy achievements, by far the biggest liberal accomplishments in decades. And we can whine and moan about the evil obstructionist Republicans and the misleading media and shortsighted selfish hypocritical centrists as much as we want. But democratic politics will always produce these results: from our perspective, less-than-optimal policies, and loud voices of disagreement. Are we just going to fold up the tents because there's some difficulty? Obama, Congressional Democrats, rank-and-file Democrats - we're just going to give up on arguing our positions, persuading people of how we see the world and what has to be done and why, just abandon the competition to define the narrative? That is deeply irresponsible, and it's childish and weak. It brings out all the worst stereotypes of liberals: weak-willed, pushovers, like to talk abstractly but don't feel strongly enough to really stand for something, confirming the populist supsicion that liberalism sounds great in theory, in academic seminars, but real folks with real-world concerns know that they need to remain firmly grounded in common sense.

In fact, common sense is the whole problem. The message side of politics is all about, all about, persuading people that your view is common sense while other views are not common sense. Obama's greatest failing as a President is his inability to convince Americans that the basic worldview underlying his economic and domestic policy agenda is common sense. He doesn't even seem to be trying. And this is despite the huge advantages he should have enjoyed. His views, our views, ARE actually rational and are actually proven to work, while Republicans and centrists' views not only don't make any sense rationally, but have been proven false in the real world.

For some reason, Obama has neglected to connect the dots of his agenda. He never explained that the key to averting a recession is for the government to spend money, and crucially, to spend it sensibly, in outlays with high multiplier effects for economic growth. This is the basic underlying logic behind his entire Presidency. But he never explained this. He never showed citizens why this is so. He never showed why the alternative would fail and would negatively impact people's lives. He never explained why the government needs to loosen its belt, not tighten it, in a recession, especially with smart spending with high-multipliers and bigger impacts on people's key needs. Why aren't Democrats trumpeting the fact that, according to a study by the CONSERVATIVE American Enterprise Institute, the stimulus package turned what would have been a contraction of 1 percent into growth of 3 percent in the second half of 2009. That is HUGE!! That is such gigantic difference in people's lives. Show people that and explain why his policies have had this result.

Obama also has not explained what the deficit is, what causes it to rise and fall, and how and why his agenda will reduce the deficit, but also why the deficit in and of itself isn't that important, it's all about what the money is being spent on. All this talk of cutting spending - make it real - how little those spending cuts would actually impact the deficit, and how devastating they would be to people's lives. People don't understand the budget, have any sense of how much money is being spent, if programs are paid for or not, even though budgetary priorities are is the most important point of having a government and having political parties and even having political views at all

He needs to take on the "Tightening the Belt" fallacy and the "Selective Deficit Disorder" that is dominating our political discourse and bringing down the Democratic Party and liberalism, and the country. Tens of millions of people are out of a job, a catastrophe, because this completely erroneous view . The real-world consequences of the Totally Flawed Republican-Centrist Worldview need to be shown, and explained. It's so imbalanced that Republican-Centrist views cause millions to be thrown out of a job, but Democrats don't point this out, even as the Democratic health care plan would not cut seniors' Medicare, would absolutely never lead to anything close to death panels, would in fact dramatically benefit a vast portion of the country, and yet Republicans have been so loud in portraying their completely made-up consequences of health reform that the majority of the country believes them! This is insanity! Is something going to be done about it? Or are we just going to let the destructively wrong Republicans continue to walk all over us? This past year, I've felt like Republicans are playing hard-hitting tackle football, and Obama and the Democrats are playing "family game with Ma and Sis" two-hand touch.

This is especially infuriating, and inexplicable, because the Republicans have been very very clear in explaining that their entire purpose is to cause the economy to fail in order to bring down Obama. These folks WANT higher unemployment, they WANT people to be thrown out of a job, desperate and angry and looking to blame Obama at the ballot box. They WANT terrorist attacks, so that people are anxious and scared and won't trust Obama to protect them, and take that fear out on him at the ballot box. They WANT the health care system to stay broken, so people won't credit Obama for helping to fix it. These folks are traitors. They need to be PUNISHED at the ballot box so that their entire despicable ideology, their destructive Big Lie, will be buried so deep it can never see the light of day again. I made the football game analogy above, but this is real life, this is the opposite of a game. We don't respect our opponents, we don't give them an equal shot, we don't congratulate them on a victory. They need to be persuaded or driven out of public life. Millions upon millions peoples' lives are at stake. Haven't we suffered enough from conservatism and its centrist enablers? Let's step up before it's too late.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/11/10-If you read two things today...

Good evening and welcome to a brief Daily Strike. It was a slow news day today, so I won't expand on what I wrote this morning. Instead I will invite you to read two great pieces:

-the first is a great piece by Ezra Klein on the media blurring the line between politics and policy
-the second is an upcoming entry by our friend, The Big Picture, that will blow you away. And having read the paragraph, it is a must-read for progressives.

That's it for now. Read those pieces! The Big Picture entry will be below this one when it is finalized.

The Weekly Strike-1/11-1/17

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the week in politics. Reading political news these days, you'll see an increasing emphasis on election stories and a decreasing emphasis on policy fights, which is deeply unfortunate.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President didn't exactly have the best week. He was still struggling in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas airline bombing, and he took a big hit when Friday's jobs numbers came out. He will try to get back on the right track this week, starting this morning when he meets with his supposed allies, organized labor.

Labor groups are deeply critical about the President's support of an excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The way the tax is structured now, all plans that cost more than $23,000 will be subject to the excise tax. Many union members have negotiated high cost insurance plans in lieu of higher wages, so they are understandably angry. The President supports the tax for the same reason that most policy wonks do: it will help lower overall health care costs in the long run. However, the long-run cost argument isn't exactly going over well at the SEIU and AFL-CIO.

There seems to be a pretty reasonable solution on the table. The way the tax is structured now, it could envelope 42% of health care consumers in ten years. The hope, of course, is that the tax would discourage workers and companies from purchasing high cost plans, but 42% is an awfully high number. Apparently, if the threshold is raised to $28,000, only 14% of plans would be subject to the tax by 2019. Combine this increased threshold with some indexing for inflation, and union members will probably be satisfied.

Getting the excise tax problem worked out is one of the last remaining large obstacles to health reform. So the President could do a lot of good for himself if he can reach some sort of agreement with organized labor and their allies in Congress.

Later today, the President will host a dinner with Combat Commanders and their spouses. The Vice President is attending the funeral of his mother, Jean Biden. Condolences to the Vice President for his loss. The rest of the President's schedule this week has yet to be released.

THE HOUSE: The House of Representatives comes back into session this work for its first meeting in 2010. Most of the action this week will be behind closed doors, as health care negotiations between House and Senate leaders are ongoing. The House will consider several bills under suspension of the rules.

The House will also vote dispose of the President's first veto. The President vetoed something, you ask? Why, yes he did! Prior to the end of last year's session of Congress, the House and Senate passed a stopgap funding measure in case the Senate failed to pass a Defense funding bill on time. The Senate did indeed manage to pass that bill on time, so the stopgap funding measure was not needed. Therefore, the President vetoed it. Not exactly a high profile opportunity to issue your first veto. The House must vote to override this veto, which it most certainly will not.

The Senate is still out of session until next week.

ELECTIONS: As you may have noticed, I have added a Senate Elections toolbar on the right side of your screen, reflecting my take on the 2010 Senate map. Right now, I'm projecting 55 Democrats and 40 Republicans in the Senate, with 5 seats rated as tossups. Republicans would have to win every tossup seat, plus all of the Lean Democratic and Likely Democratic seats to take over the Senate.

I currently have three Democratic seats favored to turn Republican. The first is in Nevada, Majority Leader Harry Reid is in serious trouble. He has been trailing unknown opponents all year, and has minuscule favorability ratings. It certainly didn't help that controversial comments were revealed this week in the book "Game Change." Reid apparently said that Barack Obama was electable because he didn't speak "the negro dialect." Ouch. I have some sympathy for Reid here. It was an inartful comment, but he has a strong record on civil rights, and he helped Obama become our nation's first black President. Nevertheless, incumbents with ratings this low will rarely win reelection, and I don't think Reid will be any exception.

I also have the open seat in Delaware (Joe Biden's old seat) as Lean Republican, because popular Rep. Mike Castle is running for the GOP. Unless Joe Biden's son (Attorney General Beau Biden) gets in the race, this seat is toast for the Democrats. If Biden gets in the race, we could move this election into the "tossup" category.

The third likely Republican takeover is in North Dakota, where Byron Dorgan's retirement significantly changed the political landscape. Governor John Hoeven, who has sky-high approval ratings, will announce today that he is running for the Senate for the GOP. Because of his popularity, and the lack of any strong Democratic contenders at this point, I'm currently listing this Democratic-held seat as "Safe Republican," meaning we are almost certain to lose a Senate seat in this November's elections.

I have included next week's Massachusetts Senate election in my rankings, and despite my panicked entry on Saturday, I am listing the seat as "likely Democratic." A poll out yesterday showed Democrat Martha Coakley with a 15 point lead over her Republican opponent Scott Brown in the race to succeed Ted Kennedy. Other polls have shown the race dangerously close, including one that actually showed Brown ahead. But Massachusetts is such a Democratic state, and I just can't see the Bay State electing a the 41st Republican Senator to kill health care reform, Ted Kennedy's singular issue.

That's it for now, please leave us comments, including your thoughts on the Senate rankings. Take care!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Time to FREAK OUT!!!!!!

The Stomach Punch Scenario now seems somewhat likely. I can't believe this is happening. Keep in mind, Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, has basically stopped campaigning for over a month for now apparent reason. This is just killing me. KILLING me!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/8/10-Bad News Bears

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I for one, could use a break from politics for a few days, but I can't abandon you all before I give you one last blog entry for the week.

JOBS: The latest employment numbers came out today, and they were not good. The economy shed 85,000 jobs over the past month, significantly worse than November, when revised estimates show the economy actually gaining jobs. The unemployment rate held steady at 10%, mostly because many people simply chose to stop looking for work. This is horrible news for the country and for the Obama administration. It shows that our recovery will be slow and stagnant. As long as unemployment remains high, voters will be angry and frustrated, and most of all, distrustful of their government.

The House already passed a jobs program in late December, and the Senate is currently drafting its own version. The bill is expected to include tax credits for businesses to create jobs and infrastructure spending. Senate Democrats say that they want to keep the bill "deficit neutral," which means that any spending would have to be relatively modest.

This is getting to be unacceptable to me. Democrats are unlikely to to enact successful jobs programs unless they abandon their ill-fated quest to decrease the deficit. Instead of kowtowing to the conventional wisdom that the government should be "tightening its belt" during a recession, the President and other Democrats need to actively explain to the American people why we need to make investments now and create jobs. They also need to explain that a major cause of the deficit is declining tax revenue, which could only be bolstered with robust job creation. It won't be enough to take half measures. It won't even be enough to enact significant policy changes. We have to change the national ethos against government spending. Right now, I'm very pessimistic that President Obama can achieve that goal.

NIGHTMARES: PPP Polling Institute, a Democratic firm, is in the middle of conducting a survey of the Massachusetts Special Senate Election to replace Ted Kennedy. PPP tweeted that the election "might be a real race" and that the race is now loseable for Democrats. Inexplicably, the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley hasn't really campaigned in the past three weeks, and has been sitting on a giant pile of money while Republican Scott Brown has been out there running advertisements. If Brown somehow wins this race is Deep Blue Massachussetts, the House would probably have to accept the Senate's version of the health care bill, because the Senate would not be able to muster 60 votes for a final merged package. I still can't fathom Ted Kennedy's replacement killing health reform. That's why I'm calling a Brown victory the "Stomach Punch Scenario." Hopefully these warning signs will wake up complacent Democrats so that we can get the job done on January 19th.

That's it for this evening, I'll see you again on Monday!