The Line: October 27, 2011

  • photo-paul-ryan-150Jonathan Chait dissects Republican pols’ facility at papering over facts they find to be inconvenient. They all do it but Chait fricassees the GOP’s Big Thimker, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose big speech at the Heritage Foundation yesterday on income equality (or whatever) turned out to be nothing more than a retread of the same manure Ryan has been spreading for years.
  • In a piece titled “John Galt Clutches His Pearls,” Digby marvels at Ryan’s speech, too: “One of my favorite right wing quirks is their ability to shape-shift from Rambo to Aunt Pittypat in the blink of an eye.”
  • Elizabeth Warren did not take credit for #OccupyWallStreet, despite the right-wing propaganda ministry’s claims. Dave Weigel uses the right’s “dogpiling” on Warren as a case study in how they twist Democrats’ words to bolster their narrative that liberals are elitists, vain and out of touch. (Similarly, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet.)
  • photo-rick-perryIf your candidate’s fumbling, befuddled debate performances are killing his campaign, what do you do? If you’re Rick Perry’s campaign team, you quietly announce that the candidate won’t be participating in any more debates. Kevin Drum reacts: “So there you have it. Perry’s not hiding from anything. He’s just choosing to stay off national TV because it makes his dimness a little too painfully obvious to voters who are trying to choose a leader of the free world. Better to focus instead on what he’s best at: attack ads and laughably flimsy policy proposals.”
  • New polls out in the congressional districts find 12 seats that are ripe for Democratic pickups, including five in California: Dan Lungren (CA-7), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Elton Gallegly (CA-26), Mary Bono Mack (CA-36), Brian Bilbray (CA-52). Relatedly, the district of GOP House Rules Committee Chair David Dreier (CLOSET-1) was disappeared by California’s new nonpartisan redistricting committee. Democrats need to win 25 seats to win control of the House next year.
  • Via Pork News (seriously): The GOP’s drive to install racist Arizona-style “papers please” anti-immigrant laws in the Old Confederate states could result in losses in the tens of millions in agricultural production next year. Turns out, farmers can’t find “legal” Southerners who’ll take jobs doing back-breaking farm work in the fields.
  • For the tenth anniversary of the USA PATRIOT Act, I have a piece up at Gore Vidal Now tracking some of Vidal’s writing about the act, which he described as being “as despotic as anything Hitler came up with — even using much of the same language.”

Charlie Cook: Swing Voters’ Shift Back to Center Worries Republicans

Charlie Cook
Charlie Cook
In late February, Charlie Cook, the respected pollster and political analyst, downplayed the possibility that Dems could win back the House in 2012:

I would be surprised if either party picked up or lost more than 10 seats, something like that. Democrats need a 25 seat net gain to get their majority back in the House. And I think that’s awfully hard. They may pick up five or 10; they may lose five or 10. I don’t see a lot of change in the House of Representatives right now.

Based on current trends and past performance — the record of the parties’ gains and losses in the House in past presidential elections — chances that Democrats will take back the House next year remain statistically unlikely.

But statistics have their limits as predictors. Events — natural disasters, wars, economic downturns and the like — can change the political landscape seemingly overnight, as can human folly and hubris.

Now, in a column published in the National Journal this week, Cook says recent developments, particularly in the tea party-controlled U.S. House, are starting to worry top Republicans:



The only thing worse than a massive oil leak from the bottom of the ocean would be massive radioactive oil leak from the bottom of the ocean.

— Rep. Ed Markey (D – Mass.), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment and the president’s point man on the Gulf oil catastrophe, responding to calls from Donald Trump and others to nuke the oil spill. Markey was responsible for forcing BP to install its “spill cam” so the gushing oil could be viewed by the public.

Poll: Democrats on Track to Lose Control of House – Get Used to It Now: ‘Speaker Boehner’

Speaker-to-Be Boehner
Speaker-to-Be Boehner
Yesterday, Buck found a slight uptick in approval of Democrats in congressional races in a new Public Policy Polling survey. According to PPI, Democrats are preferred on a generic ballot, 43-41 — an improvement from March, when Republicans were preferred 46-43.

But now a new poll of specific House battleground districts conducted by Democrat Stan Greenberg and Republican Glen Bolger for NPR suggests that Republicans are well within strking distance of regaining control of the House:

For this poll, Bolger and Greenberg chose the districts where incumbents are considered the most vulnerable, and, in the case of open seats, the ones most likely to switch party control in November. Sixty are currently held by Democrats — many of whom won these seats even when voters in the same district preferred Republican John McCain for president in 2008. The other 10 districts are the flip side — held by Republicans in the House, even though their voters went for Barack Obama in 2008.

These are this year’s swing seats — the political terrain where the battle for control of the House of Representatives will be won or lost. In this battleground, voters are choosing Republicans over Democrats 49 percent to 41 percent.

Another dire indicator for Democrats is that Pres. Obama is unpopular in the battleground districts, where his disapproval rate is 54-40, according to the pollsters.

Separately, here’s yet more evidence that MSNBC’s White House correspondent Chuck Todd is fully in the bag for the GOP this year. He promoted this NPR poll showing Dems in trouble on his aptly named “Rundown” show this morning, while ignoring the PPI poll results showing improvement in Dem chances.

FL 19: Dem Trounces Tea Bagger Favorite in U.S. House Special Election

Ted Deutch
Ted Deutch
Democrats are two for two in special elections to the House. After flipping New York 23 from Republican to Dem last November, they held Florida 19 in a special election on Tuesday, despite tea bagger predictions that the Republican they favored would win the race, thus “sending a shot across the bow” that voter antipathy to health-care reform was going to lead to upsets in House races this fall.

Ted Deutch handily beat his Republican opponent Ed Lynch, 62 percent to 35 percent, retaining the seat held by Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, who retired to join a think tank.

The district is home to many seniors, and Lynch vigorously campaigned against health care reform law, hoping to make the election a referendum on it, which he claimed was unpopular in the district.

Earlier this week, a tea bagger blogger predicted that a win by Lynch would send a signal that tea baggers were set to “take back” the House:

The TEA Party’s clout may be felt this week in the race for the open Congressional seat in Florida’s 19th District on April 13th. This may be the first shot across the bow of Republicans running for national, state wide, and local offices.

Tow the conservative line or else may be the message sent if TEA Party favorite Edward Lynch wins this special election.

I just received an e-mail from a friend saying that TEA Party members have made over 10,000 phone calls in support of conservative Edward Lynch for Congress. Edward is running against Florida Senator Ted Deutch a Democrat who embraced President Obama’s healthcare bill, anti-Israel posturing, and stimulus package. Edward won a special Republican primary election in February and now will use that momentum to turn a Democrat seat into a Republican seat – the first in Florida.

This special election may turn out to be the first in a wave of elections to take back the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. Florida may be set to take three Congressional seats currently held by Democrats – FL8, FL19 and FL22. Patricia Sullivan is running in District 8 and Allen West in District 22. Sullivan and West are both TEA Party favorites.

Lynch was a big hit at CPAC in February:

“He is a candidate for the next House election that’s going to occur…It’s the seat vacated by that loudmouth Robert Wexler in Florida that you might remember from cable television,” said Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund in his introduction of Lynch.

Lynch, who is Hispanic and head of the Latin American Republican Club in Palm Beach County, was part of a four-member panel discussing immigration reform. He spoke for six minutes and got big applause when he called for making English the official language of the United States.

“One of the most racist things we do in our country is not make English the official language,” Lynch said. Failure to learn English limits opportunities for Hispanics, Lynch said.

Lynch also got a big response when he suggested a phone-answering system that says “push 1 for English and push 2 to go home.”

Lynch faces long odds in Palm Beach-Broward congressional District 19, where Democrats hold more than a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage and Democratic rival Ted Deutch has raised more than $1 million. Wexler left office in January to head a Middle East think tank.

Lynch is hoping his appearance before the nation’s premiere gathering of conservatives will nationalize the race.

“Let’s Do This Together!” says a flyer handed out by the Lynch campaign to CPAC attendees. “Just like the Scott Brown race in Massachusetts, this race will have national implications. As the first House race of 2010, it will set the tone for all of the November elections!”

Lynch, who came to Washington this week with six campaign staffers, has spent a few hours getting issue briefings from the conservative Heritage Foundation, meeting with representatives of the National Rifle Association and other PACs and visiting Wexler’s old office on Capitol Hill.

Of course, despite the crowing from the tea bag set about the momentous signal a win by Lynch would send, purveyors of inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom are downplaying the significance of Deutch’s win in this heavily Democratic district. But even as Chris Cillizza, for examples, tamps down the significance of the win in a post titled, “Why FL-19 Isn’t a Health Care Referendum,” (even though the tea baggers said it was) he acknowledges that “Democrats point out — rightly — that had they lost this race (or even narrowly won it), the national press would have painted it as an electoral Armageddon. True enough.”