Voters in AZ, CO and OK “will decide this fall whether to approve proposed constitutional amendments that would allow them to opt out of key provisions of” Pres Obama’s signature national health care law.” All three “initiatives prohibit the government from forcing individuals to buy health care insurance - a “mandate” that critics say violates the” Constitution “and would allow patients and employers to pay providers directly without penalty.” The idea “is to protect state residents from the “takeover of” gov’t health care.
But “Federal law trumps state law, meaning that the measures are certain to be overturned even if they win 100 percent of the vote.”
OK Gov. Brad Henry (D): “No state has the authority to selectively ignore federal laws of its choosing, no matter how much some people may dislike them, and any attempt to do so will be ruled unconstitutional by the courts” (Richardson, Washington Times, 10/3).
CALIFORNIA: What, No George Soros Donation?
“If recreational marijuana becomes a big over-the-counter business in” CA “it likely won’t be because of big donations to a ballot measure to legalize the drug” No one is “pouring much money into either side of the high-profile battle to legalize possession and cultivation of limited amounts of pot for adults — not even the thriving medical marijuana industry, a seemingly natural base of support for a measure being sold as a way to raise tax revenue for the cash-strapped state.”
Supporters have raised $2.1M as of 10/5 and “opponents had raised just more than” $210K, “much of it from law enforcement sources.”
“The tepid fundraising” can be blamed “in part on higher profile contests” like the CA GOV race that is “drawing attention and money.” Also “some voters inclined to oppose the measure might not give money because they have a hard time imagining the status quo could change” (Wohlsen/Leff, AP, 10/6).
COLORADO: Who’s Next?
IF Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) wins the CO GOV race, “the dash the replace him will begin” 11/3. The race “so far is uncomfortably underground” but “half a dozen hopefuls have been phoning donors and recruiting volunteers in anticipation of an open seat” but “only one has had the guts to declare a candidacy,” Denver Preschool chief James Mejia.
Mejia: “We know what we want to do. We know what we want to run for. So we figured, let’s get things started.”
Most “would-be” mayors “are holding back” in case Hickenlooper loses. Councilman Michael Hancock: “The office is not vacant at this point. You want to honor the mayor and his job” (Greene, Denver Post, 10/7).
HAWAII: She Lingles There
Gov. Linda Lingle (R) “says she will consider running” in the ‘12 SEN race against Sen. Daniel Akaka (D). “In the meantime, Lingle said she will work with the national” GOP “to defeat Hawaii-born” Pres. Obama in ‘12, and also said “she hopes to volunteer as a reading tutor, move into a Hawaii Kai condominium and drive a Nissean Leaf electric car” (AP, 10/4).
LOUISIANA: Don’t You Forget About Me
If Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) “has irked” the WH by blocking the nomination of OMB director-appointee Jacob Lew, she “likely only stands to gain in another corner: her home state.”
“Although she isn’t up for reelection” until ‘14, Landrieu “has positioned herself as someone willing to buck her party in the name of homegrown interests.” LA “observers” “say Landrieu is simply playing smart politics.” Tulane Uni. prof. Brian Brox: “People appreciate that she’s going to bat for the economy of south Louisiana. The [Democratic] criticism that she is stalling the administration does not really resonate with Louisiana voters.”
Landrieu “is doing what most senators do — playing to her home base, especially since the stand has been trending steadily” GOP. Landrieu “can likely” expect “a reelection challenge if and when she runs again in four years (Rushing, The Hill, 10/5).
MASSACHUSETTS: He’s Got Friends In High Places
Sen. Scott Brown (R) “has been hopscotching the country, using his high profile to help” GOPers “fill their campaign coffers. But these missions help him with another goal: introducing himself to the GOP elite in key cities across the country and building his own national fund-raising network for his expected” ‘12 SEN reelection bid.
“By the end of the year, he will have helped raise money in nearly half of the top 20 fund-raising locales in the country. He is also accumulating political chits that he can cash in next year.”
Boston College prof. Dennis Hale: “Given how much demand there will be for money in 2012, he definitely needs to expand his donor base to be prepared.” Brown’s “fund-raising abilities could also deter would-be challengers.” He has $6.5M CoH, “significantly more than any potential challengers” (Viser, Boston Globe, 10/4).
MONTANA: Already Testing The Waters?
Sen. Jon Tester (D) “faces re-election in two years.” Pres. Obama “will be on the ballot, and in conservative” MT “there has been a lot of backlash to health care reform and” gov’t spending. Tester: “Two years is a long, long, long time in politics. I’m going to continue to get back to Montana every weekend to talk about issues that are important and call my own shots like I’ve done.”
GOPers “have been hammering him for ties to Obama” admin. policies. “Many hope” Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) “will challenge.” Neither Tester nor Rehberg “have publicly addressed the possibility, but their exchanges have grown more heated.” Tester, “who has started to raise money, said he can’t worry about who will challenge him and that he has plenty of time to campaign” (Gouras, AP, 10/3).
PENNSYLVANIA: Mind If We Pull Up A Chair?
“The battle for control of the” PA House “is on.” GOPers “see nothing standing in the way of them regaining the” maj. after 4 years, but Dems “anticipate no scenario in which they lose” it. The GOP needs just 3 seats for a majority. Dems are particularly interested in having “a seat at the table next year when the Legislature” and gov. redraw cong. district boundaries. The GOP is already “virtually assured… a say in that process” with a 10-seat maj. in the PA Senate.
PA Dem consultant Mark Nevins: “If Republicans control all branches of government in 2011, then they will use redistricting like a political chainsaw and they will carve out anybody they don’t like” (Murphy/Andren, Harrisburg Patriot-News, 10/5).
The number of registered voters in both parties in down — 176K for Dems, 120K for GOPers — since the ‘08 election, despite nat’l anger with pols. Overall registration is down 302K.
Analysts cite one “reason for the lack of new voter registrations: Most people who care at all about politics were already signed up” during huge voter drives in ‘08.
In Nov. ‘08, PA had 8.75M “registered voters.” As of 9/27/10, the number was 8.45M (Infield, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/4).
VIRGINIA: Fights And Slurs
Ex-Sen. George Allen (R) “appears to be preparing” for a ‘12 comeback. Allen’s career isn’t dead yet — he’s “held nearly 100 public events” this year and 20 campaign events for VA cong. candidates “this month alone.”
“At a fundraiser for” a VA “state lawmaker last week, Allen addressed the speculation but said he has no solid plans yet” (Condon, CBS News, 10/7).
Allen “recently huddled with” NRSC chair John Cornyn “to discuss a prospective” rematch with Sen. Jim Webb (R). Allen has also begun “spreading cash through” his PAC and has launched a Facebook page (Isenstadt/Bresnahan, Politico, 10/7).
WASHINGTON: What Is It Girl? Incumbents Are In Trouble?!
The GOP’s control of the WA legislature “remains a long shot … requiring them to pick up 7 seats in the Senate and 13 in the House.” But even if the Dem maj. doesn’t “crumble,” it’s likely to look different, with many incumbents facing difficult reelection battles.
Dems “could do better than they did in the primaries,” as GOP turnout was likely boosted by ‘04/‘08 GOV nominee Dino Rossi’s (R) bid for the Senate (Schrader, Tacoma News Tribune, 10/3).
WEST VIRGINIA: Keeps Getting Earlier And Earlier
State Sen. Clark Barnes (R) announced that he will run for GOV in ‘12.
Barnes “said he hopes to take advantage of a ‘changing political climate’ to provide greater opportunities for” the state. Barnes is a business-owner and had planned to run for the Senate this year, but “opted out when 10” other GOPers filed. He will retain consulting firm Drsener, Wickers and Associates who worked for ex-AR Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) (Charleston Gazette, 10/4).
Treas. John Perdue 10/6 named ex-WV Dem chair Chuck Smith as his mgr for GOV. Smith is “a certified public accountant” and served as mayor of Montgomery (AP, 10/6).
One distinct possibility in this election year has always been that a major international incident, very possibly in the Middle East, could push a close presidential election decisively in one direction or the other. An air strike by Israel, the United States, or both, against Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear-weapons capability has been the most widely speculated flash point in the region.
Over the past year, Republican presidential candidates have frequently talked about Iran on the campaign trail. More than a few members of the pro-Israel community in the United States see President Obama as an unreliable ally. They view him as much less supportive of Israel than President George W. Bush was.
The GOP presidential contenders, with the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, attacked Obama relentlessly on the subject. Just a few months ago, it seemed entirely plausible that Obama could get boxed into supporting such an attack on Iran whether he wanted to or not.
An international incident, particularly an attack in the Middle East, could have a huge, but unpredictable, effect on the race between Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The very real possibility of a clash with Iran, the general political instability in the region, and turmoil in Yemen and the Sudan, have been major factors in the increase in worldwide oil prices. Thus, the international political situation has contributed to the rise of domestic gasoline prices over the past year, with obvious economic and political implications.
According to The New York Times, top Israeli and U.S. intelligence and military officials agree that Iran has suspended its nuclear-weapons program. They believe that Iran unquestionably had an active program but some time ago stopped short of taking advanced steps to create weapons.
Some well-placed foreign-policy officials of close U.S. allies also share this view. In the past two weeks, current and very recent Israel intelligence and military officials have publicly made these points.
These officials’ statements contrast starkly with those of Israel’s political leaders, notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who see Iran’s nuclear capability as an immediate and existential threat to their country.
The growing consensus that Iran is no longer actively developing nuclear weapons and that the Persian nation is facing increased economic hardship — with an embargo slated to begin on July 1 — has lessened fears of an imminent attack on Iran.
This is one reason, along with rising Saudi and domestic U.S. oil production and diminished demand, for the recent drop in oil prices. The American Automobile Association’s latest Daily Fuel Gauge Report indicates that the national average for regular-grade gasoline is $3.81 a gallon, 12 cents below the $3.93 of a month ago. It is also 13 cents below the average of a year ago.
The perceived threat of war is lower, helping to bring gas prices down some. We don’t know, though, whether prices will continue to drop in the coming months or stay relatively high until Election Day. The combination of the fourth-warmest winter on record and historically low natural-gas prices has significantly diminished home-heating costs for many Americans this year, and that has worked to offset spiking gasoline prices during the winter months.
So, for now, the threat of major military action in the Middle East before November 6 is less likely than it was just a few months ago. It’s just unclear whether the odds have declined enough to create a peace dividend in the form of lower oil and gasoline prices in the next six months.
Foreign-policy insiders don’t think that Obama will participate in, or support, a unilateral attack on Iran unless he is convinced that Iran is on the cusp of developing a nuclear-weapons capability. But they are equally certain that he would act if intelligence showed that capability is drawing near.
The insiders say that a knee-jerk reaction to protect Israel wouldn’t motivate Obama. The president, they believe, is worried that if Iran developed a nuclear-weapons capability, other countries in the region would immediately go on the market to acquire their own nuclear capabilities from Pakistan or elsewhere, triggering an arms race on his watch that he would consider abhorrent and unacceptable.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.