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25
Up in Washington last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference every time Scott Brown’s name was mentioned the conservative hordes let out a bellow of approval – but, then, two days later Brown voted with the Democrats in the Senate to end a filibuster against President Obama’s latest ‘Stimulus Bill’ and Democratic leader Harry Reid purred, “I believe this is the beginning of a new day in the Senate.”
 
Scott Brown’s election has been heralded as a conservative triumph but, in fact, it’s not. Instead, Brown’s win is a triumph of Washington Republican pragmatism. The Washington Republicans – whose goal is Republican majorities regardless of ideological persuasion – have succeeded in electing a crucial 41st Republican vote and, in the process, probably dealt a fatal blow to Obamacare. So, they can argue, credibly, that even if Brown strays on Obama’s Stimulus Bills the game was worth the candle and adding up the pro’s and con’s, no matter how Brown votes, Senate Republicans come out way ahead.
 
But, at the same time, they have created – for themselves – a pair of problems:   First, they didn’t elect Brown by saying he was another Olympia Snow  –  instead they waved flags of ideological purity all over the Internet persuading Republican faithful across the nation to pour millions into Brown’s campaign.
 
Result:  The Washington Republican Establishment fooled the core activists in their own party, once again, and a lot of people who oppose Obama’s Stimulus Bills, abortion, and gay marriage contributed to a Massachusetts Republican who supports all three – which leads straight to the second problem.
 
The Independents who voted Republican last fall didn’t do it out of love for the Grand Old Party – they did it because they’re mad as blazes at President Obama.  They want changes in Washington. A lot of changes – which Senator Brown voting with Democrats won’t deliver.
 
It sure looks like Independent voters are going to stick with Republicans through this fall election but if they wake up after the election to find Washington politics rolling along as usual – guess who they’re going be mad at next?
 
 

 

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25
President Obama may be setting up Republicans for a classic one-two punch.
 
First, the left jab: an open, public “discussion” where he challenges Republicans to put their ideas on the table. That’s what they said they wanted, isn’t it?
 
Then, the right uppercut: ramming a health-care bill through using something called “reconciliation.”
 
I don’t know what “reconciliation” means, but it is apparently a parliamentary term for “steamroller.”
 
Republicans will howl about the process. But who cares?
 
Obama needs a win – no matter how bloody. He needs to look strong. Then he can spend the rest of the year blaming Republicans for not doing more. And Republicans can blame him for doing too much.
 
And we’ll get a verdict in November.
 
Either way, Obama’s chances to pass a bill won’t get better.

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22
The best message in politics is always: “It’s Time for a Change.”
 
That worked like a charm for Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Voters were anxious, angry and ready to throw out the bums in power in Washington.
 
Nothing has changed this year – except Democrats are now the bums in power.
 
Democratic governors – many of them up for election this year – worried this weekend that President Obama’s message hasn’t connected.

It hasn’t. People still like Obama. But he’s reduced to arguing that his stimulus bill saved jobs and the economy.

Unlike Ronald Reagan, who also took office in tough economic times, Obama isn’t selling a popular cure. Reagan was selling lower taxes. Obama, when you get down to it, is selling more spending.

Republicans believe they’re on the right side of the winning message this year. So why should they do anything responsible – like solving the debt crisis or protecting millions of Americans from ruinous medical bills?
 
Likely as not, Republicans will win big enough this fall to once again become part of the bums in power in Washington.
 
Once they do, they’ll have a choice the next two years: Do something responsible – or just try to beat Obama in 2012. They’ll pick the latter.
 
Once Obama wins reelection against Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or whatever loser the GOP nominates (it won’t be Sarah Palin, though she or Ron Paul may be the Ross Perot of 2012), maybe something will get done.
 
Until then, Americans apparently will just have to hang on and hope for the best.
 

 

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17
Politico has an excellent overview of what’s happening to once-Republican states that went Democratic in 2008 – including North Carolina.
 
One reason it’s excellent, of course, is that it quotes me.  Click here to read the analysis.
 
 

 

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17
Can Erskine Bowles save America? Can history repeat itself?
 
I was about halfway through the book The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President, by Taylor Branch, when I heard that President Obama will name Erskine and another Great Compromiser, former Senator Alan Simpson, to lead a national commission on the budget deficit.
 
You will remember that, in 1997, Bowles brokered a deal with Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans that balanced the federal budget.
 
You will remember that, when George Bush 43 took office, the budget was running surpluses as far as the eye could see.
 
And you will remember, if President Obama is successful in reminding you, that Bush and the Republicans promptly wrecked the car and in just eight years gave us budget deficits that – all the smart people say – will wreck America.
 
Even before I heard the news about Erskine, I was struck by the parallels in Branch’s book between Clinton’s first term and Washington today.
 
Then, as now, congressional Republicans staunchly opposed anything and everything a Democratic President supported. “The hell with the country! We need to destroy this President!”
 
Then, as now, Republicans opposed serious deficit reduction – until their stubbornness reelected Clinton and forced them to compromise.
 
(Question: Why do congressional Democrats compromise with Republican Presidents – tax cuts with Reagan, deficit reduction with Reagan and Daddy Bush, education and drug benefits with Baby Bush, etc. – even though Republicans refuse to reciprocate? Answer: Democrats are more responsible.)
 
Then, as now, a Democratic President struggled to pass health-care reform that was and is, in Clinton’s apt description, “hard to explain and easy to criticize.”
 
Maybe now, as then, Bowles can navigate Washington’s stormy seas and bring the ship of state safely to port.
 

 

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12
Several readers pounced on my blog about Obama’s favorable ratings in North Carolina:
 
“Hope that kool-aid tastes good,” one posted.  Another: “Wow. Keep spinning, Gary.”
 
 
“At a time of deepening political disaffection and intensified distress about the economy, President Obama enjoys an edge over Republicans in the battle for public support….

“While the president is showing signs of vulnerability on his handling of the economy — a majority of respondents say he has yet to offer a clear plan for creating jobs — Americans blame former President George W. Bush, Wall Street and Congress much more than they do Mr. Obama for the nation’s economic problems and the budget deficit, the poll found.

“They credit Mr. Obama more than Republicans with making an effort at bipartisanship, and they back the White House’s policies on a variety of disputed issues, including allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military and repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy."
 

 

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10
Sarah Palin is an unending source of entertainment. She’s nearly as funny as Tina Fey’s impression of her.
 
There’s the scrambled syntax – a sure sign of a scrambled mind. The brassy denial of reality. Reading a speech ridiculing President Obama for reading a speech. Attacking the bailout that she and John McCain supported in 2008. Defending Rush Limbaugh for calling people retards while criticizing Rahm Emanuel for calling people retards.
 
And the high point: writing talking points on her hand!
 
It’s no surprise Palin has a passionate following. In a country as great and diverse as America, there are nuts of all stripes. Remember Ross Perot?
 
The only question is how much she can damage the Republican Party before her inevitable flame-out.
 
Go, Sarah, go.

 

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08
Republicans have reason to be confident as filing opens for the 2010 elections. But I’m yet to be convinced this will be another 1994.
 
That year, Democrats – in Raleigh and Washington – were supremely overconfident, all the way to Election Day.
 
Not a problem this time.
 
Still, the cycle favors Republicans. Democrats have won big in the last two elections, so a change is due.
 
Also, Independents – the unorganized third party nationally and in North Carolina – tilt Republican. They’re unhappy, and they’ll probably take it out on the Ins.
 
But there are hopeful signs for Democrats.
 
President Obama is back in campaign mode. He challenged Republicans to a televised debate, in effect, on health care. Don’t underestimate him.
 
Statewide, while the cycle favors Republicans in the legislature, the money and the relative quality of the parties’ campaign teams favor Democrats. But will corporate money change that?
 
Locally, schools will dominate the Wake commissioners’ races, and the school board seems hell-bent on imposing its agenda, regardless of what parents said in the recent survey. That’s a sure-fire way to go over the cliff. Plus, three Republican incumbents are up this year, and only one Democrat.
 
On today’s money, I’d bet on Republican gains, but no replay of the ’94 revolution. And WakeCounty could be the outlier that goes Democratic.

 

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05
It’s the one thing you can count on in politicians: hubris.
 
Exhibit A: John Edwards.
 
Exhibit B may be the newly reenergized Republicans in Congress.
 
They’ve gone gaga over Scott Brown – and their new-found ability to block anything President Obama wants. They’re convinced the November elections will be a rerun of 1994.
 
Not so fast.
 
The Republicans may be headed over the same cliff as when they shut down the federal government – and left Raleigh without passing a budget – after 1994..
 
They look like nothing more than a collection of grim, grumpy old men.
 
Obama has this clearly in focus. And his biggest weapon is his own smiling, confident persona.
 
His strategy is taking shape. It will be Yes We Can versus Just Say No.

 

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02
I have a real problem with the way President Obama blamed George Bush for the budget deficit in his State of the Union speech.
 
But my objection is directly opposite Republicans’. I don’t think Obama blamed Bush enough.
 
As I recall, Ronald Reagan was still blaming Jimmy Carter and the Democrats for everything that was wrong as late as 1984. Obama has another three years to match that.
 
Politically, Obama would be a lot better off if he kept hammering that he inherited an economy that was about to go under – and a budget that already had. Bush, by contrast, inherited a booming economy and a budget surplus.
 
Blame away, Democrats.

 

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