The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Coming Huge Fight Over Abortion — Among Democrats


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Get Ready for a Massive Fight Over Abortion — Among Democrats!

So at what point can we declare that there’s a civil war within the Democratic party over abortion? Because West Virginia Democrats in the state legislature just voted to ban abortion after 20 weeks. Are the Democrats elsewhere just going to avert their eyes? Will NARAL give them a pass because there’s a D after their name?

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat and perhaps the worst governor you’ve never heard of, is now going to be one of the most scrutinized governors in the country:

Another bill Tomblin said he would carefully scrutinize is House Bill 4588, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. That bill bans abortions after 20 weeks except in the case of non-viable pregnancies. The law is similar to others that have passed state legislatures across the country, but some of those bills have faced legal challenges. The attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee last week cautioned against passing the bill to the full Senate, saying it is unconstitutional.

“The abortion bill obviously is one that causes me some concern because the legislative attorneys and others have said the bill is unconstitutional,” Tomblin said. “So I’ll be looking at all those aspects of it once I receive the bill.”

Note that the legislative votes weren’t even close:

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, HB 4588, passed in the West Virginia Senate on the final day of the session, Saturday, March 8, by a vote of 29-5. The Senate approved an amended version of the bill, which had been passed earlier by the House of Delegates. The House had to concur with the Senate changes before final passage, 83-15.

Just in case there wasn’t enough pressure on Tomblin:

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is “supportive” of a West Virginia bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and is considering backing a similar federal ban in the Senate.

“I am pro-life and supportive of the principles in the bill that was just passed in the West Virginia Legislature,” Manchin said in a statement.

Tags: Abortion , West Virginia , Democrats

The Reasons Sink . . . (or Jolly!) Will Win Tomorrow’s Special Election


Tomorrow, voters in Florida’s 13th congressional district head to the polls for a special U.S. House election.

Reasons Democrat Alex Sink Will Win Florida’s Special House Election:

Alex Sink is the bigger name, as a gubernatorial candidate in 2010 who won 47.7 percent of the vote in a year when Republicans did fantastically well across Florida. She’s been elected statewide, as chief financial officer of Florida in 2006 with 53.5 percent of the vote.

Her Republican opponent, David Jolly, has never run for office before. He was counsel to the previous congressman from this district, the late Bill Young, and spent several years as a lobbyist. Some Republicans in Washington have been loudly complaining about the quality of Jolly’s campaign.

Sink’s campaign is raising and spending way more money than Jolly’s campaign.

Obama won this district, 50 percent to 49 percent, in 2012.

SmartPolitics notes that women candidates are twice as likely to win in a special election compared to a regular November election.

There’s a Libertarian candidate, Lucas Overby, polling at 4 to 7 percent, and one poll had him at 12 percent. Experts disagree on whether a Libertarian candidate hurts the GOP or the Democratic candidate more, but as the Tampa Bay Times notes, that support is coming from somewhere: “Less than 1 percent of voters in Pinellas’ Congressional District 13 are registered as Libertarian.”

Reasons Republican David Jolly Will Win Florida’s Special House Election:

It’s a swing district that scores an R+1 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

Polling in a special House election is notoriously difficult, but the two most recent polls have Jolly ahead by two percentage points and trailing by three-tenths of one percent.

Republicans closely watching the race from Washington are elated at the early vote numbers:

With more than 119,000 ballots cast early or in the mail, the GOP holds a returned-ballot advantage of 4.06% — thereby reaching the magic number some observers believe the Republicans must be at by Election Day in order for them to win the seat.

According to the latest data — and this data reflects some cancelling out that does not show up in Pinellas Supervisor of Elections’ raw numbers — 48,123 ballots from Republican voters have been returned as of Friday, while Democrats have turned in 43,526. Third-party or NPA voters have cast 21,503 ballots.

At this point, the GOP has increased its returned-ballot advantage by more than two points from a week ago. And it would appear, based on Friday’s returns, that the gap will only continue to increase. Of the approximately 3,200 ballots which were returned on Friday, 53% of them came from Republican voters, with just 29% coming from Democrats.

Outside groups are helping Jolly level the playing field in the television-advertising battle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce took out a $400,000 TV ad buy supporting Jolly, and then another $400,000 on ads hitting Sink, a pretty sizeable chunk of change.

While neither candidate is raw political charisma personified, Sink may have made the more consequential gaffe when she declared, “Immigration reform is important in our country . . . for obvious reasons, because we have a lot of employers over in the beaches who rely upon workers who, especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping?” Over at Slate, Dave Weigel describes how she’s attempting to hold a nuanced position on Obamacare; in a low-turnout special election, a strong, clear voice of opposition to Obamacare probably breaks through easier than qualified, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand message.

Senator Rand Paul is making robocalls for Jolly, trying to help him with those Libertarian-minded voters who may feel tempted to vote for Overby.

X Factors: Both campaigns got quieter late last week:

Anyone hoping David Jolly or Alex Sink would be out shaking hands and kissing babies on the last day of the last full week before election day was probably disappointed Friday. The Republican and the Democrat, respectively, kept noticeably low profiles heading into the final weekend before the as-yet unnervingly close race is decided on Tuesday, though the nasty messages flying to and fro between the camps continue uninterrupted.

Tags: Alex Sink , David Jolly


Meet ‘Vox’! No, the Other One. No, the Other Other One.


Also from today’s Jolt:

Meet ‘Vox’ — Well, One of Them, Anyway

Sunday night, the Twitterverse was abuzz, after catching its first glimpse of Vox:

Wait, no, that’s not it. That’s Vox vodka. No, we got our first glimpse of Vox.

No, no, that’s the dirty book that Monica Lewinsky gave to Bill Clinton as a gift. I said, “Vox.”

Nope, that’s a Vox guitar amplifier. No, different Vox.

No. That’s Sarah McLaughlin’s debut single. I said the new Vox.

No, that’s from a Bioshock video game.

Ezra Klein unveils “Vox Media.” Which is quite different from, but destined to be mixed up with, Fox News.

Klein begins:

“I remember, beginning to follow the news, I remember the feeling of anxiety around opening a new article and knowing I was about to feel stupid, I was about to feel like I was outside the club. This is a real problem!”

Is it? Do you find yourself feeling like that a lot? Do you feel anxiety about opening a new news article?

Mollie Hemingway: “Not only have I never experienced anxiety upon reading articles, didn’t occur to me that anyone else would either. Am I missing something?”

Sonny Bunch: “Well, I was going to read this thing but then I felt like it might make me feel bad about myself so I chose not to.”

Matt Yglesias — remember him? — is the executive editor of this little endeavor, and he helpfully explains what will make this assembly of the Juicebox Mafia different from all the previous versions:

“Digital articles, at least in principle, last forever as web archives. That’s something that some people are taking advantage of today, but we don’t think that people are really writing articles with that in mind.”

[long silence]

Did you get that?

So everything is going to be literary nonfiction? Everything that will appear on the site is meant to be useful and worthy of reading five to ten to twenty years from now? You’re going to cover current events and breaking news in a way that will make every article a timeless classic, worthy of being bound in leather books and kept in the library?

On my bookshelf you’ll find collections of columns of Michael Kelly, Daniel Pearl, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, William F. Buckley, and a few others. If you’ll permit me to be the skunk at the garden party… not every column by even the greatest writers stands the tests of time. Sometimes it’s only of interest as a snapshot of the moment, or a perspective of how an issue appeared at that time. Remember Buckley and Ronald Reagan vehemently, but respectfully, disagreeing about the Panama Canal Treaty? While it’s easy to understand why the fate of the Panama Canal would be considered a top-tier foreign-policy debate at that moment; in retrospect, it turned out to be one of the less consequential issues in foreign policy going on in the late 1970s. Certainly the Iranian Revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan presented more pressing, and lingering, crises within a year or two.

Yglesias goes on,

“Success, in somewhat grandiose terms, is that we want to create the single greatest resource available for people to understand the issues that are in the news.”

That’s his somewhat grandiose definition of success for the site. The fully grandiose definition of success is that Vox Media becomes the basis of a new worldwide religion that unites humanity under its teachings.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Melissa Bell adds, “I can’t wait to see if what we think people need is actually what they actually need. If it’s not, we’ll change it.”

Wow, can you believe Amazon/Washington Post CEO Jeff Bezos passed on a pitch like that?

She concludes, “We want to move fast.”

And yet somehow make every article a piece that can stand the test of time for forever!

Anybody getting a Talk magazine vibe from this? Or Brill’s Content? Or even George magazine?

Tags: Media

CPAC: We Will Never Forget the Passion, the Energy, or the Open Bar


From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

CPAC: We Will Never Forget the Passion, the Energy, or the Open Bar

In case you missed them, here are the interviews I and other NR staffers conducted at CPAC with…

Texas governor Rick Perry

Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey

Representative Tom Price

Ambassador John Bolton

Neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Former senator and actor Fred Thompson

Former RNC chairman and Senate candidate Ed Gillespie

Former presidential candidate and senator Rick Santorum

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Former representative Allen West

European Parliament member Daniel Hannan

Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina

Former governor of Maryland Bob Ehrlich

Mackinac Center for Public Policy director of labor policy Vinnie Vernuccio

ISI president Chris Long

Concerned Veterans for America CEO and Army captain Pete Hegseth

Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer

Young Americans for Liberty executive director Jeff Frazee

Concerned Veterans of America policy analyst and activists Amber Barno and Jane Horton

Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist

AEI economic-policy analyst Abby McCloskey

Tennessee Senate candidate Brenda Lenard

Investor’s Business Daily columnist Andrew Malcolm

AEI education research fellow Mike McShane

Former NR publisher Ed Capano

ACU chairman Al Cardenas

In addition, there was constant coverage in the Corner from Andrew Johnson, Eliana Johnson, Patrick Brennan, Betsy Woodruff, Katherine Connell, Tim Cavanaugh, and Kathryn Lopez. As you can imagine, keeping all of these people coming and going at the right times in a crowded convention hall was a bit like being an air-traffic controller at O’Hare or Hartsfield, and our Amy Mitchell managed to avoid any midair collisions, and Brian Jodice turned a tiny convention floor space into a professional video workspace. These people rock. There are many fine institutions out there, and a lot of them offered good coverage of CPAC, but you’ll understand my biased assessment that we covered the conference better than anyone.

(Betsy’s leaving us to join the Washington Examiner, and we wish her well. I wish all of our recent departures from NR well, although I could do without the predictable tone in the coverage of those departures from other publications:

“Man, National Review doesn’t have anybody left in Washington anymore, do they?”


“I mean, the NR cupboard is just bare in terms of talent!”


“A shame, that place was once so good, and now they don’t even have anybody who can string two sentences together!”

“I’m standing right here!”)

Rand Paul won the straw poll, for whatever that’s worth — not quite a shock, and a small feather in his cap, but not one that will have much impact when the 2016 race gets rolling in earnest. (Pop quiz: Who won last year? Turns out . . . it was Rand Paul.) His “Stand With Rand” fans were the most visible and well-organized of the conference, but again, this sample is hardly representative of the GOP presidential-primary electorate as a whole, and most of the other expected or possible contenders — Christie, Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker — didn’t seem to have much of an organized presence working attendees to build up the vote in the straw poll.

This was the scene off-camera when I interviewed Rick Perry — he was like the Pied Piper, leading a small army of staff, security guys, fans, autograph-seekers, groupies, and gawkers:

We know there’s more to Rick Perry than a momentary brain fart upon a debate stage, and I wonder if a significant number of conservatives feel like he deserves a second chance. Texas’s economy continues to rock and roll, and whatever you think of Perry personally, the Texas approach to taxation, regulation, and economic development is more or less what conservatives yearn to see enacted nationally.


Perry Version 2014 seems to be fighting the ghost of Perry Version 2012. He’s much more energetic in this speech than he was in any of the debates. (But of course people tend to be more energetic before friendly crowds.) One can speculate about his reasons for the nerd-cool choice in spectacles.

Another thing he’s doing is projecting optimism, hope, and buoyancy, which is of course the advice given to practically any candidate. He also takes time to praise his fellow Republican governors, including, notably, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, both of whom are considering a run for the nomination themselves. So he gets some Nice Guy/Good Guy points. (Notably absent from his list of successful Republican governors: Chris Christie.)

As most readers know, I jumped on the Perry train big-time in 2012, seeing him — on paper — as not only the best candidate among the crowded (and uninspiring) 2012 field, but just a good candidate in any cycle. His economic portfolio was/is solid — Barack Obama hasn’t presided over the creation of many jobs in America, but Rick Perry can account for nearly half (48%) of those jobs that Obama wishes to take credit for. (Oh, and Perry’s jobs were actually created, not “saved or created or funded” or which “positively impacted” people.)

Plus, you know, he’s pretty enthusiastic about hanging around with a cardboard cutout of William F. Buckley:

Tags: CPAC

Obamacare Ends Another Bad, Bad, Bad Week


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Obamacare Has Another Bad Week — Really, Even Compared to Previous Bad Weeks.

Meanwhile, out in Nevada, the worst nightmare of Harry Reid and Barack Obama comes to fruition:

Contract negotiations are stalled for thousands of workers at casinos on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas to the point where they may go on strike — and the sticking point is Obamacare.

On Feb. 20, thousands of housekeepers, porters, cooks, cocktail servers, and others represented by Nevada’s largest union, the Culinary Union Local 226, voted to end a contract extension the workers agreed to last summer. The union wants to maintain its current benefits — including health care coverage at no cost to workers, pensions, and guaranteed 40-hour workweeks.

Rising health care costs due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act could put those benefits in jeopardy, the union says.

“The biggest hurdle to reaching settlements in Vegas is the new costs imposed on our health plan by Obamacare,” Donald “D” Taylor, president of Unite Here, the parent union of CU Local 226, told BuzzFeed in a statement. “Even though the president and Congress promised we could keep our health plan, the reality is, unless the law is fixed, that won’t be true.”

When the unions are starting to sound like us, then you know this law is in serious trouble.

But hey, at least the law is getting insurance to the uninsured, right? Eh, yeah, about that . . . 

The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway so far in signing up Americans who lack health insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal.

A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one — and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look . . . 

One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that, of people who had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces by last month, just one-fourth described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year.

The survey also attempted to gauge what has been another fuzzy matter: how many of the people actually have the insurance for which they signed up. Under federal rules, coverage begins only if someone has started to pay their monthly insurance premiums.

And, the survey show, that just over half of uninsured people said they had started to pay, compared with nearly nine in 10 of those signing up on the exchanges who said they were simply switching from one health plan to another.

But hey, at least the law . . . eh, forget it, let’s just move on to the next poll result:

Although several parts of the Affordable Care Act have yet to be implemented, 23% of Americans say the healthcare law has hurt them or their families, while 10% say it has helped them so far. Still, the majority of Americans (63%) feel the law has had no impact on them or their families.

This update is from Gallup polling conducted between Feb. 28 and March 2, just prior to the Obama administration’s announcement this week that insurance companies will be able to delay until next year the requirement that they cancel or replace policies that don’t conform to the provisions of the law often referred to as “Obamacare.”

The 23% who feel the law has hurt them is the highest percentage for the question since Gallup began asking Americans about it in 2012, and is up from 19% in previous polling.

By 40% to 21%, Americans say the law is more likely to make their families’ healthcare situations worse rather than better, with the rest saying it will make little difference.

Tags: Obamacare


Wecome to a Purge-Free CPAC!


The Thursday Morning Jolt looks at the accelerating era of Obama lame-duck-hood, and of course, a preview of CPAC, which begins today:

Welcome to CPAC. Try Not to Catch the Annual Plague-like Cold.

Are you ready for the Conservative Political Action Conference for 2014? Tomorrow, Kathryn Jean Lopez and I will be at CPAC, conducting quick video interviews with the biggest movers and shakers at the conference. Look for them here in the Corner, starting tomorrow morning and all the way through Saturday.

Three perennial CPAC stories we ought to retire:

“Look, it’s an offensive or racist tchotchke from a vendor!” All it takes is one bumper sticker and that becomes the photo sent out over the wires. MSNBC will get a month’s worth of programming out of it.

“Look, this faction of the party or movement is being driven out!” Here’s the Daily Beast’s early entry into the genre; notice the glaring contradiction that undermines that “increasingly fractured conservative movement” reference she begins with:

On the list is Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots. Off the list is House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Republican in Washington who has run afoul of the far right flank of the GOP again and again over the last year.

On the list is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the embattled 2016 hopeful who has suddenly gained favor with the right after two months of abuse from the mainstream media over his bridge scandal. Off the list are Mitt Romney and John McCain, Christie’s fellow “pragmatists,” “moderates” or “RINOs,” and former White House aspirants who no longer need to try to convince activists they’re all on the same team.

So those torch-carrying fundamentalist arch-conservatives managed to drive Romney and McCain from the invite list, but not Christie. Oh, by the way, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s among the speakers.

Paul Ryan’s speaking; wasn’t he on the squish list not long ago for the budget deal and sounding cheery about immigration reform? Sen. Pat Toomey’s speaking; I guess his gun deal with Joe Manchin isn’t such a deal-breaker. Sen. Marco Rubio’s speaking; wasn’t he supposed to get driven out over the Gang of Eight deal? Ed Gillespie, who’s running for Senate here in Virginia, is speaking; isn’t he Mr. GOP Establishment? Finally, Mike Huckabee’s speaking, and he’s Mr. Big-Government Conservatism. Some purge this turned out to be!

“Look, So-and-so won the straw poll!” Okay, the straw poll winner might be intriguing. If somebody like, say, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker wins, it will be a wake-up call for the other big names. But this is about as unrepresentative a sample of the GOP primary electorate as you can find; the 11,000 or so straw-poll participants are the die-hards of the die-hards, the most dedicated, most passionate, most up-to-date folks. But Republican primary electorates include a lot of folks who aren’t like that, even in states with closed primaries. They’re Republicans, not necessarily conservative activists, and what appeals to one group isn’t guaranteed to appeal to the other. Remember, while McCain and Romney were greeted reasonably warmly at the CPACs of 2008 and 2012, they were never classic CPAC crowd-pleasers. Yet they both won their respective nominations.

Finally, take note of the intriguing, little-noticed sponsor:

The Conservative Political Action Conference has never been known for attracting Hollywood (unless you count Kirk Cameron, Stephen Baldwin or the Duggars), but the Motion Picture Association of America will be there this year — at least in spirit. The movie studios’ biggest lobbying group is once again sponsoring the conservative confab, which kicks off Thursday just outside of D.C.

The MPAA won’t really talk about the sponsorship, though the group’s logo adorns the CPAC website.

“We don’t comment on political contributions,” an MPAA spokesman told Whispers.

Cue the cries of “CPAC has sold out to Hollywood!”

Tags: CPAC

Pryor, Walsh Disappoint Liberals. Any Consequences, Guys?


ThinkProgress is not pleased that seven Senate Democrats just voted with Republicans to reject the nomination of Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s choice to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile’s nomination was opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police in part because of his legal efforts to overturn the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer.

Those seven are, clockwise from top left, Senators Chris Coons of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, John Walsh of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

Well, progressives and liberals, if you really wanted to send a signal, you could refuse to donate to the DNC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this year, since they’ll be going all-out to help Mark Pryor and John Walsh win in 2014. (Coons is running for reelection and is considered safe.) You could even pledge to sit out those races, concluding that Pryor and Walsh won’t be there for you on the hard votes, the ones where you really see whether a lawmaker is committed to your values.

But I suspect you’ll just take it and learn to like it.

Tags: Mark Pryor , John Walsh

A Republican Tied Statewide in Connecticut? Ahead in Hawaii?


It’s not that everything’s coming up roses for the Republican Governors Association . . . but they’re getting some encouraging numbers.

Quinnipiac polls Connecticut and finds Republican Tom Foley tied with the incumbent . . . 

Tom Foley dominates the crowded Republican primary field in the Connecticut governor’s race and is locked in a 42 – 42 percent dead heat with Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

There is a large gender gap as women back the Democrat 45 – 37 percent while men go Republican 48 – 39 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Foley leads 83 – 9 percent among Republicans and 45 – 33 percent among independent voters while Gov. Malloy takes Democrats 79 – 10 percent.

Last month Quinnipiac found Ohio governor John Kasich ahead by 5 over Democrat Ed Fitzgerald, an encouraging start considering where Kasich’s numbers have been in previous years.

In Iowa, Republican Terry Branstad is well ahead in his bid for reelection. In Arizona, where Jan Brewer is retiring, Secretary of State Ken Bennett is the front-runner, at least for now, and has led steadily. In Texas, the first poll of the year put Republican Greg Abbott ahead of Wendy Davis, 47 percent to 36 percent.

Perhaps most surprisingly, out in the Aloha State, the Hawaii News Now/Star Advertiser poll found Republican Duke Aiona leading incumbent governor Neil Abercrombie in a head-to-head matchup 48 to 40 percent, a result that even Aiona found “surprising.”

Tags: Tom Foley , Duke Aiona , John Kasich , Terry Branstad , Greg Abbott

Advertisers Pitching to Americans Yearning to Feel Confident Again


Beyond the Russia and Alan Grayson news in today’s Morning Jolt . . . 

Advertisers Pitching to Americans Yearning to Feel Confident Again

Take a look at three of the biggest, most-discussed television ads of the past year or so.

First, Ram Trucks’ “God Made a Farmer” ad from the Super Bowl last year:

Then the Coke ad from the Super Bowl this year:

I know there were some folks who watched the Coke ad and perceived the message, “America isn’t just for English-speakers! Embrace the polyglot, you ethnocentric hicks!” But it’s just as easy, or easier, to look at the ad and see the message that all across the globe, in every tongue, people find America, and its freedoms, cultures, and traditions beautiful.

Then the latest ad to make a splash, no pun intended, is Cadillac’s “Poolside”:

Ad Age summarizes the reaction:

“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?” asks actor Neal McDonough as he gazes out over his pool in new Cadillac’s TV commercial before delivering a dissertation on the American Dream.

With that, the actor begins the controversial 60-second spot Cadillac that will air both before and during ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards this Sunday night.

The “Poolside” spot created, by ad agency Rogue, is intended to serve as a “brand provocation,” according to Craig Bierley, Cadillac’s advertising director. Consider it mission accomplished.

Fox Business News contributor Jonathan Hoenig, a founding member of the Capitalistpig hedge fund, praised “Poolside” as a “tremendous” celebration of profit-seeking, productivity and, yes, enjoyment of material goods.

“Those are considered very declasse these days, very down. So here’s a wonderful ad that actually celebrates America,” Mr. Hoenig said.

But Fox Business host Neil Cavuto worried “Poolside” feeds the negative perception of the richest 1% as smug, rich bastards who are contemptuous of everyone else. It also takes chutzpah for GM, a company bailed out by American taxpayers, to preach self-reliance, Mr. Cavuto wryly noted.

What’s the theme tying together all three of these?

Americans desperately want to feel good about their country again.

The farmer in the Ram Trucks ad is what we think we once were, and want to still be: hard-working, reliable, honest, filled with determination and integrity. The Coke ad actually begins with a cowboy who would fit in the Ram Truck ad, but moves on to break-dancing kids, a family visiting the Grand Canyon, a big (Hispanic?) family settling in for dinner, folks wobbling at a roller rink and laughing at themselves. That ad shows that we’re warm and welcoming, close to our families, spending quality time with our kids who aren’t sitting in front of a video-game console or staring at the screen of their phone.

And then Neal McDunough — “Hey, it’s that guy from Band of Brothers and Captain America!” — comes along and stabs a needle of adrenaline and confidence into our heart. He chuckles about other countries sitting at cafes and taking August off. He walks past his kids, who are doing their homework, with one appearing to be working on a model of DNA. He explains that “we’re crazy, driven, hard-working believers,” and high-fives his younger child, who obviously has already absorbed this cheerful, confident philosophy. He’s got a gorgeous house with a pool, happy, bright kids, a good-looking wife who reads the Wall Street Journal after he does, and he looks good in a suit. He’s got spring in his step. The world is his oyster, and he says it’s America’s oyster, too, because “you work hard, you create your own luck, and you’ve got to believe anything is possible.”

We want to be that guy. Or we want to believe we could be that guy if we tried. Or perhaps put even clearer, we want to believe we have the opportunity to be that guy, whether or not we actually want to pursue that life, that house, that lifestyle, and drive that car.

UPDATE: A reader reminds me that Mike Rowe’s ad for Walmart fits in this theme as well:

Most companies test their ads extensively with focus groups. The folks in those focus groups must be bursting at the seams for a message that America can be great again. Are the potential 2016 contenders hearing this?

Tags: United States , Advertising

After Denouncing Putin in Classroom, Obama Heads to Fundraisers


The following is from ABC News… and seems like the sort of thing the media might have given the White House a pass over, a few years ago:

This is awful, awful advance work on the part of the White House. And the contrast with Vladimir Putin today is… not good.

Tonight the president will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in McLean, Virginia. 

Then tomorrow, “President Barack Obama will fly to Boston Wednesday to take part in a series of fundraising events.”


Tags: Barack Obama , Vladimir Putin , DSCC

Prominent Democrats, Suddenly Quiet on Russia and Ukraine


Look, wildly over-hyped messianic Democratic Party rising stars like Sen. Cory Booker don’t do foreign policy, okay?

After giving my two hour lecture, I wondered what the Senator from New Jersey’s thoughts were on the saber-rattling going on over the crisis in Ukraine. So I went to his official Senate website and looked. It read very much like the website of a mayor. I clicked on “news” and found a list of recent press releases — most jointly written with New Jersey’s senior Senator, Bob Menendez. I searched for the word “Ukraine”. I got back: “No news found at this time.”

The most recent news item on the senator’s official office web page is from February 26, about a rock salt shortage in the state. Not a word about Ukraine on Cory Booker’s busy Twitter feed, as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

According to the Census Bureau, about 67,000 New Jersey residents are of Ukrainian heritage. 

I suppose we shouldn’t give Booker too much grief; our previous Secretary of State isn’t willing to say much right now, either:

Hillary Clinton has yet to comment on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a situation that escalated Saturday when 6,000 troops moved into the province of Crimea. Even as Republicans have criticized the former secretary of state for her implementation of Obama’s “reset” approach to Russia in recent weeks, Clinton has stayed quiet. Her spokesman did not respond to an inquiry on Monday about the still shifting conflict.

Well, it’s not like she had a role in managing the American relationship with Russia in recent years, right?

Tags: Cory Booker , Hillary Clinton

No One Could Have Predicted This! Except Tom Clancy Did.


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Chaos in Crimea Continues

Hey, guess what Barack Obama was doing back in August of 2005, as Larry O’Connor discovered?

DONETSK, Ukraine – U.S. Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called for the immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) or shoulder missile launchers that are often sought by terrorists. 

Lugar and Obama toured the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. Another 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years. 

Heck, it’s not like Ukraine will need lots of weapons in the next decade, right?

Fast forward nine years…

CNN: “Turning to the troop buildup in the Russian-dominated autonomous region of Crimea, Putin said Ukraine is a brotherly neighbor of Russia — and that the troops there have much in common. He also said Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea.”

And here’s video of Russian troops firing shots over the head of marching Ukranian Air Force airmen.

Raise your hands if you foresaw Zbigniew Brzezinski calling for deployment of U.S. airborne troops to NATO bases near Ukraine:

Russia’s unilateral and menacing acts mean the West should promptly recognize the current government of Ukraine as legitimate. Uncertainty regarding its legal status could tempt Putin to repeat his Crimean charade. Second, the West should convey — privately at this stage, so as not to humiliate Russia — that the Ukrainian army can count on immediate and direct Western aid so as to enhance its defensive capabilities. There should be no doubt left in Putin’s mind that an attack on Ukraine would precipitate a prolonged and costly engagement, and Ukrainians should not fear that they would be left in the lurch.

Meanwhile, NATO forces, consistent with the organization’s contingency planning, should be put on alert. High readiness for some immediate airlift to Europe of U.S. airborne units would be politically and militarily meaningful. If the West wants to avoid a conflict, there should be no ambiguity in the Kremlin as to what might be preciptated by further adventurist use of force in the middle of Europe.

NATO member countries that border Ukraine are Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Turkey’s on the other side of the Black Sea.

Did you catch this headline from Time magazine’s correspondent in Kiev a week ago? “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine.” 

…Meanwhile, Morning Jolt reader Doug points out that no one could have predicted Russia’s move on Ukraine… except Tom Clancy, who died in October:

The last Tom Clancy book, Command Authority, published last year, is all about Russian aggression against its former satellites. Dialogue on p. 70:

Golovko added, “Volodin has his eyes on the Crimea, in Southern Ukraine, and he knows once Ukraine joins NATO, that will be difficult for him to achieve.  The way he sees it, he has to move soon.”

Ryan said, “He is right that there is no treaty between Ukraine and NATO.  And if he does invade, getting Europe on board to fight for the Crimea is a nonstarter.” 

It’s like he’s psychic. The only good news in this revelation is that if Clancy’s right about this, it means he’s right about everything else, and that means the U.S. Navy got their hands on a Russian submarine with a caterpillar drive back in 1984.

UPDATE: Separately from Clancy’s last novel, the author lent his name to a line of computer games. The first Ghost Recon game depicted U.S. special forces secretly going into T’bilisi, Georgia to deal with Russian invasion forces backed by ultra-nationalist hard-liners. The “future date” of the 2001 game was… April 2008. In real life, Russian forces crossed into Georgia a few months later. Ghost Recon also featured Russia taking over… Ukraine. The trailer is below:  


Tags: Ukraine , Crimea , Barack Obama , Vladimir Putin , Russia

Why Is Russian Mobile Artillery Rolling In Crimea?


From this morning’s Jolt:

A sample of John Kerry’s keen eye for foreign policy:

“Russia chose this brazen act of aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped up set of pretext, claiming that people were threatened. And the fact is that that’s not the act of somebody who is strong, that’s the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness and out of certain kind of desperation.”

Above: What Kerry calls ‘weak.’


Kurt Schlichter points out that despite CNN’s chryon, those aren’t tanks, they’re mobile artillery. Sharper eyes and minds than me may correct me, but it looks like Kurtis Marsh may be right, that these are 2S1 Gvozdika, or some variation of it. Presuming the Wikipedia entry is correct, these artillery have a range of 10 to 14 miles.

In other words, this is a tool for projecting destructive power a significant distance away, not just occupying a territory full of ethnic Russians eager to politically rejoin their motherland. This isn’t proof that Russia intends to take a bigger bite out of Ukraine, but if they wanted to… they have some of the tools they would need in place. 

Tags: Russia , Crimea , Ukraine

The Infamous ‘Reset’ Button: Stolen From a Hotel Pool or Jacuzzi


From Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s new book about Hillary Clinton’s years at the U.S. State Department, HRC, p.136-137:

[Hillary Clinton's senior adviser] Philippe Reines, a lover of both gimmickry and iconic imagery, had come up with a plan to show the world a symbol of the “reset” mantra. Hillary would give [Russian foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov a gift-wrapped button emblazoned with the English and Russian words for “reset.” It seemed like a clever way to draw attention to the message, one sure to be bounced across the globe on television and in newspaper pictures. But Reines had sidestepped traditional protocol by not asking State’s team of translators to help with the project from the start. He later said he was unaware such resources were available to him.

One of Hillary’s top aides didn’t know the State Department had professional translators? Really?  

[Reines] had asked NSC Russia director Mike McFaul for the word and both McFaul and State Russia expert Bill Burns signed off on the spelling…

Lavrov pointed out that peregruzka – printed not in Cyrillic but in Latin script – means “overcharge.” …


Reines tried to correct the error, asking Russia’s ambassador to Switzerland to give the gift back temporarily so that a new label – with the right word – could be printed and affixed to it.

“This is a gift from the United States. I don’t think I can give it back to you,” the ambassador replied with a smile. “If I did, my minister would be very upset.” 

“If your minister doesn’t give that back, my minister,” Reines said, referring to Hillary, “is going to send me to Siberia.”

Reines pleaded his case in good humor, even suggesting they bring a label-maker into the room so that the Russian ambassador didn’t have to let the gift – an emergency stop button that had been hastily pilfered from a swimming pool or Jacuzzi at the hotel – out of his sight. Nyet, the ambassador said. 

We’re in the very best of hands. 

Somewhere in Geneva, there’s a hotel maintenance guy who’s wondering where the button went.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Russia

The U.S. Has Plenty of Options for a Response to Russia.


A great deal of talk about Russia, Crimea, Ukraine, and our wise leaders in the first Morning Jolt of the week. Let’s fast forward to the “what are our options?” part:

So What to Do?

You’re going to hear a lot of “well, there’s not much we can do” in the coming days and weeks, a preemptive excuse for administration dithering, indecision, and empty gestures.

John Fund:

The U.S. should immediately move to expand its existing Magnitsky Act, which prohibits Russians engaged in illegal activity from entering the U.S. If it were extended to the regulation of bank accounts and property ownership in the U.S., we’d hear howls of outrage from many Russian officials and oligarchs. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), for one, supports this kind of restriction: “Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here.”

The editors of the Wall Street Journal:

Russia today is not the isolated Soviet Union, and its leaders and oligarchs need access to Western markets and capital. All trade and banking relationships with Russia ought to be reconsidered, and the U.S. should restrict the access of Russian banks to the global financial system. Aggressive investigations and leaks about the money the oligarchs and Mr. Putin hold in Western banks might raise the pressure in the Kremlin. The U.S. should also expand the list of Russian officials on the Magnitsky Act’s American visa ban and financial assets freeze, including Mr. Putin.

The U.S. can also deploy ships from the Europe-based Sixth Fleet into the Black Sea, and send the newly commissioned George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean. NATO has a “distinctive partnership” with Kiev and in 2008 promised Ukraine that it could eventually join. It’s impractical and risky to bring Ukraine in now. But the alliance should do what it can to help Ukraine and certainly boot the Russian mission, a well-known den of spies, from NATO headquarters in Brussels and shut down the useless Russia-NATO Council.

Tom Rogan:

Were the president to unleash America’s energy boom into the export sector, fast-tracking energy supplies to Europe, he’d pull the rug out from under Putin’s feet. No longer subject to Putin’s energy protection racket, Europe would be free to take a tougher stand against his intimidation. More important, removed of the foreign capital flows born of his own energy exports, Putin would be unable to support his increasing military expenditures and continuing support for Assad’s rampages in Syria.

So will we use any of these options? Or will the administration reject all of them as being too “provocative” — as if the invasion of a country we wanted to bring into NATO wasn’t provocative enough?

“Don’t worry, world! We’ve got this one!”

Tags: Russia , Ukraine , NATO , Crimea , Barack Obama

Obama Administration’s 2014 Message: Everything Is Awesome!


According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 10.2 million Americans who are officially categorized as unemployed, with 3.6 million considered long-term unemployed. There are 7.3 million Americans working part-time involuntarily, sometimes considered underemployed. There are 837,000 “discouraged workers” — persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

Wages have been flat for a decade. Household debt has declined some since the Great Recession, but it’s still considerable, particularly a boom in student-loan debt:

U.S. household consumer debt profile:

Average credit card debt: $15,270

Average mortgage debt: $149,925

Average student loan debt: $32,258

In total, American consumers owe:

$11.36 trillion in debt, a decrease of one-tenth of one percent from last year

$856.9 billion in credit card debt

$7.93 trillion in mortgages

$1,049.0 billion in student loans, an increase of 11 percent from last year

You’re familiar with the condition of America’s health-care system, and how even basic measurements of progress are unavailable:

Nobody has a good, real-time fix on how successful the Affordable Care Act has been in reducing the ranks of the uninsured. The Obama administration hasn’t been able to say how many of the 3.3 million people who have signed up for private health insurance coverage, or of the 6.3 million who have been determined eligible for Medicaid, were actually uninsured before — and health care experts aren’t sure yet, either.

And of course, despite the highest level of tax revenue in American history, last year’s deficit was “only” $680 billion, and the national debt is $17.4 trillion and counting.

Ladies and gentlemen, the schedule of the president of the United States in the coming months:









Busy man!

I think this will be the theme music for all of these fundraisers:

Tags: Barack Obama

The Obama Administration vs. the Home Health-Services Industry, Part Two


From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

The Obama Administration vs. Home Health Services

Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner wrote in with a thought or two on why, as detailed in yesterday’s Jolt, Kathleen Sebelius’s Health and Human Services Department is slashing Medicare’s payments for home health-care services.

“The Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — both big Obama backers — have been trying to organize these home health care workers, mostly by leaning on states to declare people who receive the subsidies state employees,” Higgins writes. “The states then hand over the workers’ contact info to unions. That is the basis of the current Supreme Court case, Harris v. Quinn: whether these workers ‘really’ are state employees. . . . A problem the unions have run into is that the rates are set by the feds so there is little to bargain with the states for — and therefore little reason for the healthcare workers to join a union. It is hard to get somebody to sign a union card if they don’t think the union can actually do anything for them.”

Back in January, covering the legal fight, Higgins wrote:

In 2003, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared that home workers for the physically disabled were now state employees. Anyone who does this work now has to join the Service Employees International Union, or at least pay it monthly fees.

I wanted to ask Blagojevich about this decision but was prevented by the fact that he is currently serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison on 17 counts of corruption related to his duties as governor.

In 2009, current Gov. Pat Quinn declared home workers for the mentally disabled were also state workers.

Tellingly, both declarations stated that they were not public employees for the purposes of state pensions, health benefits or protection from civil liability. Just unionization.

A puzzle piece falls into place, in some way; here’s a group of workers that is paid for through Medicare, resisting membership in the big public-sector unions. If they won’t get with the program, they’ve got to be punished. As Obama said early in 2009, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

Tags: Unions , Obamacare , Kathleen Sebelius

Montana Democrats: We Demand to See the Birth Certificate!


Remember when this sort of thing was ipso facto evidence that someone was a lunatic, a conspiracy theorist, a hate-monger, and unfit for public discourse?

The Montana Democratic Party today called on Congressman Steve Daines, who claims in his latest TV ad to be a “fifth-generation Montanan,” to clear up confusion about his roots by releasing his birth certificate.

Daines’ latest ad asserts he “grew up in Bozeman, a fifth-generation Montanan,” which directly contradicts earlier versions of his biography when he claimed: “I’m a third-generation Montanan, kind of that classic Montana kid.”

So the dispute is really whether Daines’s great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were Montanans, huh? Really? Does Daines need to dig up their birth certificates, too? Do we need to dig deep into his profile to get to the bottom of this?

Democrats insist Daines isn’t really a Montanan, because he was born in California and lived there . . . until he was two.

Everything in Montana’s going so hunky-dory that you guys have nothing else to worry about, huh? Anything else going on in that state?

Yeah, something like that.

Tags: Montana , Democrats , Steve Daines

Colorado’s Senate Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting


Also in today’s Jolt:

Colorado’s Senate Race Just Got a Lot More Interesting

This is not a guarantee that Senator Mark Udall (D., Colo.) will be defeated in November. But it is good news.

Weld District Attorney Ken Buck and Rep. Cory Gardner are swapping races.

Buck said Wednesday he will drop his bid for U.S. Senate and instead pursue the 4th Congressional District seat, which represents Weld County.

Gardner, a Republican who currently represents the 4th, will run for U.S. Senate, Buck said.

“I have talked with Cory Gardner and feel that he would be a strong candidate for the United States Senate to beat Mark Udall,” Buck said. “I made the decision to step down and endorse Cory for that job. I was running against Mark Udall because I think this country needed to change directions, and I still think the country needs to change directions, and I think Cory gives us the best chance to get that done.”

The field is cleared:

State Rep. and United States Senate candidate Amy Stephens confirmed with The Gazette on Wednesday evening what had been rumored throughout the day. She will remove herself from the U.S. Senate race and throw her support behind U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in a campaign that will pit a Republican nominee against Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder Democrat born to a powerful political dynasty.

“Cory is Colorado’s great unifier,” said Stephens, of Monument. “He is liked in so many circles — right, left, moderate, you name it. He is Colorado’s beloved son and at the end of the day he is the candidate who can take on Mark Udall and make this happen. If we want to avoid a single-payer health system, we need Cory to win.”

As the Colorado Springs Gazette notes:

Colorado Republicans must never forget this selfless decision by Stephens, who could have posed a formidable threat to the incumbent Democrat. We seldom see politicians place the interests of a party or a political philosophy ahead of the self interest of winning a higher political office.

Buck’s not a bad candidate, but he had a golden opportunity against appointed Senator Michael Bennet back in 2010 and fell just short, 46.4 percent to 48.1 percent in what was a near-ideal issue environment for the GOP. His mouth got him in trouble with an ill-regarded off-the-cuff comment that voters should support him over his female primary opponent, Jane Norton, “because I do not wear high heels” — the kind of statement easily exploited in attack ads. By shifting to the House race in Gardner’s R+11 district, he becomes, barring some massive implosion, Congressman-elect Ken Buck.

Cory Gardner is a top-tier candidate. You may recall him grilling witnesses about some of the more inane “got coverage?” ads running in his state. Back in 2010, Gardner was one of the “young guns” and considered one of the GOP’s best shots to pick up a seat, running against Betsy Markey. Markey outspent Gardner by $1.2 million . . . and lost, 41 percent to 52 percent. He’s young and polished and has solid conservative credentials but is also capable of articulating that message in a way that doesn’t alienate the soccer moms.

Mark Udall isn’t toast — yet — but his year just got a whole lot tougher.

Dave Weigel:

Previously, I’d thought that Ed Gillespie’s run in Virginia was the ultimate Republican bet on the power of Obamacare to win elections this year. Gardner’s usurped that title. He’s giving up a safe seat to challenge a Democrat, Mark Udall, who’s carved out a good profile for himself (especially on NSA issues) in a state that went Democratic in 2008, 2010*, and 2012. Udall even felt safe enough to vote for Manchin-Toomey; months later, conservative activists successfully recalled two Colorado state senators who voted for gun control.

Cory Gardner, now hunting for a Senate seat.

UPDATE: Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, writes in to remind me that Cory Gardner, lifetime ACU rating 86.7, has a challenger in State Senator Owen Hill, adding, “some back-room deal making won’t stop his momentum… with Ken Buck out of the race there is a clear Tea Party vs hand-picked establishment matchup.”

Tags: Cory Gardner , Ken Buck , Mark Udall , Amy Stephens

Why Is Obama Squeezing the Home Health-Service Industry?


This is one of those mornings where I want to post the whole Morning Jolt as soon as it’s done. But it’s better to subscribe, so you’ll get the whole package faster.

Why is the Obama Administration Squeezing the Home Health-Service Industry?

A couple of nights ago, Jim Angle of Fox News pointed out a largely unnoticed aspect of Obamacare: HHS Kathleen Sebelius’s decision to  cut the maximum amount she could from Medicare’s payments for home health-care services.

Home health-care services are when a professional from a Medicare-certified home health agency comes to an elderly person’s house and provides nursing care, physical therapy, or speech-language pathology services.

Sebelius cut the maximum permitted by law, 3.5 percent, and declared HHS would do the same for the next three years.

As Angle’s report: noted, “The cuts were deep enough that officials offered a damaging prediction of the impact saying, it was estimated that approximately 40 percent of providers would have negative margins.” 

“Negative margins” is another term for losing money. And businesses that lose money either go kaput or lay off workers. Forty percent of the firms in the industry adds up to roughly a half-million jobs. That doesn’t mean that 500,000 home health-care workers will be fired tomorrow, but it does mean that they’re at serious risk for layoffs in the next three years.

So we’re talking about a massive job-killer in a field dedicated to treating the health problems of the elderly.

Here’s industry research firm IBISWorld, basically declaring that the outlook for what was, not long ago, one of the fastest-growing health-care fields looks grim:

Prior to December 2013, the Home Care Providers industry was quickly becoming one of the fastest growing healthcare industries in the United States. Home care saves billions of dollars every year by allowing patients to avoid high-cost healthcare settings, such as hospitals . . . 

To help pay for other provisions of the recent healthcare legislation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the implementation of a four-year 3.5% annual reduction to the Medicare base payment for home healthcare services beginning in January 2014. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice estimates that the magnitude of these reductions will likely render three-quarters of all industry operators unable to run profitably by 2017.

(Note: That is way more than 40 percent!)

According to the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, the industry experienced its largest job loss in more than a decade in December 2013; although the Medicare reductions were not officially implemented until 2014, CMS’s announcement was enough to spur industry operators to begin cutting costs. The industry is aggressively lobbying Congress to reconsider or revoke these reductions, but unless that happens, IBISWorld expects industry revenue to decrease in the five years to 2019. Spurred by slow revenue growth in 2014, IBISWorld also anticipates significant profit losses across the industry, with average margins decreasing by 2019.

So what’s the administration’s angle here? They never met a dollar they didn’t want to spend, particularly in entitlements, so why are they suddenly putting the screws to the home health-care industry, of all professions? Is it that the financial forecasts of Obamacare have been so wildly overoptimistic and unrealistic that they feel they’ve got to make a big-time cut somewhere to prevent their “bending the cost curve down” promise from becoming an even bigger joke? Or does the administration have something ideological against home health care? Is it that by having the health-care provider coming to a person’s house, there’s not enough of a role for the government to intervene, manage, and meddle?

And why does Paul Ryan get ads depicting him throwing Granny off the cliff when Kathleen Sebelius really is cutting funding for care for the elderly right now?

Does that nurse who visits your home really need that paycheck?

Tags: Barack Obama , Kathleen Sebelius , Obamacare , Home Health Services


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