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The Campaign Spot

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

The State of Our Union Is Dependent Upon the State of Our Families



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From Tuesday’s Morning Jolt:

The State of Our Union Is Entirely Dependent Upon the State of Our Families and Communities

So the big theme of tonight’s State of the Union address is going to be income inequality.

One of President Obama’s big ideas is getting a bunch of large corporations to “sign a White House pledge agreeing not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed when making hiring decisions.”

Shrug. That’s nice. I guess we’ll see whether the CEOs’ pledge to the White House filters down to the human-resources departments, and whether those corporate recruiters will give those long-term unemployed folks a call, or find some other reason to not call.

You can lay the problems of the unemployed, underemployed, poor and struggling at the feet of corporate America’s HR office, but we all know there’s more to it than that.

Mr. President, meet Joe. (Not his real name.)

Joe’s a friend of mine. He grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances, in one of the blue-collar corners of the Northeast. His dad wasn’t around. Money was tight.

Joe studied hard, went to a good school, and got both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He moved to the D.C. area, where he works in education. I don’t know how much money he makes, but from what I see, he’s doing okay. He married a great girl, and they’re raising two kids in the suburbs. The guy’s one of the most devoted fathers I know.

The rest of Joe’s family back home . . . is still having a tough time. Kids without fathers around. Cops getting called over domestic disturbances. Real concerns about whether the children are being raised in the kind of environment that every kid deserves.

From where I sit, Joe’s a role model, a spectacular example of rising above hardship and living the American dream. As I understand it, the rest of Joe’s family back home doesn’t appreciate him that way, and a good portion of their interactions are marked by a tone of resentment towards him.

Sometimes we on the Right can be a bit insufficiently empathetic to those stuck in bad situations. It’s hard for a kid to grow up with his values and priories in the right place without any role models. It’s hard to function when you’re surrounded by dysfunction. There’s a lot less room for error at those poorer communities, those with more violence, fewer stable families, fewer “little platoons” to help a family through tough times.

But I get really steamed when I hear about Joe’s family, and the way they resent the success he’s had in life, his rock-solid bond with his family, the money he makes, the fact that he moved away from their dysfunctional environment. Dang it, he did what you’re supposed to do, and the fruits of his labor and good judgment are obvious. He’s the one they should be emulating. Instead, they seek out ways to convince themselves that he’s the bad guy, that somehow he did something wrong by pursuing a different, and ultimately happier and more successful, path than they did.

We can argue about how representative this individual situation is, but I suspect it’s not that unusual. Yes, poverty is partially driven by a lack of opportunities and sometimes misfortune. But judgment and habit and values are big factors as well. This isn’t to say that the poor deserve to be poor, only that they cannot rise above their problems until they take responsibility for their own situation in life and resolve to make better choices: to stay in school; to stick around and take responsibility when they get a girl pregnant; to avoid drugs; to avoid excessive drinking, to not resolve every dispute with fists through doors, windows, or faces; to put a little money away for a rainy day; to put their children’s interest first. Those aren’t always easy choices, particularly when life gets tough, but they pay off in the long run.

Of course, there’s no Federal Department of Instilling a Sense of Individual Responsibility. So we probably won’t hear much about that in tonight’s State of the Union.

Tags: State of the Union , Barack Obama , Poverty

Post-Radel Florida GOP Primary Heating Up Already



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The special election in Florida’s 19th congressional district hasn’t even been officially announced yet, but campaign events are heating up fast. Curt Clawson, one of the candidates who had already declared a primary challenge to soon-to-resign Representative Trey Radel, is announcing an open event this weekend:

Today Curt Clawson announced that he is inviting the public to a free Super Sunday event featuring legendary Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady.

“I am The Outsider running for Congress as a former business leader and basketball player,” said Curt Clawson. “It is important to demonstrate support from outside the career politicians and special interests who have been the problem rather than the solution.”

“I invite residents from across Southwest Florida to come to our event, meet Coach Keady, and hear more about why we need an outsider with business experience representing us in Washington, D.C.”

“There are three steps to changing the direction of the country. First, we need to implement policies that allow the economy to flourish and create jobs. Second, we must clean up the political process and limit the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups who use our tax dollars for their personal benefit. Third, we need to implement a plan to limit the negative consequences of Obamacare until Republicans get the votes to repeal it.”

Curt Clawson was the Chief Executive Officer of Hayes Lemmerz International, Inc. a global company that has approximately $2 billion in annual sales and thousands of employees. He also served as the Chief Operating Officer of American National Can. He was a senior captain of the Purdue University basketball team that won the Big Ten Championship in 1984 under Coach of the Year, Gene Keady.

The Super Bowl Party is free and open to the public and will be held:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

5:00 pm – until the Super Bowl is over.

Doc’s Beach House

27908 Hickory Blvd.

Bonita Springs, FL 34134

“Free Super Bowl Party” sounds like a better way to attract a crowd than “candidate to speak at rally.”

Tags: Curt Clawson , Trey Radel

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Moran: ‘I Don’t Think We’re Going to Get Enough Young People’ Signing Up



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Man, Representative Jim Moran (D., Virginia) is offering some blunt truths Democrats don’t want to hear, now that he’s announced his retirement.

What’s striking is that Moran isn’t offering the usual, “well, we don’t have enough young people signing up for insurance, but we still have time.” He’s saying, “I don’t think we’re going to get enough.” He’s not clinging to hope anymore.

Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.) is voicing concern that the entirety Affordable Care Act could unravel because not enough young people are signing up . . . 

“I’m afraid that the millennials, if you will, are less likely to sign up. I think they feel more independent, I think they feel a little more invulnerable than prior generations,” Moran says. “But I don’t think we’re going to get enough young people signing up to make this bill work as it was intended to financially.”

If Moran’s prediction is correct, the whole law could unravel. He says there just isn’t enough incentive for healthy young people to sign up for insurance.

“And, frankly, there’s some legitimacy to their concern because the government spends about $7 for the elderly for every $1 it spends on the young,” Moran says.

Moran supported covering everyone under Medicare, which would have been expensive but have avoided this problem. Now Moran is running short on solutions.

“I just don’t know how we’re going to do it frankly,” he says. “If we had a solution I’d be telling the president right now.”

The article closes with,

Democrats say another part of the problem is that Republicans remain bent on repealing the law and aren’t working with them to reform some of the glaring flaws in it.

First, why is it outrageous for Republicans to attempt to repeal a law that even its supporters are now saying isn’t working, as Moran says, or that has “glaring flaws”?

Secondly, what Democratic bill to reform some of the “glaring flaws” are Republicans blocking?

Thirdly, what “reform” would get millennials to sign up for a product that they already must purchase, or else pay a special tax of 1 percent of their income?

Perhaps Moran could try grabbing an eight-year-old boy and carrying him to a computer and making him sign up.

Tags: Jim Moran , Obamacare

Representative Trey Radel to Resign; Special Election Expected



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Politico reports Representative Trey Radel (R., Fla.) is resigning. Once one of the GOP’s rising stars, Radel was arrested for possession of cocaine on October 29 and convicted in November. He announced he would take a leave of absence from Congress for addiction treatment.

Florida law appears to require a special election, with the dates to be set up by Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Nominees of political parties shall be chosen under the primary laws of this state in the special primary election to become candidates in the special election. Prior to setting the special election dates, the Governor shall consider any upcoming elections in the jurisdiction where the special election will be held.

Florida’s congressional primary is not until August 26.

Florida’s 19th congressional district scores an R+12 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, so Radel’s resignation doesn’t really give Democrats that much of a pickup opportunity. The district, on Florida’s west coast south of Tampa, includes Cape Coral and Naples.

One Democrat, April Freeman, has already declared a bid; the odds would probably be better against a post-scandal Radel than any other Republican. A quartet of Republicans had begun primary challenges to Radel: Curtis J. “Curt” Clawson, Mike Giallombardo, Brian Wayne Gibens, and former state Representative Paige Vanier Kreegel. In the 2012 five-way Republican primary, Radel won 30 percent; Kreegel won 17.7 percent.

Tags: Trey Radel

Meet the Worst Governor You’ve Probably Never Heard Of



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The first Morning Jolt of a full and busy week notes the president’s human props guests for the State of the Union address, an embarrassing confession from a White House speechwriter, the National Republican Senatorial Committee emphasizing their stance in the Nebraska primary, and then this dramatically undercovered story . . . 

Meet Earl Ray Tomblin, the Worst Governor You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

On Howard Kurtz’s MediaBuzz this weekend, we discussed the disparate levels of coverage for controversies and scandals involving New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.

Ana Marie Cox — less reliably liberal than some on the Right think — pointed out there was another governor embroiled in a supremely consequential crisis recently who’s gotten almost no national coverage: West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat.

In case you’ve forgotten, Freedom Industries Inc. accidentally spilled thousands of gallons of a chemical used to clean coal into the Elk River

Roughly 300,000 people across nine counties near Charleston, the state capital, had to live with a “do not use” tap water ban for five days, give or take — meaning they could not drink, cook, wash or bathe that whole time, even after boiling the water. At times, the water coming out of the taps was flammable.

No matter how much you disdain the Environmental Protection Agency, it seems pretty clear that this corner of West Virginia could use some more actual, you know, environmental protection:

Even before last week’s chemical spill fouled tap water in nine counties in West Virginia, where more than 200,000 people still cannot use their water after seven long days, it was not unusual to find black water running from kitchen faucets in homes outside Charleston.

Or to see children with chronic skin rashes. Or bathtub enamel eaten away, leaving locals to wonder what the same water was doing to their teeth.

“Welcome to our world,” says Vivian Stockman, 52, a longtime resident of rural Roane County, north of Charleston, the state capital, and an activist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

(Maybe keeping an eye on this was one of the duties of that EPA employee who managed to take years off from work by claiming to secretly be working for the CIA.)

Tomblin’s office would insist that he’s not responsible for the spill. But the governor, has been in office since 2010, and was president of the state senate before that for 17 years. He’s been one of the most powerful men in the state for two decades, and he’s had ample opportunity to shape the state’s environmental laws and as governor, how they’re enforced.

Apparently they’re not enforced so well. And in an approach reminiscent of the gun-control debate, Tomblin seems to be suggesting the problem is a lack of laws:

Last Monday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin stood behind a podium in the West Virginia Capitol and announced his plan for a new program to prevent chemical spills from what he called “unregulated” above-ground storage tanks.

Tomblin said his proposal would give the state Department of Environmental Protection “the tools necessary” to prevent another chemical leak like the one from the Freedom Industries tank farm, which contaminated the Elk River and the drinking water supply for 300,000 West Virginians.

“It was not regulated, and this bill will address that,” the governor said later to a small group of reporters . . . 

However, in several interviews with the Sunday Gazette-Mail, [Secretary Randy] Huffman and other DEP officials have made it clear — as Huffman did in his appearance with the governor — that Freedom Industries was absolutely not unregulated.

“I don’t think of them as being unregulated, but as being under-regulated,” Huffman said in one discussion.

As debates over future actions move through the Statehouse, the distinction is important. Environmental groups and regulatory experts say that no matter what rules govern Freedom Industries or any other company, those rules mean little unless the DEP becomes more aggressive with inspections and enforcement actions.

But even the best law in the world won’t do you much good if you have crappy enforcement:

In the days immediately after the Elk River leak, DEP officials said an initial review showed that they had not inspected the Elk River tank farm since at least 1991, when it was owned by a different company and was used for a different purpose.

After a more comprehensive review of their records, DEP officials have revealed a series of site visits by inspectors from the agency’s Division of Air Quality. Air inspectors were responding to odor complaints from residents — some of whom reported the now-familiar black-licorice smell of Crude MCHM — and examined if the site needed a state air-pollution permit. So far, DEP records indicate the agency concluded that the odor complaints were unfounded, and that no new permits were necessary.

This is spurring a bit of Democrat vs. Democrat criticism:

A West Virginia Senate leader thinks the governor’s proposal to prevent chemical spills caters to industry interests.

Senate Majority Leader John Unger says Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s bill doesn’t do enough to register and inspect above-ground storage tanks.

Unger took issue with Tomblin’s bill on Tuesday because it regulates just above-ground tanks deemed too close to a water supply. It also would only regulate sites holding chemicals above a certain risk level.

Unger is proposing regulation of all above-ground tanks.

And, of course:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he was unaware he received campaign checks from top executives at the company at the center of West Virginia’s chemical spill.

Tags: West Virginia , Earl Ray Tomblin

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The First Votes of the Next GOP Presidential Primary Will Be Cast in February 2016



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The Republican National Committee adopted new rules for the 2016 presidential primary today:

o The carve outs (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) remain in February

o Other states can start their contests on or after March 1

o The proportional window is reinstated but for a shorter duration. Any contest between March 1st and March 14th will be proportional

(This means that the early states cannot allocate their delegates in a winner-take-all format.)

o Any contest after March 14th can go proportional or winner take all

o The window for selection of alternates and delegates moved from 35 days before the convention to 45 days before the convention. There is a waiver process for states that are required by law to hold a primary but are not in compliance with the 45 day window and aren’t under Republican control.

o New penalties: “If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party, the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced for those states with 30 or more total delegates to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state, and for those states with 29 or fewer total delegates to six (6) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state. The corresponding alternate delegates shall also be reduced accordingly.

March 1 is a Tuesday, so look for that to become the new Super Tuesday.

If the first four states space themselves out, the Iowa caucus will be February 2, 2016 (Groundhog Day!), the New Hampshire primary will be February 9, the South Carolina primary will be February 16, and the Nevada caucus will be February 23. (UPDATE: University of Iowa professor Tim Hagle tweets that the Iowa caucuses are usually held on a Monday, so he thinks it’s more likely that the caucus will be February 1.)

The RNC also named twelve members to its 2016 Convention Site Selection Committee. The RNC has not specified the date of the convention, but chairman Reince Priebus said he wants a “late June, early July” convention. In recent cycles, the parties have held their conventions in late August or early September, trying to get their post-convention bump as close to the fall campaign as possible.

Cities competing to host the 2016 Republican convention include Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Kansas City, and Columbus, Ohio.

Tags: Iowa , New Hampshire , 2016 , RNC

Young People’s Health-Plan Options Are Fine, as Long as You Ignore the Deductibles!



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Actor Kal Penn, touting Obamacare for Organizing for Action:

The old health insurance system was not awesome. The new one, as we’ve all heard, has faced its share of hurdles and surprises getting up and running, but it’s thankfully on track to be much better than the old system. Young people have started enrolling. So far, about 30% of all the people choosing a plan are under the age of 35, and that number is expected to climb, as young Americans often sign up for things closer to deadlines rather than slowly over time (yes, I’m calling you out on the all-nighter you pulled before your last paper was due . . . similar concept).

First, “the old system” did not require you to buy its products or face the penalty of a special tax if you didn’t.

Second, the number of enrollees between the ages of 18 and 35 is 24 percent, which isn’t quite “about 30 percent.” You only reach 30 percent if you include those 0 to 18 years old — the kids included on their parents’ plans.

Sure, procrastination is a reason young people haven’t signed up for Obamacare, but I doubt it’s the primary reason.

The administration insists most uninsured young people will be able to buy plans for less than $50 per month. Sounds great, right? The GAO offered statistics that show the catch. A non-smoking woman, age 30, buying the plan with the lowest possible premium in the state of Virginia would pay $564 per year, or $47 per month. Affordable! . . . Until you realize the deductible is $7,500. That’s how much she has to pay out of pocket before her insurance pays anything. Maybe in a terrible year, full of ailments, she’ll hit it in autumn.

And that’s a bargain compared to some other states. In Vermont, a 30-year-old non-smoking woman can find a plan with a monthly premium of just $56 per month! Except that the deductible is $100,000, according to the GAO report. Sure, you can get a plan with a $3,500 deductible . . . for $292 per month.

Lots of young people, beginning their careers in this oh-so-swell economy, just don’t have a lot of extra income lying around. That’s what’s really holding them back from purchasing health insurance.

As I noted on Greta the other night, if you buy an insurance plan based on what Harold and Kumar tell you, you deserve every bit of misfortune that will befall you.

UPDATE: People seem to enjoy this. In Oregon, land of the music-video promotional campaign . . . that 30-year-old, non-smoking woman can get an insurance plan with a premium of just $52 per month! Of course, the deductible is $10,000. In Washington, D.C., it’s $53.50 for a plan with the same $10,000 deductible. In Maryland, she can pay $65 per month for that deductible. In Illinois, $68 per month. In Connecticut, $99 per month.

In Maine, that same woman can pay $127 per month to enjoy a $12,000 deductible!

In Minnesota, that same woman can pay a monthly premium of just $56.92 with a $15,000 deductible. What a bargain!

Tags: Obamacare

Cue Rockwell’s ‘I Always Feel Like . . . Somebody’s Watching Me!’



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Today’s Morning Jolt, the last of the week, features an unexpected Republican speaker at the Davos World Economic Forum, the problem with the mostly enjoyable new action film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and a feeling somebody’s watching Marco Rubio.

Pretty cool picture, sent by Marco Rubio’s office, from his overseas trip that included a visit to South Korea and the DMZ:

A North Korean soldier takes a picture of Senator Marco Rubio through the window as Rubio stands in a conference room in the De-militarized Zone between North and South Korea.

Yeah, that photo’s going in some intelligence file somewhere.

UPDATE: I hang my 80’s music-fan head in shame; the headline originally said, “I gotta feeling . . . somebody’s watching me” when the lyric is “I always feel like . . . somebody’s watching me.” I guess I’m not as astute on this as I thought I was; apparently I’m just an average man . . . with an average life.

Tags: Marco Rubio , North Korea

We’re Divided Because One Half of Us Won’t Leave the Other Half Alone.



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Did Glenn Beck ‘Tear the Country Apart’? Did Anybody?

You won’t believe who’s accusing Glenn Beck, formerly of Fox News and currently running The Blaze, of “helping tear the country apart”!

Well, maybe you will believe, but I’m not sure you’ll agree:

Later in the segment, [Megyn] Kelly asked Beck to reflect on his time as a TV host at Fox News. His answer may surprise some people.

Though he remembers the job being a lot of fun, Beck also revealed that he has some regrets about the way he handled himself on the air.

“I remember it as an awful lot of fun and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language,” he said. “I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart.”

First, has the country been “torn apart”?

I think you can set the bar for “torn apart” pretty high, considering how we’ve had an actual civil war in this country. We’ve had unsuccessful secession movements pretty regularly. Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears built a map to depict what the country would look like if every local secession movement had succeeded, a country of 124 states:

If Beck really means America is deeply politically divided, indeed, it is, but I’m not so sure our divisions would look that much better or different if Glenn Beck had remained a wacky “Morning Zoo” radio DJ his entire life. I’m glad Beck developed his interest and passion for politics, and developed The Blaze; he and his folks have been kind enough to have me on several times, including on Election Night 2012. Beck articulated a viewpoint, and built a devoted following, but he didn’t create the division in this country, he just reflected it.

We’re a divided country because we have 317 million people, and at least two major strands of thought and philosophy about the role of the government.

It’s a broad generalization, but we have red states and blue states. Ideally, we would have let each part of the country live the way it wants, as long as its laws didn’t violate the Constitution. You want high taxes and generous public benefits? Go ahead and have them; we’ll see if your voters vote with their feet. Let Illinois be Illinois, and let South Carolina be South Carolina.

Last fall I took a trip to Seattle, Washington, and the surrounding area. It seemed like every menu, store display, and sign emphasized that the offered products were entirely organic, biodegradable, free range, pesticide-free, fair trade, cruelty-free, and every other environmentally conscious label you can imagine. (The television show Portlandia did a pretty funny sketch about the ever-increasing, ever-more-specific variety of recycling bins, with separate bins for the coffee cup, the coffee-cup lid, the coffee-cup sleeve, and the coffee-cup stirrer; there’s a separate bin if the lid has lipstick on it.) Maybe it’s just a natural consequence that when you have Mount Rainier and Puget Sound outside your window, you become a crunchy tree-hugging environmentalist. If that’s the way they want to live up there, that’s fine. The food was mostly excellent. Let the Seattle-ites elect a Socialist to their city council. Let Sea-Tac try a $15/hour minimum wage and see if the airport Starbucks starts charging 20 bucks for a small latte.

As long as other parts of the country are allowed to pursue their own paths, that’s fine.

But a big part of the problem is that we have an administration in Washington that is determined to stomp out the state policies it doesn’t like. The president doesn’t want there to be any right-to-work states. His Department of Justice is doing everything possible to obstruct Louisiana’s school-choice laws. They’re fighting state voter-ID laws in court, insisting that it violates the Constitution, even though the Supreme Court ruled, 6 to 3, that requiring the showing of an ID does not represent an undue burden on voters.

This you-must-comply attitude can be found in the states as well, of course. Hell, in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to drive pro-lifers, Second Amendment supporters, and what he labels “anti-gay” out of his state. Mayors decree that they won’t allow Chick-fil-A in their cities because of the opinions of the owners. In Oregon, state officials decreed that a baker must make a wedding cake for a gay wedding; the state decrees you are not permitted to turn down a work request that you believe violates your conscience or religious beliefs.

The country would be “torn apart” less if we were allowed to address more of our public-policy problems on a local or state basis. But anti-federalism is in the cellular structure of liberalism. All of their solutions are “universal,” “comprehensive,” or “sweeping.” Everything must be changed at once, for everyone, with no exceptions. Perhaps it’s a good approach for some other species, but not human beings.

That’s not Glenn Beck’s fault.

Tags: Glenn Beck , Politics , Federalism , Barack Obama

Toughen Up, Beltway!



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Can you stand a bit more complaining about the weather?

A friend in Fairfax County points out that between Christmas break, Martin Luther King Day, and snow days, kids in Fairfax County public schools have attended 22 days of school in the last 39 weekdays. Schools are closed entirely today because of snow that fell Tuesday. As noted in a Morning Jolt earlier this week, the Washington region takes risk-averse decision-making to new heights.

Toughen Up, Beltway

By 11 p.m. Monday night, most of the school districts in the Washington, D.C., area had announced they were closed in anticipation of an approaching “Alberta Clipper” snowstorm.

Tuesday morning, the federal Office of Personnel Management announced that federal-government offices in the D.C. region would be closed. Emergency employees and telework-ready employees were expected to work.

The first snowflakes didn’t fall until about 11 a.m. At 1 p.m., most of the major roadways remained clear, with the salt trucks having had plenty of time to prepare the roads. The Clipper did amount to a genuine snowstorm by the standards of the mid-Atlantic region, dumping three to seven inches.

My suspicion is that the Washington, D.C., area is a lot more capable of toughing its way through a few inches of snow. We would like to try, but nervous-Nelly school administrators won’t let us. Either that, or those administrators are terrified of nervous-Nelly parents.

Jake Tapper:

When I was a kid they waited for snow to accumulate before they called snow days. Then we had to walk home in it barefoot with bags of rocks.

The AP wrote that the U.S. is becoming a nation of “weather wimps,” attributing it to . . . global warming, contending that the warmer globe means we’re less used to cold weather, so we have a harder time coping with it. That article featured a Rutgers University climate scientist positing that melting Arctic sea ice is generating “more weirdness” in our weather. That darn indecipherable, precise scientific jargon!

But this isn’t really about the actual temperatures or precipitation; it’s about how we react to them. Winter’s always going to be cold, ranging from pretty cold to bitterly cold. Some years we won’t get much snow, some years we’ll get a blizzard or two. What’s stupefying is how this region always seems shocked by it.

Washington, D.C.,’s snow accumulation this year, now including Tuesday’s Alberta Clipper is . . . 7.2 inches. Yuppie Acres, Northern Virginia has already had five snow days and two delayed openings. The annual usual total snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area is . . . 5.4 inches. So we’re getting a bit more snow than usual, but not much.

(You can check out snowfall totals and averages for 57 cities here.)

The Washington Post’s Petra Dvorak spoke for exasperated parents a few weeks ago when there was talk that some school districts would close school because of the “Polar Vortex.” No actual precipitation, snow, sleet, or ice, just a blast of really cold air.

A cold day has no resemblance to the glory of an actual snow day — where the rinse-and-repeat cycle of getting all the snow pants, hats, mittens on, then going outside to play, then fighting and screaming because snow went down someone’s back and someone else got smacked with an iceball, then going home for hot chocolate — makes the day feel Sysiphean, but makes it go by faster.

A bitterly cold day?

Let’s crack an egg on the sidewalk and watch it freeze? Test that “Christmas Story” tongue scene?

Nah. This is our big chance to show the rest of the country that flintiness that President Obama longed for when he moved here from Chicago and learned his daughters’ school had closed because of a dusting of snow.

It’s time for the folks of Our Town to show the government how to keep functioning despite a deep freeze, how to hunker down, wear an extra layer and get it done.

Please? For the sake of parents?

. . . Human beings are capable of walking, driving, and functioning in snow; otherwise places like Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Minneapolis (and Canada) would be abandoned throughout winter. But not only does Washington, D.C., fail to do that . . . it seems afraid to even try.

Tags: Weather , Global Warming , Washington D.C.

One Year Ago: ‘What Difference, at This Point, Does It Make?’



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Citizens United wants you to check out their new video, marking the one-year anniversary of Hillary’s Benghazi testimony. I asked them, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

In other news, the 2016 Democratic presidential primary ended today, when Priorities USA, the liberal Super PAC that spent on $67 million on attack ads against Mitt Romney in 2012, announced it will support Hillary Clinton.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Citizens United

Is Rick Scott Quietly Assembling a Solid Governing Record?



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Today’s Morning Jolt was sent off to the editors a bit late, but hopefully worth the wait. A key section turns our eyes to the warmer climes of Florida . . . 

Great Scott! . . . or at Least Pretty Good Scott!

So this poll result, from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, sounds pretty ominous for Florida governor Rick Scott, a Republican, showing him trailing, 41 percent to former governor Charlie Crist’s 43 percent . . . until you recall the last PPP poll:

What was a 12 point lead for Charlie Crist over incumbent Rick Scott in September at 50/38 is now just a 2 point advantage at 43/41.

The movement since the fall has come largely as a result of Republican voters rallying around Scott and continuing to decline in their affection for Crist. Scott now leads by 66 points with the GOP base at 80/14, compared to only a 44 point advantage on previous poll at 65/21. That shift with Republicans accounts for almost the entire 10 point movement in Scott’s direction over the last few months.

Perhaps the late September was a bit of an outlier; that was the eve of the government shutdown that dragged down Republican polls across the country. (Ask Ken Cuccinelli if you doubt that a Washington shutdown can influence voter opinions about a governor’s race.) So is this a genuine comeback for Scott, or is the race settling in to what it was always likely to be — a close race between two flawed candidates?

It’s easy to understand a Floridian not loving Rick Scott. He initially supported the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, but the GOP-dominated state legislature strongly opposed the proposal, and now he’s kind of quiet about the idea. Sure, he’s not exactly a whirling dervish of raw political charisma. Sure, everybody says he looks like he should be cast as Lex Luthor in the Superman movie.

But these past four years haven’t been that bad for Florida. By some indicators, they’ve been pretty darn good. When Scott took office in January 2011, the unemployment rate was 12.4 percent; today it’s 6.4 percent. The state has gone from more than a million unemployed to just under 600,000. Several tort-reform bills are now signed into law. The growth in state spending has slowed dramatically, now in line with the rate of inflation and population growth. State-government employees now kick in more for their pension costs, and the state government workforce has been reduced by more than 7 percent, almost 10,000 positions. Scott signed several school-choice bills into law.

There are governors who would shut down a bridge access lane for a record like that, or hock a Rolex.

But I can’t quite understand why any voter in Florida would be in love with Charlie Crist — partially because you’ll never love Charlie Crist the way Charlie Crist does. And I really can’t understand why any Florida Democrats would be itching to elect the guy whom they tried to beat in statewide races in 2000, 2002, and 2006, and in his “independent” bid for Senate in 2010. Is the ‘D’ after a candidate’s name really magic? Can it make you forget everything you couldn’t stand about the guy for the past decade?

Betsy Woodruff read Crist’s autobiography/campaign memoir so you wouldn’t have to:

A great anecdote in the middle of the book recounts his attendance at a Q&A session between governors and the president. After watching Obama get grilled by other Republican governors, Crist comes to the president’s defense:

“I’ve listened to my colleagues give you a bunch of garbage” — I kind of spat that word out — “about the stimulus. . . . It is not the way we ought to be treating you. We ought to be treating each other as we’re told in the Bible — ‘do unto others.’”

The scene in its entirety is much lengthier, but you get the idea. Charlie Crist is the guy at the panel who raises his hand to ask a question and then blabs into the mic for five minutes instead. And Valerie Jarrett, who listens to the exchange, is deeply moved:

“That’s exactly what he needed to hear,” she said. “That’s exactly what we all need to hear.” As Valerie spoke, I could see tears were running down her cheeks. “Thank you for saying that,” she said.

Yeah. I’m sure that’s exactly how it happened.

Charlie Crist does have a passionate, uncompromising belief and a deep-rooted principle. The problem is that his passionate, uncompromising belief is the a deep-rooted principle that he should be governor. Everything else is negotiable.

UPDATE: Some charts on the size of Florida’s state-government workforce, year by year:

If the print is too small, the overall state government workforce has shrunk from 168,654 in 2009 to 161,392 in 2013; a few categories, such as state’s attorneys and public defenders, have increased, while the career-service employees were reduced by about 6,000. The Florida state legislature employs about 150 fewer workers than in 2009.

Tags: Rick Scott , Charlie Crist

Tune In Tonight! Again!



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In the coming hour, I’ll be appearing on the roundtable for “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” We’re likely to talk about a new Fox News poll showing that only a third of voters say they like both Obama and his policies — “a dramatic drop from 47 percent who felt that way in October 2012. In addition, 62 percent now say they dislike the president’s policies, up from 51 percent the month before his re-election.” We’re also likely to talk about actor Kal Penn’s sales pitch for the Healthcare.gov exchange.

Tags: Polling , Something Lighter

FreedomWorks PAC Pledges Support to Bevin Over McConnell



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In other Kentucky Senate-race news, FreedomWorks PAC endorsed Matt Bevin, GOP challenger to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

“Now more than ever, we need strong fiscal conservatives who will fight to cut spending on the front lines, not the sidelines. Matt Bevin is a great upgrade for Kentuckians who are serious about transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability in government,” said FreedomWorks PAC president Matt Kibbe.

“FreedomWorks is an incredible grassroots organization with tens of thousands of Kentucky members. I am humbled and honored to receive their support. Voters here are seeing and feeling first hand the damage that Mitch McConnell’s 30 years of big government polices have had on our great Commonwealth. As a result, they are flocking to join forces with our campaign. This is a big endorsement and will accelerate our growing grassroots momentum. I am truly grateful for this vote of confidence,” said Matt Bevin.

There have been some cycles where FreedomWorks PAC has been very active, and spent a lot . . . 

The steep drop-off from the 2010 to 2012 cycle reflects in part the fact that FreedomWorks started supporting candidates through a new SuperPAC, FreedomWorks for America, formed in July 2011.

Looking back on that 2010 cycle, FreedomWorks PAC helped support some of the biggest conservative wins of the cycle, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky. But the PAC’s support wasn’t always a guarantee of victory in November. Their top four races, in terms of amount of money spent, were in West Virginia for John Raese’s Senate bid, in California for Carly Fiorina’s Senate bid, in Utah for Morgan Philpot’s House bid, and in Arizona for Ruth McClung’s House bid. None of those candidates won in November.

Tags: Mitch McConnell , Matt Bevin

‘Of course I’m sure. I read it in Newsweek.’



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Oh, Newsweek.

They meant former governor Bob McDonnell, not Senator Mitch McConnell. They have since deleted the Tweet

Everybody makes mistakes. But it’s a little more embarrassing when your slogan for your Twitter account is “get smarter, faster” and you illustrate your Twitter feed with a little word balloon saying “Of course I’m sure. I read it in Newsweek.”

Don’t be so sure!

Tags: Something Lighter , Bob McDonnell , Mitch McConnell

A Case for McConnell, Made in a Whisper



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Senator Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign released its first major television ads of the year, entitled “Cares” and “Strong Voice.”

The campaign characterizes the ads as “a significant, six-figure buy will air statewide on Kentucky television.” Both ads feature Robert Pierce, a Kentuckian who suffered from throat cancer after unknowingly being exposed to high levels of radiation while working at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. In the ads, Mr. Pierce describes the profound impact Senator McConnell has made on his life, and the lives of many other Kentuckians, saying, “He knocked down walls for us. He helped save people’s lives.”

“Mitch McConnell gives a voice to Kentucky’s working families. I know first-hand — he cares,” says Pierce. “Mitch gets results for Kentucky that no one else can. That’s why I would like to raise my voice. Because we are represented by a man who has fought hard for us — and always will.”

What makes the ad stand out from so many other political ads is Pierce, telling his tale in a whisper:

UPDATE: The campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes is less impressed, declaring,

Today, McConnell launched a ‘new’ ad that is nearly identical to the same TV ad he ran in 2008, even using the same worker, Robert Pierce. McConnell uses this tactic for political gain, hiding the real story of his inaction on behalf of the health and safety of workers in Paducah.

The campaign points to this piece in the Huffington Post, critical of McConnell and his legislative legacy, painting the senator as far too cozy with the U.S. government’s uranium-enrichment plant.

McConnell’s 2008 ad can be found here; Pierce indeed appears, but he is only one of several workers featured in that ad.

Tags: Mitch McConnell

The Increasingly Rare Pro-Life Congressional Democrat



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Four members of Congress are scheduled to speak at today’s March for Life: Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, Missouri Republican Vicky Hartzler, and Dan Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois.

As our Jonathan Strong noted back in November:

The morning of March 21, 2010, Representative Daniel Lipinski of Illinois was one of 34 House Democrats to vote against the final iteration of Obamacare.

Many who joined him that day are no longer serving in Congress, but unlike them, Lipinski did not, and does not, represent a district that continually places him in mortal political peril. He won reelection in 2012, for example, with about 70 percent of the vote.

Today Lipinski is leading the charge among House Democrats to delay Obamacare. He introduced a bill this week that would indefinitely extend the exchange market’s enrollment period and suspend the individual mandate until a neutral third party certified Healthcare.gov is up and running.

Lipinski was the only pro-life Democrat to address Congress in the run-up to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, according to Life News

Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Representative James Langevin of Rhode Island, Representative Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia are on the federal advisory board of Democrats for Life of America. McIntyre announced his retirement at the end of this term; former members Jerry Costello of Illinois and Health Shuler of North Carolina are also members of that board, but they did not seek reelection in 2012.

Tags: Dan Lipinski , Joe Donnelly , James Langevin , Mike McIntyre , Nick Rahall

The Cautionary Tale of Bob McDonnell



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From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Bob McDonnell, Once One of the GOP’s Rising Stars, Heads to the Courthouse

Bob McDonnell, you’re a big jerk.

Here’s one detail from the indictment that’s just heartbreaking if you ever thought Bob McDonnell had a bright future as a leader on the national stage:

On or about August 1, 2011, MAUREEN MCDONNELL also met privately with JW (presumably McDonnell donor and Star Scientific CEO Jonny Williams). During the meeting, MAUREEN MCDONNELL noticed JW’s watch and asked what brand it was. JW informed her it was a Rolex. She informed JW that she would like to get one for ROBERT MCDONNELL because he would like a Rolex. JW expressed concern regarding whether ROBERT MCDONNELL would actually wear such a luxury watch given his role as a senior government official. MAUREEN MCDONNELL told JW that she wanted JW to buy a Rolex for ROBERT MCDONNELL. JW subsequently bought a Rolex for ROBERT MCDONNELL. When JW contacted MAUREEN MCDONNELL to ask her what she wanted engraved on the watch, MAUREEN MCDONNELL instructed JW to have “71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back of the Rolex.

If these points in the indictment are accurate, even Jonnie Williams — the guy allegedly bribing the McDonnells with these gifts and loans — seemed to sense this was a bad idea. McDonnell earned $175,000 per year as governor — one of the highest salaries of any governor — and obviously doesn’t have to worry about paying rent while he’s governor. But the Rolex cost $6,500. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change for a timepiece. People would inevitably ask questions about how he could afford it.

It sounds like the McDonnells had well-hidden financial issues from the moment they entered the governor’s mansion. In December 2009, one month after McDonnell wins in a landslide, Maureen McDonnell e-mails “JE,” one of Robert McDonnell’s senior staff members:

“I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.”

Painful lesson: You never really know a candidate or public official, unless you’re in the innermost of inner circles. Little or nothing in Bob McDonnell’s past as state attorney general or state legislator pointed to an extravagant lifestyle, serious personal debts, or blind spots in judgment. Even if you know a candidate . . . you never really know how power will change them.

Someone asked how much of this mess is the responsibility of Maureen McDonnell, and how much is the fault of the governor. That doesn’t really matter much, now does it? He’s the governor. He’s got to know that if he’s going to accept a gift, he has to disclose it. He’s got to have the basic common sense to realize that one guy offering more than $150,000 in loans and gifts isn’t just doing it because he’s a nice guy. And if his wife is getting him involved in financial arrangements that appear compromising, he’s got to put his foot down and get himself out.

The legal response from McDonnell’s lawyersciting me! Thanks a heap, guys!* — is that governors get gifts from donors all the time, and that no matter how awful it stinks, nothing actually breaks federal law.

But part of me can’t believe they’ve been reduced to arguing this:

All that Governor McDonnell is alleged to have done for Star or Mr. Williams was facilitate two meetings with Virginia Health and Human Resources officials (who gave Star nothing but a little of their time), make a brief appearance at a Star event in Richmond, attend a private luncheon hosted by his wife (and paid for by his PAC) at the Governor’s mansion at which Star announced the award of research grants to two Virginia universities, and attend a large healthcare reception at the Mansion to which his wife had invited a few Star representatives (invitations indistinguishable from those extended to thousands of other people over the Governor’s time in office).

Yeah, that’s all!

The Commonwealth of Virginia does not provide its governor a mansion so that he can help donors sell their products, and we don’t elect these guys so they can suddenly become enormously popular with rich guys who want to share their vacation homes and buy them watches. You can’t cash in on your office — and if the argument is that every elected official does it, you can’t do it on this scale.

* This is sarcasm.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Virginia

Bob McDonnell: Lots of Governors Get Expensive Gifts from Donors.



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Swell.

The reference is to this post, which begins,

It’s bothersome when an elected official accepts an expensive gift from a donor or person who has business before the state or federal government; even when there’s no explicit quid pro quo, there’s the nagging sense that the official is profiting off their office.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, is ending his term with a daily stream of odious stories of accepting gifts from donors — more than $150,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a nutritional supplement maker.

However, it’s worth noting that McDonnell is not the first Virginia governor to accept large gifts from donors while in office. He seems to just be the first one to get a lot of grief from the Washington Post day after day about it.

Of course, those other expensive gifts to Tim Kaine and Mark Warner listed in that blog post were disclosed on the proper public-disclosure forms.

The McDonnell defense is as follows:

The government decided to invent an unprecedented legal theory that eradicates all limitations on federal bribery law. That theory would — if applied neutrally — outlaw basic political practices, making criminals of not only the President, but also the Governor’s Democratic predecessor. After all, the President routinely participates in corporate events which lend credibility to his major benefactors,1 invites benefactors to events at the White House, allows his photo to be taken with benefactors, and includes benefactors in policy discussions with senior administration officials.2

Likewise, Governor McDonnell’s predecessor, Governor Kaine, took thousands of dollars in gifts during his time in office,3 while often taking actions to help those benefactors.4

The federal government has never before indicted a senior public official for engaging in such routine political conduct. That is, no doubt, because such conduct does not violate federal law.

Tags: Bob McDonnell

The DSCC: The Affordable Care Act? What Affordable Care Act?



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Give credit where it’s due; unlike back in December, the homepage of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee now prominently features a section dealing with Obamacare/The Affordable Care Act, entitled “Faces of Repeal,” contending “millions of Americans will be hurt if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

(Particularly the IPAB “death panel” members who will lose their jobs deeming certain procedures insufficiently cost-effective, and those insurance-company executives who will be hurt without those “risk corridor” bailouts.)

The DCCC faces a steep uphill climb in picking up the 17 seats they need to take back control of the House and make Nancy Pelosi the speaker again.

At this point, the real action of 2014 will be in the red-state Senate races in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Dakota, and Montana. Unsurprisingly, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee isn’t so eager to talk about Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act — at least on its homepage.

The only reference to “health” on the DSCC homepage right now is a John Walsh tweet that “#MT can’t afford ppl like @SteveDaines who don’t believe in a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions” and a generic “war on women” blog post that claims, “We must do everything in our power to protect women’s rights and women’s health.”

The words “Affordable Care Act” and “Obamacare” do not currently appear on the homepage of the DSCC website, nor do the words “exchange” or “insurance” or any other reference to the president’s signature domestic legislation, impacting families, workers, and businesses right now.

Last week, a Democratic SuperPAC, House Majority PAC, touted vulnerable Arizona congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick by highlighting her criticism of the “disastrous healthcare website.” Recently, Representative Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.), had a brusque exchange with the White House chief of staff, suggesting that the administration’s defense of the law wasn’t having much effect on constituents upset about premium hikes:

I’m just a little country veterinarian from a small town in the great state of Oregon. So what do I know? I’m from a marginal district that they need to have that talks to people on a regular basis.

Finally, recently MSNBC’s Ed Schultz lamented, with surprise,

There does seem to be, for some reason, a reluctance by Democrats to run home and talk about how positive this health-care law is.

Tags: Obamacare , DSCC , DCCC

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