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The Battle for America 2010: 20 Days to Go

CALIFORNIA

Key Races: U.S Senate, Governor

Tim Daniel reporting:

The biggest news of the week in California was Jerry Brown’s “whore-gate.” Consider it one of those amazing “if someone in a Republican campaign said that…” moments.

The story hinges on a message left by Jerry Brown on the voicemail of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the labor union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers. Brown is heard asking for the group’s endorsement in the message, but the interesting exchange kicks in when Brown apparently thought he had hung up the phone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZ4GutxnWjs

Transcribed from the tape:

Jerry Brown — “Do we want to put an ad out? … That I have been warned if I crack down on pensions, I will be – that they’ll go to Whitman, and that’s where they’ll go because they know Whitman will give ‘em, will cut them a deal, but I won’t.”

Brown associate — “What about saying she’s a whore?”

Jerry Brown – “Well, I’m going to use that. It proves you’ve cut a secret deal to protect the pensions.”

Meg Whitman’s campaign manager Sarah Pompei said the “whore” comment was “an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California” and an “appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman.”

Jerry Brown’s campaign insisted that Brown was responding to the notion of accusing Whitman of cutting a deal to gain endorsements, not to the use of the word “whore.” But Brown campaign manager Steven Glazer seemed to contradict this, saying, “This was a jumbled and often inaudible recording of a private conversation. At times, our language was salty. We apologize to Ms. Whitman and anyone who may have been offended.”

Where is the feminist outrage? As Dan Riehl noted, when a staffer to Alaskan GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller likened rival Lisa Murkowski’s potential Libertarian party bid to the “oldest profession in the world,” the feminist reaction was swift, just, and vocal. Not so with “whore-gate.”

Faster than a battered wife could say “but he’s a good man,” the National Organization for Women in California endorsed Jerry Brown. Brown waved around the endorsement as his spokesman denied any connection to the timing. As the controversy broke, the start page at the National Organization for Women site pointed to an article condemning senator Jim DeMint. There was nothing on “whore-gate.”

Beyond the salacious story, Sam Foster, writing at Left Coast Rebel, noted that CNN scrubbed the Jerry Brown whore reference. An article first published as “Whitman campaign upset with whore remark” was changed to an ambiguous “California governors spar over ‘whore’ remark.”

One can only speculate as to who called CNN from the Brown campaign. Does anyone remember that earlier this year Jerry Brown called Meg Whitman a Nazi? Probably not, as the press ignored that as well.

Fox News is reporting that an anonymous source with direct knowledge behind the taped conversation claims that the individual using the whore slur is actually Jerry Brown’s senior adviser — his wife.

Which proves that the theater of the bizarre in California politics can indeed become all-the-more bizarre.

Quicklinks:

RNC’s Steele and Rudy Giuliani for Tran — More big-guns showing up in Orange County to support Assemblyman Van Tran.

Me-too in the Nannygate-spotlight Whitman’s ex-nanny believes Nicky.

Pre trick-or-treat in the OCVan Tran and Loretta Sanchez to debate on October 13.

Greta V. Allred, Round IIGreta Van Sustern: “You know what, Gloria? The first thing for a lawyer to do is to protect the client, not throw the client out to the wolves. If you can’t protect the client you shouldn’t do the job. … You can’t just keep making this stuff up.”

Indeed, a Legal Insurrection — Professor Jacobson thinks that Allred’s legal jeopardy put nanny Nicky Santillan on ICE.

More serious than Oz — Libertarian Republican Bay Area businessman John Dennis’s campaign just produced an effective new ad. While far more serious than the “Wicked Witch of the West,” the ad brings home essential points.

El Presidente to California, “please don’t legalize” — Via Mexico’s Informador.com, the president of Mexico is sounding the alarm against California’s pot-legalizing Proposition 19 measure.

Felipe Calderón :

If the U.S. state of California legalizes marijuana in November, “it’s going to put Mexican authorities in a serious bind. It’s going to put us in a difficult problem to solve. It’s going to have an impact on the Mexican market, and I don’t know in what sense, frankly, it’ll have to be examined. It’s really very difficult for a government to jail a farmer who is growing marijuana for sale to the Californians.”

CONNECTICUT

Key Race: U.S. Senate

Jane Genova reporting:

The Connecticut U.S. Senate race between state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and former WWE executive Linda McMahon could be decided primarily by the media. The national media attention it’s receiving is resonating here throughout the state’s media. CT broadcast, digital, and print outlets are covering it with the intensity and frequently they have the Petit “In Cold Blood” murder and trial.

Currently, a recent poll shows that Blumenthal may indeed have the upper hand with media. According to the latest Rasmussen Reports, a telephone survey of likely voters shows Blumenthal has 54% of the vote to McMahon’s 43%. The previous poll had him at 50%. The headline in Connecticut Watchdog by George Gombossy reads: “Linda McMahon’s Senate Race and WWE Losing Steam.”

As most of us know, the media jumped on McMahon’s “misspoke,” as she called it, on the federal minimum wage. During a national press conference she recommended that it be reviewed. That was interpreted by some as meaning “lowered.” In addition, afterward when interviewed by a reporter, she revealed she didn’t know what that wage was. Given these hard times, the minimum wage is considered to be sacred, just like Social Security. As the media heat was turned up, McMahon used the same term which got Blumenthal in hot water. Blumenthal’s “misspoke” about his military service in Vietnam had been handicapping him since last May. Finally, he seems to be out of the penalty box. Now McMahon is handicapped with the perceptual baggage of being against the struggling working class.

Another problem for McMahon may be a backlash against her heavy television advertising in general and anti-Blumenthal more specifically. To some it seems obscene that she, just like Meg Whitman in California, should be spending so much to attempt to be elected to office.  Has becoming a public servant become a game only for those with their private war chest of funds? It doesn’t seem to be on the radar for The Man on the Street whom I regularly speak with that McMahon is supposedly insulated from special interests because she is only accepting the maximum of $100 donations.  After all, the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring anti-Blumenthal television advertising in CT.

On Sunday both candidates appeared on ABC’s This Week with Christine Amanpour. Blumenthal hammered McMahon’s ability to self-fund non-stop television advertising which, since Labor Day, has turned very negative against him. He calls it a “$50 million negative attack machine.” On that show, McMahon said that she would only serve two terms, and cut that to one if she assessed her performance wasn’t effective.  That did get a lot of coverage by media and could represent a step back to a position of strength for her.

Next week, on October 18, Michelle Obama is coming here to stump for Blumenthal.  You bet his campaign headquarters sent a notice about that to the media. He needs something to regain the momentum: McMahon has cut four points off his lead in the past week.

Jane Genova is a political blogger and communications consultant in New Haven, CT

FLORIDA

Key Races: Governor, U.S. Senate

Stephanie Maier reporting:

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, the race for governor is tightening: 50% to 47% in favor of Republican Rick Scott over state CFO Alex Sink (D) following a heated debate between the two candidates last week on the Spanish-language network Univision.

The first debate of the season, both Scott and Sink vied for the important and as-yet undecided Hispanic vote, while also taking shots at each other over past scandals and controversies. Not surprisingly, both candidates claimed a victory in the show-down as Scott accused Sink of  “refusing to be held accountable for her own disastrous record losing billions of Florida investment dollars, scamming seniors and rewarding felons,” and Sink hammered home her superior “integrity” and “right experience” to be governor.

In the Senate race, Rasmussen reports that Republican Marco Rubio is the clear front-runner with 50% over current Governor and Independent Charlie Crist, who has only 25%. Democrat Kendrick Meek trails with 19%.

In a vigorous debate last week, the three candidates often sided in pairs against the third, as Crist and Meek both struggled to identify Rubio as a “radical conservative.” Crist took shots at Rubio and the conservative Tea Party movement, stating, “You haven’t been drinking the Kool-Aid, my friend, you’ve been drinking too much tea and it’s just wrong.”

Crist and Meek’s aggressive strategy appears to have failed for the moment, however, in light of Rubio’s considerable lead following the debate, a lead that represents the largest point spread of the season in Florida so far.

MARYLAND

Key Race: Governor

Michael Swartz reporting:

Pander, play the class envy card, and blame Bush — Governor Martin O’Malley did all three as part of the state’s first televised debate Monday night.

Broadcast statewide via Baltimore’s WJZ-TV and Maryland’s public television stations, Republican challenger (and former governor) Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley sparred back and forth for an hour regarding a number of hot-button topics sent in by Baltimore-area viewers.

Of course, the Democratic spin machines and the state’s media mavens (but I repeat myself) pegged it as a win for O’Malley. Since the debate was prerecorded Monday morning there was plenty of time for both O’Malley and Ehrlich to claim victory before most of the rest of the state saw the actual event. While it was contentious, perhaps the only slip was Ehrlich’s referring to “surplus money” when he meant to say “stimulus money.” It came at a point where Maryland’s budgetary woes – deficit spending papered over in part with federal money – were being discussed.

In other news, fresh off the disappointing debut of early voting in September, Maryland voters can begin going to the polls late next week. Just over 24 percent of Maryland voters cast ballots in the primary, which overall had the lowest turnout since at least 1982. With a smaller-than-average Tea Party influence in the state and the state’s susceptibility to slick packaging and marketing — after all, it’s one of the few places Barack Obama can draw a friendly crowd and get Democrats to stand with him — the task ahead for Bob Ehrlich and Republicans in general appears quite difficult.

Speaking of President Obama, his tirade against the Chamber of Commerce leaves one Maryland Democrat in an interesting position. Rep. Frank Kratovil, a freshman Democrat from Maryland’s First District, is one of ten “Blue Dog” Democrats who garnered an advertisement buy from the national Chamber. Tellingly, Kratovil was one of just two Maryland congressional Democrats to skip the Bowie State event; instead Frank’s campaign claimed he was door-knocking in his district. With Obama’s approval rating there under 40 percent, it’s no wonder this Blue Dog is running from the president like his tail is on fire.

MASSACHUSETTS

Key Race: U.S. House, MA-4

Robert Snider reporting:

As the election for the Massachusetts Fourth comes down to the last few weeks, Barney Frank has lost the initiative with the voters and he has lost the psychological initiative to the Marine, Sean Bielat. Even though some action or incident may occur in the upcoming joint radio appearances and in the scheduled debates that could change the momentum, Bielat must be given the psychological and policy edge.

On October 6, 2010, Frank sent a letter to Sean Bielat that may seem, at first blush, to be relatively inconsequential. However, the letter was a mistake and shows that Frank has confused his arrogance with well-founded confidence. First, Frank intended the letter to be a mocking attack on Bielat and to somehow force Bielat to discuss a topic that Barney thought would put Bielat on the defensive because it dealt with Social Security, the traditional issue with which Democrats demagogue Republicans. However, the question is really cross-examination. Frank is a lawyer, but he violated the first rule of cross-examination: do not ask a question when you do not know what the answer is and when you do not control the witness. Frank opens his letter with the assertion that Bielat, who has appeared often on radio and TV, avoids answering questions about some topics. In fact, Bielat answers all questions quickly and crisply, and does not avoid any topic. Bielat takes positions and is forthright about defending each position. Frank “assumes” that Bielat will respond as Frank wants, not as Bielat wants. Of course, Bielat welcomed the opportunity to state his position on Social Security.

Frank showed disrespect by alleging a logical inconsistency: that because Bielat is supposedly “new to Massachusetts” (a fact easily disproved), he is not prepared to answer a question about Social Security that is not related to residence. Bielat took full advantage of Frank’s foolish letter. First, he politely thanked Frank for the opportunity to answer and pointed out that Frank had not asked about the national debt and “job-killing bailouts,” subjects Frank must avoid. Bielat pointed out that Frank had voted 41 times to increase the national debt and, tellingly, had voted against reining in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2005.

Bielat pointed out that Frank had thirty years in Congress to fix Social Security and had not helped do so. Then, recognizing that the demographics underlying Social Security require changes, he stated his four-point plan to save Social Security.

In closing his letter, Frank mocked Bielat by insinuating that Bielat was too fearful to show up for their debates. Bielat closed his response by inviting further letters from Frank which he promised to answer and that, in any case, he looked forward to chatting with Frank at their debates. Frank lost each point raised, intentionally and unintentionally, in his letter. If Frank carries that psychology into the debates and joint appearances, Bielat will prevail. Frank not only underestimates Bielat, his attitude will carry him into traps of his own making just as in the letter.

I am not surprised that Bielat has posted both letters on his website, but Frank has posted only his letter to Bielat without posting Bielat’s response. Frank has failed to meet with constituents, rejected an opportunity to appear with Bielat on Channel 25, and alleges he has a poll showing he is 20% ahead, but refuses to show the poll to the press and just made a rookie mistake with his letter to Bielat. The contest over courage has been determined. The only issue is whether the curve of Bielat’s share of the vote exceeds 50% before or after the election date in November.

On Monday morning, October 11, the first, hour-long debate was held on WRKO in Boston. Of course, Bielat attended. The next few weeks will tell us who the voters believe made the best case.

NEVADA

Key Race: US Senate

John Ransom reporting:

Nevada has a few days until early voting starts and the momentum looks all-Angle for now. Republican challenger Sharron Angle has won over voters this week, while Harry Reid is suddenly stuck with an ethics issue that has tripped up one of his senior policy advisors, and with him, perhaps Reid as well.

Angle’s campaign has been buoyed over the last week by two polls that have her out-pacing her rival, Senate Majority Leader Reid. A survey of 789 likely voters by CNN/Time conducted from October 1 to October 5 shows Angle leading Reid by 2 percentage points. A similar survey of by Rasmussen conducted October 5 shows Angle’s lead increasing to 4. The two polls taken together could indicate that late-deciding voters are breaking for Angle with less than a week before voting starts in the Silver State. It also put to rest any lingering concern regarding a previous poll that showed Reid up by 5 percent in the race for United States Senate. As we explained two weeks ago, that survey was likely just statistical noise.

The news for Reid continues to be bleak. The political blog for the Las Vegas Review Journal has given local exposure to a Wall Street Journal article that says “[a]t least 72 House and Senate aides have traded stocks in companies their bosses helped oversee.” The list includes Reid’s senior advisor on energy and environment policy, Chris Miller. Reid’s campaign originally attempted to downplay the stock trades. But later, Reid’s office issued a statement to the LVRJ which said that Miller “showed poor judgment” by trading in the stock of Energy Conversion Devices.

If so, then it’s also a mistake that’s been made by Miller’s boss.

In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, one month before oil prices and the stock market took an historic plunge, Reid sold between $15,000 and $50,000 of energy holdings he owned in the Dow Jones Energy Index. In return, he purchased between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of healthcare holdings in the Dow Jones Health Care Index. Both transactions were reported by OpenSecrets.org.

Since August 19, 2008, when Reid sold his energy holdings, the value of the energy fund plunged from $41.85 to a low of $23, a loss of 45 percent. The fund has subsequently recovered some of its losses and now stands at around $33.65, a loss of 21 percent since Reid’s exit. Over the same period, the Dow Jones Health Care Index has lost only about 6 percent.

“Congressional staff are often privy to inside information and an unscrupulous person could profit off that knowledge,” says Vincent Morris in the WSJ article. Morris is a spokesman for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.), who has proposed legislation to stop inside trading by Congress and staffers. “The public should be outraged there is no law specifically banning this,” he concluded.

NEW YORK

Key Races: Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House

Sam Foster reporting:

“There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

Carl Paladino may not have said it, but he certainly is taking heat for it. He’s also been taken to task for being anti-brainwashing. Regardless, one has to wonder whether his comments, said or unsaid, become a wedge between social and fiscal conservatives. Beyond the negative headlines, you can also watch Paladino’s poll numbers deteriorate. The Q-poll shows a dramatic reversal in Paladino’s campaign numbers from just two weeks ago.  He may be getting name recognition, but his unfavorable ratings are high.  Still, only a week ago he was polling strongly with independents. However, if Paladino ends up dragging the top of the ticket other closely contested races could swing to Democrat incumbents.

Joe Dioguardi who? That sums up how Kirsten Gillibrand is off to a huge lead in the U.S. Senate race.  The Q-poll blames women.

Democrat Matt Zeller for NY-29 tries threatening his district for votes. Internal Republican polling has Republican Matt Doheny far ahead of Bill Owens in NY-23.  Now that conservative Doug Hoffman has dropped out of the race, Cook has moved NY-23 to Toss Up. Cook also widened the field of threatened Democrats by downgrading Democrat Dan Maffei and his race against Republican Ann Marie Buerkle for NY-25.  An esteemed professor from Cornell points out that NY-22 incumbent Maurice Hinchey is concerned over his election despite being in a relatively safe district, which might explain why he ducked a scheduled debate against Republican George Phillips.

TEXAS

Key Races: Governor, U.S. House, State House

Bryan Preston reporting:

With Gov. Perry’s lead over his Democratic challenger solidifying (+14.5 in the latest survey), and with the Houston Police Officers’ Union endorsing Perry over their former boss Bill White while the Houston school district declares White dead in the water, let’s turn our eyes to races elsewhere on the Texas ballot. Writing on Texas Monthly’s website, Paul Burka wonders if Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz (TX-27) is in trouble.  Ortiz is a longtime south Texas political boss, but this year he’s facing Republican Blake Farenthold, scion of a Texas political family, and entrenched Democrats everywhere are finding objects in their rearviews to be much closer than they usually appear.  If Ortiz goes down — and TX-27 hasn’t been on anyone’s GOP pickup radar, including mine — it would be huge.  Some state House seats, like HD-41 where Republican challenger Rebecca Cervera’s race to topple state Rep. Veronica Gonzalez is getting attention from one of Texas’ political journals, could also come into play.  The list of endangered Texas Democrats continues to grow, and several face Hispanic Republican challengers.  For more than 30 years, Texas Republicans and Democrats have anticipated that the state’s growing Hispanic community would become the majority and that this would impact the state’s voting patterns.  The Democrats have long held onto this change as their main hope for salvation from more than a decade of demoralizing defeat in Texas, but the Republicans have aggressively recruited and fostered Hispanic candidacies while pointing out that on the issues, Hispanic values tend to line up with Republican values.  November 2010 may be the turning point for the GOP to pick up major gains among Hispanic voters by electing Hispanic candidates (like Larry Gonzales, Bill Flores and Quico Canseco) to high office, and for the Democrats to finally realize that demographics alone won’t save them.  You actually have to care about what voters think and want and not just rely on demographics and the politics of personal destruction.  For the Texas Democrats, that Matt Angle-driven truck may have run out of gas.

Elsewhere in the Lone Star State, last week I mentioned that Sarah Palin was in Houston, and I wondered if endorsements were in the offing.  Well, the following day Palin took to Facebook to talk up a new generation of Republican leaders.  Among them a great group of Texans, including Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and Republican House challengers Bill Flores (TX-17), Francisco Canseco (TX-23), Dr. Donna Campbell (TX-25) who has an article about her broken foot up on PJM, the aforementioned Blake Farenthold (TX-27), and Stephen Broden (TX-30).

Finally: Hands Off Texas goes high tech.  The Hands Off Texas movement, which is run by the Texas GOP’s House Committee, began in 2009 as a response to the Democrats holding their annual meeting in Austin to declare that Texas would soon turn blue.  Once the Republicans stopped laughing at that, Hands Off Texas was born as the counter message.  It drove several rallies with that as the theme, and has now morphed into an online campaign army.  Says HOT’s executive director, Travis Griffin: “We’ve held more events and now we’re launching the first calendar that brings all volunteer efforts together in one place.  It’s statewide.  It’s location based.  And it’s the next step in our movement.  We’ve gone from holding events to mobilizing people to action.”

Chris Leonard designed the new system, and adds: “We’re making this thing insanely shareable.  You’ll be able to share it everywhere.  It integrates with social media to replace the old ‘Click here to share with a friend’ so that our supporters’ social networks will see what’s happening all over Texas in real time.”  The new Hands Off Texas site will include shareable block walking, phone banking, and other campaign volunteer opportunities as well as an online viral fundraising system.  More is in the works, including ways to connect voters more directly with candidates, and Griffin says that it will roll through the 2010 elections and become the starting point for 2012.  Says Griffin: “’Hands Off Texas’ will be needed as long as Obama is in the White House.”

VIRGINIA

Key Race: US House, VA-5

Mary Beth Niemeyer reporting:

The loudest drumbeats on the VA-5 coconut telegraph this week concerned challenger Robert Hurt’s war chest, which has been his soft spot since Tea Party activists made it quite clear that he wasn’t their first choice.  However, Hurt’s campaign reports that his third-quarter fundraising reaped over $900,000.  It’s not the outrageous money bomb which some Republican candidates have enjoyed in the space of just a couple of days, but this is a good sign that conservative voters have gelled in their support for the state senator.

Meanwhile, Perriello’s campaign engineered an email blast asking for a $36 contribution in honor of the candidate’s birthday.  The fundraising target of $15,000 was exceeded in excess of $25,000, but we all know what $25,000 will buy you in a 2010 political campaign: a rally appearance from Full House’s very own Dave Coulier, who, if you catch him on a good day, may be persuaded to throw in a “Robert Hurt, Cut! It! Out!” for an extra grand.