Isn’t it aerial wolf hunting season somewhere? Doesn’t Sarah Palin have something to do this summer, say, in the wilds of her home state, rather than float fresh interest in a 2014 bid for US Senate?
“I’ve considered it, because people have requested me considering it,” she told conservative radio host Sean Hannity earlier this week. “But I’m still waiting to see what the lineup will be and hoping that … there will be some new blood, new energy, not just kind of picking from the same old politicians in the state.”
Ms. Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a former Alaska governor, added: “I, along with anybody, would have to say that I would do whatever I could to help. And, you know, if that was part of that help, then it would have to be considered.”
RECOMMENDED: How well do you know Sarah Palin? A quiz.
Hey, Lorne Michaels, don’t summon Tina Fey back to "Saturday Night Live" just yet. That was perhaps about the most tepid declaration of interest in a campaign we’ve heard of late. Not to mention the undeniable fact that Palin abandoned her last elected office, the governorship, halfway through her term. Lawmaking was not her thing. She prefers sipping Big Gulps (as a sign of her distaste for those officials who are working to limit the public’s soda consumption) and ragging on liberals, for cash. She has, of course, returned to the Fox News Channel as an on-air commentator.
“Giving up her current lucrative career may be hard given a less than certain outcome in the race,” Terry Nelson, a veteran Republican operative who has done work in Alaska, told the Washington Post. “And a losing campaign won’t help her.”
Sure, it’s not unthinkable that Palin would run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who is up for reelection next year. She is still a draw among conservatives, but her national popularity seems to trump residual affection for her in Alaska. So far the polls don’t show a home-state public clamoring to have Palin on the ballot.
One survey – conducted in May by Harper Polling, a GOP shop, for the Tea Party Leadership Fund – indicates that she would narrowly lead the field of possible Republican candidates. Palin would take 32 percent of the primary vote, followed by Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell at 30 percent, and Joe Miller, the tea party-backed Republican nominee in 2010, with 24 percent.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted earlier this year by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling concludes that Senator Begich would fare well in a general election against Palin, besting her by 16 points, 54 to 38 percent.
For his part, Begich isn’t taking lightly Palin’s coy offer to run if she believes she’s needed. In an interview with Politico on Wednesday, he repeatedly questioned whether she lives in Alaska.
"I don't know if she's a resident," Begich said. "She's been away from Alaska a lot and has probably lost touch with what's going on. She should go to my webpage. Most Alaskans I see on a pretty regular basis, but I haven't seen her for a long time.”
(Palin is still registered to vote in Wasilla, where she served as mayor, Politico notes.)
Begich also suggested that he won’t take Palin too seriously unless she emerges from what’s expected to be a crowded primary. “A Republican primary in Alaska? She may not survive,” he said.
But Palin’s star power still shines enough – and her potential to raise money looms large enough – for Begich to weigh in on her potential candidacy. Palin pushed back on Facebook Thursday, criticizing Begich for being in President Obama’s pocket and for voting with “ultra-liberal Senators Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid approximately 90 percent of the time.” He voted, she said, “FOR Obamacare, FOR massive tax increases, FOR carbon taxes which could cost Alaskans 21,000 jobs, AGAINST pro-life legislation, and there’s so much more.”
“Really, Mark? Really?” Palin wrote. “Margaret Thatcher used to say, ‘I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.’ So, thank you, Mark Begich, for making me and others exceptionally cheery today!”
It’s probably too early yet to be drawn in by Palin’s fighting language – or her seeming good cheer at the prospect of Begich’s engagement. Fighting, after all, is a Palin trademark, and she’s not necessarily interested in sparring from behind a desk in a storied congressional chamber. Palin is, first and foremost, a moneymaking machine. She is Sarah Palin Inc., and, frankly, her brand isn’t what it was for a fleeting moment in 2008. As Begich bites and the social network sniping commences, the spotlight grows brighter around the former pol.
RECOMMENDED: How well do you know Sarah Palin? A quiz.
Summer is reading season for vacationers, and as the nation’s capital clears out next month for its annual August sabbatical, there’s no doubt that most Washingtonians will tuck one book in particular into their beach bags and backpacks. If they haven’t already snagged an advance copy, as notables are wont to do, and set out for a marathon read.
"This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! – in America’s Gilded Capital," by New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent Mark Leibovich, skewers the inappropriately chummy, often insufferable incestuousness that is Washington today. It was a book so feared before publication that Politico, the city’s online chronicler of every tick and tock, did “some reporting on his reporting” several months ahead of its release, which is scheduled for next week.
The New Republic – in classic Washington fashion – then wrote that Politico's scribes were simply trying “to kneecap a writer whose upcoming revelations may well depict them as the people that they are: obsessive insiders who are obsessed with insiderism.”
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This is, of course, a prime exhibit of why just such a book is necessary, The New Republic concludes.
The picture Mr. Leibovich paints of this company town as sadly self-promoting, with few workhorses and a vast stable of preening if also less-than-spectacular show horses, is as to be expected, according to the reviews. At least if you live here. There is no modest intersection of government, media, and the special-interest lobby in "This Town." Instead, it’s as if the Venn diagram of Washington, which once contained a modest overlapping center between those three worlds, has fallen in on itself, forming one large swarming circle of always-striving inhabitants.
As if to taunt this master class of very important people, Leibovich failed to include an index at the end of his book. But no matter, The Washington Post published an unauthorized version. (Pity the summer interns who spent their weekend on this project.)
So who is targeted? Will the rendering of them be devastating? Literary blows too damning to endure? Which subjects will be forced to flee to flyover territory?
Most of those chronicled are probably no-names to the vast majority of Americans outside the Beltway. They include: party-thrower and -goer and media-relations guru Tammy Haddad, super lawyer Bob Barnett, and a young congressional aide named Kurt Bardella. These folks are cogs, Leibovich suggests, with personal agendas that barely, maybe never, touch on the public interest.
Then there are the boldfaced names, weighing in on other boldfaced names – often in a fashion that makes them all seem a wee bit smaller. As a headline on the Fox News website puts it: "Book: Harry Reid Says John Kerry Has No Friends."
Reviewers who have logged Washington time (many of whom must publish accompanying disclaimers about their work or social relationships with the author) say the book is a witty and accurate portrayal.
“His tour through Washington only feeds the worst suspicions anyone can have about the place – a land driven by insecurity, hypocrisy and cable hits, where friendships are transactional, blind-copying is rampant and acts of public service appear largely accidental,” writes Carlos Lozada of The Washington Post.
Mr. Lozada adds: “Only two things keep you turning pages between gulps of Pepto: First, in Leibovich’s hands, this state of affairs is not just depressing, it’s also kind of funny. Second, you want to know whether the author thinks anyone in Washington – anyone at all? – is worthy of redemption.”
Under the headline, “Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is (Duh!) Washington,” one New York Times reviewer suggests that extreme partisanship has contributed to the city’s lack of productive work for the nation as well as to its draw of fame-seekers. Those hard at work, in journalism and beyond, writes David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Press, would never appear in a book like this one. Why? Because they’re doing their jobs, not schmoozing it up.
“So here’s to all the big mouths, big egos, big shots, big machers and big jerks,” Mr. Shribman toasts. “In case you’re wondering, Mark Leibovich is on to every one of you, and his portrayal of ‘This Town’ is spot on. Because Mr. Leibovich, perhaps alone among capital insiders, has realized that Washington, once an inside joke, now looks more and more like a bad joke.”
So will you read the book? Or does 24-hour cable tell all you need to know about This Town?
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How much forgiveness-asking can one city’s voting populace endure? Should New York be renamed Redemptionville?
Not just yet.
Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former Democratic congressman turned Big Apple mayoral candidate, is now thematically joined in his unceasing apology tour by disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), who launched a petition drive this week to be city comptroller (the top financial officer).
Just two years after a sexting scandal forced him to resign his House seat, Mr. Weiner is hoping he’s logged enough time in the wilderness to re-earn his wife’s favor, make personal peace with his foibles, and, well, deserve the city’s top job. Mr. Spitzer, the one-time anti-Wall Street crusader felled by his dalliances with a prostitute, has spent the past five years gabbing on an ill-fated CNN talk show and writing op-eds. He seems to believe that he’s paid his penance and that New York needs his services, as well.
If Spitzer collects enough signatures by Thursday, he and Weiner will be on the primary ballot in September.
The talking heads are hashing out the differences between the two men, as if the distance between their deeds – Weiner used bad judgment but didn’t do anything illegal, Spitzer crossed the line, they suggest – provides insight about their fitness again to hold elected office. Why isn’t the chattering class instead evaluating if either man has spent his limited time on the periphery of the limelight doing any kind of work that reflects real character restoration or sincere public service?
Well, because it seems that the mere casting of ballots in their favor would be sign enough of both. Political rebirth as evidence of a new lease on life. If the public says you’re OK, you’re OK. In America today, it would appear that many of us don’t much care whether our public officials have the deepest character, the sturdiest morals. Only that they win – or that they know how to negotiate their apologies deftly enough to communicate that they’re still winners.
Most recently, Weiner and Spitzer have former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to thank for that. Cheating on his wife, lying about his whereabouts while doing said cheating, and embarking on an international tryst instead of running the state were not disqualifiers for voters there; they sent him to Congress in a special election this spring. Once, Sanford had national aspirations: How long before his name is added to the long list of Republicans likely to seek the party’s 2016 presidential nomination?
So, too, should the two New Yorkers tip their hats to former President Bill Clinton (survivor of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and related impeachment proceedings) and Sen. David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican whose telephone number was found in a D.C. madam’s book and who later apologized for a “serious sin.”
Should his wife make another White House bid, Mr. Clinton could be a future first spouse. Their marriage endures, and, through his family’s foundation, he is an international philanthropic superstar. And Senator Vitter never stepped down: He was elected to a second term in 2010.
New York is just the current epicenter of the reality television world takeover of American politics. Weiner and Spitzer are not rewriting history. They’re just providing a rare ballot twofer. And the tabloids are jubilant! Spitzer’s announcement this week brought headline writers a new raison d'être.
The cover of the New York Daily News barked, "What the El!"
The New York Post: "Here we ho again!"
The Daily News chimed in with, "Lust For Power.”
While Weiner has seen his star rise anew – recent polls suggest he has catapulted to the front of the pack of Democratic mayoral hopefuls – New York residents seem divided about Spitzer.
"Too soon,'' Julia Mair, a documentary scriptwriter, told USA Today, as she walked past the media horde gathered Monday near Spitzer. "All these guys, they lie and they lie and they lie, and then they think we should trust them and give them another chance. Why should we think they're going to do anything different?''
Spitzer, for his part, is taking the forgiveness banner and running with it – from network to cable, street corner to street corner.
“There is forgiveness in the public, whether that forgiveness will extend to any individual is always a separate and independent question,” Spitzer said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning." “And I will have to make a case very different than any other person has made. I expect I will make it every day between now and the election, and I look forward to making it.”
On MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," Spitzer took the forgiveness-seeking one step further, stepping into rare – real? – emotional territory when asked personally how he’s different from who he was five or six years ago.
“A lot of pain, a lot of pain,” he said, his eyes filling with tears, his chin beginning to tremble. “You go through that pain, you change.”
Ultimately, though, the voters will decide. "I'm sorry" will get Weiner and Spitzer only so far. And maybe in addition to assessing their merits, their qualifications for the offices they seek, and their character, New Yorkers will be faced with another soul-searching question: Does forgiveness allow for ticket splitting?
First lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday hosted a “Kids’ State Dinner” at the White House. The event honored 54 children who won a national healthy lunch recipe contest associated with Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.
In some ways the lunch was indeed just like a real state dinner, the first lady noted when greeting the group. Everybody got to go through a reception line. They walked a red carpet past a group of press. They had to wait and wait to get through security.
“It’s a real hassle coming to the White House, isn’t it?” said Mrs. Obama.
But in other ways the lunch was actually better than the nighttime dinners that honor foreign leaders. For one thing, you could eat with your fingers. The first lady, in her remarks, expressly permitted such behavior.
This did not sit well with her husband, who made a drop-by appearance.
“Michelle never said to me I could just pick up something with my fingers at a state dinner. That’s just not fair,” President Obama said, to general hilarity from the 8- to 12-year-old contest winners.
Also, there were balloon animals. A really good balloon person entertained the kids as they filed in. His yellow giraffe was phenomenal.
“I don’t know who’s more popular, Mrs. Obama or the balloon guy,” said Michael Curtin, CEO of DC Central Kitchen and a judge of the recipe contest, prior to the meal.
The food itself was different, too. It was a selection of the winning recipes, one from each state and three US territories. These ran the gamut from “Alaskan Ceviche with Mango” to “Wisconsin Solar Oven-Simmered Chili.”
More than 1,300 children entered the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest, which was funded by the food website Epicurious as well as “Let’s Move.” It called for recipes based on the US Department of Agriculture healthy eating guidelines for kids at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
As you might expect, many of the winning recipes are pretty healthy-sounding. Most school lunchrooms don’t feature something called the Bring It On Brussels Sprouts Wrap, invented by 9-year-old Corbin Jackson of South Carolina.
There were lots of lettuce cups. Many winners got their start cooking because they or a sibling has a health challenge that limits their diet.
But gluten-free does not have to mean “tasteless.” Mrs. Obama mentioned that the Fun Mini-Pizza recipe of 10-year-old Olivia Neely of Kansas was so tasty that at least one judge could not believe the crust was made from cauliflower, not flour, and went back to the kitchen to make sure it had been made correctly.
Now, if only they could get these kids together on designing a healthy Twinkie. That would be a real accomplishment.
Governor Perry didn’t say explicitly that he plans to run for president in 2016. But his remarks in San Antonio might as well have been his opening campaign speech. We heard about his humble origins in Paint Creek, Texas. We heard his case for the Texas economy during his 14 years as chief executive, including 1.6 million jobs created and seven balanced budgets.
And we heard a dig against the federal government, always a good move when you’re running for the Republican presidential nomination.
“We’ve stood strong against unwise policies from Washington that would bust the bank,” such as expansions of unemployment insurance and Medicaid, Perry said.
Perry also said he would “truly miss serving in this capacity” (emphasis added) – a signal, perhaps, that he wasn’t done serving, just getting ready to finish serving as governor of Texas.
Less than two hours after Perry’s speech began, a press release went out from the website, RickPerry.org, touting his record as governor and linking to his speech and a transcript.
Other clues have emerged pointing to a likely do-over for Perry as a presidential candidate, following his less-than-impressive attempt in the 2012 cycle. For example, he’s just rehired his former presidential campaign communications director, Mark Miner.
Not long after the 2012 election, Perry himself suggested that he would run again.
"It was an extraordinary experience – I mean, one that I wouldn't trade," he told a Texas tea party group last December. "And looking back on it ... I would do it again."
Conventional wisdom holds that Perry is a longshot for the 2016 GOP nomination. The potential field is full of young talent, with people like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
And Perry didn’t exactly have a smooth ride last time. He entered the race late, and committed some of the most memorable gaffes in modern political history. During a televised debate, he couldn’t remember the third government agency he planned to shut down. “Oops,” he said with a shrug and a smile. (He later remembered: It was the Department of Energy.)
Once, while in New Hampshire, Perry turned in a rather slap-happy campaign appearance, leading to speculation that he was “on” something. He insisted he wasn’t, though after he dropped out of the race, former aides pointed to a back operation he had had in 2011, and the pain medication he was taking, as a reason for his less-than-optimal run.
Now, assuming he is planning another run, he is doing so with plenty of forethought, and time to build up a warchest, bone up on policy, and hope that most primary voters don’t care that he was the guy who said “oops” on national TV during a presidential debate.
In his speech on Monday, Perry also hinted at an old controversy that reminded some conservatives during the 2012 campaign – including many tea partyers – that they don’t really trust him.
“I will always remember people like Heather Burcham, who touched my heart in the last few months that she had left before she succumbed to cervical cancer,” Perry said.
Back in 2007, the year Ms. Burcham passed away, Perry ordered all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which is said to cause cervical cancer. After a conservative backlash, the order was never implemented, and Perry said he regretted issuing the mandate. But he defended his intention, to fight disease.
In touching on the issue Monday, perhaps Perry was trying to inoculate himself against it in a future campaign. But if the latest survey on 2016 by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) is to be believed, Perry has his work cut out, even in his home state. PPP found that Texas’s junior senator, Ted Cruz, is the top choice among the state’s Republican primary voters for the next GOP presidential nomination, with 27 percent.
“Rick Perry’s presidential aspirations appear to be dead in the Lone Star State, as only 18 percent of Texas Republicans wish for him to run,” PPP said in its release on July 3.
WWRPD? What will Rick Perry do? That’s a big question in US politics Monday as the current Texas governor and former GOP presidential candidate has invited supporters and friends to join him in San Antonio for an announcement of “exciting future plans."
The conventional wisdom is that this exciting future does not include Mr. Perry running in 2014 for a fourth full term as Texas governor.
“The smart money is on him passing on another bid with an eye on something bigger,” writes Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza on “The Fix” blog Monday.
After all, why would Perry want the strain and stress of another gubernatorial bid? He’s already the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Polls show him with a comfortable lead over his most likely primary challenger, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. He has nothing left to prove in the Lone Star State.
Well, almost nothing. Polls also show that Texans would prefer the state’s GOP Sen. Ted Cruz over Perry if both men run for president. And that’s perhaps the second part of Monday’s Perry announcement: He may unveil something aimed at helping erase the unfortunate image left by his hapless 2012 campaign, which seemed to show that Texas was as far as his political career would progress.
Perry’s “oops” moment in a televised GOP debate, when he uttered that word after forgetting the federal departments he had vowed to eliminate, was one of the lowlights (or highlights, depending on your view) of the entire primary process. It appeared to symbolize the campaign of someone who was just not ready or able to compete for higher office.
“Refurbishing his reputation on the national stage may be what he’s ultimately seeking,” writes veteran national political reporter David Catanese on his “The Run 2016” blog.
Perry has played coy in recent days when asked the 2016 question. It’s “an option,” he said Sunday on Fox News.
He’s unlikely to flatly announce Monday that he’s running, of course. That’s not how modern presidential campaigns work, in part due to campaign finance laws that restrict how certain contributions can be used.
Instead, he may say something vague and uplifting about wanting to remain a force in the US political world. Then, he might unveil a new vehicle for his aspirations, such as a "super PAC" that could fund preliminary national travel in the next year or so.
This would clear the way for Attorney General Abbott to succeed Perry in Texas, and allow him to raise money for other politicians, winning new friends and influencing new people.
Or all this could be wrong. As the “oops” shows, Perry is not a predictable politician. Former Perry aide Robert Black recently told the Texas Tribune, “for those out there trying to read the tea leaves don’t. Because you’re probably going to be wrong.”
Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That’s something every US schoolchild learns. But who made the star-spangled banner itself? No, not the song – the flag that inspired lawyer and amateur poet Key to write what became the US national anthem.
The answer to that is Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow and noted flag seamstress who created the giant Stars and Stripes that floated in air above Fort McHenry on Sept. 14, 1814 – “still there” the morning after a ferocious British bombardment.
Pickersgill is not exactly an unsung hero of the banner story. Her former home has been preserved as a small, charming museum in Charm City’s downtown.
But she’s certainly less sung, compared with Key. This July 4, the Maryland Historical Society is aiming to boost her profile. It's kicking off an effort to sew a reproduction of the star-spangled banner using materials as close as possible to those Pickersgill used, in the same amount of time she needed to complete the original.
It’s a celebration of the flag’s bicentennial, since it was made in the summer of 1813. You can donate toward the project’s cost on Kickstarter or come sew a stitch yourself during public stitching days in August.
“It is a work of public art in every sense of the word,” the Maryland Historical Society boasts.
Back in 1813, Pickersgill was Baltimore’s best-known flagmaker. This was a good career for a widow and single mother in a port city where ships needed flags and banners of all kinds.
That July, she received a big rush order. Maj. George Armistead, the new commander of Fort McHenry, wanted two flags. One was a relatively small flag of 17 by 25 feet, intended to fly in bad weather. But the second was a pure statement of nationalism: a giant flag of 30 by 42 feet that Armistead was sure the British could not miss.
Pickersgill needed backup for a project of this size. She enlisted her 13-year-old daughter, several nieces, and an indentured African-American servant in the effort. They labored after-hours in a brewery where they had room to lay out and stitch the flag’s elements.
The flag was largely made of imported British wool bunting, a loosely woven fabric that could wave in the wind. (Trade with Britain was banned at the time, and the origin of the flag’s fabric remains a mystery.)
The original banner had about 17 threads per inch weft, according to the Maryland Historical Society. That’s light. By comparison, a necktie of today has 240 threads per inch.
The bunting came in 18-inch-wide strips. But the design of the flag called for stripes two feet in height. So Pickersgill skillfully stitched together two pieces for each stripe.
“She did it so smoothly that the completed product would look like a finished whole – and not like the massive patchwork it was,” wrote Smithsonian magazine contributing editor Robert M. Poole in a 2008 story on the flag’s history.
Pickersgill and her team finished the flags in about seven weeks. She was paid $573.45 for her work, a good sum at the time.
Then the flags did their duty. Key had boarded a British ship to help negotiate the release of an imprisoned American civilian; he was detained since he’d seen that an attack on Fort McHenry was imminent. It’s likely the smaller storm flag was raised above the US defenses during much of the 25-hour battle, since the weather was bad. The big thumb-in-your-eye garrison flag was hoisted the morning of Sept. 14, 1814, to, yes, show they were still there.
Key’s inspiration and the writing of the anthem is another story. But it’s worth remembering that before the War of 1812, the flag was merely a means of identification. By naming it the “star-spangled banner” and using it as a means to express perseverance, Key helped establish the flag as a national symbol for all Americans.
“The flag was no longer just an emblem of the nation; it became a representation of the country’s values and the ideals for which it stands,” according to the Smithsonian, where the gossamer-thin relic resides today in the National Museum of American History.
Those advocating comprehensive immigration reform – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – are well positioned to win over some of the Latino voters who backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, according to the poll, which was sponsored by Latino Decisions on behalf of America’s Voice.
But that support probably comes into play only if a bill makes it to Mr. Obama’s desk and he signs off.
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“Republicans will not get any credit for getting a bill through half of the Congress,” writes Matt Barreto, founding principal of Latino Decisions and an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Latino voters expect to see the GOP successfully move immigration reform and send a true compromise bill to the President.”
Half of survey respondents were asked if they would back Senator Rubio after hearing this prompt:
“Currently the U.S. Congress is debating a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States. Republican Marco Rubio played a key role in helping to pass this bill and with Rubio’s leadership undocumented immigrants receive legal status and a path to citizenship.”
When the respondents were then asked how likely they would be to back Rubio in the 2016 presidential election, 54 percent of Latino voters said they were likely to vote for him, including half of those who supported Obama in 2012. Without the prompt, however, Rubio failed to reach the 30 percent threshold.
After a prompt stating Mr. Bush’s support for a bill with a path to citizenship, 47 percent of those surveyed said they were likely to vote for him, including 42 percent of those who cast ballots for Obama during his reelection bid.
Pollsters also suggested to those surveyed that Representative Ryan, his party’s 2012 vice-presidential candidate, has become an outspoken supporter of immigration reform efforts and could be positioned to help move such legislation (with a path to citizenship) through the House. They then asked what effect that information would have on the respondents’ votes in the next presidential cycle: Forty-four percent said they would be likely to vote for him, including 40 percent of Obama voters.
More than 11 million Latino voters cast ballots in 2012, and that number is expected to increase to more than 12.5 million in 2016, according to Latino Decisions. In both 2008 and 2012, Obama’s strength with this demographic helped him carry crucial swing states owned by President Bush in 2004: New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia.
In 2004, Mr. Bush snared approximately 40 percent of the Latino vote. By contrast, Obama bested his 2012 Republican foe, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, by winning support from more than 70 percent of Latino voters.
Mr. Barreto of Latino Decisions suggests there’s hope for the GOP – that the party could loosen the Democrats’ grip on this voting population if they pick an immigration reform-friendly nominee in 2016.
“The polling data today suggests Rubio, most of all, but Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan as well, can equal or eclipse the 40 percent mark among Latinos if they provide leadership on immigration reform to get a bill signed into law,” he writes. “However they remain far from the 40 percent mark right now.”
While the poll has some potentially good news for proponents of immigration reform, it doesn’t address how the candidates should sell their positions to a Republican primary electorate – a must before any one of them can emerge as the eventual nominee. Voters in early states like Iowa and South Carolina, in particular, tend to be more socially conservative, and immigration reform might be a tough sell there.
So for their part, too, Republican primary voters might want to tune in to the state of affairs reflected in this latest survey. The nation’s demographics are changing, and with it the realities for how politicians – and which ones – win White House elections.
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Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was shot more than two years ago by a disturbed young man, this week launched her latest push for expanded background checks for firearms purchases by firing a gun herself.
Ms. Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, debuted their seven-state, seven-day “Rights and Responsibilities Tour” at a Las Vegas shooting range on Monday before traveling to Alaska on Tuesday.
Is this move a sign of Giffords’ commitment to her mission? Yes, most certainly. It was, after all, the first time she’d fired a weapon since the attack in Tucson. Politically sound tactics or not, she surely had to wrestle with her own feelings about holding a gun again. And she did run the risk of alienating some gun control supporters who might have found the visual too much to take.
It’s an indication, no doubt, too, of the always-charged political sensitivities around the gun control debate. Even Giffords, who faces a long battle to regain movement and speech, must reaffirm her pro-gun status in order to advocate for more gun restrictions.
Certainly the move – or public relations stunt, depending on your view – was provocative enough to draw attention anew to an issue that Congress turned away from earlier this year.
In April, a bipartisan bill that would have imposed tougher background check requirements failed in the Senate, succumbing to a successful campaign by the National Rifle Association and others and stunning those families of the victims of the Newtown and Virginia Tech school shootings who had become activists for the cause.
After the vote, President Obama, who had pushed vigorously for the legislation, chastised the gun lobby for a misleading public campaign at the center of which was a suggestion that the bill’s supporters wanted to take away people’s guns.
“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” Mr. Obama said at a Rose Garden ceremony with Giffords by his side. He promised that “this effort is not over.”
For Giffords and Mr. Kelly the fight continues unabated. Their current trip is taking them to states with lawmakers who declined to support that congressional legislation: In addition to Nevada and Alaska, they are North Dakota, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Visits to Maine and North Carolina are also scheduled to thank officials – namely Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan – for their support.
In an op-ed in USA Today authored by Giffords and advocating “common-sense measures,” she says she’s a “patriot” who believes in the Second Amendment, but that with rights come responsibilities. She points to a January CBS News/ New York Times poll that found that 92 percent of Americans support background checks for all potential gun buyers. And she notes that the initiative she promotes is popular in states with high percentages of gun owners. The data, she says “show that gun owners can support gun safety, and Americans without guns can support gun owners.”
“We own guns, we use them and we treat them with great care,” she writes in the July 1 piece. “But when children are gunned down in their classrooms, when families are slaughtered at a movie theater, when a little girl dreaming of running for office is shot dead standing next to me in a grocery store parking lot, we have to admit what we’re doing is not enough. We’ve all got to do more to reduce gun violence.”
Giffords, who was shot in January 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner at a constituent event in her district, is trying to highlight the votes of those lawmakers who might be out of sync with public opinion in their states and whose support could make the difference. Those in Giffords’ sights include Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R); Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D); New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R); and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).
“We’ll celebrate those who vote yes,” Giffords writes, “and we’ll notice those who ignored their constituents.”
Chris Christie and Barack Obama – once, they looked so comfortable together. Governor Christie praised the president for all the help he steered New Jersey’s way after superstorm Sandy, giving him a metaphorical pat on the back just weeks before the 2012 election. In May, they exchanged bro-hugs and took a stroll down the Jersey shore boardwalk. Christie even gave Mr. Obama a teddy bear from a concessionaire.
Now, it’s over. Christie last week hit Obama as someone “who can’t figure out how to lead." At a town hall meeting, he opined that he disagreed with the president “95 percent of the time," and that he’d really wanted Mitt Romney in the White House.
“I didn’t want [Obama] to be president but it wasn’t my choice,” Christie told the forum. Curtly.
No, this story is not a lament for a bromance gone bad. It’s a reminder that in politics virtually all public relationships are based on expedience, policy, and power relationships.
Christie no longer needs a rush on federal recovery cash. He’s defaulted to his original position, which is to say, he’s a Republican. He lamented the US Supreme Court’s big gay marriage decisions of last month, for example, decisions many Democrats celebrated.
“Incredibly insulting,” Christie said of the high court’s striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. “It’s just another example of judicial supremacy rather than having the government run by the people we actually vote for.”
Does this mean Christie is actually a conservative? That’s what some on the left charge. Christie’s well-publicized embrace of Obama was all part of an act that fools Jersey voters into thinking he’s middle of the road, writes Kathleen Geier in the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog.
“For every occasionally decent gesture ... there tend to be at least a half dozen other acts that are fairly heinous,” Ms. Geier charges, such as Christie's veto of funding for Planned Parenthood.
But many conservatives themselves still see Christie as a squish. At the right-leaning RedState site, blogger Allahpundit writes that the Jersey governor’s criticisms of the DOMA decision mean he’s going to run for president and may be trying to get back in the right’s good graces.
“Christie’s problem here is that culturally, as a northeastern Republican, and politically, by virtue of his many recent antagonisms with the right his conservative bona fides is suspect,” writes Allahpundit.
Christie’s actions dealing with the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare," are perhaps a good example of the narrow line Christie tries to walk as a Republican in a state that Obama won by almost 20 percentage points.
Christie is accepting federal money for the expansion of Medicaid called for under Obamacare, and allowing that expansion to proceed. That’s something some conservative governors, such as Maine’s Paul LePage, have refused to do.
Yet last week, Christie vetoed a bill that would have made that Medicaid expansion permanent. The reason? He says he wants the flexibility to bail out of the arrangement if the feds change the rules.
Gay marriage may prove a more difficult policy challenge for the New Jersey chief executive, writes Matthew Cooper in National Journal.
New Jersey voters approve of gay marriage, according to polls. Yet Christie vetoed a same-sex marriage bill in 2012. His blast at the DOMA decision shows he has not changed his mind on the issue.
At the same time he’s said he would abide by the results of a gay marriage ballot initiative.
If he truly wants to win the GOP nomination for 2016, he may have to continue to oppose gay marriage, whatever his state’s voters want, writes Mr. Cooper.
“His home state may support gay marriage but the activists who pick Republican presidential nominees surely do not. And he hasn’t done any favors for them lately,” Cooper writes.