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When Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) announced his intention to not run for Congress next year — he's taking a post in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration — he stressed that it was the "brutal party politics in Washington and fundraising" that contributed to his decision.

In just about six months since they were sworn in, we’ve already seen three retirements and two resignations from the House of Representatives. In the Senate, there have been seven retirements.

You can hardly blame them. Congress has never been more unpopular. Approval ratings for Congress are regularly in the single digits.

And they don’t get much done either. With just 22 pieces of legislation passed so far this year, lawmakers are easily on track to set new lows in productivity....  More»

 

The Republican National Committee voted to exclude CNN and NBC from sponsoring debates featuring Republican presidential candidates because of their plans to air shows about Hillary Clinton.

The measure got plenty of headlines over the weekend but ignores an important part of the modern presidential primary process. The national parties actually have little to do with the debates. It's up to candidates to decide whether to accept or reject invitations. When faced with an offer of free airtime on a major network, it might be hard for the candidates to say no.

That said, it was a smart move by RNC chairman Reince Priebus to attempt to limit the number of primary debates. In 2012, Republicans debated an astonishing 20 times and amounted to a clown show....  More»

 
August 21, 2013, at 9:47 AM

A new Gallup poll finds the summer has once again not been kind to President Obama, with his approval rate dipping yet again. In fact, August has historically been the worst month for his approval rating throughout his presidency.

But there's a big difference this year: Republicans have had a worse summer.

Halfway through the August recess, congressional Republicans are still fighting with each other over the direction of their party. While they're united in hating ObamaCare, they have no coherent strategy for confronting Democrats and the president. Some want to shut down the government in an attempt to defund ObamaCare, some want to use the debt ceiling as leverage, and some think both ideas are nuts.

Newt Gingrich even slammed Republicans for having "zero answer" when it comes to an alternative health care plan....  More»

 

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) voted against the authorization of military force in Syria earlier this week in committee, he joined the other leading GOP contenders for president in 2016 — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — in opposing military intervention.

It's an interesting and stunning reversal that it's now considered the politically safe decision for Republican lawmakers to vote against war. They may have noticed how Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes were dashed in 2008 after she voted to authorize the Iraq war.

They may also have seen how Paul has pulled much of the party toward his non-intervention philosophy. In the process, he's won the support of many younger voters.

However, with three lawmakers lining up against intervention, it does create a rather big opening for another Republican from the Establishment-side...  More»

 

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman points out that President Obama's landmark health care reform law is already pushing down health insurance premiums.

He explains: "Until now there has been sort of a market — but one that…is riddled with problems. It was very hard for individuals to figure out what they were buying… Price and quality comparisons were near-impossible. Under these conditions the magic of the marketplace couldn't work — there really wasn't a proper market."

The main result of ObamaCare is that we have real market competition for health care insurance — something that didn't exist before....  More»

 
September 12, 2013, at 1:57 PM

The Republican Party's obsession with trying to block President Obama's health care law now threatens to shut down the federal government in just a few weeks.

Let's look at the facts:

  • Republicans didn't have the votes to stop ObamaCare when it passed the House and Senate in 2010.

  • Republicans didn't have the votes to repeal the law on any of their 40 attempts to do so.

  • Republicans didn't have the votes on the Supreme Court to overturn the law or find it unconstitutional.

  • Republicans didn't have the votes to elect a new president in 2012 who would repeal the law.

...  More»
 
September 16, 2013, at 11:43 AM

As Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill seek to repeal or defund ObamaCare, many Republican governors are actually actively embracing it — and seeing a lift in their political fortunes as a result.

Specifically, GOP governors are actively taking the funding through Medicaid expansion that the law provides even while members of their own party are proposing to take it away.

Some interesting developments:

  • In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) had been trailing likely challenger Mark Schauer (D), but after Snyder twisted his fellow GOP legislators to pass Medicaid expansion as a part of ObamaCare, Snyder now tops Schauer by 8 points.

  • Gov. John Kasich (R) has long embraced Medicaid, even chiding the GOP-controlled legislature, and his poll numbers remain high.

...  More»
 

Though regional differences are common in politics, Democrats from all parts of the country have embraced increasing the minimum wage. While conservative Democrats stay away from issues like marriage equality and gun control, liberal Democrats from California to conservative Democrats from Arkansas have found an issue that unites them.

Consider the facts:

California: The legislature, which now has a Democratic supermajority, passed and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has said he will sign legislation that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016.

North Carolina: Democrats have found themselves in the minority in the legislature. They introduced legislation tying the state's minimum wage to the consumer price index, which Republicans promptly killed....  More»

 

With the the federal government reopened and the debt ceiling lifted, we're just starting to see the political ramifications of the three-week stalemate.They're mostly negative for Republicans. But it's more than a year until the 2014 elections, which is a very long time in politics. We're not going to know for several months how much electoral damage Republicans inflicted on themselves.

Here's what I'll be looking for over the next few months:

1. Will Democrats be able to recruit stronger House candidates?

Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt (D) announced he would run for Congress in Arkansas for the seat currently held by Rep....  More»

 
October 21, 2013, at 3:03 PM

When he is sworn in later this month, Cory Booker will be a celebrity in the U.S. Senate. He has over a million Twitter followers, is known nationally, and was even the star of an Oscar-nominated documentary in 2005 called Street Fight.

Many new senators with celebrity status put their heads down and get to work. Examples include then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). Both freshman lawmakers did very few national interviews and focused mainly on establishing themselves in a legislative chamber that prizes seniority over notoriety....  More»

 
October 21, 2013, at 6:08 PM

Perhaps Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was onto something when he was busted playing video games during a Senate hearing?

Conversations with Thinkers interviews defense policy expert Corey Mead about the deep connections between video games and the U.S. military. He calls it the "Military-Entertainment Complex."

From single shooter games to specially customized, near-real-life military scenarios, video games have become an incredibly important tool in how we recruit, train, and even heal U.S. soldiers — important to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

One example is FlatWord, which Mead calls "the military’s ultimate vision for the future." Outfitted with 3D glasses, the ground “moves beneath you,” while the programmer dials up scenes from Afghanistan or Iraq or any other location....  More»

 

President Obama admitted his frustration with the technical problems plaguing the health care insurance exchanges which launched earlier this month.

Said Obama: "Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed... There's no sugarcoating it."

But the takeaway from two new polls is that the rocky rollout hasn't hurt public support for the law — at least not yet.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds the "bungled rollout has not soured support for the health law overall."

Key findings: 46 percent now support the law while 49 percent oppose it, slightly better than the 42 ...  More»

 
October 22, 2013, at 9:29 AM

Although many pundits describe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as on the fringes of the Republican Party, a new Democracy Corps poll finds he's actually right in the ideological middle.

Tea Party and evangelical segments of the party make up over half of all Republicans, and these groups think very highly of Cruz. He scores an 81.8 positive rating among Tea Partiers and a 75.9 rating among Evangelicals.

Among moderate Republicans, who make up just a quarter of the GOP, Cruz scores a 51.0 rating.

Among voters nationwide, Cruz gets just a 39.7 favorable rating....  More»

 
October 25, 2013, at 12:48 PM

If you look at any recent poll, Americans are desperate for their government to work better. They're not happy with anyone — from President Obama to both parties in Congress.

In fact, a new USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll finds that just 4 percent of those surveyed — equal to the margin of error — think Congress would be worse if every member replaced in the elections next year. More striking is that nearly half — 47 percent — think Congress would work better if that happened.

The events of this month — highlighted by a 17-day government shutdown and a bungled rollout of the ObamaCare insurance exchanges ...  More»

 
October 28, 2013, at 8:48 PM

It's easy to overstate the impact of one race for governor but, as Mark Murray points out, Virginia is a state that increasingly looks very much like the United States as a whole.

"In the last two presidential contests, the state's popular vote (Obama 53-46 percent in '08; Obama 51-47 percent in '12) exactly matched the national popular vote... And Virginia, demographically, looks like the country at large — whites near 70 percent of the population, African Americans in the double digits, Latinos at 8 percent, Asian Americans at 6 percent. It also has a fairly even mixture of urban, suburban, and rural areas....  More»

 

President Obama created a major public relations headache for himself when he declared — repeatedly — over the last several years that people who like their health insurance plan would be able to keep it under the Affordable Care Act.

However, NBC News reported last night that millions of Americans will actually lose their existing insurance coverage and the White House knew this was coming.

The problem is that the health care system is much complicated and more nuanced than Obama's convenient sound bite. He probably shouldn't have said it....  More»

 

With the government shutdown and debt ceiling battles behind us — at least until January — focus has turned to what in politics passes for the long term: Next year’s midterm elections.

It’s tempting for Democrats to say the government shutdown put Republicans on a course to lose the House of Representatives.

It’s also tempting for Republicans to say the bungled ObamaCare website will haunt Democrats through next November.

The reality is that there’s still more than a year before the midterm elections and the storyline is still being written.

Chris Riback had a very interesting and revealing conversation with Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report on how he sees next year’s political battle lines forming....  More»

 
October 30, 2013, at 10:21 AM

After weeks of dealing with the bungled rollout of the ObamaCare website, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for the first time apologized as she testified before Congress today.

She told lawmakers the HealthCare.gov experience was "miserably frustrating," and said she was sorry: "You deserve better. I apologize."

The apology was disarming in its sincerity. But it was also striking because so few politicians ever apologize for their mistakes in office.

It’s odd because apologies can be very effective.

As the American Prospect notes, people "are very reluctant to reject apologies, and people who do reject one are viewed negatively ...  More»

 
October 30, 2013, at 1:57 PM

In previous cycles, we've had soccer moms and NASCAR dads as the voting demographic that tipped elections one way or another.

Next year it may be seniors.

Seniors broke heavily for Republicans in 2010 and they are usually a disproportionate voice in midterm elections because they're more likely to vote.

A new Democracy Corps (D) surveysuggests they may play an even bigger role in the 2014 midterm elections. And they're moving to vote Democratic.

Here are the key takeaways from the poll:

  • In Republican battleground districts, the vote is deadlocked among seniors and the Democratic candidate has gained 5 points among this group since early last summer.

  • In Democratic battleground districts, Democratic incumbents lead by 14 points — 51 percent to 37 percent — among seniors.

...  More»
 
November 6, 2013, at 9:23 AM

1. Terry McAuliffe's (D) narrow victory last night may prove to be the biggest and most important for Democrats. Having a well-connected fundraiser — and a loyalist to Bill and Hillary Clinton — in charge of an important swing state could be the key to helping Democrats tip a close presidential election their way in 2016.

2. Bill de Blasio's (D) 49-point landslide victory in the New York City mayoral race was a solid repudiation of two decades of Republican and business-friendly mayors. De Blasio's broad-based win gives him a mandate to govern as an audacious liberal and change the feel of New York City....  More»

 
November 6, 2013, at 9:25 AM

1. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) wrote the script that he hopes Republicans will follow in 2016 and made himself the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination by beating his Democratic challenger by more than 22 points. In a solidly blue state, Christie won a majority of the votes of women and Hispanics and also made impressive inroads with younger voters. It's very clear Christie would be a competitive presidential candidate nationally. What's much less clear is if he can make it through the GOP primary process.

2. Despite weeks of polls predicting a big win for Terry McAuliffe (D) in the Virginia governor's race, Ken Cuccinelli (R) lost ...  More»

 

Nearly every story on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) landslide re-election win last night suggested he would use it as a justification to run for president in 2016.

The New York Times called it "a victory that vaulted him to the front ranks of Republican presidential contenders and made him his party's foremost proponent of pragmatism over ideology."

The Washington Post says "his victory in a solidly blue state will be touted as a model for a party that needs to expand its coalition in national campaigns."

Christie even used his victory speech to sound themes he might use in a presidential race, from hitting Washington dysfunction to touting his ...  More»

 
November 7, 2013, at 8:54 PM

Earlier this year, the Republican Party released an "autopsy report" highlighting sweeping changes that needed to be made to make the party viable again in presidential elections.

The Wall Street Journal called it a "scathing self-analysis" that "describes the party as ideologically ossified, unable to speak to a wider electorate and increasingly seen as representing the rich and the old."

Today was a very bad day on Capitol Hill for Republicans who hoped their party might take heed of that report, and remake itself as more tolerant and inclusive in time for the 2014 midterm elections....  More»

 

Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a medical doctor, was our guest on the latest episode of the Political Wire podcast.

Dean is particularly critical of the White House for bungling the implementation of ObamaCare. His sharp words have led GOP strategist Mike Murphy and others to speculate that Dean is gearing up to make another presidential bid in 2016. We asked him.

Listen to the interview here:

...  More»

 
November 25, 2013, at 1:41 PM

Just 11 months into President Obama's second term and he seems to have fallen into the same trap as many of his predecessors.

Each of the last four two-term presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon — had extremely tough second terms. Each had different circumstances which led to difficult times, but the outcomes were very similar: Falling approval rates and increased ineffectiveness in office.

Former Mitt Romney chief strategist Stuart Stevens is a believer in the second-term curse, noting, "Again and again, we see presidents overreaching on a key mission of their presidency, resulting in the opposite ...  More»

 

After a two-month all-hands effort to fix Healthcare.gov, the White House announced over the weekend that the website will now work for the "vast majority" of consumers looking to purchase health insurance. The site reportedly can now handle 50,000 simultaneous users without crashing. That's a big improvement from October when as few as 500 users could cripple the site.

But how do we really know if the website works?

Like everything related to ObamaCare, the political spin is dizzying. Democrats point to a new report that 100,000 people signed up in November as proof that the website is improving....  More»

 

Stuart Stevens, chief strategist for Mitt Romney's failed presidential bid in 2012, gave a very candid interview with Political Wire in which he discussed what worked and what went wrong.

A few takeaways from the discussion:

1. The press completely missed the health care story and dismissed Romney's criticisms of ObamaCare even though many later proved to be true.

2. Despite the campaign's public optimism and suggestions that Romney himself thought he would win on Election Night, the campaign's internal polling was actually very good and never showed Romney leading....  More»

 

Many recent articles have trumpeted the "bipartisan breakthrough" that led to a federal budget deal. Don't believe any of them. Partisan warfare is very much alive.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a key broker of the budget deal, signaled that a standoff over the debt ceiling is coming soon.

Said Ryan: "We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit. We don't want 'nothing' out of the debt limit. We're going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight."

The comments show how broken our legislative system has become....  More»

 
December 17, 2013, at 1:10 PM

As Republicans shut down the federal government in early October and took a pummeling in the opinion polls, many Democrats started to talk about the possibility — even the likelihood — that they would take back control of the House of Representatives.

But that narrative crashed as quickly as Healthcare.gov. Republicans said they were vindicated that the Affordable Care Act didn't work and that the federal government had no business running a health care exchange. They started counting the Senate seats they would win by hanging the issue around the necks of Democratic incumbents....  More»

 

The retirement of two moderate congressmen today — one Democrat and one Republican — is further proof of how little fun it must be to legislate in a politically polarized and dysfunctional House of Representatives.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he would not seek an 18th term in the House. President Obama won 49 percent of the vote in the district in 2012, and Democrats will almost certainly compete for the seat. As Roll Call notes, the seat "was only safe based on the strength of his incumbency."

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) also announced he wouldn't run again....  More»

 
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