News & Observer: Christensen: Democrats look inside the GOP mind
It was sort of an exercise in cultural anthropology. The Democrats decided to try to get inside the mind of the modern Republican Party and find out what makes it tick. Why do they have such strong feelings about President Barack Obama and the new health care law? Why did they gamble on a such a controversial tactic as a government shutdown? The exercise, called the “Republican Party Project,” was conducted for Democracy Corps, a Washington-based group founded by two members of former Democratic President Bill Clinton’s political brain trust, Stan Greenberg and James Carville. As part of their research, the firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner polled Republicans nationally and held a series of focus groups – two in Raleigh, two up the road in Roanoke, Va., and two in Colorado Springs, Colo. What they found is a GOP political base that is very concerned about the country’s future as well as their own.
The budget confrontation that led to a partial government shutdown dealt a major blow to the GOP’s image and has exposed significant divisions between tea party supporters and other Republicans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove. Overall, the shutdown produced widespread political fallout. Dissatisfaction with Congress, elected officials and the workings of the political system has increased. An overwhelming majority of Americans say the budget dispute damaged the U.S. economy and the nation’s image in the world. A sizable majority lacks confidence that another crisis can be averted when the current agreement runs out early next year.
A former top-level assistant U.S. attorney has been appointed a special prosecutor in a burgeoning, secret investigation into a wide variety of state issues, including possible campaign violations during the recent recall elections, multiple sources said.Francis Schmitz — who spent nearly 30 years as a federal prosecutor and was once a finalist for U.S. attorney in Milwaukee — is leading the widespread John Doe probe, according to sources.Overseeing the case is Kenosha County Circuit Judge Barbara A. Kluka, who has been used by Milwaukee County judicial officials in past John Doe cases. Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, whose office initiated the probe, declined to answer questions about the John Doe on Friday. Insiders said the investigation covers several jurisdictions, including Dane County. Police and prosecutors in these other counties have been lending a helping hand."It’s now spread to at least five counties," said a source familiar with the probe, adding that Landgraf has been investigating "all over the place."Another source said one reason that these other counties have been roped into the investigation is a new state law that allows elected officials to be tried in their home counties for violations of ethics, lobbying and campaign laws. Ex-Assembly Majority Leader Scott Jensen had his case moved to Waukesha County under a Supreme Court ruling because of the law. Sources said the investigation is following up on a number of leads turned up by an earlier John Doe probe, which was led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm into the former and current aides of Gov. Scott Walker during his time as Milwaukee County executive. Six individuals — including three former Walker aides, an appointee and a major campaign contributor — were convicted of criminal charges as a result of the probe. The first-term Republican governor said he was not a target of the investigation, which ran for nearly three years.
The Republican Party’s image is in a ruinous condition, as polls show wide public disapproval of the GOP that has only deepened in the wake of the government shutdown, and concern over whether Republicans are too ideologically hardline to govern. For Republican politicians in America’s big cities, that grim state of affairs might be called “the usual.” Largely unnoticed in Washington, urban Republican politicians have emerged over the last year as perhaps the nation’s most severely endangered political species, as the party has either failed to compete for high-profile mayor’s offices or has been soundly rebuffed by voters. It’s a significant setback that some Republicans view as an ominous sign for the GOP in a country growing steadily more urban and diverse. The starkest examples of GOP rollback come from New York, where frankly liberal Democrat Bill de Blasio currently leads Republican Joe Lhota, a former top Rudy Giuliani adviser, by more than 40 points; and Los Angeles, where the lone Republican candidate took just 16 percent in an open primary and failed even to qualify for the general election.
Activists are angry, but GOP elites are praising Christie’s step away from culture war. “I mean, he’s a rare guy who’s been able to appeal to people with sincerely held beliefs on both sides of this issue.” When Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday he was surrendering the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey, prominent social conservatives quickly lined up to excoriate the prospective 2016 presidential candidate, branding him a coward, a quitter, and “an unreliable ally for true conservatives.” But Christie’s true base of supporters couldn’t have been happier. Indeed, amid all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on the religious right, the GOP’s donor class quietly rejoiced that Christie — widely viewed as the golden boy of his party’s moderate, Northeastern, corporate establishment — had chosen to abandon this particular culture war battle. Though few of them are eager to acknowledge it on the record, the monied tri-state-dwelling donors who made up Mitt Romney’s core base of donors and are likely to fund Christie’s 2016 campaign generally support same-sex marriage. More importantly, they see it as a losing issue for their party.
The public’s opinion of Congress and the Republican Party has plummeted in the wake of the government shutdown, with two new polls showing record and near-record levels of disapproval. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said Congress would be better off if nearly every member was replaced in a new USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll. Only 4 percent said replacing nearly every member would make Congress worse. That tops the 40 percent who felt it would be better for Congress in 1994, when Democrats lost their majority, and the 42 percent who felt that way in 2006, when Republicans lost their majority. Among Republicans, who have the majority in the House, 52 percent said Congress would be better off if most members lost their jobs. The poll also found Republicans taking the blame for the shutdown: Americans said the GOP was responsible over Democrats 39 percent to 19 percent, with 36 percent blaming both parties equally.
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. But it’s unlikely Booker will be a quiet newcomer to the chamber. That’s not how he works. In fact, Booker may move quickly to establish himself as a liberal counterweight to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a conservative who wasted no time trying to make his mark. First Read predicted as much last summer: "Our educated guess — he would be a disruptor, in ways that could be interpreted as both good and bad, depending on your view of the U.S. Senate. You would see him partner with someone like Rand Paul on legislation; you would see him alienate some of the old bulls, both Democrats and Republicans… That could produce some interesting results and stories surprising rivalries and surprising bedfellows."
Politico: Nancy Pelosi: ‘I’m here on a mission’
While many thought the California Democrat would step down as House minority leader after this Congress, Pelosi confidants now believe she will remain atop House leadership through 2016 and maybe even longer. Pelosi herself won’t tip her hand about her plans. But she doesn’t appear to be contemplating retirement. “I’m not here on a shift. I’m here on a mission — and when my work is done, that’s when I will leave,” Pelosi said in a recent interview with POLITICO. Pelosi declared the main reason she chose to stay put the past two years is to see Obamacare, which she had a strong hand in crafting and pushing through Congress, implemented successfully. Pelosi, like other Democrats, has publicly complained about the disastrous online rollout of the program, but she remains convinced it will turn out well in the long run. One thing is for sure — Pelosi’s power and influence among her colleagues has returned to levels not seen since she served as speaker. Her position in the Democratic caucus — already strong — was further bolstered during the recent government shutdown and debt ceiling crises. As the Republicans fought each other, Pelosi adeptly managed to hold her colleagues together. And Democrats ultimately gave Speaker John Boehner the lion’s share of the votes to end the chaos.
Both stances are drawing critics and making Ellmers a target. “Next election, I’m going to send money to her Democratic opponent,” Bill Rose, 88, said after he finished his pizza. The outspoken Southern Pines resident and World War II veteran calls himself a diehard Republican. But he said he can’t identify with Ellmers and others who voted against the measure to end the stalemate. “I want her to be a statesman and negotiate. These people are so fixed in their attitudes,” he said. “The hardliners are killing the Republican Party.”
Barack Obama and Harry Reid needed to clear the air. The relationship between the president and the Senate majority leader had been deteriorating since 2011, with Reid losing respect for Obama’s ability to negotiate with Republicans and Obama unsure if Reid had as much control over his Senate Democratic caucus as he liked to say. So at the White House’s invitation, the two met in the Oval Office on July 9, with no staff, to talk one on one. It was a cathartic moment, one in which long-buried tensions were fully aired. Aides to the two men tell a similar story: Their boss had been losing confidence in his counterpart and wanted the meeting as a way to buck up the other. Reid (D-Nev.) pressed the president hard on the 2011 debt ceiling compromise that the White House had cut with the GOP, which ultimately gave the country sequestration. He complained that Vice President Joe Biden had undercut fiscal cliff negotiations at the end of 2012, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was offered a more generous deal on tax revenue and sequester spending than Reid felt he could have crafted.
North Carolina was once referred to as “A valley of humility between two mountains of conceit.” The mountains were the aristocratic states of South Carolina and Virginia. Well, this week, we can say that there’s valley of verbosity between mountains of deceit. Pat McCrory is spending time with the Heritage Foundation, led by former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli, a right-wing zealot who is about to lose. If a man is known by the company he keeps, McCrory is keeping a couple of doozies here. DeMint is the Tea Party favorite who left the Senate to drag Heritage off the right side of the earth. Heritage orchestrated the recent government shutdown and DeMint is leading the once-prominent think tank down the road of ruin. He’s drunk too much of the Tea and has probably done more damage to the GOP than any Democrat could possibly do. It can be argued that DeMint cost Republicans the Senate with his support of nutty GOP primary candidates (think Christine “Witch” O’Donnell) who actually won the nomination only to get crushed in the general election. Cuccinelli, for his part, is a hard core social conservative who is obsessed with sodomy. He’s beenendorsed by Rick Santorum and questions whether climate change is real. The guy is a poster child for why the GOP is failing.
Reflector: Cooper’s travels show willingness for governor bid
Attorney General Roy Cooper has been spending more time on the Democratic banquet circuit, letting the party faithful know he’s ready to fight the new Republican agenda in Raleigh. And, by the way, he’s ready for bigger things. Cooper’s recent words and actions leave little doubt about his gubernatorial aspirations for 2016, even with GOP Gov. Pat McCrory on the job for less than a year. Reticent in the past on issues unrelated to crime and law enforcement, Cooper is now taking a more vocal role challenging Republicans who control both the legislative and executive branches for the first time in 140 years. "In just nine short months, they have set out to deliberately and systematically undo 50 years of progress," Cooper told the nearly 300 people at Guilford County party’s unity dinner earlier this month. "This is not the North Carolina that any of us recognizes." His stump speech, which blasts Republicans for refusing to expand Medicaid and raise teacher salaries while passing what he calls a tax overhaul that favors the rich, reflects Cooper’s willingness to captain a Democratic team whose players dominated state politics for generations but are now off the field. The state Democratic Party also has been in internal strife while losses mounted.
Los Angeles Times: In North Carolina, a Democratic state official speaks out
Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper condemns Republican-sponsored laws on voter identification and same-sex marriage. Even so, he vows to defend them in court. Roy Cooper is in a very lonely place. He’s a Democratic state attorney general surrounded by conservative Republicans who control North Carolina state government. Now those Republicans have put Cooper in an awkward spot. He has publicly condemned GOP-sponsored laws on voter identification and gay marriage, yet must defend those same laws in court. Further complicating matters, Cooper plans to run for governor in 2016. That has prompted Republican charges that he’s more interested in being governor than upholding North Carolina’s laws. Cooper, in his 13th year as the state’s elected attorney general, says he will defend in court laws he personally opposes. But he says he will also continue to criticize the public policy behind those laws. "If I believe a law is bad for North Carolina, I will say so," Cooper, 56, said in an interview at his downtown office. "I have a responsibility to say so."
Dome: DHHS head of environmental health resigns
Layton Long, Jr., head of environmental health at the state Department of Health and Human Services, resigned Monday. His resignation is effective in 30 days. Long has worked at the state Department of Health and Human Services for a little more than a year. He’s leaving the $113,593-a-year job to become director of the Chatham County Health Department. The environmental heath section is in the Division of Public Health, which has seen high profile departures this year. Former public health director, Dr. Laura Gerald, resigned in July. The state’s top dentist, chief of the division’s oral health section, was fired shortly after.
Maybe you think a photo ID requirement for voters makes common sense, but before you sneer at the U.S. Department of Justice for opposing North Carolina’s new law, please consider these two points. First, requiring a photo ID is a slogan, not a policy. The policy spells out the details. What if the policy said your photograph must be less than one year old and the name on your ID must perfectly match your name on the voter registration roll, with a complete middle name? Many who agree with an ID requirement would call such a policy excessive and unreasonable. Do you know what the actual policy adopted by the N.C. legislators says? I bet your own state legislator doesn’t know, either. The slogan won support, but are you sure the policy is reasonable? In truth, it’s quite extreme. If it was only as restrictive as, say, South Carolina’s, the Department of Justice would not be challenging it. Polls show that most North Carolinians think a voter who forgets or lacks the proper ID should be able to vote a sworn affidavit ballot, under penalty of a felony, and provide a Social Security or other identifying number that can be verified before the ballot is counted. That’s the kind of backup for honest voters that most states with a photo ID requirement include in their policies, but not North Carolina. In its details, the North Carolina policy is more restrictive than in virtually every other state in the nation. That’s why it’s being challenged. Second, the popular support for the ID in North Carolina created a smoke screen behind which Republican legislators packed in a host of other election changes that favor their party, give more clout to wealthy donors, and hurt certain kinds of voters.
State officials responded Monday to two lawsuits filed over sweeping changes to elections laws, denying allegations that the legislation violates voters’ rights. The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, Common Cause of North Carolina and several individuals sued Gov. Pat McCrory and the State Board of Elections in August, alleging that regulations requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, limiting early voting and ending same-day registration were designed to suppress voter turnout. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a third lawsuit, alleging that North Carolina’s law is racially motivated. State officials haven’t yet responded to it. McCrory and Republican lawmakers who crafted the legislation contend that North Carolina is merely trying to combat voter fraud and ensure the integrity of its elections, and they note that many other states already have similar laws for voter ID, same-day registration and other provisions in North Carolina’s law.
In case you missed it over the weekend, Raleigh’s News & Observer told it like it is in an editorial about the state’s destructive new teacher “tenure” law: “Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has an idea that North Carolina is rife with incompetent teachers who coast along in the system thanks to tenure. That’s why he pushed through legislation this year that will end tenure protection for the so-called low performers and will reward the high performers. The new law requires school boards to offer four-year contracts with a $5,000 raise over the four years to 25 percent of their teachers who’ve taught in their districts for the last three years and who were rated as “proficient” under the state’s evaluation system. To get the contract, the selected teacher must give up tenure, which isn’t the job protection granted a professor, but simply an assurance that they can only be fired for cause. The other 75 percent of the faculty get no raise and teachers who don’t currently have tenure will get one-year contracts that will leave them uncertain whether they’ll be back the following year. By July 2018 tenure will be completely eliminated.
WNCN: Same-sex couples plan to register licenses in NC
Same-sex couples legally married in other states are being encouraged to start registering their documents in North Carolina courthouses. It’s all part of a new statewide campaign by the Campaign for Southern Equality to draw attention to North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage. The group says by creating a public record of their relationships, same-sex couples will highlight the reality that they are legally married in the eyes of the federal government, but not North Carolina. The group’s executive director, the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, says registering marriage licenses will create a public record that demonstrates the couples’ love and commitment. The call comes one week after Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger became one of the first officials in the South to take marriage license applications from same-sex couples.
Forest urged Republicans to put in the same grassroots effort that helped his mother win. “She had no chance but she pulled it out,” he said. “I think that’s a template that really works.” With two weeks to go, Peacock plans to ramp up his campaign against Democrat Patrick Cannon. His TV ads start Wednesday. And in that night’s Observer debate, he plans to draw some clear distinctions with Cannon. Peacock chose not to draw distinctions with Forest. The state Democratic Party on Monday issued a release calling him North Carolina’s “most far-right statewide office holder.” Peacock has prided himself on being a moderate Republican. He said he agrees with Forest on the basics, like limited government and the need for jobs. But, he added, “Dan and I don’t agree on everything.”
I’m not yet certain whether Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who will be the eventual Democratic Senate nominee in the Bluegrass State, would have a better shot of defeating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or his challenger, businessman Matt Bevin. I can make an argument either way. Remember, this is a state that elected Rand Paul to the Senate rather easily over a very formidable Democrat, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. I do know that a Bevin victory would send another round of shock waves through the GOP, undermining pragmatic conservatives and producing another round of hand-wringing among party strategists whose job it is to try to win majorities in the House and Senate — and the presidency.
Politico: Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin won’t seek reelection in 2014
Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin, a second-term Republican, announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2014, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. “It has been an agonizing and difficult decision involving much prayer, thought and discussion. We have decided that now is the time for me to focus intently on my top priority, my family, as Elizabeth and I raise our two young children,” Griffin said in a statement to the Arkansas news site Talk Business. “To that end, I will not seek reelection to a third term. I will complete my second term, but I have made no decision as to my plans after Congress except that I will continue in public service, including as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve,” he said. Griffin confirmed his plans to POLITICO. The Republican was elected in 2010, succeeding longtime Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder, who retired that year. Griffin holds a much-coveted seat on the powerful, tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
2012 was a banner year for women in Congress, ushering in a record-high number of women to the House and Senate. Next year may be an equally good year for female governors. Thirty-six states will hold governor’s elections next year, and Democrats have top female recruits in at least five states who are poised to be their party’s nominee and competitive in the general election. Coupled with the four female governors who are running for reelection – three Republicans and one Democrat – observers say 2014 could see gains for women as states’ top executives. “This is a year of opportunity at the gubernatorial level,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. “I think that there has been increasingly more and more attention paid to the issue of women in politics … there is some real potential here for growth.” While women have made huge gains in the House and Senate – there are a record number of women in the 113th Congress – they’ve had more trouble breaking into governorships. The record number of women holding governor’s mansions at one time is nine, in both 2004 and 2007. Currently, there are five: Republicans Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Jan Brewer of Arizona, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and Democrat Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.
The Washington Post: Rep. Tim Griffin of Arkansas won’t run for reelection
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said Monday that he will not seek reelection next year, an unexpected announcement that could present Democrats with an opportunity to reclaim a seat in the Deep South. Widely considered a rising star likely to seek higher office, Griffin was part of the 2010 tea party wave that has become an influential, even dominant, bloc of the House GOP. But less than three years after arriving in Washington, he said Monday that the pressures of modern-day politics and parenthood can’t mix for him — at least for now. The decision “shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who actually knows me,” Griffin said in an interview. “I’m going to spend some time with my family,” he said. “My kids are really in the years where I’m starting to miss more stuff.” But he added, “We’re going to stay very involved in politics.” During the recent government shutdown and the subsequent standoff between the House and Senate, Griffin was seen pushing a stroller carrying one of his children in and out of closed meetings with the House Republican Conference — a rare sight on Capitol Hill, especially during such high-stakes meetings. He demurred Monday when asked whether he would advise other would-be candidates with young children to run for Congress.
Those who already are saying that the House of Representatives is now “in play” are getting a little ahead of their skis—forgetting a few key factors. At the same time, however, it’s no longer fair to say that there is virtually zero or at most a minimal chance that Republicans will lose their majority. Recent actions and behavior during the shutdown make that an equally risky argument to make. While it is still not likely, a discussion of what specifically would have to happen to make a Democratic majority a reality is in order. Why isn’t the Republican House majority already in immediate danger? First, the election is more than a year away, and all events, no matter how cataclysmic they may seem at the time, have shelf lives. Even the 9/11 tragedy, which had a profound impact on the course of American politics for years to come, eventually receded as a driving force. Like the shot in Jurassic Park of the rearview-mirror display advising that objects “may be closer than they appear,” political events may seem to have more of a lasting impact than they eventually have. Second, the numbers aren’t quite there yet for Democrats to have a solid shot at the 17-seat net gain necessary for a majority. Democrats have 10 seats of their own that are teetering on the brink, including several in districts that both John McCain and Mitt Romney carried in the last two presidential elections. To grab those 17 seats, Democrats would, in effect, have to hold onto every one of their 201 seats, including 10 seats currently rated as toss-ups by The Cook Political Report, as well as 14 more that are rated as leaning Democratic—which we consider to be in the competitive-race category.
Senate Democrats have emerged from the government shutdown more confident about holding control of the upper chamber in 2014 — with some polls fueling hopes the party could pick up a seat or two currently held by the GOP. The sentiment marks a shift in attitude even from this summer, when partisans on both sides viewed control of the Senate as a toss-up. The optimism is being tempered by concerns that a botched rollout of ObamaCare could cloud the electoral horizon and nullify shutdown gains made at the expense of the GOP. But polls showing voters primarily blamed Republicans for the crisis have even GOP strategists acknowledging that the prospects of a Senate takeover have dimmed. “They certainly made the road to a Senate majority much more difficult,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, referring to congressional Republicans who embraced the shutdown strategy.
The Democratic National Committee launched three more robocalls hitting potential Republican presidential contenders for expressing openness to shutting down the government again in order to dismantle ObamaCare. The robocalls are targeting Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), all of whom have indicated an interest in running for president in 2016. They’re launching along with a standalone website, GOPPleaseStop.com, where the DNC will aggregate video, tweets and other content from GOP lawmakers who indicate they’re open to another shutdown to take down ObamaCare. Both Rubio and Cruz have signaled an openness to again attempting to dismantle ObamaCare when Congress hits its next deadline to pass a government funding measure, in January.
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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