Double Trouble for Obama in Special Elections; Dems Don’t Heed Obama on Stimulus Demands; Solyndra Headaches Just Starting
Two Messages for Obama in Special Elections, And Neither is Good
"[Democratic candidate David] Weprin supports President Obama and his policies, and that's why I voted against him.”
-- Democratic voter Richard Krisberg explaining to the Wall Street Journal why he voted to replace former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., with Republican political novice Bob Turner.
Republicans won a pair of special House elections sending two different, but equally disconcerting, messages to President Obama.
In a New York City district last represented by a Republican in 1923 and formerly represented by both Sen. Chuck Schumer and 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, a Republican businessman, Bob Turner, cruised to victory over a well-known Democratic politician.
Voters in the overwhelmingly Democratic district made no bones about the fact that they wanted to send a message to the president.
Rep. Anthony Weiner represented the heavily Jewish district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and much of Queens, until he got caught lying about his Twitter sexcapades. But the race came down to disappointment with the president’s policies: his less friendly approach to Israel than his predecessors at a time of crisis and uncertainty for that country as well as his economic agenda here at home. There was also the fact that Democrat David Weprin was a proponent of a new law allowing same-sex marriage in New York.
While Obama can still take New York for granted in 2012, the results are worrying. If Jewish voters in Florida decide that Obama is not worth saving next year, it could greatly diminish Obama’s chances for re-election.
As the president considers how to respond to the growing pressure on Israel in the Middle East, including a new rise in Islamism in the region and the pending bid at the U.N. for statehood by the Palestinian Authority, Obama will also be keeping one eye on Palm Beach County.
The other Republican win on Tuesday was less surprising, since no Democrat had won in the 2nd District of Nevada since it was created in 1981, but it is more worrisome for the president.
The race to replace former Rep. Dean Heller, a Republican appointed to the Senate by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill the seat vacated by the scandal-soaked John Ensign, was between state Treasurer Kate Marshall, a self-styled moderate Democrat who had been elected twice statewide including in the face of serious headwinds in 2010, and Republican Mark Amodei, a former state senator and state party chairman, who came up short in a U.S. Senate primary last year.
The district went for John McCain by less than 1,000 votes in 2008 and was seen as the kind of region where President Obama could make further inroads. His Western strategy for 2012 calls for certainly holding Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico and even looked at gains in Arizona and elsewhere. The argument was that Hispanic voters, a younger population and Obama’s appeal with moderate independents could turn the West purple.
But Amodei won in a 22-point rout over a top-tier Democratic candidate who whacked him for his support of overhauling Social Security in a district with a large elderly population. He won Washoe County (Reno) by 10 points where Obama’s 12-point 2008 margin of victory matched his statewide total.
If Obama can’t win Washoe County, he can’t win Nevada. If he can’t win Nevada…
(PS -- both Turner and Amodei will be making appearances on “America Live with Megyn Kelly” on the FOX News Channel today. Her show starts at 1 p.m. EDT.)
Obama Says ‘Pass This Bill,’ But Democrats Balk
-- Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., describing to Politico President Obama’s proposed tax increase to finance a third stimulus package.
President Obama has been hard on the campaign trail trying to build support for his proposed $450 billion stimulus package and stoke resentment for his foes in Congress.
His swing-state swing started in Virginia, headed to Ohio on Tuesday and today it takes him to North Carolina, all sites of 2008 victories Obama badly wants to replicate. At his Ohio event, supporters chanted “Pass this bill,” in a switch from Obama’s usual campaign call-and-response of “Yes, we can.”
But here’s the problem – while Obama is out railing against the legislative branch and asking, “What on earth are you waiting for?” the members of his own party seem to be dragging their feet.
Obama lost lots of Democratic support for the proposal by proposing a large tax increase to pay for it if the 12-member debt-ceiling super committee can’t come up with an extra $500 billion in reductions to future deficits to pay for it. Obama couldn’t pass his tax plan in a Democratically controlled Congress, so it’s certainly not going anywhere now.
The Senate majority leader, who just witnessed a Democratic special election thumping in his home state of Nevada, knows what he’s waiting for: at least Thursday. Harry Reid wasn’t making any promises about the hows and whens of the Obama stimulus plan, saying that he’d chew it over with his fellow Democrats at a caucus meeting on Thursday.
Reid has to think about vulnerable moderate members who are already faced with Obama’s dire unpopularity in red states. He doesn’t want to force them to vote for a tax increase lashed to another stimulus bill. And neither does Reid want to just dump the work on the super committee, thereby increasing the chances of failure and resulting embarrassment.
Neither does it help Obama that his own team is mixing up its messages.
Campaign adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday morning that Republicans must pass the stimulus bill intact and not as an “a la carte menu.” But on Monday, the president himself made it clear in an interview with a Spanish-language reporters that he would sign whatever bits of it make it to his desk.
Obama opted against making a bold move on the economy in his long-awaited jobs package. Rather than moving right with tax simplification or left with massive public works, Obama has hovered over a package of stimulus spending and temporary, small-bore tax breaks.
Where he opted to be bold was in his sales pitch, warning Republicans that he would go to every corner of the nation (or at least those corners with 10 electoral votes up for grabs) to punish them for resisting. Obama said he would put his presidential prestige on the line to prove it was Republicans who were retarding the recovery.
But if the plan doesn’t delight those who aren’t direct beneficiaries like government workers or union construction workers, the president may have set himself up for failure. Americans have grown deeply skeptical about the president’s policies on the economy. His decision to double down on his previous strategy and to do so in a complicated, double-triggered fashion including a tax increase is not likely to win over disaffected independents.
If Obama’s goal is to be more popular than an entity with single-digit job approval, it is certainly possible to succeed and still be a one-term president.
Solyndra Scandal Burning Hotter
“this deal is NOT ready for prime time”
-- Email from a White House budget analyst obtained by ABC News urging caution on a half-billion-dollar government loan to a California solar panel company, Solyndra.
The executives of failed solar panel maker Solyndra were supposed to testify in Congress today about how they obtained a $535 million stimulus loan and what the role of the White House was in steering the money to the firm, led by a prominent Obama donor.
They will not be attending. Rather than showing up and invoking the Fifth Amendment like Jimmy Hoffa at the Kefauver hearings, the green energy execs will stay away. But they are only delaying the inevitable. They will be called to testify sooner or later either in Congress or in court.
The scandal started as a punch line to a Republican joke – “Did you hear about what happened at that solar panel company Obama visited? It just went bankrupt!” But as congressional investigators have dug deeper, they have found that the loan was rushed out the door in a bout of stimulus fever despite clear warnings that the company’s business model was a bust.
The looming question is whether Solyndra boss George Kaiser, an Obama bundler and prominent Democratic financier, got special treatment or whether it was just irrational exuberance for green jobs or some combination of the two.
As the drama unfolds in Congress and in courts the president can’t be happy to think that the best-case scenario is a finding that his economic team were simply bad at their jobs.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“Well, there's a lot of smoke [at Solyndra]. There's no wrongdoing shown yet, but there are a lot of oddities. This is the first loan guarantee that went under the stimulus, half a billion dollars. That's a huge amount of money to anybody. Incidentally, the president said a year ago it was an empty lot. Well, in a year it's going to be an empty lot and have a half a billion dollars buried underneath irretrievably.”