Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Archives: October 2002

Wednesday | October 02, 2002
Economy center stage

Despite Bush's herculean efforts to the contrary, prospects for an Iraq war are dimming and public attention is starting to refocus on the economy.

Friday's dismal stock market showing will ensure that the quarterly 401(k) statements will hit many hard, layoffs continue, many are unemployed or under-employed, and times are generall bleak. And all the war talk in the world hasn't prevented the economy from being public issue number one according to two recent polls -- one from Zogby and the other from Washington Post/ABC.

Democrats, aware that economic concerns can work in their favor on Election Day, have tried to steer public discourse in the direction of the economy. But, like stubborn compass needle, the White House has managed to pull public attention consistently toward the confrontation with Saddam Hussein.

That appears likely to change as Nov. 5 draws near. Democrats are sure to play up economic issues. And now, some Republican backbenchers are concerned that they not appear to be ignoring key voter concerns.

"We're playing like a football team that had a good first-half lead, and now we're trying to run out the clock and play defense. We're hoping that a focus on the war will take us through the election, and I don't think it will," says Rep. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina.

    | 10:05 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Things bleak for McCall, Rendell widens lead

In New York, Carl McCall's gubernatorial challenge is not looking so hot. He's down 16 points in the latest poll, including down six points in heavily Democratic NY City. And, to add insult to injury, the city's teacher's union is expected to endorse Gov. Pataki. The endorsement would be disastrous to McCall, as he's made education a central tenet of his campaign.

Ultimately, McCall's chances are predicated almost exclusively on the success of Tom Golisano -- the big-spending billionaire challenging Pataki from the right. Without Golisano, this race would be a guaranteed Pataki victory. As is, Pataki is still the heavy favorite.

Things look far better for Democrats in Pennsylvania, where Ed Rendell looks to trounce Republican Mike Fisher in the state's governor's race. The latest numbers have Rendell leading 45-30, a far wider lead than two recent polls (which had Rendell leading by 7 and 11 points). And, to make matters worse for Fisher, the undecideds are leaning toward Rendell by a 52-35 margin.

Finally, this Q-poll (via Political Wire) has Connecticut Gov. John Rowland with a commanding lead, 59-37, against his Democratic challenger. This race is over. It'll be one of the rare GOP gubernatorial victories this November.

    | 09:10 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Townsend back in the game

After several weeks of declining numbers, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) is inching back into the race. Plagued by internal divisions within Maryland's Democratic Party and several well-publicized gaffes, Townsend had been losing ground to a surprisingly strong challenge by Republican Robert Ehrlich -- to the point of falling behind the GOP challenger.

However, the latest Baltimore Sun poll has the race in a statistical dead heat, with Townsend nursing a narrow 45-43 lead.

"They gave Ehrlich pretty much an open field to run in August, but sooner or later, the free ride was going to end," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College. "The Townsend campaign made some mid-course corrections. The advertising began as most of us expected it would. It's taking its toll."
However, Townsend's negatives remain dangerously high, thus hinting that one of the nation's closest gubernatorial campaigns will remain so until the end.

    | 08:53 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | October 01, 2002
Forrester dismissive of Lautenberg

In this press release, Forrester dismisses Lautenberg's candidacy:

"When it comes to Mr. Lautenberg, the voters are going to say, 'Been there, done that.'  It's time for new leadership.  It's time to put an end to political chicanery.  It's time to restore honor and integrity in New Jersey.
If Forrester is so confident that NJ voters will reject Lautenberg, then he should put an immediate end to all legal proceedings and bless the Dems' ballot change.

    | 07:41 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

It's Lautenberg

It wasn't Menendez, who expects a leadership role in the House, and it wasn't Bradley, but Lautenberg was the next best option, and will trounce Forrester's ass.

That is, if the GOP and its lawyers let the voters have a real choice.

    | 06:25 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

NJ's appointment law probably constitutional

Allright, check out what the Constitution has to say about Senate appointments (17th Amendement, second paragraph):

When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
So, it's clear the Constitution gives the states power to handle their own vacancies. Not having ever studied election law, I didn't feel comfortable making such a bold statement as "The NJ is constitutional". However, check out the following analysis, written by an unidentified "well-credentialed" lawyer, and passed on by Jeff Hauser of Hauser Report:
The Seventeenth Amendment, as most people remember, made Senators directly elected by the people. Almost nobody (including your humble author, until a few hours ago) remembers the SECOND paragraph of the Amendment, which provides for replacing Senators who are temporarily missing in action. The Amendment says that the governor gets to appoint a "temporary" senator to any vacant spot, until the time of the next election, OR for such period as the state legislature determines. So, basically, whatever the state says, goes. Logic tells us, of course, that there must be some limits on what the state can do. For example, a liftetime appointment is not really "temporary."

And, indeed, in 1969, after the death of Bobby Kennedy, a three-judge federal panel (comprised of two federal district court judges, along with the then-Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) held exactly that. New York's Governor appointed an interim successor, and under New York law the stand-in didn't have to stand for election until the next even election year, or about 27 months from the time of his appointment. States, the court held, can make any "reasonable" rules for replacing missing senators. The Supreme Court affirmed the panel without opinion (which basically means that the lower opinion is binding on lower courts, but has less significance than a formal opinion for subsequent Supreme Court decisions). Then, in 1991, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (which includes New Jersey) upheld the temporary appointment of Harris Wofford to fill the seat vacated when Senator Heinz died in a plane crash, even though Wofford had not been through a primary process, which ordinarily was required of any Pennsylvania Senate candidate.

Ah, but the Torch isn't dead. Does that matter? Probably not. The 17th Amendment, like the New Jersey statute, makes no distinctions among the reasons for a "vacancy." An empty spot is an empty spot, and the state gets to decide how to fill it. Republicans will therefore have to make the difficult argument that New Jersey's statute is not a "reasonable" rule. That is difficult, among other reasons, because 40 other states have very similar statutes (although most differ in technical details, such as how long before the regularly scheduled election must remain before the fill-in can skip that election and wait until the next one).

This analysis is solid. More of this guy's analysis is posted on Hauser's site (which should soon sport a new design courtesy of yours truly).

    | 06:14 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

NJ: Elections and lawyers

Remember the good ol' days when voters decided elections? Sigh. Good times... Good times. Now, the legal brief has become a seemingly integral part of a successful run for office.

The Democrats will be asking the NJ Supreme Judicial Court to block the printing of ballots with Toricelli's name, and allow the state Democratic Party to name a successor. The GOP plans to oppose the move vigorously:

To Republicans, the case is about playing by the rules. [Ha ha! - kos]

"Now, at this last minute, they decide because it looks like they can't win to change their candidate. You don't change the rules because you have a losing player."

Seems like a reasonable argument, right? You might not agree with it, but it's not crazy talk. Or is it?
The New Jersey Supreme Court allowed the Republicans who then controlled Trenton to reschedule the primary election so that acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco -- plagued by questions about his ethics -- could drop out of the race and allow Rep. Robert Franks to take his place.
So it seems, once again, that Republicans have two sets of rulebooks -- one that applies to them, and the other to everyone else.

Primary election dates are set by law. The SJC allowed a date change to serve the best interests of NJ voters. The GOP have just given the Dems all the precedent the SJC needs to allow the Democrats the same option.

Ridgewood lawyer John Carbone, an expert in New Jersey election law and counsel to the 21 county clerks, predicted that, once again, the state's courts will conclude "voters must be offered a choice."

Carbone said the courts may not be happy with the Democrats and might order them to pay the cost of reprinting ballots. But in the end, "they will not allow this to be a coronation without challenge."

Once again, if the Dems lose in court, they can still get Toricelli to resign, appoint a successor, and call a special election within a few months to resolve the whole mess. Either way, the Democrats are in pretty good shape, and regardless of the outcome, are working within the state's legal framework to arrive at a solution. The Republicans used extra-legal measures to steal a presidential election, they need to stop whining about Toricelli and "get over it". They've just been outmaneuvered.

Update: Just got Charlie Cook's newsletter, and he writes:

Clearly, Democrats will have to scramble both politically and legally to head off any court challenges Republicans mount to efforts to replace Torricelli on the ballot. But despite all the contortions Democrats will have to go through, the bottom line is that New Jersey is a very Democratic state -- and getting more so every day. While Republican nominee Doug Forrester is certainly a bright, attractive and capable fellow, his strength in this campaign was that he is not Torricelli. His weakness was that he is a Republican.
Assuming the Democrats can switch nominees -- and there is little reason to believe they will not -- this was not a good break for the GOP. The problem now for Republicans is that, in a sense, they will almost have to build a candidate from scratch. Up to this point, Forrester did not need to offer a vision or an agenda for the future. That was irrelevant to his mission -- but the mission has changed. In retrospect, the GOP hit Torricelli too hard, too early -- and now will probably face a considerably less flawed Democrat on Nov. 5.
Update: This, from Hesiod, is pretty funny:
A state Appellate Court today affirmed the ruling of Superior Court Judge Marguerite T. Simon that paves the way for millionaire businessman Douglas Forrester to run on the Bergen County GOP organization line in the June Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) filed suit last week to stop Bergen County Republican Chairman James Sheehan from awarding the line to Forrester after the James W. Treffinger withdrew from the race.

    | 08:14 AM | Link | Comments (8) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

KS, CA, and AZ updates

A new SurveyUSA poll shows Democrat Kathleen Sebelius has widened her already considerable lead in the Kansas gubernatorial contest. Now leading 57-37, Sebelius is drawing support from a whopping 42 percent of registered Republicans.

(Like many people, I do not trust the methodology of SurveyUSA polls. But the results are consistent with other reputable polls in the race.)

Now, desperate Republicans are reduced to whining about Sebelius' genealogy:

At meetings in both Wichita and Topeka, the men [Shallenburger and Bob Dole] reminded party members that Sebelius does not hold traditional Republican values, despite having the same last name as former GOP Congressman Keith Sebelius, her father-in-law.

"She married into the family," Shallenburger said.

In an aside, Sebelius is part of an exciting new trend in politics this year -- the woman governor. There have only been 19 female governors in the country's history. Five women are currently serving, but three of them (in AZ, MA, and NH) are off the ballot. However, women are favored to win in AZ, MA, MI, KS, MD, and HI, which could mean eight women governors next January. Not only is this good as it shatters another glass ceiling, but the governorship has always been a training ground for future presidents -- and that's the ultimate glass ceiling.

Back to governors, California's Gray Davis is pulling away from his incompetent challenger, and now leads by 10 points (45-35). Davis is still below the magical 50 percent mark, so this race hasn't been put away, but in all practicality, this race is over. If the GOP could pull a New Jersey and dump Simon, their chances to beat Davis would be far higher. But conservative pundits have convinced Simon that he's the heir to Ronald Reagan's legacy, and they couldn't pry him off the ballot. California's GOP voters screwed themselves by electing the crooked and ultra-conservative Simon. Serves them well.

One interesting finding in the poll is that while 60 percent of Democratic voters were unhappy with Davis (including me), a whopping 67 percent of Republican voters were unhappy with Simon. This is one miserable election. You people in New Jersey don't know how good you have it!

While in Arizona, Democrat Janet Napolitano has seen some of her support eroding, and now trails Republican Matt Salmon 41-38. Though the numbers are within the margin of error, it still shows Napolitano losing traction.

    | 07:59 AM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Public support for war dropping

An ABC News poll shows that public support for war is edging down despite the administration's full-court press to start one. 61 percent support war, but that's down from 68 after Bush's UN speech. That support is conditional, with just 46 percent backing unilateral war, and far fewer if a costly ground war is required. Given the fact the US makes up a daily excuse for war, the numbers are particularly telling. Bush and his people are failing miserably to make a case for war.

Interestingly, 21 percent of respondents said they would be more apt to elect a member of Congress authorizing war, while 38 percent said they would be less likely. Numbers like that should embolden Democrats and some Republicans to take a stand against the war.

Finally, 53 percent of respondents believe the economy is headed in the wrong direction, compared to 43 who bizarrely think everything is peachy. Those numbers cannot reassure Republicans this fall.

    | 07:28 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

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