In an ad in the hard-fought U.S. Senate race in Connecticut, Republican Linda McMahon charges that her Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy, has been getting rich in Congress. The ad focuses on Social Security and Medicare, but it includes a momentary detour into how much Murphy got paid for his labors in the Capitol. The narrator asks, "Why is Congressman Chris Murphy lying to you about Linda McMahon and Social Security? Because while Murphy was raking in $1 million in salary, he voted to cut Medicare for current recipients by $716 billion."
In an ad in the hard-fought U.S. Senate race in Connecticut, Republican Linda McMahon charges that her Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Murphy, has been getting rich in Congress. The ad focuses on Social Security and Medicare, but it includes a momentary detour into how much Murphy got paid for his labors in the Capitol. The narrator asks, "Why is Congressman Chris Murphy lying to you about Linda McMahon and Social Security? Because while Murphy was raking in $1 million in salary, he voted to cut Medicare for current recipients by $716 billion."
The Republican nominee for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, was booed at the second debate Thursday evening after telling his Democratic opponent, Sen. Sherrod Brown, to "calm down."
The contentious, hour-long debate also featured Mandel calling Brown "a liar." The "calm down" outburst came after Brown exceeded his time limit answering a question on trade practices, prompting a warning from the moderator and an apology from Brown. Mandel pounced.
"Calm down, Senator, calm down," Mandel said, bringing boos from the audience.
Mandel earlier accused Brown of being "a liar" and of telling the "lie of the year" -- a Brown attack on Mandel's record as state treasurer. Brown criticized Mandel's job performance, including reports that he had skipped 14 months of state Board of Deposit meetings, which he chairs, and said Mandel is more interested in running for the next job. Mandel's record as treasurer, including Board of Deposit attendance and his hiring practices, have dominated the Senate race.
"He is hardly someone who will go to Washington and be 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,'" Brown said, citing the legendary Frank Capra movie.
Mandel responded, "Senator I take personal offense with that."
Mandel then accused Brown of telling a series of lies on the auto bailout and other issues, similar to a new ad Mandel's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have released in Ohio. This included Mandel citing press reports that say Brown told lies in campaign ads earlier in the race.
"Senator Brown is a liar," Mandel said.
Brown hit back, citing Mandel's six "Pants on Fire" designations from PolitiFact for false ad claims, the most awarded to any Ohio politician. The designations have been frequent fodder for Brown and Democrats, who gave Mandel a pair of pants for his 35th birthday last month. Mandel returned to the pants to the state Democratic Party.
"Being called a liar by the winner of the pants on fire crown is remarkable," Brown said. ""He goes lower and lower."
Prior to the "liar" exchange, Mandel outlined his qualifications for the Senate seat, highlighting his experience as state treasurer, a state legislator and as a city councilman in Lyndhurst. Mandel also mentioned his experience as a Marine in Iraq and said that prepared him to "stand up" to political bosses as a senator. He said he is prepared to "call out" other senators, lobbyists and the press if elected.
"I have been through tougher stuff than that," Mandel said, citing what has been a familiar theme for military veteran candidates this year, including Missouri secretary of state candidate Jason Kander (D) who made similar statements in a new ad last week.
The debate rehashed several issues that surfaced during the pair's first debate on Monday, including the auto bailout, which Mandel opposes and Brown supports. Mandel continued his attacks on the bailout, saying senators who voted for it should be "ashamed," an attack line he used earlier on Brown.
The two candidates also sparred over same-sex marriage. Brown said he supports it, as well as the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Mandel said he opposed both, but doesn't condone discrimination.
"I will represent all of the people of Ohio, regardless of their background," Mandel said. "I don't care if you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian or a vegetarian, I will be blind to race, religion or any kind of orientation."
What's happening in your district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Appear together at charity dinner
* Obama says took "nice long nap" at first debate
* Romney in white tie: What we wear around the house
By Steve Holland and Andy Sullivan
NEW YORK, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Locked in a tense race with time running out, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney took time off to exchange light-hearted jabs and make fun of each other on Thursday in a joint appearance at a high-profile charity dinner.
Two days after a brutal debate in which they exchanged verbal blows and stalked each other on stage, Obama and Romney greeted each other warmly, dressed formally in white tie and tails.
But the combativeness of the campaign trail was ever-present as the two foes gave back-to-back speeches at the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
Romney, speaking first, said Obama, who wants to increase taxes on the wealthy to help fund government programs, must have had some thoughts as he looked out at the crowd of wealthy people at the dinner.
"You have to wonder what he's thinking: So little time, so much to redistribute," he said.
Obama, when it was his turn, made fun of Romney's vast wealth.
"Earlier I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown," he said.
The Al Smith dinner is a glittering affair at the Waldcrf-Astoria hotel where New York's high society dined on poached lobster and rack of lamb and contributed $5 million for various children's charities.
Obama and Romney, facing a third and final debate Monday in Florida, sat close to each other at the dinner, separated only by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York who spoke at both the Republican and Democratic conventions in late August and early September.
The event is an annual speaking opportunity for presidents or president aspirants to test their comic skills with self-deprecating jokes usually written up by clever speechwriters.
Obama made light of his much-panned performance at his first debate with Romney on Oct. 3. He said at the second debate, where he was judged the winner, he had been well-rested because of the "nice long nap I had at the first debate."
BIDEN A TARGET OF BOTH
Romney also was self-deprecating, noting that the way he prepared for the debate was to "refrain from alcohol for 65 years." As a practicing Mormon, the former Massachusetts governor abstains from alcohol.
Obama, who frequently credits himself with ordering the mission that led to the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, noted that the last debate is about foreign policy.
"Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden!" he said.
Romney tweaked Obama on the high jobless rate, saying its recent small decline meant only one thing: "You're better off now than you were four weeks ago."
Obama said he and Romney have some things in common, like their unusual middle names. Romney's is Mitt. "I wish I could use my middle name," said Obama, whose middle name is Hussein.
If there was one thing they had in common, it was their ability to make fun of Vice President Joe Biden, Obama's gaffe-prone No. 2.
Obama said he sometimes hears that he is getting old and has lost a step and when he does, he says, "Settle down, Joe, I'm trying to run a Cabinet meeting."
Romney said when Biden speaks, it usually is to Romney's benefit, so much so that whenever his remarks are on TV it should be accompanied by a recorded message like those used in campaign ads: "I'm Mitt Romney, and I approve this message."
Obama got in a jab at the Republicans' use of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood at Romney's convention. Eastwood was panned for talking to an empty chair on stage as if Obama was sitting in it.
"Please take your seats," Obama told the crowd, "or else Clint Eastwood will yell at them."
The tone of the evening was set with introductory remarks by Al Smith IV, who could not resist teasing Romney for saying at the debate that he sorted through "binders full of women" in trying to put together a diverse cabinet as governor of Massachusetts.
"I want to say a special welcome to all of the accomplished women here tonight. It's good to see you made it out of those binders," Smith said to laughter.
The dinner started in 1945 in tribute to a former Democratic New York governor Smith, who lost the 1928 presidential election to Republican Herbert Hoover in a landslide.
Among the 1,600 guests were representatives from two of New York's major industries - media and Wall Street money. Spotted in the crowd were ABC television talk show host Katie Couric and Fox News executive Roger Ailes, as well as Steve Schwartzman, chief executive of private equity firm Blackstone Group, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan.
CLAYTON, Mo. — Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill cast herself as a moderate willing to work with Republicans while GOP challenger Todd Akin repeatedly linked her to the policies of President Barack Obama as they highlighted their differences Thursday night in the final debate of the Missouri Senate race.
McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, asserted Akin has an "extreme record" on women's issues, education, Medicare and Social Security, among other things. It's "moderate versus extreme. I think there's a very big choice for Missourians to make," she said.
Akin, a congressman from suburban St. Louis, stressed that McCaskill was one of Obama's earliest supporters in his 2008 campaign and backed his health care and stimulus proposals, which he said have driven up the deficit. "She was his strong right hand," Akin said.
The hourlong debate before an audience in the Clayton High School auditorium in suburban St. Louis contained nary a mention of the reason why Missouri's Senate race was propelled into the national spotlight. In mid-August, Akin drew widespread condemnation for remarking in a TV interview that women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." He apologized and forged ahead with his campaign despite calls from top Republicans – including presidential candidate Mitt Romney – to drop out.
Asked after Thursday's debate why she didn't bring up Akin's rape remark, McCaskill told reporters that everyone already had heard about it and to mention it "would look maybe like piling on." Akin left immediately after the debate without talking to reporters.
The candidates remained largely cordial throughout the debate but closed with some personal accusations that were factually shaky.
Akin claimed McCaskill "transferred $39 million to her home business." That was a reference to an Associated Press article that found that businesses affiliated with McCaskill's husband, Joseph Shepard, received $39 million in federal housing subsidies during her first five years in office. McCaskill voted for some of the bills – and against others – that funded the departments that provide the subsidies. But the AP found no evidence that McCaskill directly steered any money to her husband's firms, and McCaskill's campaign has said none of that money made it into the family's personal bank accounts.
McCaskill closed the debate by asserting that female staff in Akin's congressional office made 23 percent less than male staff members. McCaskill's campaign released an analysis showing that Akin paid his male staffers an average of $15,872.12 per quarter and his female staffers an average of $12,872.12 per quarter over his 12 years in office. But during the most recent quarter, Akin's female staffers appeared to earn more on average than his male staffers, according to an online listing of salaries.
McCaskill also asserted that "Akin voted to raise his pay." But pay raises in Congress occur automatically, and many of the votes McCaskill referenced were procedural ones that ended debate on bills, thus preventing consideration of potential amendments attempting to reject automatic raises.
During their answers to questions from panelists and audience members, Akin and McCaskill repeatedly differed on the proper role of the federal government.
McCaskill, for example, criticized Akin's prior statements in support of abolishing the Education Department and his opposition to a 2010 law that gave the federal government – not banks – direct responsibility for issuing student loans.
"The federal government's involvement in education is important for our country," McCaskill said.
Akin countered: "Claire McCaskill seems to think this is a crisis if you don't have everything done by the federal government."
Akin said the federal school lunch program could be administered by states, quipping that the food probably wouldn't taste any different to students.
Asked later if there were any misconceptions the candidates wanted to clear up, McCaskill said it was wrong for Akin to imply she is not willing to stand up to Obama. She said she opposed some of his energy policies and had wanted him to quickly approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada to the U.S.
"I don't even agree with my mother 98 percent of the time, much less the president of the United States," she said.
On a topic that hadn't previously received much attention in their race, McCaskill said she supports all forms of stem cell research. Akin said he opposes human embryonic stem cell research, because he believes life begins at conception.
Quarterly financial reports released earlier Thursday show Akin raised $1.6 million from mid-July through the end of September and had about $553,000 remaining in his account at the start of October. That significantly trailed McCaskill, who raised $5.5 million during the period and still had about $2.1 million left in her campaign account.
Since everyone else in the punditary universe is rehashing last night's presidential debate, we're going to do something more frivolous and fun today. We're going to run a "predict the election" contest for everyone to step into the pundits' shoes themselves. Consider yourself a wonk? Think you know better than the polls? Ready to publicly state what your predictions are? Well, then, get ready to play!
The rules are simple. There are three contests: one for House, one for Senate and one for president. In each contest, you'll be asked to make your own predictions of how things are going to shake out on election night. Then there are a few tiebreaker questions to answer, to avoid having to award multiple prizes. These "prizes" are nothing more than bragging rights, as we do not have corporate sponsorship for such contests and are too cheap to put up our own money. Ahem.
Ready? Here we go. Example entries are given for each category, so just follow the examples when making your own predictions in the comments.
House of Representatives
The current makeup of the House is 190 Democrats to 240 Republicans, with five vacancies (at least according to Wikipedia). RealClearPolitics, as of this writing, predicts 165 comfortable Democratic seats, 18 leaning Democratic, 216 comfortable Republican seats, 15 leaning Republican, and 26 tossup races.
Pick the party makeup of the incoming House. Make sure your numbers add up to 435! [Example: "199 Democrats -- 236 Republicans"]
Tiebreaker Question 1 -- If the GOP regains control of the House, will John Boehner face a Republican challenger for the Speaker of the House, or will he be unopposed from within his own caucus?
Tiebreaker Question 2 -- What date will we know the final House result? Election Day is 11/6/12. Keep in mind, Louisiana has a "runoff" system if no candidate wins an outright majority of the vote, and the runoff election can be a month later. Also, don't forget recounts -- with 435 races, at least one or two will probably go through a recount process, meaning until it is done we won't know the final House result.
[Example of a complete House contest entry:]
"HOUSE -- 199 D / 236 R. Boehner will be challenged for Speaker. House results final 12/14/12."
Current makeup of the Senate is 53 Democrats to 47 Republicans. Two of the Democrats are technically Independents (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders). Both Independent seats are up for election, Sanders is running but Lieberman is stepping down. Counting the Independents as Democrats, the total up for election: 23 Democrats and 10 Republicans.
Safe seats up for election (by our estimate) for Democrats: California, Delaware, Florida, Hawai'i, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. Maine is a special case, because an Independent is expected to win, but he will in all likelihood caucus with Democrats when it comes time to elect a Majority Leader. Bernie Sanders is considered safe, so we will likely end up with two Independents caucusing with Democrats in the incoming Senate.
Safe seats for Republicans (in our estimate, again): Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Added together, this means 45 safe Democratic seats, and 43 safe Republican seats.
Your job is to call all of the other races. Here's a list, with their current polling percent averages from RealClearPolitics (who notes that Indiana and North Dakota's data are weak, and the numbers may not be as good for these two states):
47.0% -- D -- Bob Casey (incumbent)
41.7% -- R -- Tom Smith
47.2 -- D -- Sherrod Brown (incumbent)
42.2 -- R -- Josh Mandel
48.5 -- D -- Elizabeth Warren
46.0 -- R -- Scott Brown (incumbent)
45.8 -- D -- Claire McCaskill (incumbent)
43.5 -- R -- Todd Akin
Virginia (open race)
47.6 -- D -- Tom Kaine
45.4 -- R -- George Allen
Wisconsin (open race)
48.3 -- D -- Tammy Baldwin
46.3 -- R -- Tommy Thompson
Connecticut (open race)
48.0 -- D -- Chris Murphy
46.0 -- R -- Linda McMahon
46.0 -- D -- Jon Tester (incumbent)
46.3 -- R -- Denny Rehberg
Arizona (open race)
42.5 -- D -- Richard Carmona
43.3 -- R -- Jeff Flake
Indiana (open race)
39.2 -- D -- Joe Donnelly
40.5 -- R -- Richard Mourdock
42.0 -- D -- Shelley Berkley
45.0 -- R -- Dean Heller (incumbent)
North Dakota (open race)
44.5 -- D -- Heidi Heitkamp
48.2 -- R -- Rick Berg
Tiebreaker Question 1 -- Which Senate race will be closest?
Tiebreaker Question 2 -- How many votes will decide the closest race?
Tiebreaker Question 3 -- Win or lose, what will be the percent spread in Massachusetts?
[Sample entry for Senate (don't forget to list all 12 races):]
"SENATE -- Democrats win: PA, OH, MA, MO, VA, WI, CT.
Republicans win: MT, AZ, IN, NV, ND.
Closest race will be CT, won by 35,000 votes. Warren will win MA, by 5.2%"
This one's somewhat easier than the Senate. Currently, Barack Obama has 16 safe states with 194 Electoral Votes ("EV"), while Mitt Romney has 21 safe states with 170 EV. Here's our list of safe states as of now:
Obama -- CA, DE, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA, DC.
Romney -- AL, AK, AR, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY.
Your job is to call the other 14 states. Here is a list of all the battleground states to call:
Put all fourteen into one candidate's column or the other.
Tiebreaker Question 1 -- What will the popular vote percentage be nationwide (in tenths of a percent) for both candidates?
Tiebreaker Question 2 -- What time (WITH time zone) on election night will CNN officially announce the national winner?
Tiebreaker Question 3 -- There are three state initiatives on the ballot which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state. Which of them, if any, will pass?
[Sample entry for President:]
"PRESIDENT -- Obama wins CT, PA, MI, WI, OH, NV, IA, VA, and CO.
Romney wins NH, NC, FL, MO, AZ.
Popular vote will be Obama 51.2% to Romney 47.9%. CNN announces winner one minute after midnight, Eastern Time. Marijuana gets legalized in CO and WA."
So, are you ready to call the 2012 election? Tired of everyone else getting it wrong? Here's your chance to prove you've got the inside story on the upcoming election -- post your contest entries in the comments, and after the election dust settles, we'll announce who got closest in each category!
Mitt Romney and the U.S. coal industry are engaged in a very public love affair. In August, the Republican candidate stood on a stage in Ohio and condemned Barack Obama's "war on coal," backed by a group of beefy, safety-helmeted men who looked like they just stomped out of a coal mine. Those miners later appeared in one of Romney's two September ads focused on coal, the "way of life" that, in his telling, Obama is ruthlessly attempting to crush. "By the way," Romney said in his first debate with Obama, lest America miss the point, "I like...
The presidential race is a genuine dead heat. Mitt Romney could very well win if Obama doesn't perform well in the remaining debates. Romney enjoyed a genuine post-debate surge and polling guru types say his bump is durable. That said, the new Post/ABC News poll suggests a few things about what Romney didn't accomplish at the debate, too.The presidential race is a genuine dead heat. Mitt Romney could very well win if Obama doesn't perform well in the remaining debates. Romney enjoyed a genuine post-debate surge and polling guru types say his bump is durable. That said, the new...
Tea Party favorite and former presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) brought in $4.5 million to her campaign in the third quarter of 2012 -- the largest fundraising haul for any House member thus far in the current election cycle.
Regarded as a prolific fundraiser, Bachmann's 2010 reelection campaign collected $13.5 million in total, topping House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) by more than $3 million. Her latest cash flow bested the second quarter total of Rep. Allen West (R-Fla), who brought in $4 million.
After her presidential run ended, the congresswoman's campaign had $1 million in debt on the books. But her campaign manager, Chris Knoll, said fundraising prospects had only been helped by her foray into the presidential campaign arena.
“One of the benefits of the presidential run was the significant expansion of her already impressive donor base,” Knoll told MinnPost in February. “Avoiding specifics, I can tell you that the last fortnight has demonstrated the productivity of that new list. We remain highly confident in our fundraising.”
But even after posting numbers of more $1 million in July, the representative still had less cash on hand than her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves. Graves, who has not raised nearly as much money as Bachmann, possesses a considerable personal fortune that he could use in the last weeks before the election. ABC News reported that 25 to 35 percent of his final outlay might come out of his own pocket by the race's end.
According to a September poll commissioned by the Graves campaign, the Democrat is only trailing Bachmann by 2 percentage points, 46 to 48 percent. Although the seat was originally looked upon as an easy win for the incumbent, the race has since tightened.
Bachmann's campaign manager, Chris Knoll, seemed concerned that the congresswoman needed to raise more funds -- and quickly. On Wednesday, he announced that the campaign would be undertaking one of its "boldest initiatives yet" by attempting to raise $500,000 in less than 48 hours.
"Some might call this a 'money-bomb;' most would call it ambitious, to say the least," Knoll wrote in a fundraising email announcing the initiative. "I'll call it what it really is: a shield against an onslaught of attacks on our values from those who would trample them. You could call it the 'Shield Our Values' money-bomb."
The "money-bomb" tactic -- which involves raising immense amounts of cash in short timeframes through focused resources and messaging -- is a hallmark of another skilled fundraiser, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx.).
But Bachmann has become best known for employing a technique that the Washington Post describes as the "money blurt." To successfully conduct a money blurt, one simply says something controversial or ideologically resonant in a public forum and then positions oneself to collect the fundraising windfall.
For instance, the Washington Post found that Bachmann took in nearly $1 million after she told Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball that she suspected Obama of having "anti-American views." And in the summer of 2010, her campaign chests loaded up with $5 million in donations following a slew of appearances in which she floated the idea of impeaching the president and accused him of “turning our country into a nation of slaves.”
As Adam Bonica noted in the Boston Review, "the most successful small-money fund-raisers mix media exposure with partisan taunting and ideological appeals."
Marie Corfield, a Democratic candidate for the New Jersey Assembly who rocketed to fame on the back of a YouTube video of her clashing with Gov. Chris Christie (R), received the most votes in a grassroots program to pick top Democratic state legislative candidates nationally.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced Thursday that Corfield was one of 60 candidates the group was backing nationally and one of 10 chosen through a grassroots vote of party activists across the country. Corfield is challenging Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Readington) in a special election for a seat vacated by the November 2011 death of Assemblyman Pete Biondi (R-Hillsborough).
Corfield, an art teacher, became a viral sensation with a video of her questioning Christie at a 2010 town hall meeting on education spending cuts. During the exchange, Corfield asked Christie about those cuts, which she said were hurting public education. Christie disputed that and said his prior "lambasting" was directed at the teachers union, not the teachers. Corfield responded, "We are not drug mules. And that came from you. And now I'm going back to work.
Earlier that year, Christie had accused the New Jersey Education Association of treating students like "drug mules to carry information back to the classroom" about their parents' voting plans in the annual school board elections.
The Washington-based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee suggested that Corfield's clash with Christie helped her win the grassroots backing. Spokesman Dan Roth said that most of her support came from within New Jersey.
"She stood up to Christie," he said.
According to Roth, all 60 candidates -- the 10 grassroots picks and the 50 selected by committee staff -- will receive various types of backing from the committee, depending on state campaign finance laws. Among other grassroots picks were Aaron Gill, a Democratic challenger for a New Hampshire House seat, and Colorado state Sen. Linda Newell.
Corfield described herself as "thrilled and honored" to have received the most grassroots votes. She told HuffPost that she had reached out to activists through Facebook and Twitter to tell them about the grassroots program.
The Simon-Corfield race is considered the most competitive of three New Jersey legislative races this year. Simon, a former Readington committeewoman, was appointed to the seat by Republican leaders following Biondi's death a year ago. The appointment extends through this year's election. Corfield previously lost a 2011 race for one of the two seats in the district, which includes parts of Hunterden, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties.
Simon's campaign and the New Jersey Republican Party did not return messages for comment about Corfield's designation.
But Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) told HuffPost that he is confident Simon will win in November. "Donna Simon is working hard, and she's a terrific legislator," he said.
Bramnick has his own take on how the Christie confrontation likely boosted Corfield in the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee's process. "Democrats are worried about Chris Christie, and that’s why they gave her attention," he said. “They know Chris Christie is a superstar."
Corfield too believes her encounter with Christie helped her in the grassroots ballot.
"One of the things that has been so frustrating for all of us in the Democratic Party in this state is our governor leads by intimidation and not diplomacy," she said. "That is not the hallmark of a strong leader. We have been fighting against that. We are fighting against bullying instead of real leadership."
The possibility that Mitt Romney could win the popular vote while Barack Obama wins the vote in the Electoral College has been discussed throughout this campaign. In recent days, we've seen pieces from Nate Silver, Nate Cohn, Harry Enten and RCP's Scott Conroy discussing the issue. Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina has even referenced the potential discrepancy, urging reporters to look at the state polls rather than the national surveys.How likely is this, really? History suggests "not very," unless the race is extremely close. This is because the Electoral...
The third debate between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, candidates for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, accomplished something their two previous matches did not: it produced a winner. Professor Warren had her best night in the debate arena thus far, delivering a performance that was focused, confident and energetic. Although Senator Brown made no particular missteps, throughout most of this debate he found himself playing defense, stranded on his opponent's turf.
Scott Brown is an exceptionally smooth politician, with a gift for packaging his message in the form of personal appeals. He addresses himself directly to crowd, calls the voters "folks," reminds the audience that he's a native son of the Commonwealth, carpet-bombs the debate hall with local names and references. He exudes charisma, to a degree that most politicians would envy. And he looks like Richard Gere, only handsomer.
But Elizabeth Warren seems to have figured out an effective antidote to the potency of Brown's charms. Unable to match her opponent on charisma, she comes at him with intellect -- lots and lots of intellect. In the end, her ability to frame and sustain an argument reduces Brown's likability to a lesser asset, a shiny object that's all surface and no depth.
Throughout these debates, Warren's goal has been to tie Brown to the Republican Party from which he so strenuously distances himself. In this third match of the series, by repeatedly invoking the likes of Mitt Romney and Grover Norquist, Warren succeeded in plastering a scarlet "R" upon his back. Her previous steps in this direction were tentative and insufficient; this time, by keeping at it, she gave her argument a through-line that grew more apparent over the course of the hour.
Warren's strongest answer of the night came in response to a question about women's issues. Methodically dissecting Brown's voting record in this area, the challenger displayed some of the passion that has too often been absent from her campaign. "The women of Massachusetts need a senator they can count on not some of the time but all of the time," Warren said, in what will probably become the night's most-played sound bite. Referring to equal pay and birth control, she noted with exasperation, "These issues were resolved years ago, until the Republicans brought them back." Lest there be any doubt whom to she was referring, on the word "Republicans" Warren looked straight at Senator Brown.
As he did in their two earlier debates, Brown at times struck a needlessly petty tone with his rival. Once again he brought up Warren's salary and benefits package, as though her professional success is something she ought to be ashamed of. Brown also came across as more thin-skinned than his opponent, referring to "her constant criticisms of me" in a way that made him sound like a whiner. Responding to Warren's assertion that the middle class is getting hammered, Brown shot back with a line that was more nonsensical than effective: "Professor Warren, I suggest you put down the hammer." One of the clear contrasts between these two candidates is that she gets under his skin, but he doesn't get under hers.
According to the polls, this race remains neck and neck. The problem for Brown is that Warren is improving as a debater, while he remains stuck in place. It's probably good for the senator that only one more joint appearance looms on the horizon, scheduled exactly a week before Election Day. If Elizabeth Warren does as well in the last debate as she did in round three, she may finally break the logjam that has kept this race too close to call.
At the beginning of the election cycle, Democrats publicly agonized that outside campaign spending, liberalized by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, would create a brave new world where stealthy Republican outside groups would overwhelm underfunded Democratic candidates, giving the GOP an unfair advantage in the race for the White House and control of Congress.None of the Democrats' nightmares came to fruition. The Republicans' much-feared financial edge never materialized in the presidential campaign, as President Obama and his allies have been outspending Mitt...
When a great playwright warns against making theater of a particular enterprise, we might lend him our ears.
Arthur Miller, creator of the timeless dramas Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, warned against treating politics as mere theater, as spectacle only. Writing about the Bush-Gore presidential race of 2000, Miller in an essay lamented:
The American press is made up of disguised theatre critics; substance counts for next to nothing compared with style and inventive characterization. The question is whether the guy is persuasive, not what he is persuading us of.
In the first of the three presidential debates, held last week, between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney (Miller would call them "so-called debates"), the media by and large played the critic, grading on "performance" and declaring a "winner" (Romney) and a "loser" (Obama). Accordingly, Romney "controlled the stage," while Obama broke out in "flop sweat," an actor's nightmare. True to Miller's lament, much of the media critiqued the performers on style and persuasiveness (here, here, and here), including a former theater critic turned commentator (here), while some remembered their role: to comment on substance and truthfulness (here, here, and here).
Interestingly, and encouragingly, voters themselves seem more fixed on substance than star turns -- on what was actually said and discussed onstage -- to judge by the anecdotal evidence of comments threads, debate watch groups, letters to the editor. Sure, some Romney supporters crowed their guy "won" and some Obama supporters conceded their guy "lost." But many polls show little change in Obama's lead and favorability ratings (here, here, and here) and, according to an overnight poll, 50 percent of undecided voters remained undecided after the first round.
So, one "flop" of a debate performance does not an election make -- a good sign for democracy, a form of government that depends on a discerning electorate. Meanwhile, the fact-checkers continue checking facts (here and here), the candidates rehearse for the next debate, and the campaign---or for Arthur Miller, the play---goes on.
For Miller, theater's bleeding into politics is inevitable. It starts at the basal level: More than a leader's character or proposals, we are influenced by our "glandular reactions" to a leader's personality. Aristotle saw us as social animals, "ruled more," writes Miller, "by the arts of performance -- by acting, in other words." Television, a 24-hour medium, heightens this effect exponentially: "Ordinary individuals, as never before in human history, are... besieged... by acting." He goes on: "One is surrounded by such a roiling mass of consciously contrived performances it gets harder and harder for a lot of people to locate reality anymore." And the most compelling television fare in all the world? The American presidential race, because it can mean not only an entirely new direction for the country but, given America's power, the world: "Thus the television lens becomes a microscope with the world at the eyepiece." No pressure!
Therefore acting -- of a very high order -- is required: "The presidency, in acting terms," writes Miller, "is a heroic role. It is not one for comedians, sleek lover types, or second bananas." Should there be war, "a president rises to the stature of a tragic figure." Thus candidates seek to "draw down powers upon themselves which their ordinary behavior cannot possess," while somehow preserving their "regular-fella personae." Adding to the unreality of all this, to win the White House they must run against Washington, meaning they essentially run against themselves. Writes Miller, "There's a name for this sort of cannonading of Washington; it is called acting."
But Miller also sees the snare in this act: "The trouble is that a leader somehow comes to symbolize his country, and so the nagging question is whether, when real trouble comes, we can act ourselves out of it." Thus, the title of his essay, "Politics and the Art of Acting," with emphasis on the art.
And it's here, I submit, where the theater critic -- that would be all of us in our armchairs, judging and critiquing, as well as those in the media -- can serve a vital, nation-saving function:
If indeed acting is required in our leaders, then we need to refrain from critiquing on style or persuasiveness, but instead call out that candidate who, in the course of one campaign, plays multiple and contradictory roles. Who, when the mask is pulled off, presents another mask contradicting the first. Who is, to put it explicitly, lying.
Romney had the president flummoxed in last week's debate because, instead of launching zingers, he launched an entirely new persona, one tacking strenuously to the center when in the primaries he was the "severe" conservative who pandered to, and won, the screamingly anti-government Tea Party faction. The "ideological reinvention" was audacious, as The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg described: By debate's end, "Romney had retrofitted himself as the defender of Medicare, the advocate of Wall Street regulation, the scourge of the big banks, the enemy of tax cuts for the rich, and the champion of tax relief for the middle class" -- all claims "spectacularly false." It was such a Houdini act that, presidential and polite, Mr. Obama couldn't get a handle on it. (See also here.)
(By the way, notice how quiet those Tea Party screamers have become post-debate, despite Romney's betrayal? Now, that's acting.)
Falling for Romney's magic act, the usually astute David Brooks, conservative columnist for The New York Times, in a post-debate column titled "Moderate Mitt Returns!" (exclamation point is his) wrote that, finally emerging "from the fog," Romney "broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself." This is beyond absurd: How can you serve up various versions of your authentic self and still stay, you know, authentic?
Meanwhile, in this armchair, as Romney was subdividing his authenticity, I was writing the president's comeback lines for him, and delivering them: "Since when do you care about 'all the people'? We all saw the 47 percent tape!" "Since when did you include pre-existing conditions in your healthcare plan?" "I saved the auto industry, but you were all for letting it go. Your father's industry. Was that Oedipal?"
Crucially, the president himself must become a critic. One flop may not an election make, but a second one? Can't happen. At the next rumble -- er, debate -- Mr. Obama must pull off Mr. Romney's many masks and expose his contradictions. Fortunately, Mr. Obama has the edge here, having a far more coherent self than his challenger. I suspect Mr. Obama has already taken himself to the woodshed for last week's performance; I hope he's dusting off his Chicago game for the next. Yes, it's one of civilization's discontents: learning how to argue without losing your civility. But it can be done, presidentially and simply: "Governor, that's not the truth -- and one of your multiple selves knows it." Or as writer Aaron Sorkin states it explicitly: "You're lying, Governor."
Speaking of Oedipus, the tragedy: Ending his essay, Arthur Miller reveals himself to be the full tragedian, in alliance with the ancients and the moderns both, also with Shakespeare, in declaring that all politics is corrupt and that there is no help for it but art:
I'm afraid, we can only turn to the release of art, to the other theater... where you can tell the truth without killing anybody and may even illuminate the awesomely durable dilemma of how to lead without lying too much. The release of art will not forge a cannon or pave a street, but it may remind us again and again of the corruptive essence of power, its immemorial tendency to enhance itself at the expense of humanity [italics mine].
Here I have to rebut the great playwright, and I think many other Americans would, too. Thanks to the theater, we do know that power can be corrupting. At the moment, however, it's corporate power rather than political power that's being abused, with big money profiting from the Citizens United decision to buy the politics it needs to stay dominant. Republicans, party of corporations and the rich, need to take note.
As for politics: Yes, politics is messy and rough, and this season saw new frontiers in stupidity (remember "9-9-9"?). But that's because we're a democracy, and in a democracy we all, bless us, believe to our core that we have a voice, thus the noise. While there is evidence of political dysfunction, notably in Congress, the world's oldest democracy still must believe that when Mr. or Ms. Smith goes to Washington, power can be wielded in a way that humanity is enhanced (to recycle Miller's words above). Otherwise why the extraordinarily high interest in this election and how explain why so many good people are running for office at all levels?
So this American is not ready to surrender to "the release of art," most especially a tragic, fatalistic art; nor are masses of other Americans; to do so seems un-American. But we do know we are in trouble, possibly in decline -- as a nation, an economy, an ideal. Thus the larger drama: In my mind's eye, I see an ancient amphitheater where the drama of America is now playing out, where the major dramatic question is: Will America survive, will it mature? We can and will -- if we call out the bad actors and applaud the good ones.
Off with the masks!
Carla Seaquist, a playwright, is author of the recently published book, "Two Plays of Life and Death"; she is at work on a play titled "Prodigal." Her book of commentary is titled "Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character."
Nobody wins this presidential race because nobody is trying to win by winning, but instead by making the other guy lose. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney are simply trying not to lose by portraying the other guy as a loser.
This race is about as authentic as WWE's Monday Night Raw, a theatrical exchange of punches -- but without the agreed upon outcome.
Obama is floundering because he seemingly has no agenda for a second term beyond the status quo.
Romney has multi-tasked his proposals beyond recognition.
Both offer nothing other than "I'm not the other guy."
Which leaves partisans on both sides with no choice other than a choice they don't like. And undecideds besieged by pollsters and TV viewers in battleground states disgusted by multi-millions spent on negative ads.
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I was speaking with the brilliant linguist and author of Don't Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff this weekend and he got me thinking.Every one of the president's most moving speeches -- the speeches where he inspired and lifted our country up -- had one thing in common. Speeches like his 2004 convention speech, the speech on race and the speech in Osawatomie, Kansas all spoke with moral clarity about who we are, about deep American values.
WASHINGTON -- Two new polls suggest the elevator ride known as Ohio's U.S. Senate race, with voter sentiment going up and down and back up again, may be changing direction. One poll has Josh Mandel and Sherrod Brown tied. The other has Mandel ahead of Brown -- that's right, ahead -- by 4 points.Problem is, different pollsters use different techniques, and Brown's campaign dismisses as fantasy the poll showing Mandel ahead. Let's put that poll aside momentarily; doing so doesn't wipe out the other poll showing a tie as of late last week.
Voting in November is the end of the process.
Literally for YEARS we have been leading up to this race. A ton of people have jockeyed for position. This is almost like an NCAA bracket where game after game is played to refine the best team. Bringing in a third party candidate at the end make no sense. It would be like following your March Madness pool and right before the Final 4 game between Temple and UCLA, Villanova somehow gets onto the court.
Third party candidates are woefully unprepared compared to the major party candidates.
Continuing the sports metaphor, think of the major party primaries as minor league baseball. You learn to hit a curve ball, hit behind the runner -- all the smart stuff you are supposed to do in the batters box with everyone looking at you. The primary system vets out a lot of odd folks like John Edwards or Newt Gingrich who could never hit from the opposite side of the plate. Guys like Rick Perry shrank once the pressure got turned up.
The campaign is the regular season. The stump speeches and appearances test the mettle and veracity of the candidate. The advantage of the current two-party system is the pressure testing by the media that supposedly forges a solid product. There is a reason you give the ball to the 20-game winner for the final game of the playoffs.
Putting a third party candidate into the mix is similar to sticking a guy off the street into the ninth inning of the final playoff game. You have no idea of what you are going to get. The person has not been vetted at all. Likely they have no experience as evidence they could do anything if given the mound in that situation. A manager (We The People) would be nuts to allow such a person to even throw a single pitch.
Voting for a third party in a two party race helps the major party candidate furthest from you.
If you are on the far left voting for the Green Party, or the Far Right tallying for the Libertarians, your vote will be helping the GOP and the Democrats, respectively. If the Green Party (or Libertarian) candidate wasn't there, you would be voting for the Democratic (or GOP) candidate instead. Those candidates needed your votes. Anyone remember John Anderson in 1980? He pulled six percent of the vote. His being in the race was a minor factor giving Ronald Reagan the win. Ross Perot gave Bill Clinton the White House in 1992. How did Ralph Nader work out for you?
If you want a third party, create a third party.
That means getting people elected at the lower levels so that you can train someone to step in with each larger successive office.
One way to create a third party is from the ground up. The Tea Party was able to abscond with the GOP because they got enough people in the grassroots (the ground up) to figure out how the system works. They took over because they knew the rules. They also had message discipline.
All those sane people who left the GOP do not have a home now. They can return to fight for their old GOP apparatus or they can create a new one. I am sure there enough people disassociated with the current system that would come back if there was a legitimate path to victory.
How to create legitimacy?
Increase the size of Congress. We are currently the second worst represented country on the planet with one congressperson for every 710,000+ people. Only India is worse with over 1,000,000 people per seat. Most western democracies have about 300,000 people per seat. We would need about 1,001 seats for now. The really smart thing to do would be to link a Congressional Seat to a fixed population number. Currently we have a fixed number of seats, 435, with a variable number of people being represented.
Some side effects of increasing the size of Congress:
- it takes fewer people for you to get elected
- it costs less to get elected (campaign finance reform)
- congressional gerrymandering gets mitigated
There are ton of others...
For this discussion of creating a third party, you get legitimacy when you get seats in Congress. You can then start to create the bench you need to go deep into an election cycle.
Since you are an expansion team, you can expect to get some free-agents who are tired of playing for the existing teams as well as walk-ons who never played before.
Oh, by the way, increasing the size of Congress can be done by fixing one small phrase in a law passed in 1929.
Before the first presidential debate, voters were telling CNN by nearly a 2-1 margin that they expected an Obama victory. Many commentators were ready to hold a coronation for the president. Now, by more than a 2-1 margin, voters who watched the debate are saying that Mitt Romney won it -- and we have a horse race on our hands.Romney was one of the two big surprises of the night. His performance was head and shoulders above anything he has displayed so far. He drove the debate, had a coherent message that focused on jobs, showed a superior command of detail, was empathetic toward people...
GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney's camp claims that they had nothing to do with the release on the eve of the great presidential debate of the worn, totally dated, and much vetted Hampton University speech in 2007 in which pre President Obama praised his long past ex-minister Jeremiah Wright. We'll take the Romney crew at their word. But the GOP mischief makers are another matter. The release of the speech is no real October surprise. But it was released for one reason, and one reason only, and that's to race bait Obama supposedly with his own words. The race baiting has one aim and that's to stir just enough doubt and hopefully fear in the small percent of white conservative and centrist independents that are still undecided about their vote.
Many Obama loathers don't need Wright to believe that Obama is a closet race baiting, Muslim leaning hater of America's values. This tired, hackneyed theme has been the bread and butter of right wing bloggers, websites, and shrill talk show hosts from the moment Obama set foot in the White House. There has been no let up in the racially leaden slander, slurs, and digs on that theme during his first term. The hope was that if just enough media outlets play up the ancient Hampton speech, coupled with the timing of it, there's a small peril that it could make a few have doubts about Obama.
Wright, of course, will always be the perfect foil for the GOP's insidious attackers. That's because race is still a minefield that some in the GOP hope can explode on Obama. It didn't happen in 2008. This was in part due to GOP presidential contender John McCain's commendable refusal to stoke the racial fires, and that included playing the Wright card. He made almost no reference to the severed Wright and Obama tie on the campaign trail. Race also didn't play any role in the 2008 campaign in equal part because Obama ran an astoundingly measured, appealing, race neutral campaign that kept the focus squarely on the issues of the Bush administration's towering failures, the economy, the financial mess, and he sold a majority of Americans that he could bring a much needed directional change in government. In the four years since then nothing has changed in the Obama administration's approach and policies and its reelection campaign's emphasis on the issues of the economy, health care, and the GOP's obstructionism. The polls that consistently give Obama the edge over Romney have pretty much bolstered the soundness of his approach to the campaign.
This is precisely why the Wright hit is even more important in the plotting of some GOP operatives to try and derail Obama's reelection bid. The mere mention of Wright is enough to conjure up suspicions among ultra-conservative Christian Evangelicals about Obama's White House doings and motives toward the Muslim world and the country. Many are convinced that there are indeed sinister forces at work in his administration. It does little good to repeatedly point out that few of them have or will back Obama at the polls. But with Obama's support of gay marriage, and with Christian Evangelicals very much potentially a potent force in several of the must win battleground states, anything that further inflames them against Obama can have harmful political consequences.
The tag of radical Islamist is further compounded with Obama with race. It's a touchy, volatile, and always polarizing issue that politicians step gingerly around whenever they can. That's especially true for Obama. Though he's done everything humanly possible to sell himself and his administration as the incarnation of inclusiveness, race neutrality, and unity, there are still the whispers and worries that a racial intent lurks just under the surface in his agenda.
The dated speech won't sway many, including those who don't support Obama for legitimate political reasons, to regard the president as a race baiter. Obama said nothing that could remotely be considered racially charged and inflammatory. If anything there were strong elements of conservative themes about personal responsibility, self help, and community economic empowerment.
Still, this almost certainly won't be the last that we'll hear of Wright and Obama before November 6. Somewhere and at sometime, the GOP hit team will take another out of context snippet of a Wright speech and incessantly loop it on websites and blogs to again plant the notion that that there's still a closet connection between the two. Again, it's not likely to do very much. But it won't stop them from trying and hoping.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson
DENVER -- I would be careful about declaring the presidential contest "a whole new race" following Wednesday's debate. Polls show that most voters have made up their minds, and some, due to early voting, have already cast their ballots. One good night for Mitt Romney does not turn the world upside down.But make no mistake, it was a very good night for Romney -- and a bad one for President Obama. This election wasn't a done deal before the debate, and it certainly isn't now.
BOSTON -- Massachusetts has 10 congressional districts, all of which are occupied by Democratic members, and in its quest to retake Congress and re-install Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, the party hadn't worried that it might lose one of them.But that's exactly the situation with less than five weeks till Election Day, as Rep. John Tierney (pictured, at right) trails Richard Tisei, a social liberal -- and openly gay -- Republican challenger. Tisei (pictured, at left) is a seasoned state legislator, but what put the race in Massachusetts' 6th District in play was a...
This week, virtually every media organization has rushed forward their pre-debate polls. Every poll seems to be converging on an Obama lead of 2-4 points. The problem for Obama is that all of these polls have very ambitious assumptions about Democrat turnout this year. It will not come close to 2008 levels, putting Obama's reelection in real jeopardy.Tonight, National Journal released their latest poll. Among likely voters, the race is tied. Among independents, Romney has an 8-point lead. As you can probably guess, the poll assumes a 2008 turnout model and is D+7. So, if Democrats...
Why are filthy-rich hedge fund managers, so enamored of Obama in the 2008 race, turning on him now? Â I endorse the rhetorical explanation: Barack Obama has made a habit of bashing financial types and rich people. Â Bankers and rich people, being people, do not like being treated as villains in Obama's campaign set pieces. Â So they are naturally disinclined to support him. Â I am shocked at how many New Yorkers I had thought to be rock-ribbed Democrats are attending Romney fundraisers. Â Not a huge number, mind you; it's not like they're going to tip New York from blue to red....