Okay, now what in Iraq?

Politics and policy.
Nov. 8 2006 5:38 PM

Rummy's Gone. Next.

Okay, now what in Iraq?

(Continued from Page 2)

Bush's first stop is in the Florida Panhandle to stump for Republican attorney general Charlie Crist, who will be a no-show.

The president will now appear on stage with his brother Jeb Bush, who is not running for anything, and Katherine Harris, who is nearly 25 percentage points behind her opponent in the polls. …

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Update: From ABC's The Note. "McCain attends an event for GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist...That's right, Crist canceled his plans to be with President Bush, but still plans to stand with Sen. McCain today." ... 12:05 (link)

Sensible House Democrats? President Bush has been making fun of House Democrats for their hubris lately, but NBC's First Read suggests that Democratic leaders have a healthy sense of perspective. NBC correspondent Mike Viqueira reports that every Democrat he talked to about how they might run the House "mentioned the name 'Dan Burton' by way of illustrating what they would like to avoid: turning the committee room into a circus." Burton, the excitable chairman of the government reform and rversight committee during the Clinton years, famously shot a pumpkin in his backyard in a DIY investigation into former Clinton adviser Vince Foster's suicide. Liberals have bristled at the Burton analogy when it has been applied in the past, outraged at the suggestion that Democrats could ever achieve anything approaching Burton's excesses. Fortunately, House leaders appear to be more sensible than some of their supporters. They have something neither myopic liberal activists, nor the Iraq war Bush planners have: a sense of their own hubris. …11:08 a.m. (link)

Kerry Over?Several days ago I asked a Democratic strategist in one of the Senate races where momentum has switched to the Republican candidate if the Kerry "botched joke" had caused any problems or showed up in their internal polling. I expected him to say, "Our numbers were good until the Kerry thing, but then they tanked." Why not? Whether it was true or not, Kerry was a perfect excuse for a Democratic campaign on the ropes to cover up for whatever other reasons it might be having difficulty.

But no, I was told the Kerry comment won't matter. He's Mr. Irrelevant. Sunday's Pew poll suggests that might not be right. 18 percent of independents said the Kerry remark gave them serious doubts about voting for the Democrats. That number is higher than I would have guessed from independents. We traditionally assume independents are sensible and thoughtful. They don't buy Party propaganda, so surely they weigh daily events more carefully. They should know that a) Kerry's remark was a slip of the tongue, or b) John Kerry is irrelevant and therefore shouldn't affect their vote. Even the majority of the Republican base appears to have ignored Kerry. Only 36 percent said the gaffe gave them serious doubts about voting for a Democrat.

With signs of weakening Democratic momentum in the latest polls, I'm guessing Kerry will be just too handy a scapegoat if Democrats don't perform well. ...

Update: Kaus says Kerry's off the hook. The Democratic wave started weakening before his flubbed funny. But if the trend was already heading down, can't Democrats still blame Kerry for giving it rocket-propelled thrust toward the topsoil? Or, alternatively, isn't the "Kerry doomed us" scapegoat narrative just too powerful to overcome even with potentially persuasive analysis? Kerry would need an army of bloggers to tirelessly defend him for months and he doesn't have them. … 10:56 p.m. ( link)

Disaffected Evangelicals Use the Courtesy Phone: If your vote on Tuesday has been changed by the Ted Haggard revelations, please send me a note explaining why to slatepolitics@slate.com. I don't think you really exist or exist in large enough numbers to change much on Tuesday. ... 4:06 p.m. ( link)

GOP Closing Momentum? The findings in the new Pew poll and the ABC/Washington Post poll show that the generic ballot gap is closing, Republicans are motivated again, and even the GOP's horrible standing with independents has improved. ... 3:14 p.m.( link)

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006

Look for the Liberal Label: Thomas Schaller, in his relatively new book Whistling Past Dixie, makes a case for Democrats giving up on the South and running in the Midwest and West. He rightfully spends particular time on Montana, where Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer won in 2004. His victory, aided by state Sen. John Tester, was proof that Democrats could win in a red state. So then, what's happened to Tester? He was up in the polls against Conrad Burns, who is tainted by the Jack Abramoff scandal, but now they're even. Burns appears to have closed the gap by launching relentless old-school attacks, painting Tester as a liberal. I thought those weren't supposed to work in Montana, especially against a candidate who looks so authentically a product of the state. The other state where the old-style attacks are working is Tennessee, which also has a Democratic governor. Democrats wanted to nationalize the election, but has that hurt them? Do Republicans vote for Democrats when it comes to local government but not when national issues are involved? ... 10:50 p.m.(link)

Friday, Nov. 3, 2006

Jibe Talking: Are Democrats funny enough to be in the majority? That's the question that comes to mind when I hear President Bush getting such regular and sustained laughs from partisan audiences when he talks about Democratic hubris.

President Bush has been starting his stump speeches with the same riff recently. "You probably heard all the reports from the punditry in Washington, D.C.," he said in Joplin, Mo., Friday. "Some of [the politicians] are already measuring for new drapes.  That's not the first time, by the way, people have said the election's over before the people vote.  You might remember 2004.  Some of the crowd up there was picking out their offices in the West Wing.  Then the people of Missouri and people from around the country voted, and the movers were not needed." In the official transcript, nearly every sentence of this set piece is interrupted by applause or laughter. Unlike John Kerry, the president can sustain a joke. Maybe it's only getting yuks with his base, but they haven't had a lot to laugh about recently, and at least some think it's working.

This set of laugh lines is coming from the man who landed on the aircraft carrier Lincoln in May 2003 and declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq under a banner that declared "Mission Accomplished." And he's talking about early merriment? Even the most committed neoconservatives can surely agree that the carrier landing was perhaps the greatest act of foolish pre-emptive celebration in the history of warfare, perhaps mankind. It broke a key rule that rookies are taught and that the Bush staff used to repeat regularly: When you get to the end zone, look like you've been there before. Nancy Pelosi could be caught on film taking gavel banging practice, and it would never come close to the faulty gloat of Bush's carrier landing.

This seems like a moment for a puncturing Democratic laugh line. Not on YouTube and not from one of the left-leaning comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or Al Franken, but from a public official. An official quip keeps the message in the news cycle more than a comedian's quips, and it makes a politician seem winning, a trait the Democratic Party could use.

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