Jan. 29 absentee ballot for overseas voters

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House Dem 257   GOP 178  

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News from the Votemaster

House Passes $819 Billion Stimulus Bill Along Party Lines

The House approved an $819 billion stimulus bill yesterday by a vote of 244 to 188. All Democrats voted for the bill except 11 blue dogs (Allen Boyd, Bobby Bright, Jim Cooper, Brad Ellsworth, Parker Griffith, Paul Kanjorski, Frank Kratovil, Walt Minnick, Collin Peterson, Heath Shuler, and Gene Taylor). Every single Republican voted against it except Ginny Brown-Waite, who didn't vote. So much for bipartisanship.

Part of the explanation here lies in the 2006 and 2008 elections. The Republicans lost a net of 56 House seats in these two cycles, largely because moderate Republicans went down to defeat at the hands of moderate Democrats. The consequence is that the center of gravity of the Republican caucus has shifted far to the right--to people who instinctively believe in Winston Churchill's remark that the duty of the opposition is to oppose.

But they are playing with fire. With the public solidly behind the stimulus and a vast majority of the population (minus Rush Limbaugh) wanting the popular young President to succeed, if the recession shows signs of ending in 2010, the Democrats are going to campaign in the midterms by saying: "Our bold action prevented a depression. All the Republicans do is whine. Washington would be better off with fewer of them." On the other hand, if the recession is still going strong in the Fall of 2010, Republicans will say "Democrats threw your hard-earned tax dollars down the toilet. Time to get rid of them." But this is a huge gamble for the Republicans. This recession has already been going on for a year and they rarely last three years. Even if the recession is not technically over, but jobs are no longer being shed and houses are no longer being foreclosed it will be a lot easier for Democrats to claim it was their leadership that improved the economy. What can the Republicans say? It was their courageous no votes against bills that passed anyway that saved the economy?

The stimulus bill is not law yet. It still has to clear the Senate, where it can be filibustered. The Democrats currently have 58 seats in the Senate, so the Democrats need two Republicans to vote for cloture. But the Senate is much more high profile than the House and having the Republicans filibuster an attempt to save the economy--something most voters want--could be an unparalleled public relations disaster for them. This would be especially bad if Harry Reid forces an old-fashioned Wayne-Morse-type filibuster, with senators reading the Bible on the floor of the Senate for 18 hours a day (on TV no less), a practice technically called "diaper time." Reid's strategy will surely be to try to peel off two Republicans to vote for cloture. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is from a hard-hit state and up for reelection in 2010. His vote against cloture could mean the end of his political career. Neither of the senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, are up in 2010, but neither are they under the thumb of Mitch McConnell. Either or both could vote for cloture.

RNC To Elect A New Chairman Tomorrow

The Republican National Committee is going to elect a new chairman tomorrow in the first contested election since 1997. Normally, the RNC chairman handles the nuts and bolts of party operation and manages fundraising, but the party is now rudderless and in need of a new leader. With a Democratic President and the Democrats in firm control of both houses of Congress, the Republicans need to try something different. The old ways of supporting tax cuts and calling Democrats "liberals" doesn't seem to work any more. The RNC chairman could easily become the public face of the Republican party for the next two years.

And that face could be black. Two of the candidates are black: Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele. Whether the RNC is ready to elect a black man chairman will be known tomorrow. It would be a huge public relations coup is they do it. However, Blackwell is very conservative and would pull the party further to the right, which is probably the wrong direction now. Steele is a moderate and would be ideal in many ways, but the 168 voters (largely officials from the state parties) may consider him too moderate for their tastes. Mike Duncan is the current RNC chairman, so his reelection sends the message "more of the same." Chip Saltsman distributed a CD to the RNC members featuring the satirical song "Barack the Magic Negro" (to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon"). If he wins, you're going to hear that song so much, you'll memorize it by Monday. Katon Dawson is a middle-aged white guy from the South. The Republicans already own that demographic; they need more than that. That leaves Saul Anuzis, who is from Michigan, a very hard hit state, and who will turn 50 on March 6. He's the guy to watch, especially if the election goes to multiple ballots. Here is the list.

Candidate State Notes
Saul Anuzis Michigan Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party
Ken Blackwell Ohio Former Ohio Secretary of State
Katon Dawson South Carolina Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party
Mike Duncan Kentucky Current chairman of the RNC
Chip Saltsman Tennessee Former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party
Michael Steele Maryland Former lieutenant governor of Maryland

Reversal of Coleman's Position Highlighted in Trial

On the third day of the election contest in Minnesota, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann testified that Norm Coleman's position on rejected absentee ballots changed after he lost his initial lead in the counting. When he was ahead, he strongly opposed examining rejected absentee ballots, even those that county officials insisted were improperly rejected. Once he lost the lead he wanted to recount every rejected absentee ballot. The trial continues today.

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