In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It's only early July, but the gloves are fully off in this November's election for Governor of New Jersey. Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine's campaign just launched this new attack ad against Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who is currently ahead in the polls:

"A million lawyers in America. So who did Chris Christie give contracts to?" the announcer asks. "The Bush Attorney General who was Christie's boss. He got a $52 million no-bid contract."

Beyond the accusation of ethical impropriety, there's an even more damaging attack here: The Corzine campaign is reminding people that Christie worked in the Bush Administration.

New Jersey is a very Democratic state, but to a certain extent this is in a negative sense -- a good portion of swing voters are casting their ballots against the Republicans, rather than for the Democrats. If Corzine is to win this race, he'll need to remind those voters just how much they hate the GOP.

Late Update: Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien has released the following statement: "While Chris Christie is out on the trail talking about real solutions to turn around Corzine's failing economy, Governor Corzine responds with what he does best - throwing his millions behind negative, misleading attacks. New Jerseyans are frustrated with Mr. Corzine's tired and out of touch tactics, and who can blame them when they're facing skyrocketing unemployment and suffocating new taxes."

We can now add another group to the list of people who don't think Sarah Palin's resignation as Governor of Alaska was a good move: Republican voters, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

The numbers: Of the likely Republican voters surveyed, only 24% think her resignation helps her chances for the Republican nomination in 2012, compared to 40% who say it's hurt her chances.

At the same time, 61% of Republican voters think it's somewhat likely or very likely that she will run, with only 29% saying it's not very likely or not likely at all.

When asked who they prefer, 25% of GOPers said Mitt Romney, 24% said Palin -- the same percentage who said her resignation is a plus, interestingly -- 22% chose Mike Huckabee, and 14% chose Newt Gingrich, with 1% each for Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty.

New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who is resigning in order to run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010, gave an interesting explanation to the Union Leader about an attack on her that's come from Dem Gov. John Lynch's office: That when he reappointed her, she promised to serve her full term through 2013, rather than resign to run for elective office.

"I would say that at the time of my reappointment no one could have predicted the political future. The political landscape has changed drastically since then," said Ayotte. "Clearly the intent was to continue serving, but I think in fairness no one could have predicted the changes that have occurred on the political landscape."

That really makes a lot of sense. You see, when Ayotte made the promise that she wouldn't resign as Attorney General in order to run for something else, she didn't realize that she might be a viable Senate candidate in the future.

Late Update: New Hampshire Dem chairman Raymond Buckley has released a statement that, among other things, compares Ayotte to Sarah Palin: "We're seeing a national trend where Republicans have abandoned their responsibilities to their constituents in favor of political gain. From Alaska to New Hampshire, Republicans just can't seem to honor their commitment to the public. Not unlike Sarah Palin, Kelly Ayotte has broken her promise to the people she represents and put politics before public service."

It's looking more and more like Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) will be able to ride out this whole scandal, now that media coverage has moved on to other topics like Sarah Palin and Michael Jackson, and serve out the remaining year and a half of his term without having to resign.

Yesterday evening, the South Carolina Republican Party's executive committee voted to censure Sanford for his moral transgressions -- defeating those on the committee who had wanted to call for his resignation.

Sanford's communications director Joel Sawyer put out a brief statement today, responding to the party's censure: "The governor fully appreciates the party's position, and he intends to work diligently to earn back its trust."

Read More →

Details are still scarce, but Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--a powerful member of the Senate Finance Committee--seems to be walking away from the possibility of partially funding health care reform legislation by taxing employer-provided health benefits.

I'll pass along more information as it becomes available. Many observers were expecting the Finance Committee--fairly averse to picking difficult political fights--to propose lifting the exemption on benefits as a means of building revenue for reform. If it rules out that option, there remain, at least in theory other, a number of different ways to cover the price. But many of them would likely prove more--not less--politically difficult.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie is currently running ahead in the polls as the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey, but the Democrats are now aiming to trip him up using an ages-old maneuver: Attacking Christie for presenting himself as a moderate now, compared to the more right-wing stuff he said when he was campaigning for the Republican nomination.

The campaign of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine has put up this Web video, going after Christie for saying he agreed on renewable-energy issues with President Obama -- who is very popular in this Democratic state. However, we see that Christie took a different stance on the environment when he was competing with a much more conservative rival within the GOP:

Christie said at a forum: "I've got a feeling that you will see in January 2010, a lot of battles between the Christie administration DEP and the Obama administration EPA."

Of course, candidates on both sides of the aisle frequently take more hard-line stances during primaries, then tack to the middle for the general elections. The key here is that New Jersey Democrats often win elections by tying their Republican opponents to the conservatism of the national GOP. And the Corzine campaign is now beginning to play that angle.

The Christie campaign has not returned a request for comment at this time.

Whether White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is freelancing on the question public option for political reasons, or simply by mistake, he may just hear about it from all sides tonight.

Emanuel is set to attend a meeting on the Hill this evening during which the chairmen of the three House committees with jurisdiction over health care reform--Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. George Miller (D-CA) of the Education and Labor Committee; and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) of the Ways and Means Committee--will present their bill to the Democratic caucus.

Their bill, it should be noted, contains a robust public option.

After it became clear this morning that reformers were up in arms--or would soon be up in arms--about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's suggestion that the President might be willing to support a triggered public option, Obama, still traveling in Russia issued a re-statement of his support for the public option to put out the fire. And by mid-day, reformers had largely cooled off. Privately, though, some acknowledge that the President's statement isn't actually a contradiction of Emanuel's.

"It's not a direct contradiction, no," said one reformer. "But the President's saying what he's said all along, which is that he supports the public option, and in the end that's what matters."

Let's go to the record, shall we?

Read More →

A new survey of this year's Virginia gubernatorial race by Public Policy Polling (D) has Republican former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell posting a lead over the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Creigh Deeds.

The numbers: McDonnell 49%, Deeds 43%, with a ±4% margin of error.

A round of polls from other firms, taken right after the June 2 primary, had Deeds ahead and apparently enjoying a post-primary bump. PPP did not release a poll at the time, but it would appear that Deeds' post-primary bounce may have gone away.

The pollster's analysis notes that the Republican nominee for Governor in 2005 also had a lead at this point in the race, but the Democrat ultimately won the race: "The question now is whether McDonnell can sustain it, unlike Jerry Kilgore, or whether Deeds will come from behind to win as Tim Kaine did."

The new Quinnipiac poll of Ohio shows Democrats starting out with a slight edge for the 2010 Senate race in this perennial swing state, which will be an open race for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich.

Both Democrats lead both Republicans, albeit by narrow margins. Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher leads former Rep. Rob Portman by 37%-33%, and he leads auto dealer Tom Ganley by 36%-30%. Democratic Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner edges Portman 35%-34%, and she leads Ganley 35%-31%.

In the Democratic primary, Fisher has 24% to Brunner's 21%, with "Undecided" way ahead with 51%. Portman leads for the Republicans with 33%, followed by Ganley at 10%, and "Undecided" at 55%.

Obviously, the undecideds are very high for all of the primary and general match-ups here, Ohio is a perennial swing state, and we're still very early in the cycle. So we'll see what happens as the race goes on.