TPM News

Some new numbers by Public Policy Polling (D) have some bad news and good news for former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), if he decides to run for governor in 2010: Even the state's most Republican Congressional district, which is represented by Michele Bachmann, doesn't actually like him -- but they'd still vote for him against a Democrat.

Coleman's favorable rating here is only 41%, with a 42% unfavorable rating and a margin of error of ±3.7%. However, in gubernatorial general election match-ups Coleman leads Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak by 49%-36%, and he leads former Sen. Mark Dayton by 50%-36%.

Intuitively, you would think that Coleman might benefit from a certain "we was robbed" mentality with the party base, after his disputed re-election defeat by Democrat Al Franken. But in a district that John McCain carried by 53%-45%, and which also views its fiery conservative Congresswoman quite favorably, Norm's ratings are pretty lackluster.

Read More →

In November, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed a health care bill by almost the slimmest of margins. The final vote was 220-215. One Republican--Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA)--voted with 219 Democrats to pass the bill.

Pelosi probably could have forced a wider victory, but freed up vulnerable members to vote against the bill for political reasons. Next year, though, her caucus will be faced with a fairly different, less progressive bill--something modeled on the Senate's health care package--and she'll likely have to draw on a marginally different coalition of members.

On the left, Pelosi could lose some progressives, miffed about the demise of the public option, and unhappy with the abortion language in both bills. On that score, she could lose a number of resolutely pro-choice Democrats. Cautioning that the abortion language in the conference report hasn't been finalized yet, and that nobody's committed to vote one way or another, one keyed in aide said members like Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jane Harman (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) have grave concerns about both the House and Senate bills' abortion provisions.

Of course, with 218 members needed to pass a bill, and 219 Democrats voting 'aye' the first time around, Pelosi faces a nearly zero-sum game. If she encounters defections from her progressive wing, she'll have to make up those votes among conservative-voting freshmen, sophomore, and Blue Dog members, who opposed the House bill the first time around.

Read More →

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is still warning against the presence of "death panels" in the health care legislation. However, on close examination the definition of "death panels" has changed radically.

Bachmann appeared on Glenn Beck's radio show, and told guest host Chris Baker: "Also, we're just reading this morning, Chris, that Harry Reid slipped in a provision that made it virtually impossible to repeal part of this legislation. And it's the part dealing with the Medicare Advisory Board -- what many people have labeled the death panels -- because these unelected bureaucracies will decide what we can and can't get in future health insurance policy. That's why they're called death panels."

Um, no, that's not why they're called death panels -- or at least, not why they were originally called death panels. As Sarah Palin first laid out the idea when she coined the term, "death panels" refers to a group of government bureaucrats who would allegedly would stand in judgment of individuals' worthiness of receiving health care. Specifically, they would kill Palin's Down syndrome baby by cutting off his access to medical treatment. (Palin was in fact referencing a speech by Bachmann, who was referencing Betsy McCaughey, who was in turn taking Ezekiel Emanuel seriously out of context.)

But now, "death panel" refers to a government body that would regulate insurance policies and the range of treatments that would have mandated coverage. Talk about moving the goalposts!

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the man in charge of getting Republicans elected to the Senate next year, said yesterday that right-wing members of his party eager to enforce conservative purity need to "yield to reality" if they want to win seats in 2010.

In a Reuters story about the Delaware Senate race, where Cornyn and the NRSC are backing Rep. Mike Castle in his run for Vice President Biden's old Senate seat, Cornyn says that moderates like Castle are what the party needs to win in areas where the Democrats are strong. That flies in the face of the conservative-or-nothing strategy pushed by the Club For Growth and others in states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

Cornyn told Reuters:

Folks on the right, and frankly I'm one of them in terms of voting record, have to yield to the world as it is and not necessarily how they wish it would be.

Read More →

Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern sharply criticized politicking and lack of subsidies for lower middle class families in the Senate health care bill but isn't threatening action against lawmakers he says have let voters down.

Stern told TPMDC in an interview that SEIU members will use the holidays for a last-chance pressure campaign through phone calls and grassroots efforts in members' home districts. The broader game plan will shape up in the first two weeks of January.

"We've really said to people this is your last chance to improve this bill, at least at this moment in history," Stern said. "It's now or never."

He asked why should progressives and union members who were major players in forcing health care to be part of the campaign discussion in 2007 and 2008 should settle for a bill that's less-than.

"When there is more that can be done that's reasonable and responsibile you don't stop fighting," he said.

But without a clear threat, it's a continued softening of the critique last week as House Democrats signal they are mostly willing to accept the Senate version of the bill with little more than a surface fight so they can move on.

Read More →

A new survey of Kentucky by Public Policy Polling (D) gives Republicans the early advantage to hold on to this state's open GOP-held Senate seat in 2010, with both GOP candidates Rand Paul and Trey Grayson leading the two Democrats.

Paul, a conservative activist and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), leads state Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo by identical margins of 42%-36%. Grayson, Kentucky's Secretary of State, leads Conway by 40%-33% and Mongiardo by 44%-35%. The margin of error is ±2.8%.

A PPP survey released yesterday gave Paul a 44%-25% lead over Grayson in the Republican primary, and Conway a 37%-33% edge over Mongiardo for the Democratic nomination.

PPP's Tom Jensen notes that the candidates are still largely unknown, with 38% having no opinion of Mongiardo, 51% with no opinion of Paul, 63% with no opinion of Conway, and 64% with no opinion of Grayson. "The dynamics of the race could change a lot as the eventual nominees become better known and voters in the state react favorably to them or not," Jensen writes. "For now though in a Republican state in what's shaping up to be a Republican year the Republicans are favored to hold this seat."

Yesterday, President Barack Obama created a firestorm among progressives when he told the Washington Post something readily falsifiable.

Echoing an idea first put forth by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Obama said, "I didn't campaign on the public option."

In fact, though the public option wasn't a regular part of his stump speech, Obama appointed the public option's intellectual father, Jacob Hacker, to his health care advisory committee, and his campaign's health care white paper prominently featured a government run plan, with no mandate requiring uninsured people to buy insurance. The bill he will likely sign next year will do the opposite.

Progressives have taken notice, and responded rapidly.

Read More →

LiveWire