Morning Fix: Clinton wades into MA-Senate; Palin at Gridiron
1. With less than 24 hours before Massachusetts voters go to the polls to select nominees in the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, former president Bill Clinton is wading into the race on behalf of Democratic frontrunner Martha Coakley. In a robocall being piped into the homes of 500,000 Democratic primary voters, Clinton says that Coakley "will go to Washington to fight every day to create good jobs with good benefits and to get health reform with a strong public option." Clinton's support is consistent with his recent pattern of rewarding political loyalty -- Coakley was an early endorser of then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid. Bill Clinton is the most high profile endorser to make his preference known in the special and his support of Coakley may well be aimed at stifling any last minute momentum for Rep. Mike Capuano who was endorsed by former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey over the past week. Public polling shows Coakley with a comfortable lead, however, and private surveys confirm that tomorrow's race is hers to lose. Clinton's involvement is only the latest sign of the active interest he continues to maintain in electoral politics. The former president has held a bevy of fundraisers to benefit the Senate campaign of Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek, endorsed the gubernatorial candidacy of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and recorded robocalls for Scranton (Pa.) Mayor Chris Doherty's reelection bid earlier this year.
2. The Post's Dana Milbank pens an important column on the disappointment and dream-dashing felt by some Obama supporters as the former Illinois senator has gone from candidate to president. "It was bound to happen eventually," writes Milbank. "Obama had become to his youthful supporters a vessel for all of their liberal hopes. They saw him as a transformational figure who would end war, save the Earth from global warming, restore the economy -- and still be home for dinner." Later, Milbank notes insightfully: "For all of Obama's soaring oratory about hope and change, it was plain even during the campaign that his record was that of an incrementalist." (We have long held that Obama is by policy a progressive but by politics a pragmatist.) Milbank is clearly on to something -- particularly in regard to Obama's decision to put 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, a decision that drew widespread criticism from the liberal left. In terms of Obama's politics, the lessening of enthusiasm from the party's base isn't likely to have a huge impact since liberal voters, however unhappy they may be with him, aren't likely to support whoever Republicans put forward in 2012. In the near-term though, a diminishing intensity within the Democratic base could be troublesome for the party in next year's midterm elections, which are traditionally lower turnout affairs where party loyalists have an outsized influence.
3. White House deputy political director Rob Hill is leaving his post to take over as field director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to sources familiar with the move. Hill, a protege of White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, worked in Messina' home state of Montana on Sen. Jon Tester's 2006 Senate victory before signing on to the Obama campaign where he oversaw the field effort in the 2008 New Hampshire primary. White House political director Partrick Gaspard praised Hill's "deep experience" and "disarming coolness" while DSCC executive director J.B. Poersch added that "Barack Obama's election showed how important the grassroots operation is." Hill joins Poersch, political director Martha McKenna and communications director Eric Schultz at the senior staff level of the DSCC.
4. Montana Sen. Max Baucus's acknowledgment that he carried on an extramarital affair with a former staffer might be big news at the moment but unless there are further revelations implicating the senator in trying to pull strings for his girlfriend, the political impact of the revelations is likely to be minor. Why? Because timing is critically important in politics and this affair is coming to light roughly a year after Baucus won a sixth term with 73 percent of the vote. That means that he won't stand before voters again until 2014 (if he decides to run again, that is), a period of time that amounts to an eon in politics. (Remember all the talk that Louisiana Sen. David Vitter was a stone cold lock to lose reelection following his 2007 admission of involvement in the "D.C. Madam" scandal? Now, Vitter doesn't even crack the top 10 on the Fix's Senate Line.) Dick Wadhams, who managed then Montana Sen. Conrad Burns's (R) race in 2000, called Baucus "lucky" that he doesn't have to face voters for another five years. "His high profile role in supporting the health care reform bill that I believe is unpopular in Montana along with this U.S. Attorney incident reveal a 30 year incumbent senator who is out of touch with his state," added Wadhams.
5. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) drew generally positive reviews for her speech over the weekend at that most insider of insider events -- the Gridiron Club dinner. Of Palin's address, NBC's Andrea Mitchell tweeted: "Speech funny, edgy but she's a good sport to show up." Our favorite line? "I have to say the view on the bus is better than under it." (Get it! Because Sen. John McCain's senior staff
throughthrew her under the bus. Yes! Double entendre!). Palin's appearance at the Gridiron reveals the love/hate relationship she has with Washington. On the one hand, she seems genuine in her disregard for how politicians -- of both parties -- handle problems and see solutions in the nation's capital. On the other, she seems to be drawn to the power represented in the city like a moth to a flame. That back and forth within Palin's personality is what makes predicting her next political move so very difficult. ALSO READ: Palin draws a huge crowd for her Sunday appearance in Sioux City, Iowa.
6. In a wide-ranging interview -- is there any other kind? -- with the Times of Malta (!), former White House chief of staff John Sununu offered his take on his son's defeat in last year's New Hampshire Senate race and the general state of political play in the country today. "There's no question that in the last election there was an anti-administration feeling among the electorate and it was complicated by the fact that Senator John McCain made himself famous by being the anti-Republican Republican," Sununu told the Times. He also predicted that the "pendulum will swing back in the other direction" in 2010. Whether or not that swing occurs well be best measured in the Granite State where Republicans have solid chances of flipping both House seats and the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg (R).
7. A great piece in the State newspaper looks at the controversy -- and value -- surrounding opposition research. The story, which uses the 2010 governors race in the Palmetto State as a jumping-off point, documents the little known but widely used practice of digging dirt against an opponent (and yourself) to ensure there are no surprises in the rough and tumble of a campaign. Said Chris LaCivita, a Virginia-based strategist doing work for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, of his opponents in the race: "If they say they're not (conducting opposition research), they're being dishonest." While some of the other candidates in the governors race insist they are not doing any oppo [as it is known to political pros], we're with LaCivita on this one -- they are. NO modern campaign can exist without a healthy oppo file on both themselves and their opponent(s). Then candidate Barack Obama sought to draw a line in the sand between research into his opponents' professional careers (fair game) and their private lives (off limits). Of course, that line was inevitably crossed; campaign manager David Plouffe admitted in his highly readable "Audacity to Win" that it was the Obama team that leaked the fact that former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) had paid $400 for a haircut.
8. Attorney Cal Cunningham (D) will officially enter the North Carolina Senate race against Richard Burr (R) this morning -- announcing his candidacy via web video, according to sources familiar with the move. Cunningham will be the third Democrat in the race, joining Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Ken Lewis. Cunningham, although late to the race appears to be the preferred candidate of the party's Washington establishment, a fact that should help him raise money and attract staff talent. Cunningham enters the race with his consulting team in place; Steve Murphy and Mark Putnam will handle media while John Anzalone will be the campaign pollster. (Anzalone polled for North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan's upset of Elizabeth Dole in 2008.) Burr's poll numbers are soft although Republicans believe the national environment works in their favor -- particularly in a state that has leaned toward the GOP over the past decade.
9. Tonight's the night! "Politics and Pints" -- the Post's trivia night featuring yours truly -- is going down tonight at the Capitol Lounge. It all gets underway at 7 p.m. and we will have you out of there by 9 o'clock -- wearing BRAND NEW official Fix t-shirts if you are lucky enough to win. (There will be other prizes too but, let's be honest, the official Fix t-shirt is the hottest thing going right now.) Teams are first come, first served so make sure to get to Cap Lounge right at 7 to sign up. Spread. The. Word.
10. We have said it before and we'll say it again: you are missing out if you don't read anything and everything that the Post's Joel Achenbach writes. Achenbach's latest piece in the Post magazine focuses on one of his pet topics -- space. Specifically, Achenbach uses the images provided by the revamped Hubble telescope (no, we didn't know it had been revamped either) to explain life, the universe and everything. Writes Achenbach: "The universe is wild. The universe evolves. And change is the norm." Do yourself a favor -- whether you care about space or not -- and read the whole thing.
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