President Barack Obama wove populist themes into his town hall meeting today in Ohio.
** QUICK HITS. Senator Barbara Boxer today came out against the reconfirmation of Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve. Bernanke is a bete noire for liberals, and Boxer is one of the most liberal members of the Senate. The Obama Administration still seems to be supporting Bernanke, even as it takes on more aggressive policies with regard to Wall Street. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, back from two days in Washington, seems confident that California will get a big chunk of the $7 billion it’s seeking from the federal government as part of a solution to its chronic budget crisis. … The British government has increased its terrorism threat warning level to “severe,” just one level below the “critical” level which indicates an imminent attack. The UK also halted direct flights from Yemen. London is the site of a major international conference on Afghanistan on January 28th.
** WHAT SCOTT BROWN KNEW IN 2010 AND BARACK OBAMA KNEW IN 2008. This past Tuesday night, the politics of positioning beat the politics of branding. As it frequently does. Scott Brown figured it would. As Barack Obama did in 2008.
Here’s something to keep in mind amidst all the hype, hysteria, and hubris srrounding last Tuesday’s Massachusetts special election. But for one of the worst Democratic campaigns in American political history, you wouldn’t be hearing any of this.
No sweeping claims about a sea change in politics. No clashing claims of diametrically opposed ideological realignments. Oh, and no death knells on all sides for national health care reform. …
Yet here is what we do know. Scott Brown, an arguably moderate Republican, ran a campaign geared toward the independents who make up nearly half the Bay State electorate, far outnumbering registered Democrats, who in turn outnumber registered Republicans.
To do this, he ran a campaign of positioning. He de-emphasized his Republicanism, casting himself as a regular guy in a pickup truck. (Though he is actually a real estate lawyer who went to tony Tufts, a former Cosmo centerfold married to a TV newscaster.) He appeared either on his own hook, or with popular cultural figures from the sports world.
He did not associate himself with Republican politicians. He was greatly helped in this by virtue of the fact that he had no serious opponent in the Republican primary, so he didn’t have to advertise his Republican positions in order to win the nomination.
In fact, I’m told that the first time he appeared with former Governor Mitt Romney, a backer of his legislative career, was when Romney popped on stage election night to laud the senator-elect right before Brown gave his decidedly uneven victory speech.
Brown cast himself as a populist, talking against big interests and Washington dealmaking, tapping into anger about the Wall Street bailouts. Which of course his own party backed to the hilt. …
** CALIFORNIA FIELD POLL: WHITMAN INCREASES LEAD IN REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY, JERRY BROWN LEADS BOTH REPUBLICANS BY DOUBLE DIGITS. The latest Field Poll has ex-eBay CEO and Republican presidential campaign co-chair Meg Whitman splitting the departed Tom Campbell’s support with state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Since Poizner’s support was in the single digits, that yields a continuing big lead for Whitman, 45% to 17%. 38% of of the Republican primary electorate is undecided.
Whitman, as you know, has been advertising for months, and Poizner has yet to run an ad.
In general election match-ups, former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown leads Whitman, 46% to 36%, and Poizner, 48% to 31%. That’s among likely voters. In a Field Poll three months of registered voters, Brown led Whitman, 50-29, and Poizner, 50-25.
In the other big California public poll, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), of a month ago, Brown led Whitman by only six points, compared to 10 points in the new Field Poll. Then it was Brown 43%, Whitman 37%. And Brown 48%, Poizner 31%.
After clearing the Democratic field last year, Brown has yet to declare his candidacy. He has spent less money than his last Democratic rival, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, paid his chief strategist Garry South.
Though the primary is not until June, and the general election in November, I would say that Brown must declare by March. Which is when the filing deadline is, naturally.
So, does the Field Poll tell us anything new? Not really. Still, it does tell us some interesting things.
Obviously, Poizner is not going to make any headway until he starts campaigning more heavily, mostly through advertising funded by his own great wealth. Whitman is actually a target-rich environment as candidates go. It will be interesting to see what happens to her when she starts getting hit. The candidate has had disastrous press conferences and has yet to participate in a debate.
As for Brown, he is largely unknown amongst voters under 30. Who are not expected to be a big factor in this election, though President Barack Obama may have something to say about that next fall.
The higher you go in age, the better Brown does. And his popularity with people of color is key. Among only white voters, he and Whitman are essentially tied.
He’s also good with independents, the group which gave another Brown, the one named Scott, a shock victory this past Tuesday night in Massachusetts.
Brown leads Whitman among independents by nearly a 2 to 1 margin.
Still, Brown will need to re-introduce himself, and begin laying out the narrative of Jerry Brown. It’s, to borrow a phrase from the Beatles, a long and winding road. It’s also a hell of an interesting story.
Incidentally, one big advantage that Scott Brown had in the Massachusetts special election for the Senate is that he had, essentially, no primary. When Andrew Card, who was former President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, decided not to run — news flash, he would have lost — that left Brown with only an even less well-known opponent.
This enabled Scott Brown to run as a de facto independent rather than a Republican. Had he had to run in a Republican primary, he would have been defined in partisan terms, not to mention beaten up, before he got to the run-off. As it was, he was free to craft his identity on his own hook, avoiding Republican identifiers that would have turned off independents and developing a persona to counter what voters didn’t like about the governing Democratic Party in Massachusetts.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talked to the U.S. Conference of Mayors about jobs and economic recovery.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Ohio today.
Obama received his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office and is on Air Force One en route fom Andrews Air Force Base to Cleveland, Ohio.
At 8 AM Pacific, Obama arrives in Cleveland, Ohio. He will then make his way to Lorain County, which is part of the Greater Cleveland metropolitan area, hard hit by the global recession.
At 10:20 AM Pacific, Obama tours the facilities of Wind Turbine Manufacturing and Fab Lab.
At 11:05 AM Pacific, Obama holds a town hall meeting at Lorain County Community College.
At 1:55 PM Pacific, Obama departs Cleveland on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 3 PM Pacific, Obama lands at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 3:15 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
This is part of what the Obama White House calls the White House to Main Street tour, in which Obama will travel to economically hard-hit parts of the country to learn firsthand about the effects.
Obama, as I suggested yesterday, appears to be edging away from Wall Street-friendly Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and chief economic advisor Larry Summers, Bill Clinton’s former treasury secretary (and a key architect of Clinton era financial deregulations), toward former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker for his economic counsel.
Meanwhile, the future of national health care reform efforts remains murky in the wake of the loss of the late Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, which deprived Democrats of their 60-vote filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Both houses of Congress have passed version of a national health care bill, with significant differences that were being painstakingly worked out.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi says now that the House does not have the votes to pass the Senate bill as is and then rely on changes in the Senate passed through the majority vote budget reconciliation process. Which is the course that labor leaders have urged.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Bob Gates is in South Asia. Speaking today in Islamabad, he said that the Obama Administration agrees with Afghan Presiden Hamid Karzai’s plan to engage the Taliban and bring them into the process. Gates described the Taliban as “part of the fabric” of Afghanistan.
And Vice President Joe Biden will soon be in Iraq to try to mediate an emerging dispute over upcoming parliamentary elections there on March 7th. The government, in the name of “de-Baathification,” i.e., shunning former members of the late Saddam Hussein’s political party, is trying to throw hundreds of Sunni Muslim candidates off the elections list. Which can lead to serious discord between Sunni and Shia.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in California today following his two-day trip to Washington.
Schwarzenegger flew to Washington on Tuesday night to press his case for more federal assistance for California. The chronic state budget crisis became chaotic with the advent of the global near financial meltdown and a consequent sharp decline in revenues, especially from its top-heavy tax structure.
In his absence, and I neglected to mention this, Jerry Brown was the acting governor. Brown, as you know, served two terms as governor of California in the ’70s and ’80s. Now he is California’s attorney general, with a 46-36 lead over ex-eBay CEO Mege Whitman, the Republican frontrunner, in the new Field Poll. In last month’s PPIC poll, Brown held a 43-37 lead. As I reported at the time, private polling then had Brown with a 10-point lead. Brown was acting governor in the absence of a confirmed lieutenant governor, with the state’s legislative leaders out of the state with Schwarzenegger.
Brown, naturally, did not make any appointments or issue or revise any executive orders in Schwarzenegger’s absence. He did declare a state of emergency from the current severe storms in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, and Siskiyou counties.
In any event, Schwarzenegger is now back in the state.
At 11:15 AM, Schwarzenegger will be in Los Angeles at the L.A. County Emergency Office, where he will receive a briefing on the emergency situation surrounding the storms and hold a press availability on the recovery efforts.
** 24 NATION. Well, 24 has returned, with a vengeance. The controversial hit TV series, one of the key shows of the past decade, is proving relevant in this decade, too. As recent polling clearly shows, it turns out that its hardball ethos on terrorism resonates just as well in the Obama Era as it did in the Bush/Cheney years. … From my January 19th column.
** THE LAST CLINTON MELODRAMA? (AND OTHER SENSATIONALIST GAME CHANGE GOSSIP) Is this the last Clinton melodrama? There is a certain air of finality to it. Not because nothing more can happen, but because the most likely melodramas of the future (and most recent past) are laid out and have received far less pushback than they would have before. … From my January 14th column.
** OBAMA’S SECURITY PROBLEMS: THE MEDIA, CHENEY AND, OH YES, THE ISSUE. President Barack Obama does have a big problem on security. Well, more accurately, he has big problems. But not all the problems that are trumpeted are real, for the trumpeting itself is a big part of the problem. … From my January 12th column.
** DOCTOR WHO: THE LONG GOODBYE. … From my January 6th essay.
** THE BAND OF THE DECADE: THE BEATLES?! What does it say that the biggest musical group of the first decade of this new millennium recorded its last album 40 years ago? … From my January 1st essay.
** DOCTOR WHO: THE ENDING IMPENDING. … From my December 28th essay.
** THE COMMON THREADS OF AVATAR. Is Avatar the future of cinema? Probably. … From my December 22nd essay.
** COPENHAGEN BLUES: OBAMA’S WEAK HAND ON CLIMATE, AND THE CALIFORNIA OPTION. … From my December 16th column.
** OBAMA’S LINCOLNESQUE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. … From my December 11th column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
George Clooney gives a preview of the Hope for Haiti benefit telethon he’s producing to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The show airs on the broadcast networks and many other channels tonight.
** HELP FOR HAITI.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $75 per barrel.
This is up about $41 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum. You can send me a private tip by clicking on the “Contact” button in the upper right.