Friday, January 30, 2009

What’s the Story with Rush?

It’s Friday, January 30, 2008, and a very busy day. Here’s what we’re looking at:

Rush Limbaugh somehow convinced every House Republican to vote against Obama’s stimulus bill. One blogger writes “Is Rush Limbaugh the de facto leader of the GOP?” With the bill facing the Senate now, Americans United for Change are asking constituents of Republican Senators “Is (senator) with Obama or Rush?”

With a Special Election coming up fast, one candidate to replace Rahm gets a little...can we say fishy?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lays down some ideas for a reemergence of the GOP. He is particularly concerned with the Republicans becoming a regional party based solely in the South.

Governor Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office with a unanimous vote by the Illinois State Senate. Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn has already signed the oath of office.

SCHIP expansion has passed in the Senate. It wasn’t the first bill Obama signed but it could be in the first five.

Finally, President Obama tells reporters who he will be supporting in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Need something to do this weekend before the Super Bowl? Why not play in the “Can You Find Your Congressperson?” Contest!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Introducing the "Can You Find Your Congressperson?" Contest!

For a little fun, we thought we would give you an opportunity to show off your political humor by introducing a contest to find your House Representative from the giant Inauguration photo and add an “insightful” (i.e. amusing) caption.

The winner - who we will choose at our discretion - will win a copy of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin. The book has drawn a lot of attention because President Barack Obama (it is thought) has modeled his administration around similar principles of the Lincoln Administration.

The winner will be announced on the blog in a post on Monday, February 9th. We will also be sure to post as many entries as we can.

Here’s how to play:

First click on the “Terrific Inauguration Photo” link under the “This is what we’re looking at” column to your right.

Scan through the Inauguration photo until you find your Representative. If your Congressperson wasn't present pick your favorite Representative instead. To give you an idea of what to do next, follow the example below (we will use Associate Justice Antonin Scalia as our model).

Step 1: Find your target.

Step 2: Perform a “Print Screen” function by pressing the appropriate key on your keypad.

Step 3: Paste the image into Microsoft Paint, Apple Paint, or another appropriate program.

Step 4: Crop your zoomed-in image of your Congressperson and copy (ctrl C) and paste (ctrl V) the new image into a new file. After redrawing the boundaries, save the file and you have your picture!

Step 5: Come up with a clever or otherwise humorous caption. (For this picture we would say something like: “Justice Antonin Scalia and his clothing from the late 1400s”)

Then email your picture and caption to Don't forget to identify the Congressperson by name, district, and party!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Does Bloomberg Plan to Win?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from New York City.

The mayoral race in the Big Apple is heating up. Incumbent Michael Bloomberg has hired several Democratic consultants and strategists for his re-election bid this year.

Not only will this help his campaign terms of strategy and effectiveness, but it is also taking these consultants off the market for his two challengers - Rep. Anthony Weiner and City Comptroller Bill Thompson.

Political professionals he has hired so far include:

Bradley Tusk: Now installed as the mayor's campaign manager, he worked as a spokesman for Chuck Schumer and then became a top aide to the mayor during the first Bloomberg term.

Howard Wolfson: Another distinguished Schumer alumnus, his Democratic credentials are impeccable: Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, New York's Democratic Party.

Josh Isay: He's yet another Schumer guy, and a founding partner of Knickerbocker SKD and partner at Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, which did print, radio and television ads for Bloomberg's 2005 mayoral campaign.

Basil Smikle: Just a few months ago, this former Hillary Clinton aide was working for Mr. Weiner. Now, the AP reports, he's signed on with the incumbent.

Hank Sheinkopf: The colorful and unflinching operative who was the general consultant on Bill Thompson's 2001 citywide campaign for comptroller is not signing on for Mr. Thompson's 2009 mayoral campaign. Now he's on the mayor's campaign payroll.

Doug Schoen: A founding partner in the firm that helped define its most famous client, Bill Clinton, Mr. Schoen has worked on both of Mr. Bloomberg's previous campaigns.

Ken Strasma: A number cruncher who worked on Barack Obama's presidential campaign, he will focus on analyzing poll numbers and targeting a message to a niche audience.

Maura Keaney: A top aide to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, she did field operations for the mayor's reelection campaign in 2005 and is returning this year in a similar role. Ms. Keaney is married to Democratic consultant Mark Guma, who worked on the mayoral campaign of Alan Hevesi in 2001.

Patrick Brennan: He's a former staffer in the Community Assistance Unit who traveled to various states to lay the groundwork for Mr. Bloomberg's much-discussed hypothetical presidential race. He left City Hall to work at the Parkside Group.

Larry Scott Blackmon: He just left his job as chief of staff and deputy commissioner for intergovernmental affairs at the city's Small Business Services Department to lead the campaign's outreach to black voters.

Neil Giacobbi: A former chief of staff to Democratic City Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn and aide to Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, Mr. Giacobbi, 35, helped organize the Republican National Convention in 2004.

Micah Lasher: He's not yet 30, but Mr. Lasher is among the most capable political operators in the city. He worked for Mark Green's mayoral campaign in 2001 and worked until 2007 with Mr. Isay at Knickerbocker. He just left his most recent job, as an aide to Representative Jerry Nadler, to work for the city's Department of Education. Which would seem to rule out a role on any Democratic mayoral campaign against his new boss.

Mayor Bloomberg has one advantage over the other candidates in buying up consultants and operatives: a virtually unlimited amount of cash. The billionaire mayor spent tens of millions of dollars on his last campaign, and is expected to spend plenty again this time around.

"He could just about put every consultant in the country on retainer," said consultant Jerry Skurnik.

But there is more. Ever since Bloomberg pushed for abolishing term limits last year - and signing a City Council bill to do so in November - he has been allowed to enjoy the power of incumbency. A new Quinnipiac poll shows the mayor has a 15% advantage over both of his opponents.

"Term limits? We love them and we want them back - after we re-elect Bloomberg," is how Quinnipiac pollster Mickey Carroll interpreted the numbers.

In fact, challengers city-wide (especially in the Bronx and Brooklyn) have been trying to use the term-limit issue to attack their opponents who would otherwise be leaving office. Because they did not expect to be challengers, many of these candidates are having unforeseen difficulty with their campaigns due to the changed layout of the city elections scene. But so far this argument is not working.

Weiner and Thompson are no different.

So Bloomberg is planning to win on two fronts: riding on his popularity (which overcomes concerns about term-limits) and buying up as many political consultants and operatives as he can - not just to assemble a crack team for his re-election, but to keep them from working for the opposition.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Rush to Replace Rahm

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Chicago.

The first and foremost news of interest in the state of Illinois this week is the Senate impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Despite his recent media blitz, it is unlikely he will fare well in the Illinois State Senate.

However, with spring elections coming up, many in the Chicago area are paying close attention to the race for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's replacement in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A humorous story that has developed recently is about a forum for the several candidates vying to replace the hyper-political Chicago statesman. The Democratic Party for the 43rd Ward in Chicago set the forum date for February 1st in order to allow the candidates the time they need under such a short campaign timeline.

The only problem is that February 1st is Super Bowl Sunday.

"As 43rd Ward committeeman Michele Smith explains, they didn't really have much choice. The special election's been on an expedited schedule … [Emanuel] officially stepped down to become President Obama's chief of staff earlier this month. The deadline for filing nominating petitions was January 19. The election is March 3. From start to finish the whole thing's over in a blink.

"'I realize there are better days to have a forum,' says Smith. 'But there really weren't a lot of days to choose from.'"

Of course, the forum is scheduled to end by 3:00 PM, giving attendees plenty of time to get home before kickoff (5:20 PM CST). Yet the Super Bowl has become more than the game in recent years - it has become a holiday for many, and the forum date is unfortunate.

Smith acknowledges she is not a big sports fan. As quoted by the Chicago Reader, she said "I don't know who's in the Super Bowl this year - New England, are they in it?"

However, this demonstrates the difficulty of spring races. Candidates are expected to work under a much quicker timeline to secure the votes they need - and typically in an environment in which very few voters are as engaged in politics. Even for a federal seat.

That being said, the only thing that WE'LL be looking at on February 1st is the television screen…though perhaps we'll glance at the nachos we're simultaneously eating.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tracking the Races this Spring

In the beginning of the year we promised we would bring you coverage of local issues and campaigns from across the country as the nation gears up for local elections.

Some places we will be following will be Milwaukee, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Virginia, Louisiana, and South Carolina. We will dive into the campaigns for races pertaining to the courts, school boards, city councils, etc.

For those of you concerned about national coverage, we will continue to devote a day per week (usually Friday) to covering a topic of national concern - such as an important strategic move in Congress, by the new President, or the national parties.

As Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local." It is with this important concept in mind that we bring you the true ground game of American politics.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Plenty of Somber Sunday News

It’s Sunday, January 25 - Here is what we’re looking at:

After an executive order was signed this week to close the prisons at Guantanamo Bay, national security officials have discovered that the case files for detainees are in disarray -at least the ones that exist at all.

In what are perhaps futile attempts to save his image, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) is appearing on several television morning talk shows. This morning on the Today Show, he compared himself to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

President Obama’s chief economic advisor Larry Summers and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) make their cases for and against the stimulus package (respectively) on Meet the Press.