Saturday, February 14, 2009

Your Economic Stimulus

It’s Saturday, February 14, 2009. Here is what we’re looking at:

The economic stimulus bill passed the Senate last night 60-38. The vote lasted several hours in order for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to fly back to Washington from his mother’s wake and cast the critical 60th vote.

President Barack Obama gives his weekly address and speaks about the stimulus package.

Politico interviews several economists on the outlook of the stimulus plan - despite GOP reservations this week, the experts expect it to be generally stimulating.

What exactly can you all find in the stimulus bill? The AP breaks it down.

Finally, a sign of the times: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s childhood home has been sold after foreclosure.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The New and Emboldened GOP

In its second time through the US House of Representatives, the economic stimulus bill - once again - passed without a single Republican vote.

Just a day before the GOP tried to embarrass President Obama in terms of bipartisanship on the stimulus package, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) - Obama’s pick for Secretary of Commerce - withdrew his nomination on the grounds of policy differences on the stimulus bill and conducting the 2010 Census.

In these new political stunts the Republican Party appears to be an emboldened force again on Capitol Hill. As Charles Mahtesian at Politico writes:

“the New Hampshire senator's surprise decision to remove himself from consideration as President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary Thursday has provided the GOP with a new rallying cry, and a new hero against a foe who just a few weeks ago seemed almost unassailable.

In a way, it’s all a testament to just how far the Republican Party have fallen; what passes for victory now is an embarrassing flip-flop by an admired GOP senator and the passage of a massive economic recovery bill that most Republicans on the Hill oppose bitterly.”

Does an emboldened GOP mean danger for Democrats?

Despite this unity against the new President, the Congressional Republicans are taking some serious risks pertaining to how they will be viewed by the public. Not only will the withdrawal make Gregg and the GOP look undesirable in New Hampshire in 2010, but the opposition to the stimulus plan banks on the hope that the plan fails.

As a recent Gallup poll shows, nearly 60% of Americans currently support the stimulus plan. Even 28% of Republicans support the stimulus, which is only striking because exactly 0% of House Republicans do. More importantly, 56% of independents support the stimulus - enough that Republicans should be concerned about appearing too far to the right.

So the GOP is not showing this stubbornness out of popular opinion - they are specifically going “all-in” at the poker table, waiting for the final card to be flipped. And because the ideas of contracyclical economics are pretty solid, the odds are stacked against them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will Redistricting Make Virginia More Competitive?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Virginia.

Last month, Virginia State Senator R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) introduced a bill to require a bipartisan commission to redraw the state’s districts after the 2010 US Census. The goal was to make redistricting “less political”, reduce gerrymandering, and make elections more competitive for incumbents.

Earlier this month, the State Senate approved the bill unanimously. Democratic Governor Tim Kaine likes the bill. Yet it had already been shot down by the House of Delegates in a 4 to 2 decision within a Privileges and Elections subcommittee.

In fact, this is the seventh time Deeds has introduced the bill and the third time it has passed in the State Senate, but it has never been approved by the House of Delegates subcommittee.

Why won’t the lower House approve?

Backdrop: With their second Democratic governor in a row, two Democratic US Senators, a Democratic Congressional Delegation, a new Democratically-controlled State Senate, and their electoral votes for President Obama, the Commonwealth is quickly turning blue. The last bastion of GOP power is in the House of Delegates.

To make incumbents vulnerable with redistricting would put the Republicans at serious risk of losing control - or at least edging their control - of the House of Delegates where they currently hold an eight-delegate lead.

To make matters worse for them, seven Republican delegates have announced they are retiring or running for higher office. The blog Virginia Political Wire also expects as many as seven more Republicans to retire from the lower House. The Virginia GOP will not want to lose seats due to retiring incumbents north of Richmond.

In fact, this is not at all surprising. It is very typical for redistricting to protect incumbents when two state Houses are controlled by different parties. It is only when one party controls both Houses that redistricting makes elections competitive - and in such a way as to favor the party with power.

In Virginia, redistricting will favor incumbents of both parties - so long as the GOP can hold on to the House of Delegates after the 2009 elections. Other than that, races in the Commonwealth may become more competitive as the Democratic surge continues, but it will not be because of redistricting.

To see a great map of the House of Delegates districts - according to party - please visit

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WAYLA Launches on Facebook!

“What Are You Looking At?” has joined the social networking world of Facebook with a new page!

Visit our page and become a fan today!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Does Louisiana See Jindal?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Louisiana.

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) has gained considerable attention in his state’s blogosphere lately concerning trips he has made across the country. The trips are often for fundraisers on behalf of other Republican politicians and conservative organizations.

Yet many are aware of his potential - and his ambitions - to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012.

From a recent editorial in the Daily Advertiser:

Jindal, who has been identified as "the rising star" in U.S. politics, seems to be rising higher as he travels around the country speaking at Republican gatherings. While the exposure will benefit him in whatever political path he takes, it will surely keep alive rumors of a run for the presidency.

He has also developed a mantra about the GOP: Republicans need to stop worrying about themselves and start worrying about the country by working with Democrats. He even went so far as to call the GOP the “party of corruption, big spending and earmarks”. Nonetheless, he has been strong to his ideology.

This all being said, the people of Louisiana have not been too enthusiastic about their governor starting a campaign for an election four years away.

Columnist John Maginnis writes:

Most people don't mind that we have a governor who is going places. But in these uncertain times, more are asking where, or if, he is leading us.

Fear is running through state government and universities among employees who don't know if they will have jobs when projected budget cuts are made. Hospital administrators and college presidents have been directed to prepare worst-to-best-case scenarios, though none of them are good…

…Jindal knows how to delegate and he needn't be holding his administrators' hands with every controversy. Yet there are moments when they should know that he has their back, because he says so publicly, even if some other people don't like it.

It doesn't matter how many weekends he spends out of state, or even that he's back at his desk first thing Monday morning. When it comes to leadership, it's not his perfect attendance that we need, but, rather, his presence.

Stephanie Grace, another columnist, writes “in political circles around here, ‘Where's Bobby’ is becoming a punchline.”

Some news services have introduced polls about the subject. Fifty-five percent of respondents to a Business Report survey say Gov. Bobby Jindal is spending too much time out of state at fundraising events. A similar poll at showed over 73% feel he is gone too frequently.

While these internet polls are completely unscientific, it should be embarrassing to Jindal that these news services are asking the question at all.

We have reiterated the words of Tip O’Neill before: “all politics is local”. How many Americans do you think notice Jindal’s trips? Probably not too many. But one group of Americans certainly does - residents of Louisiana.

Many politicians unpopular in their own state find it difficult to win on the national level - just ask John Edwards. While Bobby Jindal may have ambitions to reach the peak of American government, he will find himself suffering backlash from his own constituency if he is not careful - and that would be the surest way to lose the prospect of Presidency.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Can You Find Your Congressperson?" - The Winner

Thank you to everyone who participated in “Can You Find Your Congressperson”, our first contest at What Are You Looking At?

Here are some of your entries.

The first is from a source who wishes to remain anonymous:

Caption: Congressman Steve Kagen (D-WI-08) thinking “I hope nobody thinks this is my wife sleeping on my shoulder but I surely don’t mind her using her fur to keep me warm.”

Randy Koehn used the same picture and said “Kagen Keen for Cameras”

Peter Griffith examined what Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) was thinking to himself:

Garrett FitzGerald - who lives in the 5th Congressional District in Illinois - currently is without a Congressman since Rahm Emanuel vacated it to be Obama’s Chief of Staff. But he did find this interesting glitch in the photo:

Caption: “I hope no one notices that the top of my head is gone!”

Finally, the winning picture and caption was from Henry Ventimilla:

Caption: Congressman Elija E. Cummings (D-MD-07) hoping that the representative in front of him would “clap, cheer, or something, instead of dancing (or at least what he thinks is dancing)”

For his victory, Henry will receive Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin, a critically acclaimed book on the Lincoln Administration.

Thank you again for all of your entries! Be sure to stay tuned to WAYLA for more contests in the future and - as always - in-depth news and analysis of campaign politics and the political community.