Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama All Over the Friday News

It’s Friday, March 27, 2009. Here’s what we’re looking at:

President Barack Obama will appear on the CBS Sunday morning talk show, “Face the Nation”. His Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, and former opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), will appear on the NBC equivalent, “Meet the Press”.

The President has taken an interest in the New York Congressional race to replace now-Senator Kristin Gillibrand. The DNC has released the following ad.

Obama’s virtual town hall meeting opened up a lot of questions on the same topic - marijuana. Politico has the story.

And most importantly, the President will redirect troops to Afghanistan. The strategy is said to require more than 4,000 additional troops in the volatile country.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

California Budget Left to Voters

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from California.

The people of the Golden State will go to the polls for a special election in May to decide a number of important ballot measures.

With projected budget shortfalls - which California is not unfamiliar with already - the State Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have reached a deal to make cuts and raise taxes to correct the budget problems in the midst of a slow economy. Five important pieces of the budget corrections will have to be approved by the voters.

According to a new poll, none of these proposals have a very positive outlook.

Proposition 1A
This measure would cap state spending while extending billions in temporary tax hikes for two years. It has drawn considerable attention from conservative talk radio and even the unions are considering a campaign against the proposition. If the election were today it would fail to pass by a 46%-39% margin.

Proposition 1B
This measure would make up for education cuts in 2009 by increasing funding for education in the future. The powerful teachers’ union supports the proposition - a major reason why it is included in the proposals. Voters are split with 44% supporting and 41% opposed.

Proposition 1C
By far the least popular measure, it would let the state borrow $5 billion against future lottery revenues - the most important part of the budget solution. If it were on the ballot today it would be defeated by a 50%-37% margin.

Propositions 1D and 1E
These are twin measures to loosen restrictions on money that Californians have dedicated solely to children's health and mental health programs under previous initiatives. While they fall short of the necessary 50% threshold at this point, they are both slimly more backed than opposed.

With such lukewarm support to some measures, and outright opposition to others, state leaders are eager to campaign for the proposals.

The dynamics of the special election are volatile, and public opinion could swing dramatically once campaign advertising begins. The poll found more than 10% of likely voters are undecided on most of the ballot measures. Also, voter turnout is likely to be low, and it is unclear what mix of Californians will wind up casting ballots in the oddly timed election.

…Schwarzenegger and Democrats who lead the Legislature have joined forces to raise money for mail and television ads promoting the ballot measures. The Republican governor, state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) also have pushed the measures in joint meetings with opinion writers at major newspapers in the state.

On Wednesday, Schwarzenegger said failure to pass the measures would be "disastrous" for California.

But many of these politicians are feeling the pressure of a lack of public approval. The California GOP has decided to cut campaign funds from the six Republicans that voted for the budget compromise and three of those Republicans are facing recall threats from angry conservative activists.

And Schwarzenegger and the State Legislature are facing their own unhappiness from constituents.

…the poll raises new doubts about Schwarzenegger's effectiveness as a messenger in the campaign. His popularity matches the record low he set in December 2005, with 33% of likely voters approving of his job performance and 57% disapproving. For the first time, even a majority of Republicans questioned by the Public Policy Institute pollsters give Schwarzenegger negative job ratings.

The Legislature, too, is at a record low, with an 11% job approval rating and 80% disapproval.

If the measures fail to pass the State Legislature and governor will have to rethink their approach to fiscal discipline during the recession.

Tony Quinn, a nonpartisan election analyst who specializes in California politics, said voters seem to be so turned off by Sacramento's dysfunction that they have not focused on the gravity of the budget measures on the May ballot.

If voters reject them, he said, lawmakers will "finally have to do some things that the public notices."

"What about early release of low-risk prisoners? That might not be very popular, but they may be forced to," he said. "What about reducing Highway Patrol hours? Or not having as many cops on the beat?"

For these reasons, state leaders will want to get the budget figured out sooner than later - specifically with these proposals. Their campaigns for these measures must succeed for their own sakes. Otherwise they might face even greater political pressure.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bloomberg Continues to Top the Polls

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from New York City.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to be viewed favorably by his constituents. Some results in the polls are rather striking.

For example, 55% of residents said they would describe Bloomberg as "cold and businesslike" while only 30% said he was "warm and friendly". Yet 62% still approve of the job he’s doing.

Bloomberg, it seems, would agree that he doesn’t need to be "warm and friendly" to be a good mayor.

"These are very serious times," he said. "I don't find anything warm and fuzzy about the potential of people losing their jobs or losing their homes.

"I don't find anything warm and fuzzy about city government having to reduce expenses and find alternative revenue sources. That's the job, and that's what I'm going to do."

Despite a four-point drop in his approval rating - due to budget cuts and tax hikes that came with the poor economy - pollsters say Bloomberg doesn’t need to sweat. According to Maurice Carroll, who directed the poll, "his job approval has gone from astronomical to merely stratospheric…He's within the atmosphere [now]."

And to make matters worse for his 2009 competitors, his name recognition is difficult to beat. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) - who said he may drop his candidacy due to the economic work that needs to be done in Washington - has only 44% name recognition.

City Comptroller Bill Thompson is looking to the black community to be a major factor of his overall support. But the poll found only 44% of African Americans could identify the official.

And Bloomberg continues to beat them in hypothetical head-to-head races. If Thompson was to win the Democratic Primary and face Bloomberg today, the incumbent would win 49%-35%. If Weiner was to face Bloomberg today, Bloomberg would win 46%-36%.

Of course, Bloomberg will not be facing anyone until November, which gives all candidates time to wage the tough campaign.

"Bloomberg is so far ahead - he won't be that far in November - but what difference does it make?" Carroll said.

He predicted voters will peel off as the budget cuts start to affect communities and as the campaign heats up and he cautioned that Bloomberg's image as "cold and businesslike" could hurt him.

"People like to like the people they vote for," he said.

But polls from 2004 also showed New York City residents to view Bloomberg as cold and in 2005 he was re-elected by a landslide. And with him this far ahead already, will his challengers really be able to climb back?

Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is the Stimulus More Popular Than Republicans Anticipated?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from South Carolina.

In recent weeks Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) has been earning national attention for his opposition to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

He has twice requested that this cornerstone legislation of President Obama’s economic plan be used to pay down South Carolina’s debt rather than job creation and public works. The White House told him he must spend the money as the law stipulates.

And while Sanford is becoming better known among Americans, he has not been doing so well among his constituents.

From The State:

Many speculate Sanford is planning to run for president in 2012 and is opposing the stimulus plan to win praise from Republican hardliners.

That infuriates some South Carolinians who think they are left to deal with the impact of Sanford’s decisions while he draws praise nationally.

"He’s stirred up strong feelings amongst his constituents, and failed to adequately address those feelings, which is one of the biggest mistakes in crisis communications," said Jonathan Bernstein, who owns a California-based crisis communications firm. "So people will, no doubt, reach their own conclusions as to the governor’s motives."

With a 10.4% unemployment rate in South Carolina - the second highest in the nation - many South Carolinians are desperate for job creation. Unsurprisingly, Sanford’s approach to the recession has made him slip in the polls.

A new poll commissioned by South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus finds that residents disagree with Sanford’s stance on the stimulus by a 53%-37% margin. Even worse for Sanford, President Obama is seen considerably more favorable than the governor.

Although a poll taken on behalf of a partisan institution is not completely reliable, individual stories of discontent from residents should draw concern.

Out-of-work electrician Everette Walker needed no prompting to express his feelings about Gov. Mark Sanford’s leadership.

"The man is selfish," said Walker, 62. "Here’s a man with a $3.5 million home who doesn’t care if the rest of South Carolina can afford a loaf of bread. It sets me on fire."

…Donna Maddox of Lexington considers herself a Republican but is concerned about Sanford’s rejection of stimulus money that could extend benefits for the unemployed and create jobs.

"My light bill is due next week, and I have no way to pay it. My house payment is due the first of April, and I can’t pay," said Maddox, whose husband was laid off in January from his longtime job.

A homemaker with medical problems, Maddox spent Wednesday afternoon at Harvest Hope Food Bank, filling out paperwork and getting a grocery cart full of groceries.
Maddox thinks paying down debt is a good idea. But, she adds, "We’re not promised tomorrow."

"Whoever thought I’d be here today, getting food? We need help now."

This is yet another case of local Republican politicians using the stimulus bill as a basis for opposing the Democrats and advancing their careers. But it is a major gamble to bet against the stimulus succeeding.

If the stimulus works nationally, but South Carolina is left behind due to Gov. Stanford’s ambitions, he should know he will be doomed politically - whether he is running for President or not.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Olympic Games Must Overcome Local Politics

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Chicago.

According to, Chicago has moved into last place in likeliness to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The speculated frontrunners are Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro with Madrid and Chicago a little further behind.

But despite the weary outlook for Mayor Daley’s hopes to host the world’s most important sporting events, the public enthusiasm for the games does not have a very positive outlook either.

Several political groups in the city are taking a strong stand against the Olympics, going so far as to plan protests for an International Olympic Committee visit to the candidate city. The money to be spent on the games, some argue, could be better used for public needs. Others cite the potential harm the games would do to the local environment and architectural integrity.

From today’s Chicago Tribune:

"If [Daley] wants to air his dirty laundry to the world, that is entirely up to him," Denise Dixon, a member of a group pressing for contracts and housing for poor people and minorities, said at a City Hall news conference last week. "He doesn't want to see demonstrations in the street when they get here. He better come up with something."

…Asked about possible protests, Daley said…"First of all, we don't even have it. ... This is not a sure thing. Maybe people think it is, but you do not have it"

…Daley has said no city money would be used for the Games, despite a $500 million guarantee from the city against any operating deficit and a pledge that property-tax money would be used to help build the $1 billion athletes' village on the site of Michael Reese Hospital.

Daley also argued that support for the Olympics is strong in Chicago, with 77% of residents saying they backed the bid in an October survey.

But according to a poll conducted by the Tribune last month, while 64% of residents approved of Daley’s push for the Olympics, 75% were against the use of taxpayer funds to cover any private financial shortfalls, and 54% believed that private funding would not be able to fully cover the costs.

Ultimately, with these public perceptions, it should not be a surprise if support for the Olympics in Chicago continues to fall.

And while the IOC is used to protests on their visits, public support is a major factor for a bid. In order to get the games, Daley and Chicago 2016 need to better boost public approval.