Friday, October 2, 2009

Tell Us Your Favorite WAYLA Posts...

Monday will mark the first anniversary of "What Are You Looking At?" and we want you to help us celebrate!

Look through our blog's archives and find some of your favorite posts from the past year. Send us the links at and we'll put them up in a special post on Monday!

Thanks for reading, we look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Editorial: Why I’d Put My Money on “TPaw”

Summary: Dave at WAYLA explains why he thinks Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) will be the man to face President Obama in 2012.

If you ask the average American if they think Tim Pawlenty will run for president in 2012, chances are they’ll ask you “who’s Tim Pawlenty?” So my guess is most Americans wouldn’t think he could be the Republican nominee in three years. How’s he going to win if no one’s ever heard of him?

Ask any political junkie or insider, however, if they think Pawlenty plans on running and they’ll probably answer “uh, he already is.”

That’s why I was surprised when only a handful of the people surveyed for our “Who Are You Looking at for 2012” poll - which was composed of mostly political junkies and insiders - said they expect Pawlenty to win the GOP nomination.

So why do I think he’ll pull off the nomination?

Simply put, he’s doing everything right. From his 2010 efforts and the team he’s assembling to the media presence he’s been getting and the speeches he’s been able to deliver, Pawlenty is on-track for the 2012 GOP nomination with a winning strategy.

Focusing on 2010

He recently launched his new political action committee - Freedom First PAC - which will give money to Republican candidates for 2010, and he was all too happy to take up the Vice Chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association when Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) moved up to replace Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) following the revelations of his extramarital affair.

He says he focused on getting a few wins with those two ventures in 2010 since he’s not running for re-election in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Is it a selfless act of dedication to his party? Not when you consider the donor lists and activist networks he’s going to get out of it for a 2012 run.

The Team He’s Assembling

Pawlenty is also quietly piecing together a team of strategists that will do wonders for him in the Republican primaries.

From an article in Politico:

[Pawlenty] will announce Thursday the support of a group of high-level political strategists and donors, complemented by a handful of top new media consultants, POLITICO has learned.

Pawlenty, under the radar of D.C.’s political community, has locked up some of the key operatives who engineered then-President George W. Bush reelection campaign — a significant feat for a little-known Midwestern politician.

…Pawlenty, who previously has had little political infrastructure, is now being advised by a trio of GOP consultants with presidential experience: Terry Nelson, Sara Taylor and Phil Musser.

And in formally opening his political action committee, Freedom First, Thursday, Pawlenty will also announce two co-chairmen, William Strong, a Morgan Stanley vice chairman, and former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), both of whom are heavyweight GOP figures, along with a list of prominent Minnesota donors.

In addition to a high-dollar gala launch for the PAC in Minneapolis in November, Pawlenty is planning a Washington fundraiser for late October designed to acquaint the governor with the Beltway’s most influential Republicans. Helping to coordinate the governor’s GOP outreach in the nation’s capital is Sam Geduldig, a well-connected lobbyist and former senior aide to Reps.

Serving as the PAC’s counsel is Michael Toner, a veteran campaign lawyer in Washington. Alex Conant, a native Minnesotan and former Republican National Committee spokesman, will serve as communications director.

The governor has also inked political technology consultants Patrick Ruffini, Mindy Finn, Patrick Hynes and Liz Mair to develop what Pawlenty advisers hope will be the most sophisticated new-media presence of any Republican in the nation.

Sure, the average American might not know who Tim Pawlenty is yet, but that’s exactly why he’s putting a team like this together to raise money and create a greater national presence. He’s making sure that Republicans all across America know who he is come the Iowa Caucus in 2012.

And they’re not kidding about that New Media presence strategy. Just take a look at the slick new Freedom First PAC’s website (the domain of which is - “coincidently” - and you’ll see all sorts of New Media tools available for supporters. It even identifies him as “TPaw”, the shorthand name given to him by the blogosphere! They also ask supporters to “RT #tpaw” on Twitter.

But it doesn’t stop there. He’s also - evidently - calling Mitt Romney operatives who are mid-level on the former candidate’s hierarchy, seeing if they’ll come over to his side should the two face up in 2012 (which they probably will) and Romney hangs on to his top-level workers.

Bulking Up the Media Presence

TPaw knows that being well known in the political community is not enough. That’s why he’s getting more stories about him in the blogosphere (and, yes, he’s doing it rather successfully) and appearing more often on cable news.

Just search “Pawlenty” on YouTube and you’ll find a good number of videos of him on cable news - especially Fox News, the network of the conservative base he needs to appeal to - such as this one:

Speaking Across the Country

A well-known tactic for building a national base of support going into an election year is doing the “speaking tour” - speaking at as many conservative or Republican events as possible (if you’re seeking the GOP nomination, of course) to build up a network of smaller donors and volunteers.

Before the recent Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit, for example, he held a conference call with a team of advisers, including pollster Tony Fabrizio and longtime conservative strategist Greg Mueller, to help shape his speech and general approach at an event where he got rave reviews and finished a surprising third in the straw poll.

So far, Pawlenty appears to be outdoing the other Republicans on the tour, making something along the lines of 50 to 100 speeches throughout the country this year.

Sarah Palin, the darling of the GOP base - conversely - is having trouble getting booked for such speeches according to a recent article in the New York Post. Romney - the other prominent Republican name being thrown out there for 2012 - has actually been a victim of how TPaw “has used public appearances and op-eds to criticize the health care plan Romney put in place in Massachusetts.”

Speaking of his Opponents…

Pawlenty’s primary opponents will have their own difficulties. Romney’s record in Massachusetts will continue to hurt his image with the conservative base - especially on the issue of healthcare. Palin, while still popular among the Republican hard-liners, is nonetheless becoming viewed as “unelectable” within her own party.

Others are facing their own problems. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) for example seems to have lost a bit of popularity at home this year because of his presidential ambitions, something we said was sure to hurt him if he ran nationally. As a relatively moderate politician (and yes, he’s simply playing to the base right now) Pawlenty is still fairly popular in Minnesota (albeit, Minnesotans apparently aren’t crazy about his national ambitions either).

Other possible candidates mentioned in our June survey included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), former HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson (R-WI), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and even Gen. David Patraeus. But none of these potential candidates have shown much indication that they’re running.

Now, of course, I may be wrong. Politics is a difficult spectator sport because you simply never know what’s coming next. But barring anything unexpected (like Pawlenty having an affair or killing someone) at this point I just can’t imagine anyone else securing that nomination.

Politico reports that there is an emerging belief among many established Republicans that TPaw is becoming the only viable option left for the GOP’s 2012 White House prospects. Not only do I agree with that sentiment (if I take the Republican perspective) but I think he’s becoming the candidate with the best chance of winning the Republican primaries and taking on President Obama in the first place.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will Obama Bring the Olympics to Chicago?

Summary: Nothing like a little competition to make things interesting - Obama joins other leaders in the race for the 2016 Olympics. Go Chicago!

It’s been months of competition and International Olympic Committee (IOC) evaluations since we last posted about Chicago’s chances of hosting the 2016 Olympics.

As we found back in March, the Windy City may be at risk of losing the games to one of four competitor cities (Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, or Madrid) if they could not pull in more community support.

Since then, things began to look even less positive for Chicago’s chances. Support for the games among Chicago residents dropped to just 47% - with 45% opposing - as recently as last month.

Then, just last week, it was announced that President Barack Obama would go to Copenhagen himself to lobby the IOC on behalf of Chicago’s bid. Perhaps it’s not a direct correlation, but since then, a Zogby International poll found that support for the 2016 bid is now at 72% among Chicago residents.

Meanwhile, the main opposition group to the Chicago bid - No Games Chicago - have had trouble organizing opponents of Chicago 2016. A protest they held yesterday only produced about 250 people in opposition to hosting the games in a city of about 3 million.

Nonetheless, the president’s decision came with some political backlash. Republican leaders - including RNC Chairman Michael Steele and House Minority Leader John Boehner - have criticized the Copenhagen trip as a distraction in the midst of the healthcare debate.

And when one really thinks about it, you have to wonder if it could actually hurt Chicago’s chances - it would seem to be a little precocious.

Not exactly.

This is exactly how former British Prime Minister Tony Blair secured the London 2012 games, and how former Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin secured the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Like Obama is doing now, they worked the phones and traveled across the globe to meet with IOC members before the vote.

In fact, leaders of the other three countries with a city in the race are making similar efforts. Spanish King Juan Carlos and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva have already landed in Denmark to promote the Madrid and Rio de Janeiro bids, respectively. The new Japanese Prime Minister - Yukio Hatoyama - will be arriving tomorrow on Tokyo’s behalf.

President Obama won’t be there until Friday - the day of the vote - but First Lady Michelle Obama is currently there meeting with IOC officials and American diplomats who have also been honed in to win Chicago’s favor.

And the race is close. From the AP:

IOC votes can be highly unpredictable. Aside from the paramount questions of whether bidding cities' Olympic plans are technically and financially feasible, emotion, sentiment, geography, politics, self-interest and other factors also play a role.

IOC vice president Chiharu Igaya said "many" IOC members are undecided and will choose only after the cities' final presentations Friday. "The four cities are now neck-to-neck," he told the AP.

"That final presentation, yes, it's going to be crucial," said Willi Kaltschmitt, an IOC member since 1988. He said he believes that half or more of his 105 colleagues remain undecided.

Added British IOC member Craig Reedie: "This is really close. The closer it gets the more people will say, let me think about it. We all want to see the presentations. It's what people see that will count. Decided? No, I haven't actually. I'm getting close."

Meanwhile, online betting - which now covers everything from sports to electoral politics to Emmy contests - appears to be swinging towards Chicago. According to the Betting Press, the odds that the Windy City will win its bid are now 10/11, with the next closest rival - Rio - at 6/4.

With just two days until the IOC makes their decision, the contest is still up in the air. That being said, it seems that Obama’s decision to fight for the Olympics in his hometown has made Chicago’s 2016 prospects all the more possible.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Can Harry Reid Survive 2010?

Summary: Harry Reid has had a rough time in the polls lately - but there are several reasons he can he still pull off a fifth term.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has made Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) a top target for the 2010 midterm elections.

Back in May, we posted this goofy ad the NRSC released attacking Reid for a fundraiser in Las Vegas:

We’ve seen this movie before. In 2004, the NRSC spent millions of dollars to defeat then-Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. The Democrats have a habit of selecting senators from moderate states to lead in the chamber. It can come back to bite them because they have to balance their constituents’ beliefs with the goals of the larger Democratic Party.

With a high disapproval rating (at 54%) of Reid among Nevadans, he seems like the logical next target for the GOP. So far, two Republicans appear to be challenging him, and both are leading him in the polls.

But are there signs of life for the Majority Leader’s campaign?

Most will agree that Reid is vulnerable going into next year, but few will say it’s a done deal. Reid has more than a few things going for him in this upcoming election.

First, just take a look at Nevada. While it is largely a moderate state, the aggregate Cook PVI is still D+7, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans about 44% to 36%. On top of that, Reid’s approval rating has been as high as 45% over the past month - it could be worse.

Then there’s the incumbency effect. The Reid campaign is already working on an outreach strategy that will “reintroduce” voters to their Democratic senator, touting his work on their behalf, including his move to block nuclear waste from being stored at Yucca Mountain.

Campaigning will be tough, but the successes Democrats have had in Nevada over the past four years will make things easier. Simply put, the Democrats have located important activists and donors who will come in handy come election time. In 2008 the Democrats had over 100,000 more volunteers than the GOP for GOTV efforts in the Silver State.

And let’s not forget the war chest. So far Reid has raised $11 million for next year, as just part of his $25 million goal. The shear amount of spending on this race is likely to be unprecedented in Nevadan politics, and Reid is certain to have the advantage.

Columnist Howard Steiner is currently writing a series of articles in which he pretends he is a Reid candidate, developing a message that would prop up a theoretical challenger to victory.

From his column:

The Republican challengers for Harry Reid's senate seat hopefully understand that they cannot count on Reid's lack of popularity in the polls to carry the election. Democrats no doubt will get out the vote and the Republican Party is still in a shambles.

And that’s exactly our point: Reid will not necessarily be a Daschle, and the GOP can’t expect him to lose without a fight.

Top Stories: 9/29/09

Politico reports that Michael Moore says Republicans are warming up to him.

David Brooks writes an excellent column about economic self-restraint.

Nate Silver takes off from his crusade against Strategic Vision to talk about the latest Gallup polls, pondering why Republicans are now following the news closer than Democrats.

The Huffington Post has pictures of the "Worst Political Tattoos of All Time."

And here are last night's political jokes:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Could 2010 Be the Year of the Independents?

Summary: Democrats aren’t expected to do as well in 2010 as in recent years. But could that actually help independent candidates?

Back in July, we asked “how bad will 2010 be for Democrats?” The answer we found was essentially a mixed review.

Basically, Democrats are in trouble on the state level across the country. Budget problems that came to each state with the recession have led most incumbent Democratic governors and lawmakers down a road of dangerous re-election prospects.

But on the federal level, things don’t look quite so bad. Despite their recent growth in popularity, the GOP still isn’t trusted by the majority of Americans on some of the nation’s most pressing issues. It’s been the conservative base that’s become more comfortable with their own party again, not swing voters.

In other words, a strict two-party system would probably lead to a successful year for Democrats on Capitol Hill, but probably not a successful 2010 in state governments.

Of course, the United States only has a loose two-party system in which independents and third party candidates are completely free to run for office.

So could that make a difference?

According to an article on Politico today, it could. Independent candidates are set to run serious campaigns for governor in at least six states that typically swing Democratic between 2009 and 2010.

In New Jersey, where Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine is seeking a second term in November, polls suggest an independent candidate is carving a sizable portion of voters out of his hide…voters will go to the polls to choose among Corzine, Republican Chris Christie, andindependent Chris Daggett, a moderate former Republican who once worked as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Tom Kean.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey released last week, Daggett is trailing in third place with 13 percent of the vote — well behind the two major party nominees but a significant portion for a non-major party candidate.

More important, the survey found that Daggett is capturing 15 percent of the Democratic vote, compared with just 7 percent of the GOP vote, in a race where the embattled Corzine can’t afford to lose much Democratic support.

“It’s Democrats who are disgusted with Corzine but who can’t quite bring themselves to vote for Christie,” noted Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling.

Daggett attributes his showing at least in part to frustration with both the Democratic and Republican parties.

“The level of distrust of both parties is very high,” Daggett told POLITICO. “You’ve got an opportunity for an independent candidate to run a different kind of campaign.”

The volatile political environment, some strategists say, is fertile ground for nontraditional candidacies.

“My guess is when there is a pox on all of your houses, people in some states are more willing to vote for an independent,” said one top Democratic strategist who is a veteran of governors’ races. “It’s a piss-poor environment, and a number of people are looking for someone new.”

Other states with strong independent campaigns already shaping up include Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Other states that could see credible third-party or independent candidates still to come include Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Maine.

My guess is that we won’t actually see any independent candidates win. Simply put, independents don’t have the party infrastructure and network of base donors and activists that the two major parties do. Like it or not, it is a major factor to consider.

However, independents do have reasonable organization in some states - Minnesota comes most to mind - and independent candidacies do appear to be the best option for a new slew of swing voters who are disappointed in the heavily-burdened Democratic Party, but are still reminded of the Bush years too much to put their faith in the Republican Party yet.

PS - be sure to check out HSG's new website:!

Top Stories: 9/28/09

Angela Merkel's center-right coalition won big in this weekend's German elections. One European politico is calling it the "seeds of major political realignment."

The Huffington Post reports that the Tea Party movement has created their own Huffington Post.

Politico reports that the healthcare debate has produced one clear loser already: former and possibly future presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In his New York Times column, Paul Krugman ponders why Americans aren't more anxious about solving the climate crisis.'s Nate Silver has been at war lately with the polling firm Strategic Vision. In this post, he takes on their findings about the performance of Oklahoma high school students.

And here are the best politico jokes from the weekend: