Tales from the Trail

Bayh wonders if partisanship will encourage a new Ross Perot

Evan Bayh wants out of Washington but wonders if the partisan bickering he leaves behind will one day be swept aside by a new PEROTRoss Perot riding a third-party tidal wave of public anger.

“If (voter) frustration continues to grow and the American people say ‘a pox on both your houses,’ then there’s some prospect for a third-party type movement,” the Democratic senator from Indiana told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Bayh hastens to add that he doesn’t believe that would really happen.

Why not? “I think that ultimately we can make progress within the two-party system,” he said.

Good luck.

Polls say voters are angry about the partisan bickering that has engulfed legislative initiatives from healthcare reform and climate change to financial regulation and job creation.

FRANCE/Republicans and Democrats both catch blame. But Democrats, as the governing party, could suffer most in November’s congressional elections. Republicans did the suffering in 2006. Meanwhile, the conservative Tea Party movement has candidates from both sides rattled.

Political dynasties shift in election-year tremor

After the November election, there will not be a Kennedy in Congress for the first time in almost half a century because Representative Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has decided to retire from his Rhode Island seat.

“My life is taking a new direction and I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Patrick Kennedy said in a video announcing his decision nearly six months after his father, the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate, died.

Of course there is still time for another Kennedy to step forward and declare intentions to run for office, but we haven’t heard any whispers.

Republican “blank page” challenges Obama

OBAMA/The next U.S. presidential election is more than 2-1/2 years away. But pollsters are already asking how President Barack Obama would stack up against a Republican challenger.

The results are favorable. But for whom? No one can say.

Obama is in a statistical dead heat against an unnamed Republican candidate, leading the challenger 44 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll with a 4-percentage-point margin of error. Gallup surveyed 1,025 adults Feb. 1-3.

Media pundits are divided about what the findings mean, or don’t mean.

Some say the data are meaningless except as a gauge of 2010 voter anger toward Washington and incumbents generally.

2012 may be an open door for Palin, but first comes 2010

USA/Sarah Palin’s right. It would be absurd for her not to consider a White House bid in 2012, especially while Tea Partiers are chanting, “Run, Sarah, run!”  
   
But first come this November’s elections, which could help build Palin’s credibility if her high-profile public appearances (and repeated attacks on President Barack Obama) actually help conservative candidates get elected to Congress and important state offices around the country. If.

Some political experts say Palin’s weekend keynote speech at the big Tea party in Nashville was her best since the 2008 GOP convention — detailed, focused and high on energy. Lucrative, too, given the $100,000 speaker’s fee, though the on-stage interview seemed a bit scripted, especially the part about what she’d do if she were president. 
       USA-WEATHER/SNOWSTORM
The appearance also kicked off a busy travel schedule to help candidates in this year’s campaign.
   
On Super Bowl Sunday, she was in Texas helping Republican Gov. Rick Perry with his March gubernatorial primary contest against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Polling results show Hutchison trailing the incumbent by 15 percentage points and losing ground to a third candidate, Tea Party activist Debra Medina.

Palin spent much of her time in the Lone Star State assailing Washington, and by implication, Hutchison. She raised a huge cheer by pointing out in non-establishment fashion that Texans might like to secede.     
    
But moving the national political applause needle to the right in 2010 could be much more difficult than rallying friendly audiences or using a talking hand to bash that “charismatic guy with a TelePrompTer.”
   
A state-by-state analysis of Obama’s job approval ratings by Gallup may offer a glimpse of the voter sentiment challenge that Palin and her conservative allies face this year.

Unemployment falls, what’s the proper political response?

OBAMA/The unemployment rate fell in January to 9.7 percent, the lowest in five months and below that dreaded 10 percent in December. It also foiled analyst expectations for an increase to 10.1 percent.

So a jump-for-joy event in Washington right?

Well, not quite.

The White House publicly decided on a cool, measured response.

(We have to believe someone over there must have let out a cheer, or maybe even clapped, at 8:30 a.m.)

The official response from White House economic adviser Christina Romer was a caution that there would likely be “bumps in the road ahead” and that it was important not to read too much into one monthly report. UNEMPLOYMENT/

GOP’s Steele – political elite has been blind-sided

Recent electoral wins have pulled the Republican Party out of a tailspin that started at the height of its power in 1994, but it will be well-selected local candidates, more than the national party, that drives the agenda in November’s mid-term elections.

So says Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

USA-POLITICS/REPUBLICANSMost political pundits expect the GOP to pick up many House and Senate seats in the fall as part of a backlash against the incumbent Democrats and frustration over the weak economy and high unemployment.

“This fall I think you’ll see much more reliance on the candidates carrying the water in their states,” rather than the national party apparatus, Steele said during a lively exchange with students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Tea Party ‘warriors’ take aim at Florida Senate race

TEA PARTYConservative Tea Party activists had loads of fun in Boston last month helping Scott Brown chuck Teddy Kennedy’s forever-Democratic Senate seat into Republican waters.

Now the painted warriors hope to stage a reenactment of Florida’s Dade Massacre, with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist playing the ill-fated Maj. Dade.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows Crist 12 percentage points behind former state House Speaker and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio in Florida’s Republican primary contest for the U.S. Senate. Rubio leads Crist 49 percent to 37 percent.

If healthcare wasn’t enough, Obama just picked another fight

One thing is clear. President Barack Obama is not afraid of a fight.

He battled all last year with Republicans and some of his own Democrats trying to get healthcare reform through the political headwinds. OBAMA/

Now he’s going to take on Republicans with trying to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays serving in the military.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Another House Democrat not running for re-election in November

One more Democrat retiring who won’t run for re-election in November.

FINANCIAL-REGULATION/HOUSE-PASSAGE(It would be tempting to say they’re dropping like flies, but then the Democrats would point out that some Republicans also won’t seeking re-election).

Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry (no, sounds like, but definitely not the former D.C. mayor) was expected to announce his retirement on Monday, The Washington Post’s blogger Chris Cillizza reports.

He would be the second congressman from Arkansas not to seek re-election, with Democrat Vic Snyder also retiring.

Republicans savoring election prospects after Democrats drop out

Let the countdown begin.

USA/The 2010 election year has officially started and Republicans can barely contain their glee after two senior Senate Democrats announced they would not run again and a House Democrat switched to the Republican Party.

Right out of the New Year’s gate, Senate Democrats Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said they would not seek re-election in November.

Democrats control the Senate 60-40 which is just enough to overcome procedural hurdles and pass legislation without a single Republican vote. Republicans are expected to pick up seats, but not enough to win back control.