Tales from the Trail

Democrats lead on fundraising for 2010, but the gap may be closing

CHINA

If new campaign dollars were votes, Democrats would be leading Republicans in the early returns for the 2010 congressional elections by about 7 percentage points overall. But that’s with Republicans closing the gap and eight months to go before Election Day.

A report by the Federal Election Commission says the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pulled in $183 million in new donations during 2009, the first half of the 2009-2010 congressional election cycle.

That put Democrats about 9 percent ahead of their Republican counterparts – the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee – which raised $168.6 million together.

But Republicans may be gaining momentum: committee fund-raising figures that also include the month of January show the Democrats with a $202 million 13-month total and a lead narrowing to 7 percentage points, vs. the GOP’s $188.7 million tally.

The Washington Post, which reported on the FEC numbers in its Thursday editions, notes that Democrats have had difficulties given gridlock in Congress and President Barack Obama’s diminished popularity. Democrats are also the object of unhappiness on Wall Street over the prospects for financial and healthcare reforms.

Are Republicans admitting defeat before the timorous Democrats?

HEALTH INFLUENZA

Republicans who urged anti-healthcare supporters to help them “kill the bill” only days ago suddenly seem to be shouting “repeal the bill,” as if Democrats are truly destined for victory. Yet their Democratic opponents in the House seem too scared to say ‘yea’ without more than a little hand-holding.

Dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates are reported to have signed a pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan, should the GOP take control of either the House or Senate in November.  The Washington Post says 37 House and Senate members and 163 congressional candidates have already signed the pledge.

That’s an agreement to overturn legislation that hasn’t even seen sunlight. And it comes less than two days after fiscal conservative activists kicked off an 11th hour bid to drown the Democratic cause in a torrent of phone calls, e-mails and congressional office visits.

Kennedy is watching over healthcare week, Obama says

OBAMA/

The late Senator Ted Kennedy, who was a long-time advocate for U.S. healthcare reform, is watching over Congress this week, President Barack Obama said, as it moves to take the last steps on legislation to  revamp the massive health industry.

“Today, of course, we all feel the heavy absence of one of our greatest Irish-Americans; a man who loved this day so much; a man who I believe is still watching this body closely, particularly this week — and that is our beloved Ted Kennedy,” Obama said.

The president remembered the famed Democratic politician at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Friends of Ireland Luncheon on Capitol Hill that was attended by Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, and son Patrick, a U.S. representative from Rhode Island.

Are folks ‘for’ or ‘agin’ healthcare reform? Both, according to the partisan rhetoric

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

USA-HEALTHCARE/

Republicans say Americans don’t want the president’s healthcare reforms. Democrats beg to differ. What’s true? Depends how you figure, though as Mark Twain observed: figures don’t lie, but liars … well, you know.

Not that anyone would lie, of course. But opinion polls have been dumping figures aplenty into the debate in Congress, and the debaters have been eagerly using them to patch up their arguments’ foundations.

Take the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 46 percent want Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s plan; 45 percent don’t.

Pelosi cracks whip for healthcare votes

USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSI“I never stop whipping,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday.

She was, of course, talking about the virtually non-stop quest for healthcare votes.  (Sorry were you thinking something else?)

“There’s no beginning, there’s no middle and there’s no end. My life is a constant whip operation,” she said to laughter at yet another event to promote healthcare reform on Capitol Hill.

People not familiar with the process for getting votes on Capitol Hill often think of arm-twisting, when in formality it is a whip operation with someone who actually gets the title “Whip.”

Tea Partiers converge on Washington to kill the (healthcare) bill

USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSI

The rally began with an unaccompanied rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” sung to an oversized American flag hoisted aloft by a middle-aged man dressed like Captain America.

But the Marvel Comics super-hero impersonator was one of the few fringe elements on display, when about 200 Tea Party members gathered in a small grassy park in the shadow of the Capitol Dome with Washington-based organizers from conservative special-interest groups, House Republicans and, inevitably, the news media.

They had come from as far away as Texas, Michigan and Georgia for a “Kill the Bill!” rally meant to launch an 11th hour grass-roots lobbying effort to stop House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats from achieving victory for the Obama healthcare plan.

Company dispenses with lobbyists and launches bid for Congressional seat

USA/

Murray Hill is running for Congress to rid Washington of lobbyists and weak-kneed politicians once and for all. And there may be no better candidate, for Murray Hill is not a frail human being but a company.

“Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves,” the public relations firm from Silver Spring, Maryland, says in a statement.

It’s referring to the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which has drawn a torrent of criticism from officials including President Barack Obama by treating corporations as human beings when it comes to the constitutional guarantee of free speech. Critics claim the decision will unleash a new flood of corporate money into U.S. election campaigns, including money from foreign companies.

Massa waning as news fodder but may rise again to plague Democrats

AUTOS/BAILOUT

Eric Massa may soon vanish from the 24-7 news cycle. But the martyred Democrat, who says he fell from grace beneath the naked power of Satan’s spawn, could reappear some day soon as a burr under the saddles of his former congressional colleagues.

Republicans would like Massa to do for them what Mark Foley did for Democrats four years ago: provide a scourge with which to flail the other guy in a mid-term election year.

Foley, a Republican, resigned from Congress in September 2006 amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit emails and instant messages to male congressional pages. As such, he was among the denizens of that swamp of Republican corruption that Nancy Pelosi vowed to drain just before Democrats took control of Congress and gave her the speaker’s gavel.

Republican wants more Massa exposure but Democrat says it’s over

House Republican Eric Cantor thinks Congress should get to the bottom of Eric Massa’s bizarre tale of congressional nudity, satanic White House advisers, the groping of men (or not) and a congressional healthcare putsch by Democrats. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the case is over. 
 

“I know that Steny joins me in hoping that the ethics committee in Congress looks into this adequately and can get to the bottom of all of this,” said Cantor, who appeared along with Hoyer on NBC’s Today show. ”The best place for this to be resolved is in the ethics committee and let’s get to the bottom of it.”

Otherwise, the whole thing seems to make Cantor want to hold his nose. And he is not alone. “I’m a little taken aback and stunned,” the Virginia lawmaker confided. “I don’t know the facts of this at all. I know that the American people are sickened.”

Massa: some tickling, nothing sexual, and it’s about healthcare vote

One day after resigning as a freshman congressman from Upstate New York, Eric Massa has found his 15 minutes of fame. USA-CONGRESS/MASSA

He landed on two major talk shows Tuesday — Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck and CNN’s Larry King — and they both wanted to know about allegations of sexual harrassment against male staffers.

Larry King asked him outright if he was gay. Massa, who is married, said it was an insult to every gay American that such a question was being asked in this day and age, and he refused to answer it.