Tales from the Trail

A ‘Cougar’ may be stalking Bayh’s empty Senate seat

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After rocking the house for decades, could Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp rock the U.S. Senate?

Some Democrats think so and they’re trying to draft him as a possible replacement for departing Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

“Don’t laugh, O.K.? I’m very serious,” Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the left-leaning weekly magazine, The Nation, told MSNBC this week. “He’s a heartland son of Indiana.”

The Nation is polling online readers about possible Bayh replacements and lists Mellencamp as “Rocker and ‘farm aid’ concerts champion.” By contrast, Dan Coats gets the somewhat less dashing moniker: “Former Indiana Republican senator looking to regain his title.”

Meanwhile, a Draft Mellencamp ”movement” has set up shop on Facebook.

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.

Most Americans want Republican input on healthcare – poll

Most Americans want President Obama and the Democrats to jettison the healthcare bill they almost got together before USA-HEALTHCARE/WELLNESSthis week’s political earthquake in Massachusetts and instead look for something Republicans can support.

That’s according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll which says 55 percent of Americans want work stopped on a House-Senate compromise between Democrats, while 39 percent want the Democrats to press on.

In fact, a sizable minority — 46 percent of the 1,010 adults surveyed — say healthcare reform is important but should not be Obama’s top legislative priority. Nineteen percent say healthcare shouldn’t be a major priority at all.
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The poll was conducted the day after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue Senate seat in Massachusetts. The findings have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Brown shows rare trait on Capitol Hill: humility

The man who shook up Washington came to Capitol Hill on Thursday and demonstrated a trait rarely associated with the nation’s marble halls of power and giant egos: humility.

USA-POLITICS/BROWN“I’ve got a lot to learn,” Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown said repeatedly during a series of visits with members of the Senate — a chamber often referred to as “the world’s most exclusive club.”
 
“I’m stepping into big shoes,” Brown said.

By tapping into voter anger aimed at a grid-locked Congress, a double-digit jobless rate and an unpopular plan to revamp the U.S. healthcare system, Brown won the Senate seat formerly held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democratic icon.
 
Once sworn in in the next week or so, Brown will be the 41st Republican in the 100-seat Senate — and could provide the vote to block much of President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda, including healthcare reform.
 
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell flashed a big grin and told Brown that he has already begun calling him “forty-one.”
 
Brown thanked senators for taking time to meet with him. “I really appreciate it,” he said again and again.
 
He even voiced appreciation to reporters, photographers and TV crews following him. “Thanks for coming out here,” Brown said. “I guess it’s a slow news day.”

Mindboggling in Massachusetts

The Republicans are coming, the Republicans are coming… to Massachusetts. USA-POLITICS/MASSACHUSETTS

The Senate seat comfortably held by Edward Kennedy for nearly half a century has gone to Republican Scott Brown. 

We can only imagine what the late “Liberal Lion” of the Senate would have thought if he were still alive.

Democrats politely congratulated Brown, who defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, knowing full well that the dynamics have changed. Democrats no longer have a 60-vote filibuster-proof Senate — and that can affect their plans for healthcare reform.

Gingrich to Obama: keep word on televising healthcare talks

USA-POLITICS/Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wants President Barack Obama to keep a promise he made on the campaign trail: televise the final talks on healthcare reform on C-SPAN.

Eight times during the campaign, Obama said he planned to put the talks on healthcare reform on television, Gingrich said — and he even has links to YouTube clips to prove it.

Now that the talks have reached the stage of reconciling separate House and Senate bills, it is the time to deliver on that promise, he said.

Healthy lifestyle discount or insurance loophole?

Dozens of healthcare reform advocates are sounding alarm bells over a Senate proposal to allow companies to reward employees who quit smoking, exercise or engage in other healthy activities.

The groups, including the American  Heart Association, say the measure would create a “dangerous”  loophole that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with health problems if it is included in the final healthcare yoga2reform legislation.

The healthcare overhaul aims to stop insurance companies from excluding coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or charging people more based on medical history. But Sue Nelson of the American Heart Association said the provision is written in a way that would allow insurers to raise premiums but then provide discounts, as much as 50 percent, for people who quit smoking or join gyms and exercise more.

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.

Obama admits security “screw up,” but some wonder who’ll pay

President Barack Obama may have hoped to limit the political fallout from last month’s attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by admitting there was a “screw up.” Will firings follow? Some think Obama’s unusually sharp rhetoric raises the odds that heads will roll.

One such observer is U.S. Rep. Peter King, an influential New York Republican.
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“If the situation is as bad as the president says it was, as far as so many dots not being connected, so many obvious mistakes being made … I would think once the president set that stage, that to show that he’s serious, someone will have to go now,” King told ABC’s Good Morning America.

But the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee says he can’t tell which official should pay because the Obama administration hasn’t let Congress know who did (or didn’t) do what, when.

Bomb plot thrusts Obama into political storm

President Barack Obama is weathering a political storm over last month’s suspected al Qaeda plot to bomb a Detroit-bound plane, particularly from Republicans who say he dropped the ball on security while pursuing healthcare and climate reforms. But how much substance there is behind the allegations may depend on who’s talking.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told NBC’s Today show that he believes Obama just woke up to the gravity of the al Qaeda threat. SECURITY-AIRLINE/OBAMA

“A lot of us have been concerned over the last year that the president did seem to downplay the threat of terror. He doesn’t use the word anymore. He hesitates to say that there is a war on terror,” DeMint said.