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Capitol View Commentary : Friday, October 7, 2011

Capitol View Commentary : Friday, October 7, 2011

CREATED Oct 7, 2011

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

October 7, 2011

JUDGE RUBEN; SOMEBODY KNOWS; JUMPING IN ANYWAY; GOP PRIMARIES; READY TO VOTE; AMAZON & AAA AGAIN; OPEN SPACE; JOBS, JOBS, JOBS; STEVE JOBS; OWING IT EVEN MORE; GAFFE CITY; INSIDE POLITICS

JUDGE RUBEN

I've just learned that long-time Nashville General Sessions (Division VIII) Judge Leon Ruben has passed away. To many Nashvillians he is likely best known for his willingness to fill in to work for his Gentile colleagues every Christmas Day so they could be with their families. He also had one of the most amazing collections of Mickey Mouse collectibles I have ever seen.

But Judge Ruben was so much more than that.

A long-time leader in the Bellevue community, he represented that area after being elected to the Metro Council in 1975. In 1980, he chaired the powerful Budget & Finance Committee in what became the most difficult tax and budget year this community has ever experienced in my lifetime (not to mention the firefighters strike that also happened in May of that year).

In the spring of 1980, the Council came very close to deadlocking and allowing Mayor Richard Fulton's budget and property tax hike to go into effect by default (under the rules of the Metro Charter). Council leaders wanted changes in the budget and a much lower tax hike. This was the first time in several years that property taxes were being raised and emotions were riding high. On the final night for the Council to make a decision there were bomb scares and last minute amendments as the Council struggled to find a 21-vote majority for final approval for a compromise budget and tax rate. They managed to do it (by just one vote). Judge Ruben's calm leadership helped it come to pass.

But no one had a more difficult night that night. One of Judge Ruben's parents had died. He received special permission from his rabbi to attend the Council session. That's the kind of person Judge Ruben was. He always knew his duty and he did it.

He was held in such high esteem that his fellow Council members the next year (1981) appointed him to a vacancy on the General Sessions bench where he served with distinction until his death. Once when re-election time approached, there was a rumor that Judge Ruben was retiring and would not seek another term. But when Judge Ruben qualified, a candidate that had announced he was running withdrew and sought another post. Judge Ruben ran unopposed, something he did in several election cycles.

The Judge has been ill for some time, so his passing is not a surprise, just a sense of sorrow that such as special person has passed for us.

It will be up to the Metro Council to fill the vacancy left by Judge Ruben's death. That will probably come as a surprise to some of the 17 new Council members who just held their first business meeting last Tuesday. But they'll find out soon enough as their phones start ringing and the e-mails start flying from would-be judicial candidates seeking their vote. One of those making the decision will be newly elected Council member Sheri Weiner, who THE TENNESSEAN reports is a relative of Judge Ruben. Council Lady Weiner also told the newspaper that it was Judge Ruben who convinced her to seek office this year because he knew she could a good job representing her district, which includes a portion of Judge Ruben's Bellevue district from many years ago.

Let's just hope Council Lady Weiner and her colleagues select as good a person as Judge Ruben to take his place. May he rest in peace.

SOMEBODY KNOWS

It's supposed to be undecided or maybe the best kept secret in Tennessee.

Or is it?

Apparently while state GOP legislative leaders say they have not decided or announced a plan of how to redraw the 99 House and 33 Senate districts in the Tennessee General Assembly, a Franklin attorney and would-be candidate for the State House sure seems to have the inside dope.

Jeremy Dunham's campaign web site reads: "With Franklin, Fairview and Spring Hill all located within the new state legislative district, we must elect a legislator who understands that businesses coming to Tennessee often translate into jobs for our area."

Fair enough, but how does Dunham or anyone know the boundaries of a new legislative district that has yet to be decided on or made public according to GOP leaders? That's the question being asked by Brandon Puttbrese, Communications Director of the Tennessee Democratic Party. It was his e-mail to media across the state that revealed this matter. He charges: "Speaker (Beth) Harwell said she wants a fair process that's open to the public but apparently when she says public, she means prospective Republican candidates get the first look. If Mr. Durham does in fact know even the general boundaries of the district he intends to run for, Republicans have betrayed the public trust by reneging on their pledge to an open and fair redistricting process."

He makes a point. However, if you remember your Tennessee history, it is likely Democrats have done similar things in the past since they've always been in charge of drawing these lines up until this redistricting cycle. Now maybe they didn't claim they were being open about it and none of this makes what the Republicans are doing OK. It just makes it politics as usual.

And it's not just the State House and State Senate lines that are continuing to cause controversy. Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper uncovered a redistricting plan drawn up by a GOP party activist that would have divided Nashville into three different districts with the strong likelihood of no one living in Davidson County actually representing this city in Washington. He is pushing hard for a more transparent and fair process to redraw the congressional lines. In lieu of that, he is also pushing folks to draw their own new districts as a part of a statewide contest being held at www.tnmapitout.org. There was also a public screening this week at the Belcourt Theatre of a documentary called GERRYMANDERING. The documentary reportedly takes "a nonpartisan approach to educating citizens about the implications of redistricting". The screening, which also included a panel discussion afterwards, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters in cooperation with the First Amendment Center.

Will all this make that much difference in how the lines get redrawn? I doubt it, but it could generate some interesting political theatre and generate some heat on GOP leaders such as Speaker Harwell who represents part of the Nashville area.

JUMPING IN ANYWAY

Despite the uncertainty of the district lines in the State House and Senate, some lawmakers are already announcing plans…in some cases long term plans about their political future.

That includes Nashville State House member and Democratic House Caucus Chair Mike Turner who told THE TENNESSEE REPORT (10/3) that he plans to run for re-election two more times (2012 & 2014), then look at running for Nashville Mayor in 2015.

Turner says he wants to make his plans clear because there have been rumors circulating that he would not seek re-election next year. Being so specific, especially about running for mayor in 4 years, is likely to be found a bit startling to some. The seat will be open. Mayor Karl Dean will be term-limited, so there is likely to be a lot of interest and potentially a lot of candidates.

Maybe Representative Turner, who is former Metro firefighter, wants to get his stake in the ground early and try and rally the Democratic base to his side. After all, there is some precedent. Mayor Bill Purcell was also a member of our Davidson County delegation (and House Majority Leader) when he announced about 2-3 years early that he would be seeking the office of Mayor in 1999 (which he won). But maybe Turner is speaking out, because that's just the way he is. He often speaks plainly and tells reporters what he thinks (even if maybe he ought not do so at the time).

Turner is sure to have opponents if he runs for Mayor (I am pretty sure the business community will not be comfortable with him in the top office in the Courthouse). But for now, he also to be concerned about getting re-elected twice to his House seat if he wants to stay in power until he runs for Mayor in 2015.

Turner almost got beat last year, narrowly defeating a nearly unknown GOP challenger by just 700 votes (out of nearly 15,000 cast). Last fall the Old Hickory lawmaker spent a lot of time going all over the state trying to help other Democratic House candidates get elected (mostly unsuccessfully). Only in the final days did late polling indicate he was at trouble in his home district. He came back, worked hard and managed to avoid what would have been a stunning and embarrassing defeat.

Having drawn a little political blood in the last race, you can be sure the Republicans will do all they can to draw the new legislative lines and find a candidate who will give Turner another stern challenge if not beat him. Putting on the further bulls-eye of being a mayoral candidate may attract others who will seek to aid those trying to defeat him as a way to cripple or end a Turner mayoral candidacy before it even gets started.

 

GOP PRIMARIES

It looks like regardless of how the lines are being drawn in the 3rd Congressional District (Chattanooga) the new GOP incumbent Chuck Fleischman will facing a significant primary challenge next summer.

It's coming from someone with a very familiar last name in that district. Wamp. That's Weston Wamp the 24-year old son of the former Congressman (Zach Wamp) in that East Tennessee district and an unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate last year.

The younger Wamp clearly has a huge name recognition advantage for a first time candidate. It remains to be seen how his fund raising will go but clearly his father did well in that regard in holding the 3rd District seat for multiple terms. Technically, at this moment, Weston Wamp is not eligible to be a Congressman because he is not yet of legal constitutional age (25). But he will reach that age, if elected before he would be sworn in. I haven't checked the records, but that would also likely make him the youngest-ever member of the Tennessee congressional delegation.

Wamp's candidacy already creates some political uneasiness all the way to Washington. That's because (as reported by both Ken Whitehouse of NASHVILLEPOST and by THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE-PRESS), GOP House Speaker John Boehner is scheduled to be a special guest at a fund raiser for Congressman Fleischman in Chattanooga October 27. No doubt the Speaker is doing many of these fund raisers to help his Republican colleagues get re-elected. He just agreed to do it before he was aware that the son of one of his former GOP compatriots is also getting into the race. Uh oh

Another rookie Tennessee congressman, Scott DesJarlais may also face a primary opponent next year. But exactly how strong the challenge will be probably depends on how the redistricting lines go. If Rutherford County is placed in DesJarlais' 4th district you can look for State Senator Bill Ketron to take him on. If Rutherford goes elsewhere (paired up with a part of Davidson County) obviously that won't happen and DesJarlais might face an easier road to re-election. But the Congressman has no particular strong ties with the GOP leaders in the General Assembly or the state party so he may be open to a challenge in the primary regardless.

READY TO VOTE

President Barack Obama has called on Congress more times than I can count to pass his new jobs bill. He's travelled all over the country holding media events to stir up voters to urge Congress to pass the bill. He even called NewsChannel5's Vicky Yates to the White House for an exclusive interview where he again made that plea.

So why is the plan not moving ahead in the U.S. Senate where the Democrats have leadership control (if not always the 60 votes needed to cut off a filibuster)? Good question, especially now that GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has offered a unanimous consent request to bring the matter to the floor for a vote. But Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid says no, after telling reporters earlier the Senate would get to the matter eventually.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander still in the GOP leadership as the Chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, issued a statement saying: "Senator McConnell is trying to give the President the vote he requested. How can the Democratic leader now in good conscience object to the vote the President has been asking for?"

Good question, Senator. How to interpret all these strange happenings? After pounding Republicans for being against the bill, could it be that the President is short on the Democratic votes he needs in the Senate (51) to pass the measure? Is the jobs plan DOA not only in the GOP House but also in the Democratic-dominated Senate? Has the President been missing the real members of Congress he needs to get on board, the members of his own party?

It appears Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to boost up Democratic support in the upper chamber by substituting the President's tax plan to pay for the jobs program with a 5% income tax surcharge on anyone earning $1 million dollars or more. But will it be enough? Leader Reid is also getting tough on Republicans trying to filibuster legislation through the amendment process. He is invoking the "nuclear option" to prohibit members from asking to suspend the rules to consider further amendments once debate is cut off. Look for this to infuriate Republicans (much like Democrats were incensed when Republicans have been in power and did the same thing).

Just more partisan rancor and gridlock, even as the Senate passes legislation to try and protect American jobs by invoking trade penalties on China if it keeps manipulating its currency. Senator Lamar Alexander says that's just a poke in the nose to China which China will reciprocate setting off a ruinous trade war. President Obama says the bill will likely be just symbolic since the World Trade Association will find it be unfair. Of course, that may not matter as the GOP House seems unlikely to pass it. And the do-nothing Congress goes on…still looking for common ground that really helps create jobs.

Meantime, it appears the President's tougher stance against Republicans is paying off in raising money. An e-mail sent out October 3 by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee exceeded its $1.5 million grassroots goal for September with last Friday (September 30) being the highest grossing day in online support in DCCC history with the most on-line contributions in one day ever and the most first-time online grassroots contributions ever in a single day.

Pelosi, the former House Speaker, urges everyone who received her e-mail to "sign our petition right now telling Speaker Boehner and House Republicans to pass the (American Jobs) bill." Maybe the petition ought to go to Senate Democrats too?

AMAZON & AAA AGAIN

Congratulations to Governor Bill Haslam and his administration for taking a real challenge and trying to turn it into an opportunity. After agreeing to a deal put together by the previous administration of Governor Phil Bredesen to bring the on-line giant retailer Amazon to the state creating several thousand jobs in exchange for not paying sales tax, Governor Haslam ran into a real buzz saw of opposition from other retailers (who have to collect and pay the tax) and from several lawmakers in his own party. They said the Amazon deal was not fair to them and gave Amazon an unfair price break with cost-conscious consumers.

The Governor realized he was in a tight spot, and several times wished out loud that Congress would handle the matter on a national level (lot of lucks with that). Things got even stickier a few days ago when the State Attorney General rendered a legal opinion that Amazon ought to collect and pay the tax on sales made in Tennessee. Fortunately for the Governor, he has been quietly negotiating with Amazon and has now announced a new deal with the company.

According to a news release from the Governor, Amazon has agreed to create 3,500 full time Tennessee-based jobs with benefits, (along with) thousands of seasonal jobs (and) making $350 million in capital investments in the state." That means the company will move ahead with previously announced projects in Hamilton, Bradley and Wilson Counties along with additional projects in Tennessee, the locations for which were not disclosed. Amazon's commitment represents 2,000 more full-time jobs that were originally announced.

Wow!

The agreement still has to be approved by the General Assembly but it requires that Amazon begin collecting Tennessee state sales tax beginning January 1, 2013 unless a national solution is addressed by Congress before then. This deal still allows Amazon a two-year (and three holiday seasons) moratorium from paying sales tax in Tennessee. That is already bringing out renewed cries of protests from retailers who continue to say that's unfair. They also point out that California just passed similar legislation to require Amazon to start paying taxes in 2012. Why not Tennessee they say?

So while I think the deadline date for when Amazon starts collecting taxes is still subject to much debate and possible change when it goes to the Legislature next year, unless there are other complications or unknowns, my guess is the Legislature will approve this plan (especially to get this many new jobs). Of course, if Congress acts to finally establish a national policy about internet taxes, all well and good since for state lawmaker since it takes the issue off their plates and a national decision would clearly lessen any jobs being moved out of Tennessee in retaliation.

Congratulations as well to the Governor for convincing all three major bond rating houses to continue Tennessee's AAA credit rating.

After the federal government's top rating came into doubt a couple of months ago, it looked like Tennessee might get downgraded too. After all, over 40% of our annual budget comes from Washington.

But the Governor went to New York (twice) along with his Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes, other members of his administration and even the state's constitutional officers (the Treasurer, the Comptroller and the Secretary of State), all speaking as one that the State of Tennessee (unlike Washington) does a great job in managing its funds and running its departments (something which dates back over several years and administrations).

The Governor even presented a plan for how Tennessee would handle the expected deep federal cuts that could be coming out of Congress soon in order to address the country's rising national debt.

It all must have worked. All three agencies, Moody's Fitch's and Standard & Poor's say they plan to keep Tennessee's overall credit rating at AAA. Such ratings allow the state to pay lower interest rates when it borrows money. According to a news release from the Governor's office, Tennessee has one of the lowest debt burdens in the nation. That along with the requirement the state balance its operating budget each year are among several reasons why state has developed its reputation for stability and prudent management. Even so one rating house, Moody's is keeping Tennessee with a ‘negative" outlook because of its relationship to the federal government which Moody's downgraded earlier this year to Aaa while assigning a negative outlook as well.

All this comes just in time as the state is reportedly ready to send a large bond issue to the market soon.

OPEN SPACE

While we are handing out kudos, congratulations to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean for the national award he received for his environmental efforts to protect and expand greenways and open space in Nashville. While the Mayor gets some occasional grief from the media and others about his focus on the environment, community fitness and other "green" issues, what he does is not only very helpful to Nashville's citizens and our future, it also promotes our national and international image as a progressive city with an ever improving quality of life.

Such an image (along with an educated, skilled work force) is critical to attracting new residents and businesses (jobs) here. So it is great to have the Mayor's efforts recognized with honors such as the Kodak American Greenways Award which he accepted in Washington the other night along with other honorees including Senator Ann Bailey Hutchison, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the Potomac Conservancy.

Perhaps to celebrate, the Mayor is going bird watching this weekend along Shelby Bottoms, which is one of Nashville's most impressive additions in recent years to the Mayor's ongoing efforts to identify, promote and connect the city's green spaces all over the county.

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

When you hear the words federal grant these days, you might cringe a bit, especially if those funds came through the recent stimulus program.

Your mind might flash back to the current ugly headlines about a $535 million guarantee from the federal government to the California solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra, which now seems gone as the company has entered bankruptcy. Or closer to home a $424,000 federal stimulus grant to build the first truck-stop electrification terminal in East Tennessee. That money also seems wasted because the truck stop plaza where terminal is located has also gone into bankruptcy and has closed.

It appears nobody did their homework in awarding these grants despite warning signs of problems.

I don't think that will happen with the $2.5 million grant being given to the local Entrepreneur Center here in Nashville from the Economic Development Agency (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It's the largest grant of its kind ever given in Middle Tennessee. The money will help fund some 22,000 square feet of new space for the Entrepreneur Center to house some 72 incubation spaces that will enable some 40 to 70 companies to get started annually.

The Entrepreneur Center will be housed in some of the historic Trolley Barns on Rolling Mill Hill in downtown Nashville. All told some 90,000 square feet will be developed for several Nashville non-profits and creative companies (such as Emma) to occupy. Metro, through the Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency (full disclosure: a former client of mine) is also breaking ground on Ryman Lofts, the city's first affordable community for artists that will include a 60-unit apartment community with studio, one-bedroom and three-bedroom units featuring (according to a news release from the Mayor's office, "unconventional floor plans, large windows, hard surfaces and significant meeting spaces that are conducive to artistic endeavors."

Nashville is a city of entrepreneurs and artists. So what great promise this endeavor on Rolling Mill Hill holds for our community especially with the area already containing several other new housing developments, including the Nance Place apartments, workforce housing already fully leased and home to approximately 400 residents.

If you haven't been down to the old General Hospital area along Hermitage Avenue in a while, it's worth a trip to see how that area is being transformed. And with all the new developments yet to come on Rolling Mill Hill, it seems that transformation is just beginning especially thanks to the EDA grant and what it could mean for local entrepreneurs.

(One other disclosure, my son-in-law, Shane Cortesi, a patent attorney, is a volunteer mentor at the Entrepreneur Center).

OWNING IT EVEN MORE

I told you last week how, for good or for bad, the Republicans in Tennessee own the Voter ID law passed in the last session of the General Assembly.

And just how bad it could be was all over the news in recent days: A 96-year old woman in Chattanooga, Dorothy Cooper, was denied one of those new free Voter ID cards available at state driver's license centers. Those are the places where you have to stand in line at least an hour to get waited on with only half of Tennessee's 96 counties even having such centers. Talk about your easy customer service to get to vote!

Ms. Cooper was denied her Voter ID because the name on her birth certificate did not match her married name (duh!) and she did not have her marriage certificate.

For crying out loud! Ms. Cooper is 96 years of age, She says has voted for about as long as she can remember (over seven decades). You'd think some common sense might come into play here. What are the chances that at age 96, she is plotting voter fraud? And why not understand that a lady with her voting record (she missed only one election in her life), and who was willing to get all her materials together (except her marriage certificate) and managed to get across town to stand in a long line to get her ID, needs to be given the benefit of the doubt; not turned away and told to vote absentee instead (no Voter ID needed for voting absentee).

And if these Voter IDs are so important, why do I keep hearing that expired driver's licenses are OK to use and so is almost anything with a photo on it (obviously even very out of date photos). Obviously the folks who thought up this excuse to justify the new law are either trying to cover up their big mistake in passing this measure or they have forgotten all their under-age teen-age friends who used to be so good at manufacturing fake driver's licenses so they could buy beer and cigarettes.

Increasingly this is a law in search of a problem or maybe its just creating problems where they aren't needed. If I was Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey who championed this law, and who has promised to help those seniors and others (folks mostly in poor rural counties) who can't get their Voter ID, I would hand deliver a Voter ID to Ms. Cooper just as a reward for being such a faithful voter.

And then lawmakers ought to come back to Nashville and take a good hard luck at repealing this law now!

GAFFE CITY

I am not sure if it is something in the air or the water.

But American politics today, especially the Republican presidential race, is gaffe city.

Atlanta businessman Herman Cain is the latest rising star in the GOP field. As he climbs in the polls, now tied with frontrunner Mitt Romney in some surveys (CBS News), Cain is also passing the previous "flavors of the month," Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry, both of whom have suffered from verbal flubs which have helped accelerate their declines.

Bachman peaked when she won the Iowa straw poll. She has not been able to capitalize on that in terms of raising money and her continued off the cuff remarks on the campaign trail (which have turned out to be wrong) have hurt her momentum as did the entry of Perry into the race.

Perry shot to the top as soon as he announced. But poor performances in several recent debates, his stances on immigration and his choice for recreation over the years at a hunting lodge with a racially inappropriate name, have quickly deflated his campaign. However, he has announced raising $19 million in just a few weeks, so he remains capable of being a challenger in the months to come.

As for Cain, he needs to watch himself in terms of what he is saying as a candidate. I asked him about that when he was on my INSIDE POLITICS show a few weeks ago. He had already taken some flack for his comments about placing a moat across the southern border of the U.S. and stocking it with alligators as a way solve immigration issues. He later claimed he was joking, but admitted it has been hard for his aides to keep him from shooting from the lip.

They need to try harder.

First, a few days ago he told reporters that black people have been ‘brainwashed" so they cannot even consider conservative candidates such as himself (even though Cain is black). "Brainwashed" is one of those terms that are very politically dangerous. Ask Mitt Romney about what happened to his father, George Romney back in the mid-60s when he told reporters that he had been "brainwashed" by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson into supporting the War in Vietnam. The elder Romney had been considered the frontrunner for the 1968 Republican nomination for President, but not after the ‘brainwashed" remark.

Herman Cain also said something else in a recent WALL STREET JOURNAL interview about the ongoing the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations going on in New York and now across the country (including here in Nashville and across the state in major cities). "I don't know the facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!"

I think Cain's comment started off badly when he began by saying he "didn't know the facts to back this up". Cain probably should have stopped before he even went there if he didn't know the fact. But mouth fully engaged (if maybe not his brain) he plowed ahead with putting the blame game on the unemployed despite reports that there are now 4.2 unemployed persons for every job opening in this nation and with somewhere between 2 to 3 million long-term unemployed who've now been out of work for more than a year.

As things are developing, Cain suddenly has a chance to be a GOP contender, especially with Perry and Bachman imploding. With Sarah Palin finally admitting the obvious that she is not running in 2012, Cain can become the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, although he can't keep making thoughtless statements and accusations like he did to the WALL STREET JOURNAL or any more "brainwash" comments. Actually those comments might get him support among some Tea Party members and other conservative elements of the GOP, but it will cripple his electability chances for November if he is on the ticket.

To stay competitive with Romney and Perry and Ron Paul, Cain also needs to improve his fundraising totals and build a campaign organization, especially in the upcoming primary and caucus states. That likely means getting off the road and ending his current book tour if he is really serious about running or least book more appearances to sign and promote his book in states about to hold their political contests.

As for Romney, it appears he is once again the front runner, especially with Chris Christie deciding (as I thought he would) not to run despite lots of pressure to change his mind. When a candidate tells you he just doesn't have the fire in the belly to run you need to believe it. You also need to understand that once you get past Christie's tough conservative record against unions and his charismatic but plain and outspoken nature, he has some stances on some political issues such as gay marriage and global warming that won't play well with base Republicans outside the northeast.

With Ron Paul having money but only winning straw polls and generating no poll numbers, that leaves Romney. And already he is working to bolster his top status by outlining his grasp of foreign policy and announcing those who will advise him in this area (mostly from aides from the George W. Bush administration)

So far, Romney's only major gaffe has been his claim that "corporations are people" which he said to a campaign crowd in Iowa a few weeks back. That has not really become a big issue, but might as the Occupy Wall Street effort gains steam. Romney appears to be a predictable GOP presidential choice in a way. A Republican nominee (such as Bob Dole) who is picked because he is the next in line or the last man standing such as John McCain was four years ago. Although this is awfully early for things to be in that position since the primaries and caucuses haven't even begun. But stick around, those contests are being moved up every day as states jockey to be the most relevant and decisive in the GOP nomination process. We could even see voting begin during or right away the holidays, believe it not.

The real question looming for the Republicans is, in a race where increasingly the incumbent President is looking more and more beatable, will they choose someone who can actually win or will Romney's flip-flopping ways of past campaigns and his Mormon religion once again rise up to hurt him?

It's the GOP's race to the White House to lose…and it's still an open question about whether they can do just that.

And then there's Hank Williams, Jr., whose Monday Night Football opening theme song got yanked off ESPN last week after he compared President Obama to Adolph Hitler and described the President and Vice President Joe Biden as "the enemy."

Now anyone has a right to express their political opinions to anyone including Fox News or any other media outlet. But anytime I have seen someone make a political comparison that includes Adolph Hitler things never turn out well for the person making that comment. Williams' apology the next day missed the mark too. I believe him when he says he didn't get any help from a publicist in writing his statement. When you make a public apology don't add, "if anyone was offended." It indicates you really aren't sorry or you just don't get it. You wouldn't need to make an apology of any kind if no one was offended.

INSIDE POLITICS

Vanderbilt Law Professor Jim Blumstein is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. With the new term of the Supreme Court just beginning, and many observers expecting it to be a significant, if not historic year for important decisions, we thought we'd bring in a real expert on the Court and have him give us his thoughts on what lies ahead in the months to come.

This discussion is particularly important regarding the possibility that the Supreme Court may take up the new national health care and its constitutionality. Professor Blumstein believes the case could well come up to the high court, and that there are serious issues surrounding Obamacare. But you'll probably be quite surprised about the reasons the Court could strike it down. It's not necessarily the individual mandate provision that everyone buy health care insurance or pay a fine.

Watch to hear what he has to say.

You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning on the main channel WTVF-TV, Channel 5. You can also see INSIDE POLITICS on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Our air times are 7:00 p.m., Friday; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. Sunday. THE PLUS airs on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and on Channel 5's over-the-air 5.2 digital channel.

You can also see excerpts of this and past INSIDE POLITICS shows here at www.newschannel5.com.