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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, March 16, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, March 16, 2012

CREATED Mar 26, 2012

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

March 16, 2012

ANOTHER WEEK LONGER BUT DEEPER IN DOUBT; CONGRESSMAN DESJARLAIS & THE MAIL; CONGRESSMAN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; LEGISLATIVE GYRATIONS; AN APOLOGY; PEYTONMANIA

ANOTHER WEEK LONGER BUT DEEPER IN DOUBT

To paraphrase the old Tennessee Ernie Ford 1950s hit song "Sixteen Tons", we seem to be another week longer, but deeper in doubt regarding the Republican presidential race.

Now I don't mean in doubt about who will ultimately be the nominee. Mitt Romney has, and will likely maintain a large enough lead in delegates that his three competitors won't be able to surpass him. With two more wins in southern states (Alabama & Mississippi) last Tuesday, Rick Santorum has clearly emerged as the biggest "anti-Romney" candidate left in the contest and he's won in almost every part of the nation.

But he's missed several key opportunities to change the nature and tone of the race by losing large leads in the early polls and allowing Romney to win key fall battleground states like Michigan and Ohio. Combine that with his lack of organization state-by-state and his inability to raise enough money to really compete with Romney, about all Santorum can do is continue to lengthen the nominating process perhaps lasting now beyond the primary and caucus season and making into a contest for who can get the most support from super delegates (which should also lean to Romney). I do notice however that Romney is continuing to run attack ads against Santorum including a new one that has just begun in Illinois, one of the next states to hold a primary.

As for Newt Gingrich, all he can do is win in the south (the strongest region for the GOP in the nation) with victories in South Carolina and Georgia. But last week the former House Speaker couldn't win there, finishing a close second to Santorum in both Alabama and Mississippi. Losing in the Deep South to a Yankee from Pennsylvania should be the best and final clue to Gingrich that it's finally over and he needs to withdraw. But he says he won't and that will continue to split the conservative base, making it truly impossible for Santorum to get enough votes/ delegates to pull past Romney.

As for Ron Paul, all he is doing is hanging around seeking enough delegates to have some impact at the convention on the platform (especially if no nominee emerges by then). But so far his delegate totals show that's not working too well.

No, what is really deeper in doubt at this point in the GOP race, is can Mitt Romney as the ultimate Republican standard bearer be an effective candidate in the fall, when he can't win the south, which is again the most loyal region for his party? Florida doesn't count. It's not southern like the rest of the area below the Mason-Dixon Line and its more of a battleground state for the fall and, not deep-red like most of the rest of the old Confederacy.

Republican turnout has been down in several of the primary and caucus states, another less than good omen for Romney. And while Republicans are likely to reunite in the fall just because they so badly want to beat Barack Obama, that won't be enough. Even with all the Republicans in the fold, the party can't win without support from independents and swing voters (and neither can the Democrats).

But here, according to current polls (Pew) cited in an article by Charles M. Blow of THE NEW YORK TIMES Campaign Stops on-line site (March 14), "Obama outperforms Romney by 20 points among all women, by 31 points among women 19-49….by 28 points among young people 18-29." The President even ties Romney for support among people 65 and older.  

But recent polls show some potential weaknesses for the President too. Both a NEW YORK TIMES/CBS poll and one by THE WASHINGTON POST/ ABC NEWS,  indicate Mr. Obama's job performance numbers have suddenly declined (down from 50% to 41% in the NYT/CBS survey and from 50% to 46% in the POST/ABC poll).

So what is it? Soaring gas prices? The HHS ruling on birth control availability that still has Catholic bishops so upset? Two other polls still show the President with greater than 50% public support for the first time in months (Reuters/Ipsos and Gallup), but you know the White House must be concerned. They've now sent Vice President Joe Biden out on the road to stump for the ticket. That could be helpful to rally the Democratic base, but you know the media is just waiting for Biden to commit another verbal gaffe on the campaign trail.

Getting back to the polls, if you believe the numbers from Pew Research and Reuters/Ipsos, President Obama is looking good head on head with Romney. He is up 12 points (54%-42% Pew) and 11 points (52%-41% Reuters/Ipsos) in the respective surveys. How can Romney start closing that gap when he is still trying to convince his base that he's their man with his "biscuits and cheesy grits, ya'll" act, which got him third place finishes in Alabama and Mississippi?

CONGRESSMAN DESJARLAIS AND THE MAIL

Tennessee Republican 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais is having some mail problems.

According to an article published on NASHVILLEPOST.com (March 12), it began a couple of weeks back during a congressional hearing investigating "government loan guarantees to the now defunct green energy venture Solyndra. DesJarlais stated emphatically that he never sent letters urging quick approval of federal loan guarantees for private green energy projects. But he did exactly that according to…an investigation by USA TODAY."

In fact, Congressman DesJarlais said in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget regarding a $2 billion loan guarantee to USEC. Inc. for a uranium project: "any delays put the project at risk." …When confronted with the letter, DesJarlais' response according to the article was that he "only asked for a decision."  But in another letter to OMB on the same topic, the Congressman said "quick action is paramount" and asked for "immediate action on funding." Uh-oh.

Not surprisingly, DesJarlais' actions and comments have been quickly seized upon by his Democratic opponent for the fall, State Senator Eric Stewart.  Again, according to the on line NASHVILLE POST article, Stewart has "called upon..DesJarlais to admit that he lied to constituents and to reporters."

"This is a prime example of why Congress is broken. It took less than a year for Congressman DesJarlais to become the typical dishonest Washington politician," (Stewart) said. "He says one thing to the folks here at home and does exactly the opposite behind closed doors in Washington. It's disingenuous, hypocritical and something we've come to expect from Washington politicians. Tennessee deserve better."

Ouch!    

But this not the only mail problem for rookie Congressman DesJarlais. A story by Andy Sher of the CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS (March 13) reports that Representative DesJarlais leads the nation among congressmen for spending the most money in franking (sending out official government-paid mailings to constituents) in the last quarter of 2011.  That's to the tune of nearly a quarter of a million dollars ($224,346.33). He was also among the top ten congressmen for franking spending for the entire year of 2011 totaling $282,385.84.

DesJarlais defends himself by saying in an e-mail response reported in the Andy Sher story: "One of our top priorities (is) constituent outreach. This strategy has allowed me to incorporate the opinions and beliefs of 4th District residents into the important issues being debated in Washington." The Congressman added "almost every piece of mail my office sends out contains an issues survey. The data I receive from these surveys plays an important part in my legislative decisions."

But, again his Democratic critics disagree and criticize DesJarlais' actions. ""If someone is going to run on cutting spending, the last thing they should be is the biggest mail spender in Washington. D.C.," said state Democratic party spokesman, Brandon Puttbrese.

Ouch again!

CONGRESSMAN COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper has also been in the news all over the country recently. It's not for his mail. It's for legislation he is pushing to cut off the salaries of every one in Congress if they don't pass budgets on time by October 1 each year (which they haven't done for several years now).

The Congressman is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. He explains how his proposal would work and he talks about the growing support he's getting on both sides of the aisle (although I remain skeptical this will ever pass the full Congress).

This is one of several issues we'll discuss with the Congressman, including the recent HHS birth control policy and some foreign policies matters regarding Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. That includes 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV, NEWSCHANNEL5. We are also on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, airing at 7:00 p.m., Friday; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday, and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sunday.

NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS can be seen on several cable TV systems throughout Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky including Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and on NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

LEGISLATIVE GYRATIONS

I have heard that Republican leaders in the General Assembly are trying to speed up their work and get out of town as early as April 15. That would be about two weeks ahead of their original planned date for final adjournment which is the end of next month.

If that's true, you'll start seeing the budget bills moving soon in committee. You are already seeing committees starting to clean out their nest of bills that have been festering on their agendas, some for the past two years. One bill that seems finally to be more or less dead is the controversial "Don't Say Gay" proposal.

For the past two years, this measure has been an attempt to restrict discussions about homosexuality and gays in grammar schools across Tennessee. But now sponsors admit: "we found out there is really not a sex education curriculum in K-8 right now." Duh, it took them two years to figure that out? OK, so now what? Teach more abstinence in the schools regarding sex they say. But as for "Don't Say Gay," Governor Bill Haslam got it right. He's told lawmakers repeatedly this session they have better things to focus on, which is correct.

But that type of advice hasn't stopped conservative lawmakers from going even more off the deep end. Now the House has passed a non-binding memorializing resolution (according to a TENNESSEAN article by Anne Paine on March 13) "branding a United Nations program encouraging sustainable development as a dark scheme to crush…property rights through extreme environmentalism." In short, a communist plot  

Say what? Most people have never heard of Agenda 21, and it been adopted by at least 178 governments worldwide as well as supported by every American President, Republican or Democrat since it was put together in 1992. It should be noted that while supporters of the House passed resolution deny any connection, the resolution, nearly word for word, can be found on the website of the far-right John Birch Society group. Enough said.

Can you doubt that re-election time is nearing and that the qualifying deadline of April 5, is just a few weeks away?    

 

 

 

AN APOLOGY

I feel bad about it.

I have never been a great speller, but I should have checked myself before I misspelled Judge Mike Jameson's name several times in last week's column.

He has not said anything to me. A couple of readers did. It's a mistake I've made before. Dumb. What makes me feel even worse is that Judge Jameson had a tough time overall last week. He not only lost a primary bid to keep his job. His dad died too.  I'm sorry. It won't happen again. My deepest sympathies go out to Mike and his family.

PEYTONMANIA

There's our own kind of March Madness going on in Tennessee this week.

No it's not the hoops kind from the NCAA Basketball Tournament, even though Nashville is hosting rounds of both the men's and women's Big Dance here.

The madness is "Peytonmania", the possibility that All-Pro and future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning might return to Tennessee (he played his college ball at the University of Tennessee) to be the field general for the Tennessee Titans.

His trip to town to meet with Titans officials was covered with the kind of public and media excitement matched only by a presidential visit (without the annoying traffic jams). It has also set off lots of speculation that the Titans might be Super Bowl bound if they can only land Peyton, despite his recent serious neck injuries and surgeries.

While Manning's decision is expected soon, the politicians couldn't wait to get into the act. Governor Bill Haslam (once mayor of Knoxville where Peyton played at UT) says he has tweeted the quarterback and offered him a temporary place to stay at the Governor's Mansion if he signs with the Titans (I think he was kidding). But the General Assembly doesn't seem to be joshing. The House has already unanimously passed a resolution urging Peyton to come home.  Even local businesses are getting with the hoopla. Shoney's Restaurants has taken out a full page ad in THE TENNESSEAN, offering Manning free pancakes every day at any of its Nashville facilities as long as he's playing for the Titans.

It was a bit of a surprise that the Titans got into the Manning free agent sweepstakes. Team officials earlier said they had their quarterback position well manned with veteran Matt Hasselback and second year player, Jake Locker. But then came the man who is sometimes the real wildcard of the NFL, Titans owner Bud Adams. He says he wants Manning to win him a Super Bowl, the sooner the better and he's willing to give him a lifetime deal to come back to the Volunteer State to finish out his playing career. We can hope this works out better than Vince Young, the last quarterback, Adams insisted the Titans sign and play.

Ever since the Titans jumped into the Peyton sweepstakes, things have not been the same as the mania has taken over. Titan tickets (which have become more available in recent years) could be all but impossible to find (and sellouts assured) if Manning decides to come here. Stay tuned.