Ben Buchwalter


Dem Casting Call: Who Will Replace CO Gov. Bill Ritter?

2010 started off rough for Democrats, due to a stream of high profile Democratic retirements in important districts. When CO Gov. Bill Ritter added his name to the list of Dem retirements, it set off a flurry of speculation about who would run to take his spot. I compiled a run down of the most likely Democratic candidates:

So let’s take a look at the state’s in-house candidates. The top contender seems to be Andrew Romanoff, the state Rep. who has already launched a 2010 Senate primary campaign against Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet was appointed to complete Salazar’s term last year, but he must win the seat for himself this November.

Some have suggested that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper would be a good fit. Hickenlooper has long been rumored to be a potential Gubernatorial candidate, but declined to run against Ritter in 2006 to replace the term-limited Republican governor Bill Owens, saying “I would not be unraveling the fabric of collaboration.” Asked on the phone by a local reporter if he would run this year, Hickenlooper responded that his cell phone was running out of batteries.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis, the leading Republican in the field, was ecstatic. “We beat the varsity team a little earlier than we thought we would,” said a McInnis spokesman. “They’ve got to go to plan B, or the b-team.”



Dodd Deemed ‘Unelectable’ in CT Senate Race

It’s been a crappy year for embattled Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Toward the end of 2009, it became increasingly clear just how dire his reelection chances were. In mid-December, the respected elections predictor the Cook Political Report called Dodd “as unelectable as unindicted incumbents get.” That was a pretty safe prediction considering that, at the time, Dodd trailed former GOP congressman Rob Simmons and former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 13 and 6 points respectively. On the MoJo blog, I predicted that Dodd’s retirement was imminent and rounded up the field of potential Conn. Dems to replace him. Looks like I was right about one of them:

As Connecticut Attorney General for the past 20 years, Dick Blumenthal has made ripples most recently for his harsh words about financial badboy AIG, which has offices in the state. Back in March, Blumenthal called the legal justification for AIG bonuses “a joke of a justification for squandering scarce taxpayer resources.”



Conn. Sen: Former WWE CEO Linda McMahon Enters the Fray
January 10, 2010, 5:45 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Congress, Mother Jones, Republicans | Tags: , , ,

Since former WWE CEO Linda McMahon jumped into the GOP’s primary to challenge embattled Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, I wrote a few blog posts on her candidacy and how it shakes up the race. First, came the supposed shock that McMahon and her husband have supported Democrats in past elections. Next, I asked if the candidate’s bombastic (and some might say crazy) husband WWE Chairman Vince McMahon could hurt her primary and, luck permitting, general election chances. As McMahon continued to hemorrhage her own funds on the campaign and became a serious contender to the state’s establishment, Conn. GOPers started to attack the newcomer. But as I wrote for MoJo, I think this was a risky move in the solid blue Lieberman-loving state:

“I think it’s very unusual [for a Republican to contribute to a Democrat]. These are big numbers. These are big dollars,” said Simmons, the race’s current front runner. But attacking McMahon’s bi-partisan past is a risky move, considering that Connecticut is predominantly Democratic and many state Republicans supported democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman over his Republican opponent in 2006. Moreover, since McMahon is campaigning on an anti-establishment platform, her past contributions could be helpful if she makes it to the general election next fall.



Dimming the Palin Spotlight
July 14, 2009, 12:35 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Republicans

Ezra Klein brings up a good point about Sarah Palin’s new op-ed in the Washington Post challenging President Obama’s cap and trade proposal to slow the effects of climate change.

But that’s not all that’s missing. The term “global warming” is absent. So is “climate change.” It’s a bit like an op-ed that attacks firefighters for pointing pressurized water cannon at everything but never mentions fires, or a column that condemns surgeons for sticking sharp things into people but never mentions illness.

You could no more argue with this op-ed than you could drive a car made out of candy. Though it looks like one thing, it’s actually another. And that other is a declaration of political intent: Palin is going to spend the next couple of years trying to act as leader of the opposition. She’ll start with what she knows: Drill, baby, drill. And she’ll start where she knows. In the media.

I want to make another point about the op-ed. She begins by lamenting that “many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges.” Oh really, Sarah? You don’t want the media to focus on the personality behind political figures? That’s a pretty tall order for someone who made her entire political reputation by smothering the media with winks, “you betchas” and other stalwarts of down-home colloquialism. And that was before (!) she decided to resign as Governor. In only a few weeks, Palin will be entirely without political standing, and will rely only on her personality to grasp onto whatever media spotlight will continue to pay her attention.

Let’s hope it’s dim.



Sestak In Need of Winning Message
May 28, 2009, 7:05 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012

Since Specter switched parties a month or two ago, all-but ruining Congressman Joe Sestak’s chances of winning his seat in 2010, Sestak has been nothing if not media man. He first appeared on the 24-hour cable news networks on any issue imaginable, always ending with a polite, non-committal reply to the inevitable question: “will you challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Primary?”

Sestak has now turned to the netroots. After TPM obtained letters from the congressman to supporters saying that he intends to run in 2010, he has been interviewed by Chris Cillizza of The Fix and Greg Sargent of The Plum Line. To Cillizza, Sestak rightly slams Specter’s Washington ethos and tendency to put petty politics above policy decisions. He also stresses the Senator’s past close connection to President George W. Bush, which continues to be the Achilles heel of longtime Republicans… and guys like Lieberman and Specter.

But Sestak doesn’t really bring it home. In the statement, he said, “It’s someone who was in the military for 30 years versus someone who was in Washington for the past 30 years.”

I’m genuinely happy that a more liberal Democrat has arisen to challenge Specter. But is military experience what we need most right now? No – we need progressive leaders who have extensive experience in economics who know how to steer us out of the economic crisis. It appears that the Sestak campaign will focus on foreign policy, the blockbuster issue before the economy tanked last fall. But at this point, I don’t see a candidate for any office gaining much traction focusing on anything but the economy.

And Sestak has a lot of traction to gain. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Specter crushing Sestak by 29 points in the primary. And President Obama and PA Governor Rendell – who both have a lot of pull in the state – have pledged to endorse Specter in the primary, and the spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that both he and VP Biden would support Specter over Sestak.  though Sestak has said that he would not exit the race if asked by the President.

Either way, Sestak’s candidacy is a good thing. It would be fantastic if he gained that traction and became a viable candidate. But if not, it’s important for someone to force Specter to the left. Once again, this could be 2010’s most entertaining.



Soaring Toward Confirmation?
May 27, 2009, 2:02 am
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Republicans, Supreme Court

My first reaction to Obama’s decision to nominate Sonia Sotomayor to fill Justice David Souter’s Supreme Court seat was “this guy has balls.” Conservatives consider her very liberal (though she’s actually not) and she has been on record saying that federal judges make policy, which some could say is a clear indication that she would be an activist judge.

But so far the nomination looks like  a clear win for Team Obama.  Oddly enough, if a white man with the same voting record who had made such comments on the record were up for the spot, he would probably face more opposition. But the GOP is doing so poorly with women and minorities, that they might not be able to risk opposing Sotomayor in fear that those demographics would abandon them entirely in 2010 and 2012.

Brian Beutler notes that none of Obama’s appointments have so far been successfully blocked by Republicans. That reasoning is a little sketchy because even though Daschle and Richardson withdrew for “personal reasons,” it seems pretty well accepted that they would have faced long confirmation battles and damaged Obama’s political momentum. But Brian’s point emphasizes the fact that Obama remains an incredibly popular President who has yet to make a serious mistake. Opposing his nominee would be politically dangerous no matter who it was.

I was definitely gearing up for an all out offensive from the GOP against Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, but it looks like Team Obama made another politically shrewd choice by daring the GOP oppose Sotomayor. It’s also worth noting that seven current Republican Senators voted to confirm Sotomayor when she was nominated by Bill Clinton as a federal judge in 1998.  So if all the Democrats support her in addition to those seven Senators who liked her a decade ago, she would be easily above the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. So hard-line Conservatives in congress could have little to no sway over Sotomayor’s confirmation.

So unless we learn that Sotomayor once killed a man or is secretly a terrorist, it seems that we will be talking about Justice Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, before long.



Half-Assing the Electoral College Phase Out
May 7, 2009, 4:46 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, General Politics | Tags: , ,

I just saw this post by Hendrik Herzelberg.

News flash: Last Tuesday, Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington State signedthe National Popular Vote bill, making her state the fifth to officially commit itself to the revolutionary idea of electing Presidents the way we elect other important holders of public office.

With Washington’s eleven electoral votes added to the fifty of Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii, we’re now between a fifth and a quarter of the way to the 270 needed to make living, breathing human beings (rather than “artificial entities,” as Alexander Hamilton called states), the relevant unit in Presidential elections, just as they are in gubernatorial, congressional, mayoral, and dogcatcheral elections.

This is cool! And I think that all states need to move toward abolishing the electoral college system. BUT this doesn’t seem like the right way to do it. If I vote in Washington for a Democrat, and the Democrat wins in WA, but most of the rest of the country votes for a Republican, I don’t want my electoral votes going to the other guy. And look at the states that have the law – Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Jersey and Illinois – all states that reliably send all their electoral votes to the Democrat. 

That said, I don’t think that the winner of the national popular vote should ever lose an election. But even in the cases of 2000 and 2004, there is value in showing accurate numbers of who won the election and how close the other guy was. 

In 2004, for example, George W. Bush won 286 electoral votes (only 16 more than the 270 needed to win) and John Kerry won 251, only 19 shy of the magic number. If this law had been in effect, it would have been an electoral landslide, Bush: 347 to Kerry: 190. (well, not as much of a landslide as 2008.)

This just seems like an all or nothing deal. Either we get rid of the electoral college system altogether, or adhere to the rules that we’ve used for more than two centuries.