'It's fun.'9:01 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama hasn't spent that much time on the campaign trail this election season. But that's not because he doesn't like it -- indeed, he does.
Speaking at an event in Maine for the Democratic candidate for governor, Mike Michaud, he talked longingly of his time on the trail. "I'm not on the ballot this time and this is the last election cycle in which I'm involved as President. And I know the hardest -- look, it makes you a little wistful. You kind of," said Obama to laughter, "because I do like campaigning. It’s fun. And I know as I reflect back on the thing that I love so much about campaigning is that it reminds me about the American people. Because you get to meet everybody, of all walks of life. You get to meet young moms who are just valiantly working on behalf of making sure their kids have a better life. You get to meet business owners who take pride in making something here in America and providing their workers a decent wage, and showing what’s possible for some young worker who comes in and can move up the ranks. You have a chance to meet veterans who just render extraordinary service to our country and then come back and suddenly are critical parts of their community and -- giving back as first responders or Little League coaches."
Obama cotinued: "You just meet people from all walks of life and it makes you so optimistic about the American people, how decent they are, how good they are, how hardworking they are, how resilient they are. And sometimes it seems as if our political process doesn’t reflect that, and it’s not what we see on television, it’s not what we read in the newspapers. And that’s part of what makes it so hard to change the status quo."
No, the reason Obama hasn't been campaigning so much these days is because he's not wanted by many of the candidates on the ballot.
6:03 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu told NBC's Chuck Todd that she has had to work harder for her reelection to the U.S. Senate because the South has "not always been the friendliest place for African Americans."
"I'll be very, very honest with you, and the South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans. It's been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader," Landrieu said. Barack Obama lost Louisiana in both 2008 and 2012. Watch the video below:
She also added, "It's not always been a good place for women to present ourselves. It's more of a conservative place." Landrieu, a woman, has been elected three times to the U.S. Senate, the first time in 1996.
5:53 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By JAY COST
Chuck Todd of NBC News is traveling the country, talking to voters, and generally filing interesting reports. But in his report on Arkansas, he repeats a familiar, and false, trope:
Cotton looks poised to win in the state, but if you're trying to figure out why he hasn't put this race away yet, one thing that can't be ignored is his vote against the farm bill. It came up in our talk with Arkansas farmers here -- who were less Pryor Democrats than Clinton Republicans. If it were a disqualifying issue for Cotton, he'd be losing, but it is certainly something that's resonated in a negative way. This is a conservative state, but it's not one that's anti-federal government the way some other Southern states are (or at least are stereotyped to be.) These folks want to be a partner with government.
Two major points about the Farm Bill that Todd ignores.
First, it does little to help the average Arkansan. The Farm Bill is loaded with payoffs that accrue primarily to the wealthiest farmers in the country. Moreover, even the benefits distributed to rich farms usually do not go to the workers who run the farms, the people who supply those farms with equipment, feed, or seed -- or generally anybody with elastic inputs to contribute to the farm economy. Subsidies increase prices temporarily, but these only only induce new people to enter the market, so existing suppliers just end up facing stiffer competition, which drives prices back down.
So, the farm bill helps one group of people: those who own the land. To be more specific, it helps people who owned the land when the subsidies were increased. They collect windfall profits. Later buyers of the land end up paying more because the subsidies drive up the price they must pay.
Second, it is a massive logroll that has become a less and less good deal for rural America. What do you suppose the average Arkansan thinks of the extraordinary increase in food stamp participation over the last six years? I’ll bet dollars to donuts that these voters do not like it. Well, guess where it comes from? The Farm Bill. Since the 1970s food stamps and farm subsidies have been intertwined in the Farm Bill. They have no logical relationship to one another; they are rather combined for purely political purposes. That is, linking them together creates a logroll that protects parochial interests that could probably not survive a straight up or down vote on the House or Senate floor.
All in all, the Farm Bill is a terrible deal for rural people. The benefits their communities accrue are targeted narrowly, to the most wealthy landowners. Moreover, an enormous amount of their tax dollars are spent on a broken and wasteful food stamp program.
5:23 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Democrats up for reelection – especially in the much, much watched and analyzed Senate races – are keeping their distance from President Obama. Obviously and understandably. But this isn’t sitting well with the White House.
In a week that is shaping up big for anonymous leakers and sources of all kinds, Karen Tumulty at the Washington Post has found a “senior Democrat who advises the White House, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter” who says “the current feeling among Obama and his aides is ‘exasperation.’”
And: “He doesn’t think they have any reason to run away from him. He thinks there is a strong message there.”
For his part, the president has said:
“The bottom line is … these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress.”
“You can run, but you can’t hide."
Meet the pizza deliveryman who could determine control of the U.S. Senate.4:20 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
“All these people are saying I’m costing Kay Hagan or Thom Tillis the election,” Sean Haugh told me as he sipped a glass of Duck-Rabbit beer on Tuesday night. “It’s like it’s somehow my fault that they’re terrible candidates.”
Haugh (pronounced "haw"), the Libertarian candidate in North Carolina’s Senate race, has drawn an increasing amount of attention this summer and fall as the quirky pizza deliveryman and craft beer aficionado who could potentially determine control of the U.S. Senate. Since the end of September, Democratic senator Kay Hagan’s lead over Republican Thom Tillis has dwindled in the RealClearPolitics polling average from nearly 5 points to just 1 point. That slim margin makes it ever more plausible that Haugh, who’s now garnering 5 percent in the RCP polling average, could play a decisive role in the North Carolina Senate race, and hence control of the Senate.
Will Haugh’s support fade away and give Tillis the edge on Election Day? Or will he scoop up enough of the remaining undecided voters to seal Hagan’s victory? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess, but on the ground in North Carolina there’s no sign of a surge in support for Haugh.
“This is great,” said one of the Durham County Libertarians when a waitress had to move their regular meeting at a local bar to a back room in order to accommodate a larger-than-usual crowd on Tuesday night. “There are so many people here.” By my count, 13 people were gathered. That included Haugh, his campaign manager, two members of the foreign press (one from Austria and one from Poland), and me. A more heavily-publicized event the night before didn’t do much better: Haugh told me “24 or 25” people ponied up $30 each to spend the evening drinking beer and talking politics with him.
But judging Haugh’s support based on turnout at public events might misunderstand and underestimate the Sean Haugh phenomenon. Haugh has become well known for his virtual campaign, which consists of a series of YouTube videos in which he drinks craft beer and discusses libertarian politics. The typical video gets just 1,000 to 2,000 views, but the shtick has helped him get a lot more attention in the mainstream media, including a profile in the Washington Post and appearances on national cable news networks.
Media attention probably doesn’t explain the Libertarian’s above-average support in the polls either: Haugh was getting 10 percent to 11 percent in the polls before the media began paying attention to him and only a few hundred people had seen his videos. What really seems to be driving support for Haugh is disapproval of national Democrats, like Kay Hagan and Barack Obama, as well as the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature, where Thom Tillis is the speaker of the House of Representatives.
4:15 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The camera caught many empty seats at a rally Hillary Clinton is headlining in College Park, Maryland:
Hillary Clinton, a possible candidate for president of the United States, had not come out to speak yet, but was expected to take the stage shortly.
The rally is for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running to become the next governor of Maryland.
The location of the rally, College Park, is a Democratic stronghold and home of the University of Maryland.
Daniel Halper is author of Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.
4:01 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
It looks like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is bracing for a bad election next week. At least, that's what they're openly telling supporters.
The latest alarmist fundraising email from the Democratic group has this subject line: "Accept Defeat."
"We are completely out of ideas," the first line of the email reads.
"After Hillary Clinton emailed you this morning to ask for help, we really thought we would be in a better place.
"But we aren't. The Koch Brothers are pummeling us spending millions against us. Republicans are spending $26 MILLION against us this week alone -- the most of the entire election. So big -- it doesn't even look like Hillary Clinton's email can dig us out of this hole.
"There is still time, though. Things are rough, but we’re not ready to accept defeat. If we can bring in 35,OOO donations before tomorrow’s fundraising deadline, we can get back on track before Tuesday’s election."
Polling suggests the Democrats are likely to loss seats in the already Republican controlled House of Representatives.
3:36 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Paul McLeary of Defense News writes that the administration has a way of accounting for what went wrong in Iraq. According to Deputy National Security Adviser Anthony Blinken (a rare "top administration official" willing to go on record):
… the Obama administration had in fact “sought to leave behind a residual force and a counterterrorism presence to help Iraqis develop intelligence” on al-Qaida while also stationing an F-16 squadron to protect Iraq’s airspace. But “the Iraqi body politic did not want us to stay in Iraq. That’s what happened.”
… violence had decreased to such levels that Iraqi officials felt their own security forces could handle it.
“We were also, to some extent, the victim of success,” [Blinken] said, since violence had come down so significantly from its height during the “surge” years of 2007-2008.
“... we had to leave in order to find a way back on the security side, and gradually build up our engagement.”
2:26 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Just five days out from Election Day and Vice President Joe Biden is again campaigning for Iowa's Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley -- but not in Iowa. Thursday afternoon, Biden heads to the 8th Floor in New York City according to the official White House schedule for a 6:00 p.m. event:
The 8th Floor is a "private exhibition and event space established to promote cultural and philanthropic initiatives." There is a note on the organization's website that "the 8th Floor will be closed to the public on the 29th and 30th of October." It is not clear if Braley himself will be attending the event, but a search for the event on Braley's campaign website comes up empty:
According to the White House schedule, the event will be closed to the press.
1:17 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senator Jeff Sessions will soon release this statement in response to a report in the Wall Street Journal that details President Obama's plans to unilaterally implement amnesty.
"The Wall Street Journal confirmed today that the President is planning to issue a massive unilateral executive amnesty after the election.
"In its report, the WSJ certifies that this executive amnesty would provide work permits for illegal immigrants—taking jobs directly from struggling Americans.
"Based on the USCIS contract bid and statements from USCIS employees, we know this executive immigration order is likely to be broader in scope than anyone has imagined.
"Earlier this week, President Obama’s former head of Homeland Security revealed that she overrode resistance from administration lawyers and law enforcement agents in implementing the President’s earlier unlawful amnesty and work authorization program for illegal immigrants 30 and under. This was an open admission by one of the most senior people in government of violating one’s oath of office in order to accomplish a nakedly political aim.
"The President is assuming for himself the sole and absolute power to decide who can enter, work, live, and claim benefits in the United States. He has exempted virtually every group in the world from America’s immigration laws: people who enter before a certain age, people related to people who enter before a certain age, adults traveling with minors, minors traveling with adults, illegal immigrants who are not convicted of serious crimes, illegal workers who are convicted of serious crimes but not enough serious crimes, almost anyone who shows up the border and demands asylum, the millions who overstay their visas, and, as was recently exposed, illegal immigrants with serious criminal histories. The list continues to grow.
"A nation creates borders and laws to protect its own citizens. What about their needs?
"The President is systemically stripping away the immigration protections to which every single American worker and their family is entitled. He doesn’t care how this impacts Americans’ jobs, wages, schools, tax bills, hospitals, police departments, or communities.
"But it gets worse still. The WSJ reports that the President is ‘expected to benefit businesses that use large numbers of legal immigrants, such as technology companies.’ Those changes include measures to massively expand the number of foreign workers for IT companies—measures aggressively lobbied for by IT giants like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Yet we have more than 11 million Americans with STEM degrees who don’t have jobs in these fields. Rutgers professor Hal Salzman documented that two-thirds of all new IT jobs are being filled by foreign workers. From 2000 through today, a period of record legal immigration, all net gains in employment among the working-age have gone entirely to immigrant workers.
"And now, in order to help open borders billionaires, President Obama is going to deny millions of Americans their shot at entering the middle class and a better life.
12:45 PM, Oct 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Bloomberg is reporting that:
NATO fighter planes made interceptions of seven Russian military aircraft near Latvia’s border today, following a similar incident yesterday, the country’s army said on its Twitter account.
Increased and intrusive Russian military activity has also been seen elsewhere as:
Estonia and Finland reported increased violations of their airspace, while Sweden earlier this month staged its biggest naval mobilization since the Cold War in a week-long hunt for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago.
The Washington Post quotes a:
U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the air activity publicly,
Who says, “It’s concerning because it’s moving in the wrong direction. It’s not helping to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. It’s not helping to improve relations between NATO and Russia. It’s not helping anybody.”
Perhaps it is not intended to.
Upset?11:18 AM, Oct 30, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan has a 5-point lead over Democrat Anthony Brown in a surprisingly close race in Maryland, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Hogan campaign and obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
The survey of more than 500 likely Maryland voters finds Hogan with 44 percent support, while Brown, the lieutenant governor, has 39 percent support. Fourteen percent say they remain undecided. That's a 17-point swing from the campaign's internal poll in July, when Brown led Hogan by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent.
The poll also found Hogan winning self-identified moderate voters by 6 percentage points and independent voters by 27 percentage points. The Republican also has a higher favorability rating (49 percent) than the Democrat (41 percent). View the full poll results here.
National Democrats have begun investing resources in the Maryland race, in which Brown maintains a sizable lead in public polls. In recent weeks both presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have stumped for Brown, and another Democratic heavyweight, Hillary Clinton, will be attending a rally in Maryland today with the lieutenant governor.
Hogan, a businessman, has been emphasizing the increased cost of living in Maryland and declining standard of living under the state's current two-term Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley. Brown was O'Malley's running mate and has served under the governor since 2007. One recent Hogan ad featured a lifelong Democratic voter who encouraged others like herself to vote for the Republican. Watch that ad below:
10:01 AM, Oct 30, 2014 • By JIM SWIFT
Today, in an article for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Apple CEO Tim Cook makes an announcement: "I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
Cook continues, writing:
"The company I am so fortunate to lead has ... taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California."
While he "doesn't consider himself an activist," Cook has personally lobbied on gay rights issues in his home state of Alabama and at the United Nations.
All of this sounds familiar—haven’t we heard this story before?
A southern-born CEO invoking religion regarding his views on homosexuality, lobbying for what he believes in, and using his company to financially and publicly support those views?
Indeed, we have a heard a story like this before.
Before Tim Cook, this perfectly described another CEO and son of the south: Daniel Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly referred to S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A.
9:08 AM, Oct 30, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The indicators for the economy are looking good. For those who view the world through a political prism, this news may be coming too late to help the president and his party in the mid-terms. And for those whose view is long and wide, the skies are not entirely blue. There is the matter of labor force participation, which is historically low. Also home ownership, which is also in a deep trough. And interest rates will soon be rising. Still …
Third quarter GDP rose by 3.5 percent, as reported by Bloomberg. A good number, and one that exceeded expectations of 3.1 percent. (Skeptics may point to the impact of government spending on that number but a win is a win.)
And: First time claims rose very modestly, keeping the running average at a 40-year low. A good jobs trend may not cure all ills, but it makes many of them more bearable.
Another dominating trend in economic news is the declining price of oil. This, of course, shows up for the average person when filling up to make the commute. Lower oil prices are a kind of increase in discretionary spending since gasoline for the car is sort of like milk for the baby. Falling gasoline prices, then, are a quick means of putting cash in people’s pockets.
Think of it as a stimulus plan. Without all that central planning.
7:24 AM, Oct 30, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently suspended all background investigations on current and prospective Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees due to security concerns over Personally Identifiable Information (PII). The information is revealed in newly released documents justifying recently awarded government contracts: At least five sole-source, no-bid contracts of "unusual and compelling urgency" totaling almost a half million dollars were awarded to various information technology vendors at the end of September.
Although the justification documents for the contracts state that the awards were "not the result of a lack of planning," the contracts' sole-source, no-bid nature was justified because "[t]ime and urgency did not allow for soliciting multiple sources." CBP halted all background investigations until security upgrades are completed:
The five upgrade contracts were awarded in Colorado, Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, and New Mexico. According to the documents, the need for the upgrade is the result of "a requirement for increased security standards for background investigation contractors accessing Personally Identifiable Information." No source is cited for the "requirement for increased security standards":
The BPA referenced in the document covers at least 47 transactions stretching back to 2009 totaling $53 million for background investigations for the CBP. Market research, usually a requirement for government contracts, was not done in the case of the security enhancements because, per the government documents, only the selected vendors can conduct the upgrades due to the systems' proprietary nature. Without the upgrades, use of the systems would have to be discontinued.
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