|12:00 AM, Jul 24, 2014 • By FRED BARNES
Republicans have distinct advantages in Senate races this year, including President Obama’s low job ratings, the number of vulnerable Democrats, and an unhappy national mood. But there’s another advantage: the generally high quality of their candidates. This wasn’t the case in 2010 and 2012, when Republicans blew chances to capture the Senate.
Strong candidates aren’t everything in elections. Money and the political landscape matter. And in a landslide, even poor candidates are swept into office. But as a rule, the better the candidates, the better the prospects for winning. This is especially true in national elections, where candidates get greater scrutiny.
What makes candidates “top-tier,” in the jargon of politics? They tend to be disciplined, quick-witted, have a credible message, don’t say absurd or unnecessarily provocative things, can raise money, and deal effectively with the media. It doesn’t hurt to be likeable, either.
In 2014, Republicans must gain six seats to take Senate control. And they’ve made this easier for themselves by dodging bullets in three Republican-held seats–Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi. In those states GOP candidates that Democrats believed would be the easiest to beat were themselves defeated in the primaries.
In Georgia on Tuesday, businessman David Perdue won a Republican runoff against Rep. Jack Kingston and now faces Democrat Michelle Nunn in November. Democrats had hoped her GOP opponent would be either Rep. Paul Broun or Rep. Phil Gingrey, but both were eliminated in the primary. Perdue, the successful CEO of Dollar General stores, will be tough to beat in red-state Georgia.
In Kentucky, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was challenged by businessman Matt Bevin. Conservative groups spent heavily on TV ads to help Bevin, but he lost overwhelmingly in the primary. That gave McConnell a lift. Once seen as having no better than a 50-50 chance of defeating Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, he’s now the favorite.
In Mississippi, Senator Thad Cochran finished second to state senator Chris McDaniel in the primary, then won the runoff with the help of crossover votes by black Democrats. The clash left bad feelings among McDaniel voters, but Cochran should be able to handle Democrat Travis Childers. Democrats figured their only chance of winning was against McDaniel.
To win six or more Democratic seats, Republicans start with the best possible candidates in West Virginia (Rep. Sherry Moore Capito), South Dakota (former Gov. Mike Rounds), and Montana (Rep. Steve Daines). These open Democratic seats are regarded as near-certain GOP takeovers, but they wouldn’t be if Republicans were stuck with second-tier candidates or worse.
Then there are the four red states with Democratic incumbents–Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alaska. Once again, Republicans are blessed with able, attractive candidates. As a result, all five races are tossups or lean Republican. The Alaska primary isn’t until August 17, but I’m assuming former state attorney general Dan Sullivan will be the nominee. He’s already tied in polls against Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.
6:45 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
As John T. Bennett of Defense News reports, perplexity is the theme in Washington today. Everyone, it seems, is waiting for Europe. From Nancy Pelosi who said that President Obama had "taken the lead on sanctions" in the hope that the Europeans would "enthusiastically follow suit,” to General Barry McCaffrey who wonders “Where are the British? Where are the French? Where are the Germans?” And
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calls it “stunning” that Europe “has moved so slowly” on responding to Russia’s invasion and contested annexation of part of Ukraine, as well as the airliner shoot down.
Stunning? Or merely rational?
One suspects that European nations will to what they believe is in their self-interest. Which means that they will ask themselves if they have more to fear from Russia or the United States. Most of those nations have been unwilling to spend that percentage of GDP that NATO considers sufficient on military readiness even though post-Soviet Russia is still militarily formidable. Economically, sanctions can cut both ways. And, then, Russia does supply Europe with a lot of its energy.
Europe has a fairly nice thing going with Russia. As, for instance, the French who are doing well building ships for Russia’s navy.
The French people, it should be noted, seem okay with that but they have taken to the streets in Paris to set things on fire as a way of expressing their feelings about …
Israel and the Jews.
Which, sadly, is not so “stunning."
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:20 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with staff writer Jay Cost on the odds of a GOP takeover of the Senate.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
4:00 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Jonathan Martin reports for the New York Times that John Walsh, who is now running to keep the Montana Senate seat to which he was recently appointed, plagiarized a master's thesis in 2007:
[O]ne of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.
Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.
Recent polls have shown Walsh trailing his Republican opponent.
3:31 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Rep. Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, missed three quarters of committee hearings concerning oversight of the Veterans Affairs administration in 2011 and 2012, including one, the Des Moines Register reports, on the same day Braley attended three fundraisers.
The Register's Jennifer Jacobs notes that Republicans are criticizing Braley for missing the meetings during a time when widespread abuses at VA-run hospitals were occuring, delaying care for veterans. The Braley campaign has responded that the four-term congressman was attending a separate committee hearing on the day of the three fundraisers. Jacobs notes that there's little evidence Braley was active or even present for that hearing:
At 10:19 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2012, the committee held a hearing on a backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding, congressional records show. The roll call shows Braley didn't attend.
Braley's aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the "Fast and Furious" gun trafficking scandal. The congressional record marked Braley "present," but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m.
Video caught no sight of Braley. His seat isn't always visible, but the multiple times it's within camera view during the window the Veterans Affairs committee was in session (10:19 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.), Braley wasn't seated, a Register review of C-SPAN 3 and committee footage found.
Members of Congress can check in as "present" at a hearing, stay for a brief time – sometimes to ask a question – and then leave. Braley didn't ask a question, the transcript shows.
Read the rest of Jacobs's detailed report here.
Braley is facing Republican state senator Joni Ernst in the general election for retiring Democrat Tom Harkin's Senate seat. Ernst is also a war veteran who still serves as an officer in the Iowa Army National Guard.
Polls show the race is in a virtual tie.
2:49 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
A new poll from Marquette University shows Wisconsin governor Scott Walker locked in a tight race with Democrat Mary Burke, a former state Secretary of Commerce and member of the Madison school board. Among registered voters, Walker leads Burke 46 percent to 45 percent, with 8 percent undecided and 1 percent preferring another candidate. But among likely voters, Burke leads Walker 47 percent to 46 percent.
The last Marquette poll, conducted in May, showed Walker leading Burke 48 percent to 45 percent. Walker was recently subjected to a round of negative reports in the news media regarding a campaign finance investigation that was shut down by two different judges because the investigation lacked merit. But the new poll does not indicate that that's an issue hurting Walker, as a solid majority of voters say the investigation is "just more politics" rather than "really something serious":
In the wake of the release of court documents concerning an investigation by prosecutors into possible campaign finance law violations, known as a “John Doe” proceeding, 75 percent of voters say they have heard or read about the investigation while 24 percent say they have not. Of those who have heard, 54 percent say it is “just more politics” while 42 percent say it is “really something serious.” In October 2012, 76 percent had heard of a “John Doe” investigation at that time, with 46 percent saying it was “just more politics” and 45 percent saying it was “really something serious.”
One bright spot for the Walker campaign is that his Democratic opponent remains largely unknown: "Burke still remains unfamiliar to nearly half of Wisconsin voters, as 49 percent say they either haven’t heard enough about her or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of her. In May, the number was 51 percent." That means Walker and his allies still have time to define Burke when the TV ad war really picks up this fall.
2:09 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
The Obama administration announced Tuesday in a court filing that it would change the way it imposes its contraception and abortifacient mandate on religious non-profits, such as Christian schools like Wheaton College and charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The administration claims it has already accommodated these non-profits, but religious leaders and scholars have argued the "accommodation" is nothing more than an accounting gimmick that still requires conscientious objectors to violate their religious and moral beliefs.
The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision did not resolve whether or not the so-called accommodation was legal, and most observers expect that question to be resolved by a future Supreme Court case. But a senior Obama administration administration said in a written statement late Tuesday night that the administration would further modify its regulations next month (without saying precisely what would change):
"The administration believes the accommodation is legally sounds [sic], but in light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the Departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting non-profit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing. While we are working through the details now, we expect this rulemaking to be issued within a month.”
The administration's so-called accommodation requires religious objectors to sign a form stating their objections, and then their insurers are required to directly provide objectionable drugs and services at no cost to their employees. In an open letter in 2012, a group of over 500 religious leaders and scholars condemned this regulation as an accounting trick: "It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not 'paying' for this aspect of the insurance coverage. For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers. More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual. They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy."
Update: Lori Windham of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty pointed out in a statement that this is the "seventh time in three years that the government has retreated from its original, hard-line stance that only “houses of worship” that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom."
12:47 PM, Jul 23, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
ISIS is well on its way to having a country of its own and, evidently, already has a military infrastructure set up to train recruits in skills needed to wage Jihad and secure the Caliphate.
Bill Roggio reports in Long War Journal:
The Islamic State released several photographs of what it said are its training camps in Iraq's Ninewa province. The images are the latest in a propaganda effort by various terror groups in both Iraq and Syria to promote their training camp infrastructure … videos from ISIS, Al Nusrah Front, Muhajireen Army, and Imam Bukhari Jamaat training camps are reminiscent of others released by al Qaeda from the network of camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s. Al Qaeda used camps such as Khalden and Al Farouq to churn out thousands of foreign fighters who fought alongside the Taliban in the 55th Arab Brigade. But al Qaeda also selected graduates of the camps to conduct attacks in the West, including the Sept. 11, 2001 operation against the US.
Some things, one thinks, have changed. And fundamentally so. Back then didn’t know what the the jihadists had in mind for the long term.
Also, we didn’t have drones.
11:18 AM, Jul 23, 2014 • By IKE BRANNON
A wizened soul who worked in the bowels of the United States Treasury in the Eisenhower administration once explained to me all that is wrong with the U.S. tax code.
He opined that every so often politicians perceive—rightly or wrongly—a “problem” with the tax code and resolve to fix it. The fix seems elemental taken alone: If we want more of a good thing we should tax it less, or tax it more if it is a bad thing—or disallow it all together. But do this a couple dozen times a year, and in a mere 28 years—the time that’s elapsed since passage of the 1986 Tax Reform Act—we are left with a profoundly convoluted tax code that is complicated, at odds with itself, and not at all amenable to economic growth. If we took a holistic approach to the tax code and endeavored to create one with few warts but geared towards economic growth, the retired Treasury Mandarin growled, we would have a tax code that made sense and did much less harm to the economy than the one we’re presently saddled with.
We may be about to make such a mistake once again by disallowing corporate “inversions” that result in a U.S. company—through either a merger, takeover, or some ambiguous way station between the two—effectively changes its domicile to another country. The Administration has seized upon this in a major way, with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew—never a man prone to subtlety—accusing such corporations of not being patriotic, with a gaggle of the administration’s hallelujah chorus in the press singing the same tune. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing week on the topic as well.
The inclination of anyone who pays attention to the goings-on of Congress is to dismiss the chance of any legislation becoming law as slim and none, given the ever-widening chasm between Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate and John Boehner and the Republican House of Representatives. But some Congress watchers suggest that a spate of inversions in the near future could put pressure on fiscal hawks facing reelection to declare their support for banning future inversions.
That would be a grievous mistake. Stopping inversions by merely outlawing it, without addressing the problems with the tax code pushing multinationals to relocate in the first place, is a short-sighted approach that would make U.S. businesses less competitive and chase commerce elsewhere.
Flaws in our Corporate Tax Code
The main reason inversions make sense is because we have sky-high corporate tax rates. The U.S. currently has the highest corporate tax rate of the 32 developed nations that belong to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, with a top rate (federal plus state) averaging nearly 39 percent—twice the average corporate rate in Europe. In the last twenty years literally every single OECD country has reduced its corporate tax rate, save for the United States.
Will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November.10:30 AM, Jul 23, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Businessman and first-time candidate David Perdue pulled off what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls a "political shocker" by winning the Republican primary runoff for the U.S. Senate in Georgia Tuesday. Perdue defeated Republican congressman Jack Kingston, who had the backing of much of the party establishment in Georgia, most of the Republican House delegation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The runoff was very close, with Perdue winning by fewer than 2 percentage points and fewer than 10,000 votes. The Savannah-based Kingston dominate in rural south Georgia, but Perdue won nearly every county north of the "gnat" line, which includes the populous metro Atlanta region. Perdue is running to succeed retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss and join fellow Republican Johnny Isakson in the Senate. Neither senator endorsed in the primary.
Perdue is the cousin of former GOP governor Sonny Perdue, the first Republican to win the governor's seat since Reconstruction. Despite this pedigree, David Perdue has never run for office and based his candidacy around this fact. His first ad of the primary season cast his fellow four Republican candidates (all current or former elected officials) as whining babies, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, and Perdue' overall message has been that he is an outsider. In Kingston, Perdue had a runoff opponent who had been in the House of Representatives since 1993.
Perdue and Georgia Republicans now turn their sights to the general election and the Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat, Michelle Nunn. Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic senator Sam Nunn, is also running for the first time and has similarly situated herself as an outsider. Georgia has been voting Republican for state and federal offices for years, and the last Democrat to win a Senate election in the Peach State was in 2000 when conservative Democrat Zell Miller won a special election. Republicans hold the majority of the seats in the state's House delegation, both houses in the state assembly, and all eight statewide elected offices. Furthermore, the GOP presidential candidate has won Georgia the last four elections in a row.
Still, the state's increasingly diverse population may be weakening the GOP's stronghold, and national Democrats see Nunn's run as a possible way to take back a Republican-held seat in a tough year for the party throughout the country.
10:01 AM, Jul 23, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Vladimir Putin does not seem inclined to talk nice and patch things up with the West. To the contrary, he is drawing lines. They may, or may not, be “red." He seems confident enough not to need the modifier.
As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of NATO forces strengthening positions closer to Russia's border. Speaking at a July 22 session of the Russian Security Council in Moscow, Putin said Russia needs to react "appropriately and proportionately" to NATO's moves but he added he currently sees no direct threat to Russia's sovereignty or territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, France will proceed with plans to deliver a state-of-the-art warship to Russia. Which, to use the parlance of international statecraf, “sends a message."
9:39 AM, Jul 23, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Daniel Halper, THE WEEKLY STANDARD's online editor and author of Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, writes for Politico magazine:
When I started to write Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, I knew the reaction to expect. I was well aware that the former (and perhaps future) first family and its massive retinue of loyalty enforcers, professional defamers and assorted gadflies would rue my intent to examine the real Clintons—especially in my search for the real Chelsea Clinton, who until now has been a media-protected nonperson despite her aggressive public activities on her family’s behalf and despite raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from her role as former first daughter.
MSNBC’s David Shuster learned this the hard way when he was suspended from the network for saying, “But doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” in a live TV hit on how the former first daughter was being used by her mother’s 2008 campaign. The Clintons hit the roof over the single relatively banal comment, as I report in my book, and lobbied the head of parent company GE to get Shuster off the air.
I also had a feeling that some of the sources I spoke to, for and not-for attribution, including alleged Clinton mistresses who’ve stayed out of the press and remain loyal to Bill, would alert the Clintons to what I was doing and help them prepare a counterattack.
Read the whole thing here.
9:06 PM, Jul 22, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. airlines from flying to Israel on Tuesday afternoon. Mike Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, issued the following statement Tuesday night:
This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel. Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely. The flight restrictions are a mistake that hand Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.
El Al, an Israeli airline, has maintained its flights to Tel Aviv from New Jersey's Newark airport.
7:58 PM, Jul 22, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Islamists of ISIS are, as Maggie Fick and Isra' al-Rubei'i of Reuters report
… crushing resistance across northern Iraq so successfully that its promise to march on Baghdad may no longer be unrealistic bravado.
The have accomplished this not so much through tactical brilliance as ruthlessness and brutality. For instance
… when its fighters met armed resistance from the town of al-Alam for 13 days running …They kidnapped 30 local families and rang up the town's most influential citizens with a simple message about the hostages: "You know their destiny if you don't let us take over the town.” Within hours, tribesmen and local leaders caved in to save the families. The black flag of the Sunni militants, who are bent on overthrowing the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government, was soon flying over government buildings and police stations in al-slam.
It isn’t popular. But, then, it doesn’t have to be. Not when
"One hundred percent of people are angry that the Islamic State is here but there is nothing we can do," said a scared resident who spoke by telephone on condition of anonymity.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:55 PM, Jul 22, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with frequent contributors Adam J. White and Jeffrey H. Anderson on the conflicting court rulings over the legality of the IRS's interpretation of Obamacare subsidies for those participating in the federal Obamacare exchange.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
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