Saturday, January 1, 2011

They're Steele Gunning For Him

The race for RNC chair is getting serious now with Michael Steele still wanting to keep his job and a fair amount of support coalescing around Steele's former ally, Reince Priebus.

In many ways, it seems odd that Steele could very well lose, after a cycle in which the GOP made big gains in offices large and small. And if there's one thing we've learned about Steele, it's that he has an impressive ability to weather scandals and gaffes that would fell others. But now, after all those gaffes and scandals, his opponents are now striking back in the open at election time.

Steele faces a crowded field of challengers that includes: Priebus, a former Steele ally whose smashing success at painting his state red this year has helped him shoot to the top; former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis (also a previous 2009 RNC candidate, and the first challenger to get in this time); former Bush Administration official Maria Cino (who has been endorsed by Dick Cheney); former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner; and to top it all off, former high-ranking Steele aide Gentry Collins.

As the most recent whip counts from Politico and National Journal show, Priebus is in first place with the support of 26 RNC voters, followed by Steele at 15 -- an awful place to be for an incumbent -- with Anuzis and Wagner at 11 apiece, Cino 6, and Collins 3.

The problem is a number of Tea Party Republicans aren't any happier with the front-runners than they are with Steele.   The Tea Party long-shot is the guy currently in the back of the pack:  Gentry Collins.  Collins is picking up some unlikely endorsements, too, like Connecticut state RNC head Chris Healy.

These are the hard truths. Each Member is entitled to support who they believe is best suited to lead our Party through a critical time. I am supporting Gentry Collins because he comes to the job with experience, knowledge and credibility. He handled his job under difficult circumstances and saw it through before opting to run for it himself. Some have questioned his loyalty, but if anything, Gentry showed he was true to the Members and the activists by sorting out conflicting information and unmet commitments from Steele and his inner circle.

The fight will heat up on Monday at Grover Norquist's annual government drowning party RNC candidate debate.   We'll see who comes out swinging to get the brass ring...or in this case, the Steele one.

Drill Buckeye Drill

Fresh off turning down hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars that would have created thousands of Ohio jobs and a green rail line from Cincy to Cleveland because it would be "a trap", incoming Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich says it's time to drill in Ohio state parks and the Great Lakes for oil and gas.

In announcing his appointees to run the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources yesterday, Gov.-elect John Kasich used one word over and over: business.

"These departments are going to send a message to Ohio that we are open for business," Kasich said in naming Scott Nally of Indiana as head of the EPA and former American Electric Power executive David Mustine as director of Natural Resources.

Kasich, a former Republican congressman who will take office Jan. 10, emphasized that he doesn't plan to empower business at "the cost of environmental degradation." But in the next breath, he said he wants to "exploit the wonders of our state."

"When you have something that's really valuable, use it," he said in a briefing at the Rhodes Tower. That includes drilling for oil and gas in state parks and on state land, he said. But he was cautious when asked about drilling in Lake Erie.

"Lake Erie is a jewel," Kasich said. "When it comes to Lake Erie, we're going to be extremely careful."

You know, just like BP was extremely careful.  One of Kasich's campaign promises was to in fact ban drilling along Lake Erie.  I bet that promise will be kept any day now.  The Marcellus shale field in eastern Ohio, WV, Pennsylvania and western NY could be very profitable the expense of major environmental impact along those areas, particularly to the water table.

Ohio is "open for business" but at what environmental cost?  Kasich doesn't even seem to care.  He just promises to "be careful".

A New Year Means Good Health

Several new health care reform provisions take effect today, including two major ones.  TPM's Brian Beutler gives a review.

Starting Saturday, two of the new health care law's most significant reforms take effect -- or at least begin to take effect.

The first will dramatically clamp down on insurance industry waste, abuse, and excesses. Starting on New Year's Day, insurance companies will have to spend at least 80 percent of the revenues they receive from premiums on actual health care. Not on salaries or overhead.

Like so many of the law's early reforms, the impact of a strict "medical loss ratio" will be invisible to most consumers. But don't mistake that for insignificance. The bill's most strident critics cite this one provision as the basis for the claim that the government is "taking over" the health care system. That's a false claim, no matter how you slice it -- this is about insurance companies, not, say, hospitals or pharmaceuticals, and those insurers are all still private. They'll just have to play by stricter rules.

The other is much more visible. Senior citizens -- a demographic that's skeptical of the bill -- will see real benefits. In 2011, the law will begin to close the Medicare Part D coverage gap -- the infamous "donut hole." Seniors who reach the donut hole will now receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, the first step in a 10 year plan to fill the hole completely. Seniors will also now receive free annual checkups, screenings and other preventive care. 

So more efficient use of health care dollars, and the Medicare donut hole gets covered for seniors.  Two things Americans can take to the bank.  We'll see how many people want those provisions repealed when they start saving Americans real money.

The Moose And Mr. Silver

Nate Silver takes a second, updated look at Sarah Palin's chances in 2012 and finds some tarnish on her banner compared to 12 months ago.  But his conclusions seem very solid that Palin is still a candidate to be respected in the primaries.

On balance, these factors look somewhat less favorable to Ms. Palin than they did a year ago. In particular, it should be alarming to her how quickly some figures in the Republican establishment have turned against her. It is probably not a coincidence that these attacks began to escalate shortly after this November’s elections, in which Republicans were perceived as having sacrificed several Senate seats, like in Delaware and Nevada, because of having nominated unelectable candidates.

Meanwhile — after an interim period in which she seemed to be playing the role of the happy warrior, endorsing and raising money for Republican candidates — Ms. Palin recently seems to have become less selective about the arguments that she is engaging in. Her choice to attack Ms. Obama’s anti-obesity initiatives, for instance, suggests that she is either not listening to advice or that her advisers are not highly competent. Instead, she should be erring on the side of turning the other cheek: one thing that has generally been true is that presidential candidates who project a sunnier, more optimistic disposition tend to outlast those that come across as angrier. This may be especially important for Ms. Palin, who is always a lightning-rod for criticism; she doesn’t need to instigate any conflicts that she isn’t already engaged in.

Still, Ms. Palin has some unique strengths, like her ability to use new media to attract the political world’s attention virtually at her whim. It remains conceivable, also, that the attacks that Ms. Palin will receive from members of the Republican establishment — and those which she will eventually begin to receive from other Republican presidential contenders — could be turned to her advantage if she manages them in the right way, considering the anti-establishment mood in some corners of the party.

In the near term, I would look toward two things. First, what is being said about Ms. Palin on conservative blogs, on conservative talk radio, and on Fox News? These reflect the middle ground between elite and popular opinion and may provide a leading indicator — perhaps more so than polls — about how much the elite’s criticisms of Ms. Palin, and their concerns about her electability, are penetrating into the general public.

Second, I would look toward whom Ms. Palin is hiring as her support staff. A presidential campaign is a huge endeavor, comparable to a medium-sized business. Perhaps, because of her facility in commanding attention, Ms. Palin requires less assistance than a typical candidate might. Perhaps, because she sometimes seems to have an impatience for details and has not run for president before, she requires more. But all presidential candidates need some help: those candidates, like the Republican Fred Thompson, who have become too enamored with the notion of running a “viral”, nontraditional campaign from the confines of their living rooms have usually failed miserably. Is she hiring good pollsters, media strategists, fundraisers, consultants, logisticians, and advertising gurus? If so, she may still be as likely as anyone to prevail from a large, but fairly weak, Republican field. If not, her campaign, if she decides to run one, is liable to be a bust.

That should sober you up this morning, I know it did for me.   I agree with Nate's assessment, adding that I don't think she has the discipline to listen to Nate's advice here.  If she's serious about running and winning in 2012, she's going to need to learn to listen to other people to direct her going forward.

It's painfully clear that Sarah Palin's ego won't allow that.  She has to be the center of attention, and she has been rewarded too many times by the Village in that way.  All she has to do to "win" the 24-hour news cycle right now is make a Facebook post.

However, she loses as much as she wins in the long run on this.  Her recent attacks on Michelle Obama's obesity initiative for kids is too much for most conservatives to handle.  Most importantly, it's a stark reminder that Palin has bad instincts as often as she does good ones.

If she hires the right people and learns to control her attacks, she's going to be dangerous.  I don't think she will be able to do either.  Just too much ego there.

StupidiNews, New Year's Weekend Edition!

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