Thursday, December 27, 2012

Last Call

Over at Maddowblog, Steve Benen locks on to the Old Age Mutant Nimrod Turtle vs. Ashley Judd story.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), generally comfortable in the roll of dealmaker, has done very little work in the fiscal talks. The reason is widely known, but generally goes unsaid: McConnell is terrified of a primary challenger and working with Democrats on a debt-reduction deal will only generate more far-right ire.

But there's also McConnell's general election prospects to consider.

 Two weeks ago, Public Policy Polling found that McConnell, with an approval rating of just 37%, is the least popular senator in the nation. In a hypothetical match-up against actor Ashley Judd, the Republicans' Senate leader was ahead by only four points, 47% to 43%.

And McConnell cried "SKEWED" and released his own poll which found...that he was only ahead by 4 points, 47%-43%.

Mitch is in trouble in 2014 and he knows it.

For that matter, also note that McConnell is testing anti-Judd messages two years before the election -- against someone who's never held or sought elected office -- which suggests the senator is genuinely worried about his prospects. By releasing his internal poll, McConnell hoped to look stronger, but in this case, I'm afraid he doth protest too much.

Yep.  I didn't think Ashley Judd was a serious threat to Mitch until we saw his reaction.  If he's in this much trouble with two years to go against an anti-coal Hollywood type (even if that Hollywood type is a UK grad) he just might be actually vulnerable.

We'll see.  Sen. Ashley Judd?  Yeah, I'm down with that.

Fukushima Jujitsu

The incoming administration of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party is pulling the full flip flop on the country's post-Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster policy of eliminating nuclear reactors, and if anything, new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to greenlight more reactors ASAP to make up for the country's power shortages.

Japan’s new leaders set to work Thursday on dismantling plans to rid the country of nuclear power by 2040, pledging to review a post-Fukushima policy.

The pro-business Liberal Democratic Party-led government also said they would give the green light to any reactors deemed safe by regulators, indicating shuttered power stations could start coming back online.

“We need to reconsider the previous administration’s policy that aimed to make zero nuclear power operation possible during the 2030s,” Toshimitsu Motegi told a news conference.

Shinzo Abe, who was elected as prime minister and unveiled his cabinet line-up on Wednesday, appointed Motegi as his economy, trade and industry minister, also in charge of supervising the nuclear industry.

Abe’s LDP won a landslide victory in the December 16 election, returning to power after a three-year break.

Despite anti-nuclear sentiment running high in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, parties opposing atomic energy made little impact at the ballot box.

Motegi said he was ready to give the go-ahead to resuming generation at nuclear power plants “if they are confirmed safe”.

Given that the LDP was swept back into power, Japan's voters are clearly far more worried about Japan's stagnant economy than nuclear safety.  To their credit, the LDP is already proposing big infrastructure projects to rebuild the damaged northeast coast of Japan and to put people to work immediately (something the US should emulate).  That stimulative rebuilding effort is going to include nuclear plants however.

I wish Japan would consider other power sources, but it's hard for me to complain when the US lacks the will to even try to rebuild anything at this point because the greatest country in the world "can no longer afford expensive boondoggles" like, you know, roads, bridges, schools and power lines.

Aloha And Mahalo

Well, looks like I was wrong about Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii...he really did go for someone other than Colleen Hanabusa to replace the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, choosing Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the seat.

Schatz, 40, said he will fly to Washington tonight and be sworn in Thursday so he can participate in Senate votes to avert a fiscal cliff of federal tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January.

Schatz said he is "humbled" and "honored" by the opportunity.

He said the first thing he would do is reach out to the rest of the delegation to establish Hawaii's game plan for the coming Congress.

Schatz said he would also reach out to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and to the White House on the pressing issues now before Congress.

"I am honored to serve in this capacity. ... If given the opportunity, I'll make Hawaii proud,"    Schatz said.

Next in line to be lieutenant governor is Senate President Shan Tsutsui of Maui. Abercrombie said Tsutsui is weighing it and must make a decision "promptly."          

Schatz, a former Makiki state lawmaker and Democratic Party of Hawaii chairman, was elected lieutenant governor in 2010.

Abercrombie chose Schatz from a list of recommendations from the Democratic Party of Hawaii that included U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and and Esther Kiaaina, the deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Schatz will also be the youngest Senator in the upper chamber at 40, while I don't see him lasting as long as Inouye (five decades), nothing's impossible.  I can't really fault Abercrombie:  he's replacing the longest serving senator with the youngest one.  Also, having Hanabusa jump to the Senate would have left her House seat open with Dems looking for someone to go to the mat with another rough battle against Republican Charles Djou, so again, Abercrombie does look like he's reasonably covering all sides as the titular leader of Hawaii's Democratic party.

Sen. Schatz's first vote may come in days as the term ends next week.  Due to Hawaii's laws on US Senate appointments, Schatz can serve until 2014 before having to run in a special election, and then again in 2016 for Inouye's full term.  He says he will plan to run in both elections.

At only 40, time is definitely on his side.

[UPDATE]  Bob Cesca points out that not only is Abercrombie the nation's least popular Governor(!!!) but that the fact the white Abercrombie picking the white Schatz to represent the least white state in the union (at 24%) is probably not going to help his numbers.  On the other hand...that does make Hawaii's delegation...25% white.


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