Can the Senate save the day?... Cruz and Palin didn’t help Boehner and McConnell… And the Tea Party isn’t helping the GOP… A divided Republican Party in Virginia… Looking at the Virginia airwaves… And Booker vs. Lonegan takes place on Wednesday, as a new poll shows Booker up 10 points.
*** Can the Senate save the day? After plenty of optimism Friday that the fiscal standoff could be coming to an end, the weekend was simply wasted. Democrats and Republicans retreated to their respective corners as the government remains closed and as the United States creeps toward the Oct. 17 debt-default date. But the U.S. Senate can still save the day. “I do sense that people are getting back on the right page,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said on “TODAY” this morning. The modified deal floated by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) -- which would delay the medical-device tax for two years, and which would extend the debt ceiling and government operations through January -- is alive. The sticking point: Senate Democrats don’t want the second round of sequester cuts to kick in. For them, opening the government and raising the debt ceiling ARE NOT concessions, and there is some frustration at the White House and more so from Harry Reid that Democrats should not alter their “clean or nothing” stance. If Republicans get the medical-device delay, Democrats want something, too. So with the Oct. 17 date approaching, there are two paths out of this: 1) the Senate comes to the rescue, or 2) House Speaker Boehner, at the very last minute before, puts a clean CR and a clean debt-ceiling extension on the House floor, allowing Democrats and a minority of Republicans to pass them. That House deal would only be for about a month, if that. Those are the two ways out pre-Oct. 17.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) address reporters at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 12, 2013.
*** Cruz and Palin didn’t help Boehner and McConnell: But what is clear is that the rally Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sarah Palin had in Washington on Sunday protesting the closure of the war memorials didn’t help Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Why? Because the solution to this fiscal standoff, at least according to establishment Republicans, has always been to declare victory (from the lower government spending over the last couple of years), and simply move on. But the pressure from Cruz, et al isn’t going to give Boehner and McConnell any cover from Tea Party conservatives. Also, it was striking that the conservatives who shut down the government -- by demanding that the health-care law be defunded or delayed -- were stoking outrage that parts of the government were closed. It was akin to working to close a grocery store but then being outraged that the bread aisle is closed.
*** The Tea Party isn’t helping the GOP: And given yesterday’s Cruz-Palin event, it’s worth re-emphasizing this point: The Tea Party has been a net-negative for the Republican Party. Yes, the Tea Party gave Republicans plenty of energy in the 2010 midterms, and it provided the driving force in achieving lower government spending in 2011. Those are the positives, but then look at all the negatives:
- Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Christine O’Donnell lost in 2010, ensuring that Dems would control the Senate;
- Richard Mourdock lost in 2012, ensuring Dems would hold onto the Senate;
- and Mike Lee ousted Robert Bennett in 2010, while Ted Cruz beat David Dewhurst in 2012. Does anyone think that Bennett and Dewhurst, had they won, would have been mostly responsible for shutting down the government?
In each of these examples, Tea Party candidates beat establishment Republicans in the GOP primary. And then consider this thought exercise: What if the major story over the past three weeks had been the Obamacare website problems instead of the government shutdown? That’s why the Tea Party hasn’t been helpful to the Republican Party in this fight. This chapter in the GOP’s history may very well be titled, “If not for the Tea Party…” because that’s basically how every losing GOP showdown in Washington or every losing election post-2010 can be explained away.
*** A divided GOP in Virginia: The same reason why Republicans are losing the shutdown battle -- because the party is divided between the Tea Party and the non-Tea Party -- also appears to be the reason why it’s losing Virginia’s gubernatorial contest. “It’s a party that is disunited, in flux, in transition and defeated,” former GOP congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) told the Washington Post (in what had the feel of a pre-bituary on the Cuccinelli campaign). “We have nominated a ticket that Virginians don’t want to buy.” The Post goes on to add, “While some Republicans say enough time remains for Cuccinelli to recover, Davis said that a defeat would require the party to confront like never before the division between the tea party activists who spurred Cuccinelli’s nomination and the moderates, independents and business leaders turned off by his conservative views on social issues.” Since 1977, the party that controls the White House has always lost Virginia’s gubernatorial contest. But three weeks until Election Day, it looks like that could change.
*** Looking at the Virginia airwaves: And the airwaves in Virginia help explain who’s behind and who’s ahead. For one thing, Cuccinelli is now airing a scorched-earth TV ad. “Court documents reveal Terry McAuliffe invested in an insurance scam that preyed on dying people.” (No mincing of the words in that one.) In addition, the Democratic candidate running for state attorney general, Mark Herring, is hitting his GOP opponent by linking him to Cuccinelli in a recent TV ad. Democrats think they can do something they haven’t done since 1989 in Virginia -- sweep all three statewide offices on the ballot.
*** Booker vs. Lonegan takes place on Wednesday: And it also looks like a certainty that the GOP will lose Wednesday’s special Senate election in New Jersey – yes, the race is on a Wednesday – though Cory Booker (D) has always been the front-runner in his contest against Steve Lonegan (R). So not only is this election being held at an odd time, but also an odd day of the week; a Wednesday, not a Tuesday. Don’t just expect “low” turnout but shockingly low. A Monmouth University poll shows Booker leading Lonegan by 10 points, 52%-42%, per the Newark Star-Ledger.
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First published October 14 2013, 6:21 AM