Capital Briefs October 20, 2008

HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER: As some usually pro-McCain pundits, including Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, began to unload last week on how poorly the Arizonan’s presidential campaign is being run, the campaign came under sharp criticism from an most unexpected source: Joe McCain, John’s younger brother. In a widely distributed e-mail message, the younger McCain angrily wrote that the campaign should “let John McCain be John McCain. Make ads that show John not as a crank and curmudgeon but as a great leader for his time.” Joe, a frequent surrogate speaker for John, also criticized (but did not name) campaign officials who “so tightly control his message” that they prevent reporters from speaking to sources close to the candidate such as himself. “Counter-intuitive, counter-experiential, and counter-productive” is how Joe McCain branded the campaign’s distancing the media from those close to his brother, adding that this policy “has gradually bled away all the good will that his great man had from the press.” McCain headquarters had no comment on Joe McCain’s salvo.  

OBAMA OPENING UP LEAD: Joe McCain’s complaint came on the eve of the final televised debate between the candidates and at a time when Barack Obama had opened up a 14-point lead among likely voters, according to the latest CBS/New York Times poll. The survey showed that the Obama-Biden ticket leads McCain-Palin 53 percent to 39 percent nationwide, with the Democratic ticket now ahead among independent voters by 18 points. (McCain had narrowly led among independents only one week before). 61% of those surveyed said McCain is spending more time attacking his opponent than saying what he would do as president (compared to only 27 percent who say the same of Obama), and McCain’s favorable rating fell from 40 percent to 36 percent in a week, and his unfavorable rating is 41 percent. Obama was viewed favorably by just over half of likely voters and unfavorable by just 32 percent.  

THE PRICE OF STIMULUS$300 billion, or about 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, is the latest estimate on Capitol Hill of the cost of the economic recovery package that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now considering trying to push through the House. Discussion of the package in several key House committees before adjournment fueled further talk that Pelosi will call House members into a lame-duck session most likely in late November. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pelosi “envisions a bill that would include new spending on highways and bridges, extended benefits to unemployed workers, aid to cash-strapped states, and a tax cut.” Republicans are expected to fight such a package, which House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) told the Journal is a “big government boondoggle.”  

DANZIG TO DEFENSE?  Although Richard Danzig publicly fueled the talk that Robert Gates might be retained as secretary of defense if Barack Obama becomes President, talk in defense circles is that top Obama adviser Danzig himself is more likely to be running the Pentagon. Once a top Defense Department official under Jimmy Carter and later secretary of the Navy under Bill Clinton, the 64-year-old Danzig was a vigorous proponent of women in combat. Most recently, he raised eyebrows during an address to the Center for New American Security when he said the future of the U.S. strategy in the war on terrorism could take a lesson from the children’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh. “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin,” Danzig said. “It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs. But sometimes he thinks there really is another way if only he could stop bumping a minute and think about it.” In suggesting that the U.S. try something else in the war on terror, Danzig went on to say that “Winnie-the-Pooh seems to me to be a fundamental text on national security.”  

That appeared to be the case last week, as the Republican National Committee halted its television advertising in Wisconsin and Maine. Coming on the heels of the McCain campaign’s withdrawal of money and staffers from Michigan, the RNC pullout from Wisconsin and Maine is a strong sign that Republicans are now giving up on those two states as well. In exiting from Michigan two weeks ago, McCain campaign aides had cited Wisconsin as one of the Midwestern states they felt the GOP hopeful had a better chance of winning. According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Barack Obama now leads John McCain among Wisconsin voters by 54 percent to 37 percent statewide.  

When they heard Howard Dean predict a net Democratic gain of seven seats in the U.S. Senate, more than a few reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast over the summer felt that the Democratic National Chairman was telling “Pollyanna” stories. But the latest polls show that so many of the Republican senators facing the voters this fall are endangered that the Democrats’ present 51-49 edge in the Senate could not only increase by the seven Dean predicted but possibly reach the “magic 60” — enough to shut off any Republican-led filibusters. Of the ten races national pollsters consider genuine contests, eight are held by GOP senators and one is being relinquished by a Republican. In all of them, Democrats are either ahead or within striking distances of GOP candidates. A Mason-Dixon poll showed Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) leading Democrat Bruce Lunsford by a slim 45 percent to 41 percent and, in Georgia, GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss is tied at 45 percent with Democrat Jim Martin, according to the Insider Advantage poll.  

In the only Senate race in which a Democrat appears threatened, Republican John Kennedy’s bid against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.) was dealt a blow last week when the National Republican Senatorial Committee stopped its TV advertising in the state.  


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