This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
Milestones this week — Twitter celebrated its 8th birthday, C-SPAN turned 35 and Sunday will mark the 4th anniversary of the signing of the ACA.
The House and Senate have been on recess this week, they will be back on Monday. Here are the week’s highlights.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kate Venne)
OBAMACARE TURNS 4: WILL ANYONE NOTICE? WaPo writes, “This Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of the ACA becoming law – and the public has almost never been more bored with health care news. The public’s attention to health care has fallen off sharply since all the technology problems nearly doomed HealthCare.gov and the president’s health care program, according to a new Pew Research Center report. The findings suggest that people accept that the law, for better or worse, isn’t going anywhere. Negative opinion on the law has hardly budged since President Barack Obama signed it March 23, 2010. But the poll found that Democrats and Independents want officials to make the law “work as well as possible,” instead of working to make it fail. Republicans are almost evenly split on this point, with 43% in the “make it fail” crowd versus 40% on the “fix it” side. There’s still a whole lot of noise around the health care law – and that includes last-minute messaging to sign up for coverage by March 31. Polls like this one make you wonder how much people are even listening.”
HOUSE VOTED 54 TIMES Republicans are reminding voters that since they took control of the House in 2011, they’ve voted 54 times to undo, revamp or tweak the law [Obamacare]. For a complete list.
MEGATRENDS — WHERE WE LIVE MATTERS Wall Street Journal reports, “People in cities are more likely to be tethered to a smartphone, buy a foreign-made car and read a fashion magazine. Those in small towns are more likely to go to church, own a gun, support the military and value community ties. In many ways, the split between red Republican regions and blue Democratic ones-and their opposing views about the role of government-is an extension of the cultural divide between rural Americans and those living in cities and suburbs. As Democrats have come to dominate U.S. cities, it is Republican strength in rural areas that allows the party to hold control of the House and remain competitive in presidential elections. … The difference in this country is NOT RED VERSUS BLUE said Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. ‘It’s urban versus rural.’ … For decades, rural America was part of the Democratic base, and as recently as 1993, just over half of rural Americans were represented by a House Democrat … That parity eventually gave way to GOP dominance. In 2013, 77% of rural Americans were represented by a House Republican. But in urban areas-which by the government’s definition includes both cities and suburbs-slightly less than half of residents were represented by congressional Republicans, despite the GOP’s 30-seat majority in the House.”
THE WHOLE FOODS FACTOR David Wasserman, at the Cook Political Report, measures the change by examining how Democratic presidential candidates performed in counties with a Whole Foods … and in counties with a Cracker Barrel … In 1992, Bill Clinton won 60% of the Whole Foods counties and 40% of the Cracker Barrel counties … [I]n 2012, Mr. Obama won 77% of Whole Foods counties and 29% of Cracker Barrel Counties.”
MORE … ON POLARIZED POLITICS Blog Post by our own John Rogers.
POLITICS ARE SO INDIE RIGHT NOW Fix writes, “As in, record shares of the public are identifying as political independents. But Democratic and Republican candidates needn’t fret. They aren’t likely about to be replaced en masse by nonpartisan challengers. … January data from Gallup showed that 42% of Americans, on average, identified as independents in 2013 — the highest percentage recorded since Gallup started calling the public to gauge opinions.
MORE ACCURATELY, THEY ARE “LEANERS” The reality is that independent voters tend to align themselves with one party or the other, even if they refuse to be labeled as such. A 2012 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that only 13% fit the mold of true “deliberators.”
AND HERE’S WHY Given the gridlock that has defined Washington in recent years, there are plenty of reasons for voters not to like either party. So it’s no surprise that the voters are as reluctant as ever to wear the “D” or “R” label. But when they step into the voting booth, it’s a different story.”
HONEYBADGER DON’T CARE NJ writes, “… the newest Republican in Congress – David Jolly (R-FL) owes his victory to “Honeybadger.”
WHAT IS “HONEYBADGER?” That’s what officials at NRCC call the voter database they’ve spent a year tirelessly building from scratch, a system they argue was essential to Jolly’s surprising win in last week’s special election in Florida. It’s a continually updating system that integrates real-time data with existing voter files that allowed them to track voters they had to target, discover what messages would motivate them to go to the polls, and project exactly how much ground Jolly had to recover when early absentee voting didn’t swing his way. Strategists with the House GOP’s political arm aren’t shy about touting its impact, either: Without the cutting-edge effort, they profess, the newly-minted congressman would be looking for a new job this week instead of heading to Washington.”
A REPUBLICAN SENATE IN 2015 The Fix writes, “ … the nonpartisan Cook Political Report –a widely respected independent political handicapper — moved a trio of Democratic-held seats from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss-up.” Those seats belong to Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Kay Hagan (NC). In addition, Scott Brown’s entrance moved New Hampshire from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic,” meaning [the Senate] looks more likely to fall into Republican hands than before. …It’s become something of a D.C. parlor game to guess which of the four – Begich, Landrieu, Hagan or Mark Pryor (AK) – is in most trouble. At this point, it is pretty much splitting hairs. All four are locked into very close races, but none is dead.” … in Cook’s new ratings, “Georgia moved from “Lean Republican” to “Toss-up.” It’s one of Democrats’ only two realistic pickup opportunities this cycle, along with Kentucky.”
TO SUMMARIZE With the new moves, eight Democratic seats now fall into Cook Report’s “Toss-up,” “Lean Republican” or “Likely Republican” categories: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota. Just two GOP seats fall into the corresponding Democratic categories: Georgia and Kentucky.
JUST A REMINDER Republicans need to net six seats for the majority. In addition to the eight ripest opportunities above, they also stand chances of picking up Colorado and New Hampshire.”
JUMP BALL In the spirit of the NCAA tournament, the outcome is still a toss-up.
NEW OFFICIAL DICTIONARY WORD: “SUPER PAC” in the Merriam-Webster online unabridged edition to be precise.
A BIT OF HISTORY Eliza Newlin Carney made the first identifiable, published reference to ‘super PAC’ as it’s known today while working at National Journal, prophetically writing on June 26, 2010, of a group called Workers’ Voices — a kind of “’super PAC’ that could become increasingly popular in the post-Citizens United world.” Then, in September, 2010, the WaPo wrote, “A new political weapon known as the ‘super PAC’ has emerged in recent weeks, allowing independent groups to both raise and spend money at a pace that threatens to eclipse the efforts of political parties.” And the rest is history.
WE ARE A NATION OF HEADLINE READERS … a fact affirmed by a new study by the Media Insight Project …that took a look at how we consume (and don’t consume) news.
REALLY? Roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week. And, in truth, that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won’t want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.
LESSON FOR POLITICIANS The more complex an issue, the less likely it is to break through with a public that really consumes news via headlines and not much else. It’s also a reminder that simple messaging is almost always the most effective. “Hope and Change.” “Compassionate Conservative.” Easy to remember. Fits on a bumper sticker. Or a headline. (The Fix)
END TO ONLINE GAMBLING? NJ writes, “Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are expected to drop bipartisan bills next week to “restore” a decades-old federal ban on certain kinds of betting operations and extend it to include Internet gambling—a cause Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, has vocally championed. …Adelson launched his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling late last year, amid a growing movement in several statehouses to lower restrictions on online gambling. The octogenarian … has vowed to “spend whatever it takes” to stop online betting, an industry he has derided as “a societal train wreck waiting to happen.”
SAY WHAT? Of note in the draft bill is an exemption for betting on horseracing, which may be included to appease Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Fantasy games are also carved out.” Whew.
FED CUTS BOND PURCHASES BY $10 BILLION “The Federal Reserve continued to reduce its stimulus, announcing it would add $55 billion to its holdings of securities next month, down from $65 billion in previous months. But it said it will keep short-term interest rates near zero “for a considerable time.” Economic forecasts estimated the Fed will start raising the rates in 2015.” (NYT)
OBAMA’S NOMINEE FOR SURGEON GENERAL Politico writes, “ … the fight to get Vivek Murthy confirmed as surgeon general exposes just how … quickly Senate politics have shifted since Democrats unilaterally changed the rules in November – the ‘nuclear option’- to lower the voting threshold needed to advance presidential nominees from 60 to a simple majority. The nomination process’s power nucleus has shifted from centrist Republicans to conservative and liberal blocs of the Democratic caucus that can reject a nominee just as easily as the GOP could a few months ago.”
FACTS ON MURTHY? He has an MD and MBA, practices and teaches at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and teaches at Harvard Medical School. He cofounded a clinical trials company, an HIV education organization and Doctors for America, formerly known as Doctors for Obama. And he isn’t even 40 yet. If Murthy’s nomination came up for a vote right now, it would fail. The reason: The NRA. In a letter to Senators urging them to vote against Murthy, the NRA pointed to his support for an assault weapons ban and a tweet from Murthy saying guns are a health care issue. The NRA told lawmakers a vote for Murthy would be scored against them. Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander asked Murthy about his position on gun control at his Senate confirmation hearing.
HIS RESPONSE: “I do not intend to use the surgeon general’s office as a bully pulpit for gun control. My priority and focus is going to be on obesity prevention.”
JUST ASKING THE QUESTION WAS ENOUGH TO PUT MURTHY’S NOMINATION ON ICE And so the White House, while not abandoning Murthy, is “recalibrating” their approach. Huh?
NO SURPRISE Crimea voted to join Russia.
THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE PREDICTED THE U.S. MILITARY WOULD BE DOING A MONTH OR SO AGO (Politico)
1. Beefing up a NATO air patrol mission in the Baltics to send a message to Russia, which is attempting to annex part of Ukraine.
2. Taking back control of a tanker ship full of stolen Libyan oil
3. Searching for a missing airliner lost either somewhere over the Indian Ocean or in Central Asia.
Makes doing the QDR seem a little bit daunting …
“We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine. …what we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message, which is that Ukraine should decide their destiny.’
-President Obama, in an interview with NBC
RUSSIAN SANCTIONS OK. NOT MUCH ELSE.
How far are Americans willing to go? According to a CNN poll (March 7th -9th)
Economic Sanctions (59%)
Economic assistance to Ukraine’s government (46%)
Cancelling summit with Russia (40%)
Sending Ukraine weapons (23%)
Air strikes against Russian troops in Ukraine (17%)
Send U.S. ground troops to Ukraine (12%)
RUSSIA’S ENEMIES [SANCTIONS] LIST — The Hottest list in Washington. NJ writes, “Not to be outdone, Russian President Vladimir Putin is striking back at the U.S. with his own sanctions against American officials, just moments after President Obama announced expanded sanctions on Russia.
The List, posted on Russian’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, includes key members of Congress, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; House Speaker John Boehner; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez; Sen. John McCain, who just returned from a trip to Ukraine and a handful of senior White House officials.” No one seems to be too upset or concerned about it, in fact, it appears to be somewhat of a badge-of-honor.
“I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen.”
– Sen. McCain said in a statement after the sanctions list was announced
TWEET OF THE WEEK
A little levity, found at the Pentagon salad bar
Looks like the Pentagon salad bar still serves “Russian” dressing — for now pic.twitter.com/4pdZk9gI4J
— Adam Entous (@adamentous) March 18, 2014
MYSTIC … A JAWDROPPER WashPo reported that NSA records every single phone call in one foreign country and keeps that data for 30 days to be analyzed later. It has plans to launch similar programs elsewhere and may already be doing so. “No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Information about MYSTIC, which began in 2009, comes from sources with direct knowledge of it and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden. At the request of the government, The Washington Post chose to conceal the identity of the country where the program began.
IT’S GOOD TO BE BORING Politico writes “Janet Yellen was boring. And that’s exactly what she wanted to be. The newly installed Federal Reserve chair, in her first big policy meeting and news conference, gently nudged the central bank away from its extraordinary easy-money policies and toward a more normal footing in a way that only mildly upset markets, which sank a bit on the slightly more hawkish tone. Yellen, the first female chair in the Fed’s history, will also probably avoid much partisan criticism from either side following a performance in which she expertly wrapped some fairly significant policy changes in the kind of soothingly gauzy language that is the hallmark of successful central bankers.”
DEPENDS ON YOUR POINT OF VIEW: YELLEN DEBUT RATTLES MARKETS The WSJ had a different take — “Investors bristled after Janet Yellen emerged from her first meeting as Federal Reserve chairwoman with some unsettling signals about the central bank’s outlook for short-term interest rates.”
TAKE-AWAYS FROM THE ILLINOIS PRIMARIES The Fix writes, “1. BRUCE RAUNER (former private equity exec) WON (will take on Gov. Pat Quinn) 2. LABOR IS IN A BIT OF A PICKLE “Speaking of Quinn, he’s not exactly a hero of the organized labor movement at the moment. The governor signed a pension reform bill into law late last year to address the state’s huge unfunded pension obligations. The law slashed benefits for public employees, which is why public unions were not thrilled. In a way, unions are left to choose between a less than ideal candidate (Quinn) and a candidate who they disagree with from top to bottom (Rauner). That seems to suggest that they will eventually fall in line behind Quinn. But it’s not going to be a match made in heaven and the question is whether they will be with him full-bore or not. 3. NONE OF THE REPUBLIANS WHO VOTED FOR GAY MARRIAGE LOST When the Illinois state House passed a bill to legalize gay marriage last fall, just three out of 47 Republicans voted for it. On Tuesday, none of them lost.
NO, REPORTERS DON’T SUBMIT QUESTIONS TO THE WHITE HOUSE IN ADVANCE Fix writes, “Catherine Anaya, who sat down with President Obama on Wednesday, made news of her own when she said on air that she had been told White House reporters submitted their question for press secretary Jay Carney in advance.
MUCH ADO Drudge Report highlighted the “news” in its banner spot. Media critics leapt. See, the media really are liberal/biased/lazy, they said.
AN OOPS! Actually, there is simply no truth to the idea that the people covering the White House coach Carney — or anyone else — on what they are planning to ask. And, Anaya later said it was “my mistake.”
CRUSHED BRACKET HOPES (Because at this time of year, we are all basketball fans.) AP basketball writer John Marshall writes, “There are still 47 games left, after one of the wildest opening days in NCAA tournament history … Forty minutes into the first full day of the tournament, roughly 83% of the would-be billionaires [in the Buffett-Quicken contest] were done after Dayton toppled Ohio State… Harvard started a how-can-that-be run of games by knocking off Cincinnati [and raising] the number of blemished brackets up to about 95%. Through 12 games, there were 41,315 perfect brackets out of the original 11 million – or about 0.3%. … A year ago, not a single person of the 11 million who entered on ESPN’s website was perfect after a first day filled with upsets.”
IN HONOR OF ST. PATRICKS DAY
(because on St. Patrick’s Day, we are all Irish)
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand
(an Irish Blessing)
[whohit] Washington Report – March 21 [/whohit]