28 February, 2006

Spitzer, Patterson No Longer At Odds on "Shoot-To-Wound" Issue

The list of policy differences between Democratic gubenatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer and his chosen candidate for lieutenant governor, Senate Minority Leader David Patterson, has gotten shorter.

After meeting today with the head of the state police chiefs association, Patterson announced he would no longer push a bill that would require police officers to use minimum force when subduing suspects. The bill would prohibit police officers from shooting suspects with the intent to kill.

Paterson authored the bill in reaction to the acquittals in 2000 of four police officers who shot and killed an unarmed West African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. The incident was touched off when one officer mistook a black wallet Diallo was carrying for a gun.

In a press release today Paterson said he has decided the bill may not be the right way to go.

"I think most people felt the police officers had acted inappropriately and I wanted try to ensure that such a tragedy would never happen again. While that is still my goal, I realize on reflection that this bill was not the best way to pursue it."

Spitzer has also made a no-new-taxes pledge while Paterson is known to favor higher taxes on people making more than $500,000 a year. In addition, the two differ on the death penalty - Spitzer for and Paterson against.

Hey, What Are We Fightin' For? - Survey of U.S. Troops In Iraq Provides Some Surprising Answers

Jonathan Tasini is a Democrat who is running a little-noticed anti-war campaign for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.

In Tasini's daily blog on his campaign website, the candidate makes the point that the troops want to come home:

"Now, a new poll of U.S. troops serving in Iraq shows that 29% of the troops
think that we should pull out immediately. And 72% think we should be out
within one year."

A couple of problems here. No. 1: the poll taker is not identified. No. 2: I guess the poll indicates the troops REALLY, REALLY want to come home. If you add 29% and 72% you find that a total of 101% of those polled think they should be out sometime in the next year. Hmm, that is unanimity.

For a profile on Tasini and what his campaign is all about, see the Feb. 8 posting about him in our archives.


Here's what the poll mentioned above, and put out today by Le Moyne College in conjunction with Zogby, really says:

A total of 72% of U.S. troops in Iraq who were questioned say the U.S. should be out of Iraq within a year, with 29% saying the pullout should begin immediately. Twenty-three percent of the troops said the U.S. should stay in Iraq "as long as needed." A whopping 90% think the job they have undertaken in Iraq is “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks.” The service personnel, to the tune of 77%, said another main reason for their being in Iraq was to "stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq."

27 February, 2006

Bush Approval At All-Time Low In CBS Poll

President Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low 34%, down 8 percentage points since January, according to a poll released tonight by CBS News. At the same time, pessimism in the U.S. about the Iraq war is at new highs, with just 30% of Americans polled approving of Bush's handling of the war.In addition, the poll shows seven in 10 Americans, including nearly six in 10 Republicans, are opposed to the deal that would turn over management of some U.S. ports to a company from Dubai. Even in his strongest suit to date, Bush's handling of the so-called war on terror, the president scored only a 43% approval rating versus 50% disapproval. Bush's rating on fighting terrorism fell nine percentage points in a month.

The picture painted by the CBS poll is even worse for Vice President Dick Cheney. Eighteen percent of those polled had a favorable view of the veep, down from 23% in January.

In a separate CBS poll, also released this evening, two-thirds of Americans think Bush has not responded adequately to the plight of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Hillary Says Rove "Obsesses" About Her; Schumer "Easy," Clinton "Hard To Get"- For Talk Shows That Is

Sen. Hillary Clinton told an Albany radio station today she thinks President Bush's top political advisor Karl Rove "spends a lot of time obsessing about me." (We presume she meant in a political sort of way.)

The Associated Press reported the Senator's comments were in response to extensive quotes attributed to Rove in a new book about the president.

The Drudge Report posted extensive quotes from the book, Strategery - by Bill Sammon, which hit the bookshelves today. Among some of the more intertesting points, Rove says Clinton is pretty much a shoo-in to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008 but will be very beatable in the general election. He described Clinton as having a "brittleness about her" that could be a negative for her in 2008.


We said we'd stay away from polls for a while, but this one doesn't involve any numbers and turns up some interesting results about our two Senators from New York.

TV Week.com surveyed the staffs of the various Sunday morning political talk shows and found that of all politicians in Washington, Sen. Charles Schumer is the easiest to get to go in front of the cameras, saying he is "drawn like a moth to the red light on a TV camera." I guess it would follow that Schumer would be listed among the "most overexposed" and among those who are "too eager." Sen. Clinton and Vice President Dick Cheney were rated as the hardest to get. Clinton was also listed as the "highest maintenance" guest. She is said to carefully choose the questions she will submit to and has a "wall of advisors," making her difficult to get to. Clinton is also listed among those least likely to make news.

25 February, 2006

Perusing The Papers: Does Mayor Bloomberg Have His Own Karl Rove?

There's an interesting piece in today's New York Times about Kevin Sheekey, Mayor Mike Bloomberg's top political advisor.

The article describes a hard-driving, ambitious aide who has a hand in pretty much every pie at City Hall. Times reporter Jim Rutenberg describes Sheekey as a consumate deal maker who has instilled a new political toughness in the Bloomberg administration in an effort to push forward the mayor's agenda.

The story offers several examples of the new toughness, including implicit threats from City Hall that Bloomberg would help the Democrats take over the state Senate unless the legislature poinies up more funds for city schools.

Like President Bush's top political advisor Karl Rove, the article says Sheekey likes to stay out of public view and is often unreachable for days, except by the mayor himself.

In addtion, the story says, Sheekey became acquainted with Rove during the Republican convention in New York in 2004 and has conferred with him from time to time since.

But, according to the Times article, the Bloomberg administration bristles at any comparison between Sheekey and Rove.

Unlike the perception of the Bush administration - Bush the public face of policies designed by Rove- Sheekey told the Times his job is to implement policies clearly set by Bloomberg.

Aso unlike the Bush administration, which has clashed often recently with a House and Senate dominated by his own party, the article inidcates City Hall's workings with City Council members and borough presidents has improved since Sheekey took his current job of deputy mayor for intergovernmental relations.

One other clear difference between Sheekey and Rove. Sheekey is a long-time Democrat.


Feathers were ruffled up in Harlem when Eliot Spitzer chose Senate minority leader David Patterson as a running mate, but that apparently is all water under the bridge now. The Albany Times-Union today reported Rep. Charles Rangel, in a show of unity yesterday, praised Patterson and supported a Spitzer-Patterson ticket for governor and lieutenant governor. Rangel and other members New York's black political establishment had preferred Buffalo lawyer Leecia Eve and were critical of Spitzer a few weeks ago when he chose Patterson.


Jeanine Pirro, who was drummed out of the race for U.S. Senate by leaders of her own party, met with the New York Daily News editorial board earlier this week. Out of that meeting came a highly positive profile of Pirro and the contention that the state GOP may be shooting itself in the foot by throwing up roadblocks for what the paper said may be the party's only legitimate "rising star."


Coming up tomorrow on WCBS-TV's Kirtzman & Co. is an interview with Republican gubenatorial candidate John Faso. According the New York Observer's political blog, The Politicker, Faso stopped just sort of siding with president Bush on the ports controversy.

On the other hand, Fasso is scheduled to appear on WNBC tomorrow too, and according to The Politicker he does not come off in that interview as wanting to be seen as being too closely allied with the embattled Bush.

24 February, 2006

Trolling the Polls: Hillary and Rudy Lead The Way In Another Red State

Okay class. Good thing the curling matches are over. We have a lot of reading to do this weekend. Several new polls were released in the past couple of days, with lots of new numbers to look at. They're mostly national polls but they all have interesting New York angles.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani lead the way in a presidential poll of Florida voters released today by Quinnipiac University.

Giuliani, who some have speculated might not appeal to GOP voters in the socially conservative South, is the 2008 pick of 47% of Florida Republicans, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain at 29% No other GOP contender tops 10%.

How to explain Giuliani's popularity in this Bible Belt state?

"Rank and file Florida Republicans either don't know or don't care about Mayor Giuliani's support for abortion rights and gay rights," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a press release announcing the results.

Clinton is the leader among Democrats, with 41%, followed by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at 14%. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden polled at 8%.

The bad news for Clinton comes when she's pitted against the two top Republicans in a potential general election in this battleground state. McCain beats Clinton 53% to 38%, while Giuliani betters Clinton 50% to 41%.

You'll notice that while Giuliani does better than McCain in the GOP poll, the Arizona senator beats Clinton by a wider margin in the general election mockup. Pollster Brown says it has to do with the tastes of independent voters. "(Clinton) loses among independents by 12 points to Giuliani, but by 26 points to McCain," Brown said.

And by the way, how is President Bush doing in his brother's home state? Bush's approval/disapporval rating in the state is 46% to 50%. But that is a vast improvement from his rock-bottom rating in November, when 61% of Floridians polled by Quinnipiac disapproved of the job Bush was doing at that time. In the latest poll, voters disapproved (54% to 41%) of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. Fifty-two percent say going to war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do.

The rest of the poll is Florida-related. If you're interested you can see it by clicking here.

The picture painted by a WNBC/Marist national poll released Wednesday is somewhat different. Clinton is still the leader in the Democratic race, and she still trails McCain and Giuilani in one-on-one face-offs. But the margins in favor of the two Republicans are not as severe as the Florida poll mentioned above, with McCain, once again, polling better that Giuliani one-on-one with Clinton. The poll of registered voters nationwide also shows a three-way deadlock at the top of the Republican race and also shows some interesting things happening on the Democratic side when Al Gore's name gets added to the list.

There's lots to cover here. Let's take things one at a time.

In the WNBC/Marist poll, Clinton has a huge lead among Democrats, at 40%. John Edwards is No. 2 at 16% and John Kerry is a close third at 15%. But when Gore's name gets added to the list, Clinton's support drops to 33%, Gore comes in second at 17%, Edwards maintains his support level of 16% and Kerry drops four percentage points to 11%.

On the Republican side there's a three-way tie at the top, at 22%, between McCain, Giuliani and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has said she's not interested in the job. If Rice's name is taken out of the equation, Giuliani scores best, at 28% to McCain's 24%.

In general election pairings, McCain would top Clinton 52% to 42%, while Giuliani would win the battle of New York candidates 49% to 48% over Clinton. The poll indicates Rice trailing Clinton 49% to 44% in a woman versus woman presidential race.

When Giuliani is paired against leading Democrats he tops all four at 53% to 42% over Gore, 48% to 45% over Kerry, 47% to 44% against Edwards and the one-point win over Clinton.

Does your head hurt yet? Because this poll can go on as long as you want it too.

The WNBC/Marist poll has some interesting things to say about the two New Yorkers individually as well.

With regard to Clinton, 42% of all voters say she is too liberal and 6% percent say too conservative. But 45% say the senator is "about right" ideologically speaking. While 73% of Democrats think Clinton should run, 51% of all voters polled say she shouldn't. A total of 48% of all voters think Clinton will be judged more harshly than other candidates if she decides to run.

The poll provides an interesting picture of Giuliani as well. A total of 11% of voters polled think Giuliani is too liberal, 12% say he's too conservative and 52% say he's about right. But the key figure is his polling with Republicans. Sixty-six percent of GOP voters say the former mayor is "about right" ideologically. That would seem to indicate that the pundits who think Giuliani won't play well in the red states may have to take another look.

Belive it or not, I have only scratched the surface of that poll, and if you have no life click here to see the rest.


Still another poll to take a look at this weekend is the National Journal's 2005 congressional vote ratings, which ranks every member of Congress on the liberal/conservative continuum based on votes cast in 2005.

Again, we can go on forever here, but let me highlight the New York delegation.

Neither New York senator is in the liberal Top 10. In fact, Hillary Clinton ranks 20th and Sen. Charles Schumer comes in at 26th. The senators are rated in three categories as well - economic, social and foreign policies. But you can check that out for yourself in the same chart.

In the House, among the delegation from New York City's northern suburbs, Rep. Nita Lowey of Harrison is rated the most liberal, coming in at No. 72 of the total of 435 members of the legislature. Eliot Engel, whose 17th district includes the Bronx and parts of Westchester and Rockland counties, checks in at 109.

Republican Sue Kelly of Katonah ranks as the 214th most-conservative member of the 435-member House, pretty much in the middle. Among New York's delgation, however, Kelly is ranked 8th most-conservative of the state's 29 House members.

This is an interesting comparison because Kelly's detractors say she tries to present a moderate image but votes conservatively. So both sides can make their case with this poll.

One final poll: One out of one person polled by NYpols (me) thinks we've seen enough of polls for a while. The next time you log on we hope to have some lighter reading for you. Thanks for sticking with us!

23 February, 2006

OUR TWO CENTS: FOX News-If Only They Were Kidding

I looked up from my treadmill at the gym today and glanced at a television tuned to Fox News. On a day when Iraq appears to be on the verge of civil war, the skilled and principled journalists at the network had posted - under three talking heads - this question:


The sound was down on the TV so I couldn't hear the discussion, but it seems to me there is really no way to answer that question in the affirmitive, unless you are in the "just-let-'em-blow-each-other-up-and-we'll-all-be-better-off" crowd. To fathom that such a question would be asked in what was being presented as a serious discussion made my head do more spinning than the people on the stationary bicycles nearby.

When the definitive answer was no doubt reached by the three-headed panel it was time to bring out three more heads and ask the following question:


So let me get this straight now. The war-torn state of Iraq is about to get meaner and bloodier, with countrymen about to go into full-blown war with each other. Thousands more men, women and children are likely to be killed, and the two most important questions are: How can the U.S. benefit by this and what is it going to do to my portfolio?

When I thought I couldn't take it any more, the Fox newsmen finally posted another question under still more talking heads:


Now that is a question worth asking! The Republicans have long been the winners in the national security debate, which they have parlayed into control of the House, the Senate and the White House. But national security is, obviously, a national issue. Mid-term congressional elections often turn on local issues. By picking a fight with the president over who will manage U.S. ports, the Republicans may have found a way to localize the national defense issue. Voters will take a look in the fall and see that their local Republican candidate stood up to a Republican president in the name of national security.

Only a conspiracy theorist would argue that the issue was trumped up to provide the advantage to Republicans that I have just described. Or is it possible someone who has displayed unbelievably nuanced political acumen might just be able to pull off such a maneuver? Someone who, say, might bug his own office if he thought he might somehow gain from it politically.

I really don't believe even Karl Rove could have played this political chess match so many moves ahead. But I have no doubt he has seen the merit in keeping the argument going.

22 February, 2006

Rep. Kelly in the Middle of Wikipedia War

As I mentioned the other day in my piece about Paul Hackett, the former candidate for the Senate from Ohio, politics often is a cesspool.

Other times it seems to be a game being played by eight year olds. A game aided and abetted by the ridiculous concept of Wikipedia, which, as I understand it, is an online "encyclopedia" that can be edited by anyone with a keyboard and and Internet connection.

And children appear to be playing a little game with Congresswoman Sue Kelly and her entry on Wikipedia. Apparently Kelly's profile has undergone numerous revisions in the past few days, by supporters and detractors. Details of the childishness are outlined in a story in today's Times Herald-Record, the Middletown, NY daily that covers much of Kelly's 19th district.

Although the take19 blog, whose sole purpose for being is to unseat Kelly this year, is mentioned in the article as being behind the negative alterations, the blog posted a denial today.

Here's just one example of how dishonest and potentially damaging the whole Wikipedia idea can be. There seems to be constant revamping of an opinion about Kelly offered by a Web site called politicsNY.com and "quoted" on Wikipedia. Funny thing is, if you check politcsNY.com you'll find that the site seems to have stopped publishing last June. It is a dead Web site and I can't find a word about Sue Kelly on it. There is also a politicsNY.net, but that site appears to be out of the Buffalo area and focused primarily on very local issues. (A very well-done site by the way). For the heck of it, we also checked politicsNY.org, but that URL is not in use.

I have no beef with the take19 blog. They state their purpose right up front and make no bones about their goal of unseating Kelly. Given such full disclosure, the reader can make up his or her mind how much of what is presented on the blog is fact and how much is, shall we say, hyperbole.

I do have a beef with the "editors" of Wikipedia entries. Folks with nothing better to do than ruin someone's reputation or cannonize them, depending on who's doing the editing.

But I mostly have a beef with the concept of Wikipedia, a sort of vigilante encylopedia which passes itself off as an online reference source.

The Internet offers so much potential for people to have control of their own message, whether it be "straight" information, which we try to provide here at NYpols, or information shaped by ideology, which is pervasive in the blogosphere and should be in an open society.

When it all becomes dangerous though is when the Web is used to deceive or even defame, which is too often the case on Wikipedia even if the intentions of its creators were pure.

21 February, 2006

Pataki's Medical Problems Put A Crimp In Political Travels-NY Times; Local Pols Unite To Block Ports Deal

In a story written for tomorrow's editions of the New York Times, Michael Cooper reports that Governor Pataki's medical problems are forcing him to miss some planned political appearances around the country, including one at the National Governor's Association winter meeting, where Pataki was hoping to make the rounds as he maps out a bid for the presidency in 2008. Pataki has been able to run the state's business from his hospital bed, but his recuperation period will put a crimp in his political schedule.

One of the things the governor was able to do was join the battle against the Bush Administration's plans to turn over operations of six American ports - including the Port of New York - to a company from the United Arab Emirates.

"I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them in regards to this transaction," Pataki said in a statement.

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Shumer of New York and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey have also opposed the awarding of the contract to Dubai Ports World.

In addition to Pataki, a number of prominent local Republicans have also expressed opposition, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rep. Peter King.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, ordered the state's attorney general to file suit to block the move.

Bush is even being opposed by House speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate majority leader Bill Frist, who announced he would introduce legislation blocking the sale of the company that controls the six ports to the Dubai company if the administration allows the transaction. Bush has threatened to veto any such legislation.

Faso Reprtedly Gets Nod From Conservative Party Chairman In Governor's Race

The New York State Conservative Party has not picked a favorite in the governor's race yet, but the party's chairman Mike Long apparently has made up his mind. The Associated Press is reporting that Long has picked former State Assembly Minority Leader John Faso.

We've said it a lot before, but it bears repeating. No GOP candidate has won a statewide office in New York since 1974 without the backing of the Conervative Party.

On Monday, Faso picked up the endorsement of Rep. John Sweeney, the Republican congressman from New York's 20th District.

Sweeney has his own concerns though. He's facing Democrtat Kirsten Gillibrand this fall in the mostly rural district which runs 200 miles south to north from Poughkeepsie to Lake Placid.

For what it's worth, the online version of the Adirondack-area newspaper the Post-Star is running a flash poll that puts the Democrat more than 11 points ahead. There's no science to the poll, but political junkies like myself enjoy any kind of hint that something outside the expected might be happening in a political contest. It is mildly noteworthy that Sweeney's seat was mentioned by the Cook Political Report in its February list of congressional races that seem to be in play, or may head in that direction. Like that of Republican Sue Kelly in New York's 19th, the Cook report puts Sweeney's race in the category of those that are just starting to show some signs of being competitive.

Speaking of unexpected, by now you must have heard that Gov. Pataki has had to have a second operation today at a Manhattan hospital to alleviate a blockage in his intestines. Pataki had been expected to stay only a couple of days in Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt after undergoing an appendectomy late last week, but was transferred to New York-Presbyterian this morning for the additional surgery.


This next bit of news is not unexpected. Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi officially announced that he will officially announce his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor this Saturday in Long Island.

20 February, 2006

20 Things You May Not Know About U.S. Presidents

The following fun facts were lifted directly from, and should be credited to, the Microsoft Network's MSN Encarta page. Happy President's Day! Enjoy!

John Quincy Adams
1. In warm weather, 6th president of the United States John Quincy Adams customarily went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River before dawn.

William Henry Harrison
2. 9th U.S. president William Henry Harrison was inaugurated on a bitterly cold day and gave the longest inauguration speech ever. The new president promptly caught a cold that soon developed into pneumonia. Harrison died exactly one month into his presidential term, the shortest in U.S. history.

John Tyler
3. John Tyler, 10th U.S. president, fathered 15 children (more than any other president)--8 by his first wife, and 7 by his second wife. Tyler was past his seventieth birthday when his 15th child was born.

James Polk
4. Sedated only by brandy, 11th president of the United States James Polk survived gall bladder surgery at the age of 17.

James Buchanan
5. 15th U.S. president James Buchanan is the only unmarried man ever to be elected president. Buchanan was engaged to be married once; however, his fiancée died suddenly after breaking off the engagement, and he remained a bachelor all his life.

Abraham Lincoln
6. Often depicted wearing a tall black stovepipe hat, 16th president of the United States Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.

Andrew Johnson
7. 17th U.S. president Andrew Johnson never attended school. His future wife, Eliza McCardle, taught him to write at the age of 17. (Bonus fact about Andrew Johnson: He only wore suits that he custom-tailored himself.)

Ulysses S. Grant
8. Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States, died of throat cancer. During his life, Grant had smoked about 20 cigars per day.

James Abram Garfield
9. Both ambidextrous and multilingual, 20th president of the United States James Garfield could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

Grover Cleveland
10. Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the United States, underwent a secret operation aboard a yacht to remove his cancerous upper jaw in 1893.

Theodore Roosevelt
11. The teddy bear derived from 26th U.S. president Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear with her cub while on a hunting trip in Mississippi.

William Taft
12. William Taft, 27th president of the United States, weighed more than 300 pounds and had a special oversized bathtub installed in the White House.

Warren G. Harding
13. Warren Harding, 29th U.S. president, played poker at least twice a week, and once gambled away an entire set of White House china. His advisors were nicknamed the "Poker Cabinet" because they joined the president in his poker games.

Calvin Coolidge
14. Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, had chronic stomach pain and required 10 to 11 hours of sleep and an afternoon nap every day.

Herbert Hoover
15. Herbert Hoover, 31st U.S. president, published more than 16 books, including one called Fishing for Fun-And to Wash Your Soul.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
16. 32nd president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt was related, either by blood or by marriage, to 11 former presidents.

Harry S. Truman
17. The letter "S" comprises the full middle name of the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman. It represents two of his grandfathers, whose names both had "S" in them.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
18. Military leader and 34th president of the U.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to cook; he developed a recipe for vegetable soup that is 894 words long and includes the stems of nasturtium flowers as one of the ingredients.

Ronald Reagan's Inauguration
19. 40th president of the United States Ronald Reagan broke the so-called "20-year curse," in which every president elected in a year ending in 0 died in office.

George W. Bush
20. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, and his wife Laura got married just three months after meeting each other.

Can Rudy Get an AMEN!! ; Apparently He Can

"I appreciate you. I can tell you from my heart how much I appreciate what you are doing: saving people, telling them about Jesus Christ and bringing them to God."

Rudy Giuliani, as quoted by evangelical website Crosswalk.com, speaking to the Global Pastors Network in Orlando, Fla. last month **

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been keeping out of the media spotlight but apparantly has been quietly making his way around the country, testing the waters for a presidential run in '08.

According to a piece yesterday in London's Sunday Times, one place Giuliani was seen recently was Orlando, feeling out the religious right. The report says Giuliani was pretty well received at a gathering of evangelical preachers late last month.

**NYPOLS searched high and low on the Crosswalk Web site for the transcript of Giuliani's speech, but we have to assume the folks at the Sunday Times quoted Giuliani properly.

19 February, 2006

Presidents' Day Poll: Hillary Slips, Condi Gains Ground In Once-A-Year Poll On Women and the Presidency

The prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy has lost some support from last President's Day to this, while more people think Condoleezza Rice should toss her hat into the ring in 2008.

In an annual Presidents' Day poll done by the Sienna Research Institute for the the Hearst newspaper chain, 44% of voters questioned said Sen. Clinton should not run for president in '08. A year-ago 37% percent of those asked by the Sienna College polling unit were against a Clinton presidential bid. When the question was asked the other way, 51% said Clinton should run, down from 53% a year ago.

In the same twelve months, the number of voters who said Secretary of State Rice should run increased to 48% from 42%.

No matter which way you ask the question, the bottom line is support for a Clinton bid has eroded a bit in a year's time, while support for Rice has risen.

The poll did not pit the women against one-another.

The survey found that 79% of voters said they personally would vote for a woman for president, but only 64% said they felt the nation was ready to have a woman in the Oval Office. That is up two percentage points from last year.

By party, 91% of Democrats said they would be willing to vote for a woman for president compared to 68% of Republicans.

The survey found that a majority of registered voters thought a woman president would handle national-security issues as well as a male commander-in-chief.

18 February, 2006

Blogs Go Overboard in Laying Blame for end of Ohio Democratic Maverick's Senate Campaign; Schumer Painted as Heavy

One of my aims in starting this site was to collect solid information from across the Internet and put it all in one place to keep New Yorkers up on events of interest locally and nationally. Another was to debunk the seemingly endless reems of pure crap that is passed off on the Internet as truth by all ends of the political spectrum.

When Ohioan Paul Hackett stepped out of the race for a very in-play Senate seat held by Republican Mike DeWine earlier this week, the lefty blogs went wild. They blamed the entrenched leadership of the Democratic Party for shoving out a new voice in favor of a long-time Ohio pol Rep. Sherrod Brown, who represents a Congressional district that includes Akron and a ring of suburbs mostly south and west of Cleveland.

The bloggers villified Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The two, it was said, pressured Hackett to get out and donors to withhold funds to make the way smoother for Brown in the race for the Democratic nomination.

It's easy to see why the liberal bloggers were unhappy. Hackett, an outspoken Iraq-war veteran, became a celebrity last summer when he nearly won a special congressional race in a staunchly Republican district near Cincinnati after lambasting President Bush as a "chicken hawk." His opponent in that tightly contested race was current freshman Republican, Rep. Jean Schmidt, who's claim to fame so far has been to call 37-year Marine Corps. veteran and long-time congressman John Murtha a coward on the floor of the House a few months ago.

The bloggers, outraged that Hackett had been "forced out" by the Democrat "establishment," went so far as to call for a third party that would take up the cause of party's left wing.

After a week of furor and blog fog Elizabeth Auster of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's daily paper, did a throrough and thoughtful piece Saturday on Hackett's exit from the race. From the piece it appears there was some pressure from the party, and maybe some dirty tricks of an unknown origin. But Auster reports Hackett's decision may have also come about as a result of his disdain for the very game he was hoping to conquer, big-time politics.

The Plain Dealer story brings two unfortunate trends into focus. Too many people with an axe to grind use the Web as a tool to go off half-cocked without either looking for or caring about the truth. The second, more unfortunate reality is a lot of good people with new ideas don't have the stomach to wade into the cesspool that politics has become. And that is more frightening for our future than any code-orange terror alert the Department of Homeland Security can scare up.

One Local House Race Seen As "Competative,"- Though Not Too Competative

One Congressional race in the lower Hudson Valley has shown up on the Cook Political Report of competitive races, Republican Sue Kelly's 19'th Disrict seat.

The folks at Cook Political Report, in their February listing, put NY 19 on kind of a watch list, indicating they don't consider it a competitive seat yet but noting there are some signs it may be become in play.

Kelly is a six-term Republican who's district covers all of Putnam County and parts of Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess and Orange counties.

A handfull of candidates have kicked the tires in this race, including John Hall, the singer in a long-ago band called Orleans who had a monster hit in the 70s called "Still the One." But only one candidate besides Kelly has raised any real money. Katonah lawyer Judy Aydelott raised $303,000 as of her end-of-year report with the FEC. To run a decent congressional race these days you need about $500,000 to a $1 million, so Aydelott is certainly in the ballpark.

As of her year-end report Kelly had raised $898,000.


Following up.

Yesterday we told you that Sen. Joe Lieberman seemed to be having little trouble in his bid for re-election, at least according to one recent poll. On Thursday, Connecticut businessman and Iraq-war opponent Ned Lamont posted a letter to his supporters saying he will indeed make a run at Lieberman from the left. Lamont told supporters he'd officially announce his candidacy on March 5.


Also yesterday we told you that the latest WNBC/Marist Poll had President Bush's approval rating at 40%. A SurveyUSA poll released this week broke down Bush's approval rating state by state. In New York, according to the poll, 33% of voters approve of Bush's overall performance, while 62% percent disapprove. Among independent voters, an important political grouping, 27% approve while 64% disapprove. Bush's approval rating is highest in Utah, at 58%, and lowest in Massachusetts, at 29%.

17 February, 2006

New York Still Ranks As Most Flippable in '06; Bush Approval at 40%

New York remains No. 1 on one list of the top-ten most-flippable governor's races.

Each week the Washington Post's political blog The Fix looks at races that are ripe for a change from one party to the other. This week, for the first time in about a month, the blog looks at governor races nationwide and lists New York as the most-likely state to see a new party in control after the fall elections. The same ranking as in January.

With Republican George Pataki retiring, Tom Golisano deciding not to run and with no other GOP candidate making much noise, The Fix sees the Empire State going to Democrat Eliot Spitzer, who will be challenged for the Democratic nod by Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi.


Speaking of county executives with possible statewide ambitions, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef confirmed for The Journal News in today's editions that GOP officials are feeling him out about a possible run for state comptroller against Democratic incumbent Alan Hevesi. The article leaves one with the impression that Vanderhoef is considering a run but not yet wild about the idea.


Taking a step across the border for a bit, Connecticut's Joe Lieberman seems to be looking pretty good in his bid to keep his Senate seat, despite howls from the left end of his party about the senator's stance on the war. In a hypotehtical race pitting Lieberman against former governor Lowell Weicker, who could run as an inpedependent, a recent Rasmussen poll puts Sen. Joe Mentum ** up by 21 points, with a third candidate named "Republican" finishing a distant third.

**nickname given to Lieberman in 2004 when, despite finishing near the bottom of the pack in virtually every presidential primary, the intrepid senator continued to battle - saying he had "Jomentum."


President Bush's image appears to still be suffering most from the government's handling of Hurricane Katrina. In the the latest WNBC/Marist national politics poll, released today, Bush's approval rating among registered voters nationwide stands at 40%. In the poll 66% of registered voters of all stripes said they were "bothered a great deal or a good amount" by the Katrina response. That's the largest negative for the president in the poll, which asks voters' opinions on a number of challenges being faced by the administration.


FRIDAY RANT: This is the freebie I'm going to allow myself. My once-a-week chance to get something off my chest, even if it has nothing to do with politics.

Time for the bosses at USA Network to call someone on the carpet for a really dumb move today. The U.S women's curling team, which seemed hopelessly behind the Russians for much of today's match, had a remarkable three-point shot with the final rock of the game, tying the Russians and sending the match into an extra end (or inning). USA cuts to commercial and I sit back in anticpation of the extra frame. USA comes back from commercial, I look up, and I see hockey on my screen. How can you run an event for two hours, showing virtually every throw of the contest, then cut people off when the game is being decided? Unlike USA Network, I won't keep you hanging. The U.S. lost 8-7 in 11 ends.

16 February, 2006

New Yorkers Leading Horse Race in Latest Gallup Poll on the 2008 Presidential Race

Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton lead the way in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll's newest look at the 2008 presidential election, released today.

On the Democratic side it is no surprise to find Sen. Clinton on top of the list, with 39% of registered Democrats polled picking her as their favored presidential candidate. John Kerry polled second at 15%

But there are a couple of mild surprises when you compare today's numbers to Gallup's results two months ago. Clinton's support dropped four percentage points since December, when she was polling at 43%. Also in the last poll, Kerry and John Edwards were tied for second at 14%. The most surprising note in the poll was the showing by Al Gore. The former VP and Democratic presidential candidate was not listed in the December poll but put up a reasonably solid 13% this time - putting him in third place. The Gallup Web site doesn't make clear whether the December polling question didn't include Gore's name on the list or he didn't poll well enough to show up in the results. Either way his performance in the February poll is noteworthy.

On the GOP side Giuiliani tops the list at 33%, with Arizona's John McCain a close second at 28%. The rest of the field is in the single digits. Giuliani gained 3 percentage points and McCain six since December. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went from 18% in December to 1% in February, when her name was apparantly not listed in the poll questionnaire. Still, 1% of those polled picked her anyway.

Interesting that in what seemed like a red-state world just a short time ago, two New Yorkers - both liberal on social issues - top the polls.


One name not mentioned at all in the Gallup poll was that of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The New York Observer's Web site is running a story today saying a top aide is encouraging the mayor to consider a 2008 bid as an independent or even a Democrat. The article Will Mike Run For President as a Sane Perot? makes a decent case that the idea may not be so far-fetched.


One last word from the Gallup folks. Based on results of a separate poll released today it appears the wiretap issue remains a "divider not a uniter." In a Feb 9-12 poll, 47% of those asked said they believe the Bush administration was right to wiretap telephone conversations without getting a court order while 50% say it was wrong to do so. In late January, 46% said the administration was right and 51% wrong.


Well, on to watch my TIVO of today's USA-Sweden curling match. I'm not the jingoistic type but I get all red-white-and-blue when it comes to my country and my curling!!

15 February, 2006

My Two Cents:Time To Put Cheney Shotgun Saga Out To Pasture

I will not deny it has been great fun taking pot shots at Dick Cheney's hunting skills around the water cooler these past few days. But it might just be time to put the matter to rest.

I had a little fun with Dick's excellent adventure on this blog on Sunday, when the incident finally made its way into the public domain, but I have mainly let others in the blogosphere and on late night TV do most of the (quail) roasting.

Cheney has now taken full blame (see this AP report) for the shooting of his hunting buddy Harry Whittington, which is good. But he still - despite all the angst of the Washington press corps - doesn't seem to understand that having his host tell the Goober Gazette is not the way to fully disclose the incident to the nation.

Whittington is expected to recover from his wounds, but the incident could have become even larger than it has if Whittington's wounds had been fatal.

I can't fathom that anyone really believes Cheney shot at his friend on purpose, but why were local law enforcement agents kept away for hours? It just gives those who want to (and believe me a lot of people want to) a chance to taunt Cheney about an unlikely possibility.

And why not fully disclose the incident ASAP? "I shot my friend. It was an accident. He's undergoing medical care. Let's all pray for him" Boom! It's out there. It's over with. Maybe there's a few late-night jokes. And the issue goes away.

But the press, tired of being raked over the coals by the bloggers and the public for being hoodwinked, stonewalled and otherwise rendered inept by this administration in Bush's first five years in office has made it clear it is not going to be shut out any more.

Yet the administration still doesn't seem to get that a bit of transparency can go a long way, especially when your credibility with the majority of Americans is so shaky.

Instead we have Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, facing volley after volley, day after day, from a press corps that has had it with spin and deception. (Some feel sorry for McClellan, but I say if you sign up to be punching bag you're going to get punched).

With so many bigger issues to deal with it's hard to imagine that this administration allowed this incident to take up so much of it's time for so long.

Having said all that, for those of you who need just one more chuckle or 10, check out this collection of political cartoons courtesy of MSNBC.com

14 February, 2006

Buzzing The Blogs: Spencer Says He's the Pick of Conservatives, May Face Competitor From NYC

The Conservative Party of New York State has endorsed fomer Yonkers Mayor John Spencer in his bid for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Spencer's Web site announced the endorsement Tuesday, following a two-day party caucus in Albany that ended Monday.


The Politicker, the political blog of the New York Observer, picked up a story from upstate saying a former Reagan Administration official, KT McFarland, has been exploring an effort to beat Spencer to the GOP nomination. McFarland is a pro-choice Upper East Sider who worked for the State Department during the Reagan years as deputy assistant secretary in the public affairs office. The Politicker reports McFarland is being advised by Ed Rollins, a top GOP advisor going back to the Reagan years.


Meanwhile the Conservatives haven't made the decision that everyone is waiting for, their endorsement in the governor's race. While the man of choice for the GOP powers-that-be seems to be Bill Weld, he is widely believed to be much too liberal on social issues to win the Conservative Party's backing. And no Republican candidate has won a statewide race in New York for 32 years without support from the Conservatives. Capitol Confidential, the blog of the Albany Times-Union, quoted Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long as saying he was pleased with what he saw as Weld's "evolution" on gay marriage. But, the Confidential's post also linked to an item today by The American Spectator in which Long is quoted as saying Weld made no inroads at all.


One more tidbit to come out of the Conservative Party gathering in Albany the last two days. The Journal News reports today that, in a bid to show her conservative stripes, Jeanine Pirro told the group she has three guns. According to the paper, the candidate for state attorney general scored some points with the Conservatives, but it may have come at the expense of her support with gun-control advocates, who consider the former Westchester County D.A. to be sensative to their cause.


And finally. From the Times of London. A report in that British publication says Hillary Clinton may have too much of a stiff upper lip when she is before a large crowd. The paper reports that supporters and detractors alike think Clinton may be a bit too stiff on the campaign trail and that may hurt her if/when she runs for president in 2008.

13 February, 2006

Must See TV? Faso To Officially Anounce For Governor With Statewide TV Ad Tomorrow

Looking for something to warm the cockles of your Valentine's heart tomorrow night?

This isn't it!

But it is a statment that upstate lawyer John Faso is planning to make a strong bid for the GOP nomination for governor. The former New York State Senate minority leader will buy 90 seconds of commercial time on 11 stations statewide tomorrow night to officially announce his candidacy. Here in the NYC suburbs, the announcment can be seen at 7:58 pm on Channel 7.

It will be interesting to see if Faso, who was recently endorsed by the Manhattan Conservative Party, will have the state Conservative Party's endorsement in his back pocket when he makes his announcement. The Conservative Party's political action committee is finishing up a two-day gathering today in Albany, where members are vetting candidates for the fall elections.

With Tom Golisano deciding against entering the race and William Weld hitting some snags, including the Kentucky vocational school fiasco, the race for the GOP nomination in the governor's race appears to be fairly wide open.

Weld is not expected to get much backing from the Conservative Party because of his liberal stance on social issues. No Republican has won a statewide race without Conservative Party support since 1974.

Also in the race are Assemblyman Patrick Manning from Duchess County and Randy Daniels, a former Secretary of State for New York who lives in the Bronx.

Just how wide open is this race? The latest Marist College poll on New York State politics shows 50% of registered Republicans undecided, 33% backing Golisano (who had not ruled himself out at the time of the Feb 1. poll) and all the others in the single digits.

12 February, 2006

Internet Firms in an Awkward Spot as Congress Looks Into China's Influence on Web Freedom

It will be an interesting week for representatives of Google and other Internet firms, who will testify on Capitol Hill about their recent arrangements with the Chinese government.

Google announced last month that it agreed to censor search results from its Chinese site to satisfy the Chinese government's censorship restrictions.

Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Yahoo have similar agreements with the Chinese government.

It's a huge market and it is easy to appreciate the pressure on the Internet companies to compete there.

But it puts them in a tough spot since they continue to fight for purity of the Internet here in the States. Google has resisted the Justice Department's request for information on user searches, ostensibly as a way to fight child pornography. The big search engines are also resisting efforts by telephone and cable companies who are trying to assert more control over Internet lines.

Not that I'm trying to bite the server that hosts me (Google hosts all blogspot blogs, including this one) but it will be interesting to watch Google try to explain its China deal while advocating Internet freedom here.

The Internet can help to level the political playing field as I pointed out in article I wrote for another purpose a few weeks back.



By Ron Vallo

Open your e-mail every morning and there, mixed in with the come-ons for mail-order prescription drugs and products that promise "male enhancement," are some familiar names. But those names - Tom Matzzie of MoveOn.org or Jim Dean from Democracy for America, for example - are only familiar to you because you see them every day.

The Internet, which is widely believed to have come of age as a political tool during the 2004 elections, is being used by political activist groups, political parties and would-be candidates to keep their names and ideas front-and-center during the political off-season. Those efforts appear to be well aimed.

In its annual survey of Internet use the University of Southern California's Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future found that the web has blossomed as a key political tool - for both the political consumer and politicians.

According to the survey, 62% of those polled believe the Internet is important to political campaigns while 40% of those who identified themselves as Internet users feel the Web can give people more political power. Only 27% felt that way in the center's previous survey in 2004.

"With the expansion of information online about issues and candidates during the 2004 elections and an increase in voters accessing this information, this year (we) found significant growth in the number of people who feel politically empowered by going online, wrote Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Annenberg School Center. "The Internet will forever change the course and nature of American politics, probably in ways today's political leaders may not be comfortable with because there are so many information sources and opportunities for dialogue," Cole said in an interview posted on the school's Web site.

The experience of one journalist and self-described "political junkie" seems to confirm those findings. James Pindell was hired to run the political news Web site, politicsNH.com , three years ago. Pindell, managing editor of the New Hampshire-based site, said when he covered his first political event in 2002 people though he was "like a freak from cable access." But the site has quickly grown in stature and influence. Pindell said 50,000 different users clicked onto the site on a typical day during the 2004 presidential campaign. Usage dropped dramatically on 2005, to about 5,000 visitors a day, but Pindell said he expects the 2006 statewide races in New Hampshire will bring back the less hard-core reader.

Pindell believes the Internet can have the most effect on political primaries, races often run by candidates long on ideas but short on money. "You no longer have the same newspaper and the same TV station that has always covered the races. If more people tell the story it opens up the process."

He said one-issue candidates are often those who gain the most from the Internet, by tapping the efforts of bloggers.

"A single-issue candidate who understands the dynamics of Internet politics and can grab the attention of the five or six percent in his district who are passionate on the subject, can then grab the five or six percent of the people across the state or across the country who are equally passionate. A lot of money can be raised that way."

The Internet also has changed the way political campaigns are recruiting and organizing supporters. Following the lead of the Howard Dean campaign in the 2004 primaries, the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns made extensive use of the Internet to sign-up supporters, mobilize volunteers to help in the "swing" states and organize political efforts on the neighborhood level.

Locally, a fledging organization is forming in an effort to unseat the area's only Republican in Congress, Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, who's district - the 19th - covers northern Rockland and Westchester counties as well as all of Putnam County and parts of Orange and Dutchess counties. The group, take19, has created a Web site and is hoping to elicit support for their efforts.


"He went out quail hunting with his elephant and gu-u-un..." (apologies to Lennon/McCartney)

Vice President Dick Cheney's bad week has continued to go poorly right up to the end.

Earlier this week Cheney inched ever closer to being "outed" as the main leaker in the Valerie Plame case, as his former chief of staff Scooter Libbey is reported to have testified that his "superiors" authorized him to leak classified information to the press.

Cheney's bad week continued Saturday, when he accidentally shot a hunting buddy during a quail hunt in Texas. Fortunately, as the AP reports, Cheney's hunting partner was doing OK as of Sunday, when word of the incident made it's way into the press.

Whether it's spelled "quail" or "Quayle" that word never seems to bring good news for members of the GOP.

11 February, 2006

Pew Poll: Bush a Drag On GOP Candidates; Hillary Seen as Leader of the Dems

Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee -maybe even a 24-ouncer- and get ready for some good reading.

The latest national politics poll released by the Pew Research Center at the end of this week has lot's of interesting stuff to digest. Here are the highlights.

One thing seems clear from the poll. President Bush's diminished popularity looks to be hurting the GOP's chances this fall. Bush's impact on the race at this point seems to be just the opposite of what it was back in the fall of 2002, the time of the last mid-term election. Back then, 30% of voters said they thought of their congressional vote as a vote in support of Bush, while 20% said they would use their congressional vote to express displeasure with the president. Now, as we head into another mid-term election year the figures are reversed, with 31% saying they'll use their congressional vote as a vote against Bush and 18% saying their vote will signify their support of the president.

The drop in support seems to be coming mostly from voters identifying themselves as independents. According to the Feb. 9 Pew numbers, 51% of registered independents said they'll vote for a Democrat for Congress this year while 32% favor Republicans. Among voters registered with one of the two major parties, nine in 10 say they will vote with their party.

One bright spot for the GOP in the poll. By 41% to 37%, more voters think the Republican Party has better leaders than the Democrats.

Asked who they think of as the leader of the Democratic Party these days, more people - Democrats and Republicans alike - answer Hillary Clinton. Among all voters, 26% named the New York senator as the party's national leader and 14% picked her husband, former president Bill Clinton. The party's institutional leaders - Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid - barely moved the needle, coming in at under 5%

Can we read from all of this that while the country may be moving in the direction of the Democrats, there's no effective leadership to harness the shifting winds? I guess we'll have to wait 'til November to find out.


There's good news in the Pew poll for journalists and those who cherish a free press. The image of the news media has taken a nice jump since its re-awakening last fall. Since its aggressive coverage of the post-Katrina fiasco and its Johnny-come-lately expose of the pre-war intelligence "mismanagement" - if you will, the press' popularity has spiked. Back in October 52% of voters polled by Pew said they had a favorable view of the news media. In the latest poll 59% now look favorably on the job the media is doing. More to the issue of a free press, 56% of those polled said it is more important for the news media to report stories they feel are in the national interest while 34% believe it is more important for the government to censor stories on national security grounds. Back in November 2001, right after 9-11, government censoring ruled the day, 53% to 39%.


Other tidbits from the poll: Corruption is generally seen as bipartisan and nothing new. The health care system needs fixing and distrust of the federal government is on the rise, although the Supreme Court seems to still fare pretty well. Click the link above to see all the details.

10 February, 2006

Heckofa Job Brownie!

Michael Brown got the chance today to counter ctiticism of his actions, or inaction, following Hurricane Katrina. At a congressional hearing today the former head of FEMA agreed with some lawmakers' characterization of him as an administration scapegoat. He also called claims that White House officials didn't know about a disasterous levee break until the day after it happened "baloney." The International Herald Tribune posted a quick but complete wire wrap-up of Brown's testimony.

Hillary - More Like Dubya than Bubba

Hillary Clinton has built a vast political empire by employing a management style that insiders say is much more like that of President Bush than the Senator's husband, former president Bill Clinton. Like the Bush administration, intense loyalty abounds in the Hillary Clinton camp, according to a very close-up look at "Hillaryland" in a posting on The New Republic's Web site. Also like the Bush camp, the Clinton machine is "relentlessly on message and wary of reporters," according to Ryan Lizza who authored TNR's piece. A link to the TNR piece is provided above.

TGIF, but it may not be such a great Friday in the West Wing.

Brownie - former FEMA chief Michael Brown is testifying before Congress today and, according to the New York Times' Web site, is expected to say that officials "at the highest levels of the White House" knew much earlier than they have acknowledged about the devestation in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. The Times reports today that Brown told the White House of a levee break on the night of Monday, Aug. 29, the day the storm hit. Administration officials have said in the past they had been caught by surprise when told the next day the levee had broken,

Then there's the story that Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby has apparantly testified before a grand jury in the CIA leak case that he was authorized by his "superiors" to disclose classified information to reporters. Word of Libby's testimony was contained in a letter from federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to Libby's lawyers last month. The contents of the letter were first reported yesterday by the National Journal.

I guess we now know why Bush chose yesterday afternoon to disclose new details of a foiled four-year-old Al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked plane into a skyscraper in Los Angeles.

Of course the the 24-hour cable channels (and their Web sites) have used most of their air time and resources in the past 24 hours focusing on "real" news - about the British man arrested yesterday in London in connection with the murder of his American wife and baby outside of Boston last month.

09 February, 2006

Spano Says He's Dems' No. 1 Target In NY This Year

New York Democrats are eyeing a prize they have not won for 40 years - the state senate.

With well-known national GOP figures facing indictment and scandal, and President Bush having difficulty putting his approval rating on firm footing, state Democrats are hoping to capitalize on this moment of Republican weakness to make solid gains in the state senate in November.

Chris Malone, a political science professor at Pace University, says reversing the 35-27 Republican majority in the state Senate may be a bit of a stretch this year. But Malone says picking up a couple of seats is very doable, setting the stage for a possible takeover by 2008.

Malone says two local seats will be among those targeted by the Democrats - the 35th District seat held by Sen. Nick Spano, R-Yonkers, and the 38th District seat of Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City.

Spano, who won his 2004 race against Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins by 18 votes and after four months of post-election challenges, readily admits he will face a stiff challenge again. "I expect to be the number one target of the Democrats in the state this year and this race will be as competitive as it was last time," Spano said.

No challenger has materialized to take on Morahan in Rockland County, but one local political observor, who did not want to be identified, said Democratic officials have told him they have Morahan "in their sights" and that when they name a candidate they will give that candidate strong backing. A phone call and e-mail message to Morahan were not returned.

Malone says Democrats in the local races will benefit by having two popular politicians at the top of the ticket, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is seeking re-election, and Secretary of State Eliot Spitzer, who is running for governor. Still, Malone does not see a Democratic takeover in the Senate.

"On a statewide basis, the Democrats are hoping to pick up at least two seats and I think they have a real good chance," he said. "If they make some inroads this year, and particularly if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee for president, the Democrats may be able to retake the Senate in 2008."

Malone believes the Republican Party "is in crisis at the state level" and in trouble throughout the Northeast because of the national party's socially conservative image. Moderate Republicans of the region, he said, are having trouble divorcing themselves from GOP policies that "play well in Texas or Alabama or Mississippi."

For his part Spano stressed that he disagrees with the national party on most social issues, singling out "choice" (abortion), gay rights and "support of working men and women and the labor movement."

But Malone says bucking the national party is becoming increasingly difficult. "What we could be seeing (over the next several years) is the death of the Northeast moderate Republican."

Rudy Flexing Some Muscle, Even In A Red State

Interesting info on Rudy Guiliani in a posting. The Washington Post's political blog took a look at Republican presidential preference polls in four states and found that Guiliani finishes first or second in all of them - including Georgia, among the reddest of red states. That's especially interesting since a lot of the pundits are pooh-pooing Hizzoner's chances in 2008 because of his somewhat liberal positions on social issues.

08 February, 2006

A Left Jab At Hillary - Jonathan Tasini's Anti-War Campaign

Jonathan Tasini. The name might not ring a bell, but Tasini hopes to strike a chord with New Yorkers opposed to the war in Iraq.

Tasini has joined the battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

The 49-year-old activist has spent most of his adult life fighting to organize and represent workers in a variety of businesses. Now he has turned his attention to getting the U.S. out of Iraq and has put the issue at the forefront of his bid for the Senate.

Frustrated by Democrats who have made vague calls for withdrawal in small increments and over long periods of time, Tasini is advocating "immediate, complete withdrawal." And while he concedes that it would be impossible to bring 140,000 troops home tomorrow, he said the U.S. must "make the policy decision today and then don't spend another dime on offensive action" in Iraq. "All expenditures from this day forward should be to withdraw our troops as quickly as possible while maintaining their safety."

Tasini's view on Iraq sharply contrasts that of Sen. Clinton, who is calling for a gradual withdrawal of troops beginning this year, with some being left behind at peripheral locations where they can provide a quick-strike force if necessary.

Tasini says the main arguments against immediate withdrawal from Iraq are "myths." Chief among those myths is that a pullout would lead to civil war in Iraq. Tasini argues that a civil war - created by the U.S.- is already underway in Iraq, and a pullout by the U.S. now would allow the minority Sunni insurgents to participate in the government without fear of being branded as traitors to the Sunni cause.

The candidate also rejects the argument that U.S. withdrawal would make Iraq a haven for terrorists. "Guess what," he said, "that barn door has already been opened."

Tasini also rejects the argument that America would lose credibility around the world by pulling out, saying we have already done that by starting the war in the first place. But, Tasini is adamant that the U.S. is not without some obligation to Iraqis.

"We have an obligation from a monetary standpoint to restore Iraq," he said. "We destroyed the country and we have a moral obligation to rebuild it. The situation in Iraq obviously is not pretty, but for every day our military stays there we are making it worse."

And, while Tasini agrees that the presence of a democratic regime in the heart of the Middle East would be a good thing, "what you are seeing in Iraq now, and what is forming there, is not a real democracy," he argues.

Further, he says, "I think it is presumptuous of us to assume that everyone should copy our form of democracy. And some aspects of our democracy in particular might not be a good model to build on. For example, our system of elections and its reliance on money from special interests is not really an example of democracy at its best."

The war is not the only issue driving Tasini's campaign. He advocates dismantling the current health care system and replacing it with Medicare for all. "Cradle-to-grave" coverage, he calls it. Tasini said about 2 percent to 4 percent of Medicare's expenses go to cover overhead, while about 20 percent of expenditures by private health care companies go for administration, including executive pay and advertising.

Under Tasini's health care plan, employers would contribute to the universal coverage and employees would pay a payroll tax of "a couple of percent." But, he argued, both employers and workers would find that the amount of money they are spending overall on health care would be "significantly reduced."

He acknowledges that reforming health care will be a tough nut, as Sen. Clinton found out in the early years of the Bill Clinton administration. But, he says there's a reason that attempt at health care reform failed.

"The reason my opponent was unsuccessful was because she was unwilling to take on the drug companies and insurance providers. We have to take health care out of the hands of the profiteers and leeches who are making their money at the expense of people's health."

Tasini also is proposing a national retirement program to augment Social Security. Under Tasini's universal voluntary accounts plan, employers would be required to contribute a minimum of three percent of wages and employees could also make voluntary contributions. Rather than creating individual accounts for each worker, Tasini proposes the plan would provide a benefit at retirement based on each worker's contribution to the plan, age at retirement and years in the program. By pulling everyone's contribution, he argues, the program would be less vulnerable to the whims of the stock markets than an individual worker's 401(k) plan would be.

The native of Houston, who spent most of his childhood in New York State, is under no illusion that the battle against Clinton will be easy and that his ideas will be a quick sell. But, he has faced uphill battles before. After completing his degree in political science at the University of California at Los Angeles, he spent the early 1980s organizing the Los Angeles chapter of the National Writers Union, which represents freelance writers. After moving back to New York in 1985, Tasini worked for the local chapter of the union and was its president from 1990 to 2003. He most recently has been attempting to organize hotel workers on a national level.

As president of the NWU, Tasini took on the New York Times Co., Time Inc., Lexis/Nexis and others in a case involving the electronic archiving of freelancers' work. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the publishers committed copyright infringement when they resold freelance newspaper and magazine articles via electronic databases without asking permission or making additional payments to the original authors. The ruling led to a series of class-action suits which resulted in the creation of an $18 million compensation fund for the freelancers.

Tasini is bringing the same underdog spirit to his campaign for the Senate. "I am excited about the reaction to our campaign," he said, noting that more than 100 volunteers have joined his team since he announced his candidacy in December. He knows he will not have the backing of the Democratic Party, but says he expects to attract voters who are unhappy with what the party has had to offer in recent years.

Tasini said he has garnered attention with his anti-war stance but his support goes beyond the Iraqi conflict. "Young people are concerned about the direction of the country," he said. "So while they feel the war itself is a terrible thing, they see it as a reflection of the way things are going in general."

By Ron Vallo - NYPols Editor/Writer

Welcome To NYPols - Who We Are

With a mid-term congressional election, and a U.S. Senate seat and several state-wide offices up for grabs, the New York political scene promises much drama in the months ahead.

The state's most popular - and controversial- politician, Sen. Hillary Clinton, will be running to maintain a seat that most believe she will be keeping warm for just a short time before starting a bid for the presidency.

The mid-term congressional elections will take place as the anti-war movement grows and with voters in a restless, "throw-the-bums-out" mood.

In statewide races, Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro has switched from a bid to unseat Clinton to an attorney general race that is chock full of potential Democratic opponents'

Meanwhile, the man who currently holds that post, Eliot Spitzer, has a head of steam as the likely Democratic candidate for the governor's seat being vacated by another New Yorker who would be president, George Pataki.

On this blog we hope to follow the major statewide races, focus on New York State politicians who are impacting the national political scene and chronicle political developments that directly affect Westchester and Rockland counties.

And we will be keeping an eye on the bloggers as well, and let you know who is in the know and who's just blowing smoke.

We hope you enjoy the blog! Let us know what you think.

Ron Vallo - Writer/Editor