31 March, 2006

Americans Overwhelmingly Reject House Version of Immigration Reform, TIME Poll Shows; And Just What Do Mexicans Think of Us? You May Be Surprised

With the battle over immigration splitting the Republican Party and spilling into the streets in several American cities TIME magazine's Web site posted an extensive poll tonight on the topic.

By an overwhelming tally, the poll shows Americans do not favor a measure passed in the Republican-controlled House that would make felons of illegal aliens.

Seventy-two percent of those polled indicate they prefer a guest worker program like the one proposed by President Bush. Only one in four Americans polled by TIME approve of the House version, which criminalizes illegal aliens and offers no guest worker program.

The approval of a guest worker program is even stronger in border states, where 78% prefer that approach to sending illegals back home.

In addition 78% say consideration should be given to a plan to allow illegals to earn citizenship by holding down a job, learning English and paying taxes.

While not wanting to expel those illegals who are already here, Americans are also quite clear that they want to see the influx of illegal foreign workers halted. More than two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigration is a serious problem and 82% said the government is not doing enough to stop it.

Likewise 62% favor "doing whatever it takes" to stop illegals from entering the country, including the use of the military. Some 56% support building a fence from one end of the U.S.-Mexico border to the other.

The biggest objection Americans have to the continued influx of illegal aliens is the cost of supporting the newcomers. Those questioned would limit illigal aliens' access to government services, with 69% saying they should not be granted driver's licenses, 75% saying they should have no access to health care assistance or food stamps and 51% saying children of illegals should not have access to public education.

About seven in 10 think there should be stiffer punishment for those who hire illegals and 44% of those polled say illegals and their supporters are hurting their cause by conducting the public protests, compared to 14% who say the protests make them more sympathetic to the cause.

Virtually the same number of Americans say they would be more likely to vote for (29%) a candidate who favors criminalization as those who would vote against (28%) a candidate for taking that stance on the issue.

If you don't have time to look over all the numbers click here for TIME's summary story.


And now that we've summarized Americans' thoughts on illegal aliens, it may be interesting to take a look at how Mexicans see us. A recent Zogby poll, posted below, indicates most Americans think this country is more well off than Mexico because of the opportunities here. But most Mexicans think it's because Americans exploit the other nations of the world

Poll: Majority of Mexicans See US As 'Exploiter'

Why is the United States a wealthier nation than Mexico? A new Zogby poll asked Mexican and American citizens that question and others.

Seventy percent of Americans said the U.S. is wealthier because there is plenty of opportunity and work available in the United States, but 62 percent of Mexicans said the U.S. is wealthier because it exploits others, the Zogby poll said.

As for why Mexico is poorer, 38 percent of Mexicans blamed corruption and 36 percent blamed government policies. Likewise, 36 percent of Americans said Mexico is poorer because of government policies and 35 percent blamed corruption.

The Zogby poll examined how Americans and Mexicans regard each other. It found that 62 percent of Americans believe a strong relationship between the two countries is important for America's future; but only 52 percent of Mexicans said it was important for their country to have a good relationship with the United States.


Both Americans and Mexicans agreed that the U.S. economy benefits from the labor of immigrant Mexicans.

Nevertheless, a majority of Americans want U.S. lawmakers to crack down on illegal immigration. Sixty-two percent of Americans said they favor "more restrictive" immigration policies, the Zogby poll said.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans said they would favor a U.S. economic development program for Mexico if Mexico agreed to accept more controls on immigration. But 53 percent of Mexicans opposed that idea.

And while 69 percent of Americans oppose a U.S. proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, 90 percent of Mexicans oppose the idea.

Personal attributes

On a personal level, 84 percent of Americans said they held a positive view of the Mexican people, but only 36 percent of Mexicans had a positive view of Americans.

Other findings:

-- 78 percent of Americans consider Mexicans hard-working, but only 26 percent of Mexicans consider Americans hard-working.

-- 18 percent of Americans consider Mexicans racist, while 73 percent of Mexicans see American as racist.

-- 42 percent of Americans see Mexicans as honest, while only 16 percent of Mexicans see Americans as honest.

The survey was a joint project of Zogby International and a Mexico City-based research and development group.

The survey of Mexicans, conducted Feb. 10-16, included 1,000 interviews and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 points. The survey of Americans, conducted Feb. 3-7, included 1010 interviews and had the same 3.2-point margin of error either way.


Zogby/WSJ Poll Shows Clinton Leads NY Senate Race, But Spencer Gains 10 Points

The latest Zogby/Wall Street Journal poll shows Sen. Hillary Clinton with a 21-point lead over former Yonkers mayor John Spencer (54-33), one of the two Republicans challenging Clinton. That may not seem like much of anything new, but in the same poll in January Clinton sported a 31-point bulge. KT McFarland, paired off against Clinton one-on-one for the first time by the Zogby/WSJ poll, trailed Clinton 55% to 30%.

Comparing the numbers, Spencer's showing against Clinton is a little bit stronger than McFarland's, which flies in the face of another poll we told you about yesterday. In the Quinnipiac poll McFarland led Spencer in a one-on-one race 35% to 22%.


Things continue to shake Clinton's way on another front. Florida's legislature is looking at, and is expected to approve, a move of the state's presidential primary from March to the week after the New Hampshire primary, which has a long tradition of being the first primary on the docket (Iowa technically has caucuses and not a primary). If the primary of such a large swing state is held so early in the process, well-healed candidates with an extensive organizations are the ones expected to be helped. It's safe to say Clinton fits that description.

Andrew Cuomo received the support of the Kings County (Brooklyn) Democratic Party in his bid for state attorney general. Cuomo got 26 votes to Mark Green's 5, which was good for second place. Vote totals were reported on the New York Observer's blog The Politicker.

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll puts Thomas Keane Jr., the Republican, ahead of incumbent Democrat Robert Menendez in the New Jersey senate race, by a 41% to 39% tally. But in the Zogby/WSJ poll the two are tied at 40%. In a Quinnipiac poll on March 20 it was Menendez who held a 4-point lead. Bottom line, no one has the upper hand here.

30 March, 2006

Tasini Web Site Ad Shows Horrors Of War

Jonathan Tasini, who's anti-war campaign for Hillary Clinton's senate seat has never seemed to have gotten off the ground, is nonetheless making a point. In an extremely graphic ad on his campaign Web site, Tasini is running a very disturbing montage showing his view on the fruits of war. Again, we warn this ad is very graphic and difficult to watch. But you can click here to see it if you wish.

Bloomberg Weighs In On Immigration; Says Criminalization, Guest Worker Plans Both Unrealistic: New York Times Report

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized two plans being backed in Washington to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. Bloomberg told CNN it is a "fiction" to believe we will deport millions of people and suggested illegal aliens be given "permanent status." The New York Times, in Friday's editions, reports Bloomberg is critical of a House Republican plan to criminalize immigration violations, and President Bush's plan to allow "guest workers" to stay for a defined period of time. A senate committee, meanwhile, has approved a bill proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. John McCain,R-Arizona, that would allow undocumented workers to earn citizenship.

New Yorkers Score Well Again In Florida Presidential Preference Poll

Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani are atop their respective parties in a Florida presidential preference poll released today by Strategic Vision.

Among Florida Democrats, Clinton is the top vote-getter at 35%. Al Gore is a distant second at 18% and John Edwards is at 12%. No other Democrat scores in double figures.

On the Repubican side, no matter how you mix and match the candidates (with Jeb Bush in the race, without Bush out of the race, with Condoleezza Rice in the race etc....) Giuliani tops the Republican list, leading the No.2 finisher in all the various combinations, Arizona Sen. John McCain. The poll shows Giuliani ahead of McCain by about 10 points.

The poll, which is mostly of local interest in Florida, paints Gov. Jeb Bush in an interesting light. His big brother's approval rating is at 38% (53% approve) in the state, but the governor's approval rating is at 56% (32% disapprove), pretty much a mirror image of the president's. However, when asked whether Jeb should run for president in 2008, by a margin of 67% to 13% Floridians say no. Likewise, they are cool to the idea of Bush the younger running for vice-president.

By the way, 56% of Floridians say they would not like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade, while 34% would like to see the ruling which upholds abortion rights reversed.

Who's hot and who's not on the campaign trail? The Kansas City Star's Dave Helling and Steve Kraske have an interesting look at the question. It seems Hillary Clinton is NOT someone you want to be seen with in Missouri. At least, according to the article, that seems to be the opinion of Claire McCaskill, the Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Jim Talent (who seems to have ducked a photo op with Dick Cheney earlier this year).


The Abany Times-Union's blog Capitol Confidential reports tonight that Rep. John Sweeney, the Republican representative from New York's 20'th District, may be considering dropping out of his re-election race due to health and family issues. Sweeney also was named in a recent story in the Capitol Hill publication 'Roll Call' which reported the Justice Department has examined Sweeney's personal financial records. The Roll Call report is available to subscribers only. Here's a report from the Post-Star in Glenns Falls.

Weld's Tax Plan Falling Flat With Numbers Crunchers

GOP gubenatorial candidate William Weld's proposal to eliminate the income tax for some New Yorkers is not passing the smell test. Weld proposed earlier this week to cut taxes for individual New Yorkers making $75,000 or less. Weld estimated the plan would cost the state $6.9 billion a year, which he argued could be made up elsewhere. Numbers crunchers are saying it will cost a lot more. In addition, some critics say the plan just isn't fair. They claim it would add a new "marriage" tax by not offering any benefit to married couples who's income exceeds $75,000. In addition, someone making the magic 75-grand or less would pay nothing. Someone making $75,001 would pay thousands. The New York Sun has a closer look at the plan on its Web site today.


The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a measure to limit lobbying activities, a plan critics called too weak. The bill would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to, and buying meals for, lawmakers and tighten rules for politicians' pet home-district projects. It would not limit a lawmaker's ability to fly on corporate jets, where lobbyists often get a lot of face time with a very captive audience.

Today, Democratic candidate for state attorney general Andrew Cuomo unveiled his proposal to cut down on so-call pay-to-play activities here in New York. Cuomo's plan calls for the creation of an independent state ethics commission. In addition, Cuomo is proposing a ban on gifts to state officials and the closing of a loophole in the state's law preventing former government officials from lobbying members of the state legislature for two years after they leave government service, among other measures.

McFarland Pulls Ahead In GOP Race For U.S. Senate; Clinton Still Holds Large Lead Over Both Republicans

Despite some missteps and tons of negative press in the past few weeks, former Reagan Defense Dept. spokeswoman KT McFarland has vaulted into the lead in her battle for the GOP nod for U.S. Senate from New York.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows McFarland out in front of former Yonkers mayor John Spencer, despite McFarland's very late entry in the race a month or so ago. Among Republicans polled in the second of two Quinnipiac polls released in the past two days, McFarland leads Spencer 35% to 22%, with 37% remaining undecided.

In a mock general election, Sen. Hillary Clinton is ahead of Spencer 60% to 30%, the same figures Quinnipiac reported in January. Clinton leads McFarland 60% to 29%.

You would have to assume things will change a bit in these races once the general public finds out who is actually running. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they hadn't heard of Spencer, while 75% did not know who McFarland is.


In a not too surprising move, given the public spat between the McFarland campaign and the head of the state Republican Party, GOP chairman Stephen Minarik has endorsed Spencer, according to a story in today's New York Times.

Meanwhile, McFarland keeps harvesting her endorsements one at a time. On Wednesday McFarland picked up the endorsement of the Allegheny County GOP chairman, Tom Hayden. That's five endorsements for her in the past week.


Back briefly to the Quinnipiac poll. In the race for the Democratic nod for attorney general, former Federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo leads former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green 37% to 25%, with 26% undecided.

Both men come out on top in one-on-one matchups with Republican Jeanine Pirro. Cuomo leads the former Westchester district attorney 51% to 31%, while Green holds at 47% to 31% lead over Pirro.


President Bush's job approval rating in the Empire State, according to Qunnipiac, is 28%, compared with 69% disapproval. Sen. Clinton's approval rating is at 57%, down from 60% in January and down from 65% at its high-water mark in February 2005. Sen. Chuck Schumer's approval rating jumped to 63% in the latest poll from 58% in January.

29 March, 2006

A Quick Timeout For A Little Fun! Local Pol Turns His 1970's Hit Into His Campaign Theme (Something He Wouldn't Let The President Do)

We once mentiond that John Hall, a member of the '70s pop band Orleans, was running for Congress in New York's 19th District. Hall, one of the myriad of Democrats hoping to unseat Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, this fall has turned one of the band's big hits - with new lyrics - into his campaign theme. If you are anywhere near the big 5-oh, as this blogger is about to be, you might have the song 'Dance With Me' in your collection. Pull it out and sing these lyrics to the melody:

Vote for Me
I want to be in Congress
Can't you see
the country'sin a big mess
Katrina showed us
the emperor's new clothes, so just
vote for me.

Vote for Peace
and we can all have healthcare
almost free
no more pre-emptive warfare
we'll be sweeties, abide by our treaties
Vote for me.

Let's impeach Bush and Cheney, too
after we win back both the House and Senate
The line of succession leads to number three
Speaker Pelosi

Vote for me
and send Sue Kelly packin'
then we'll bring
our troops home from Iraq and
we'll start winning
it'll be a beginning
Vote for me.

In a note to NYPols confirming the lyrics were indeed his, Hall told us the song might be a little simplistic, but it makes his points. For instance, he says, "if we were not spending half a trillion dollars on war right now we'd have an easier time dealing with what most people consider a health care fiasco."

Back in 2004, President Bush was forced to stop using Orleans' other mega-hit "Still The One" as his re-election campaign theme because Bush failed to obtain permission from the copyright owner -- John Hall.

Suozzi Cuts A Bit Into Spitzer's Lead In Latest Qunnipiac Poll; Both Dems Would Win Big Over GOP Gubenatorial Hopefuls

New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer still has a huge lead over his rival for the Democratic gubenatorial nod. But Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has snipped a few points off of Spitzer's still-large lead, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

The poll shows former state Assembly minority leader John Faso with a small lead in the GOP race.

In cross-party races, both Spitzer and Suozzi had solid-to-huge leads over any of the three Republicans in the race in one-on-one matchups.

Here's a snippet from the poll report:

Spitzer-Republican matchups show:
66 - 18 percent over Randy Daniels;
66 - 18 percent over William Weld;
66 - 18 percent over John Faso.

Suozzi-Republican matchups show:
48 - 17 percent over Randy Daniels, with 29 percent undecided;
47 - 20 percent over William Weld, with 27 percent undecided;
47 - 19 percent over John Faso, with 27 percent undecided.

In the Democratic race, Spitzer holds a 69% to 14% (55 points) lead over Suozzi, compared to a 72% to 8% (64 points) chasm in January.

On the GOP side, 48% of Republicans polled remain undecided on their choice for governor. Faso is favored by 22% of Republican voters. Former Massachusetts governor William Weld polled at 16% and former New York secretary of state Randy Daniels at 8%.

Back in January, upstate businessman Tom Golisano, who is no longer in the race, led the GOP pack at 34%, while Weld was at 9% and Faso at 8%.

The poll has tons of other numbers on approval ratings and favorabilty ratings of the candidates and current state officials and it's worth look at in depth.

28 March, 2006

McFarland Campaign Manager Rollins Blasts State GOP Head

GOP Senate candidate KT McFarland and her campaign manager have a message for state Republican chairman Steve Minarik. Keep your nose out of our business.

Yesterday, the New York Post reported that Minarik told McFarland to axe Ed Rollins as her campaign manager if she wanted to receive consideration for backing from the state GOP. Minarik's beef with Rollins apparently goes back to 1992, when Rollins helped the third-party presidential candidacy of Ross Perot. You'll recall Bill Clinton won that race.

McFarland has issued a statement indicating she'll stick with Rollins, saying who she chooses to run her campaign is her business and non-negotiable. Rollins chose a few stronger words, saying "no one in the world" would consider Minarik a good party chairman and criticized his fundraising abilities and his ability to win races.

By the way, McFarland got another small-time endorsement today. Capitol Confidential reports the endorsement comes from the chairman of the Ontario County Republican party.

On the Democratic side of things, the man who's running a distant second for the party's nomination for governor, Nassua County executive Tom Suozzi, is challenging frontrunner Eliot Spitzer to monthly debates, according to NY1. Spitzer has already agreed to at least one debate.


The Andrew Cuomo campaign announced today that the Democratic candidate for state attorney general has picked up the endorsement of Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer. Speaking of Cuomo, New York magazine has a candidate profile of him this week chronicling the ups and downs of his career as a politician and son of Maurio Cuomo, the former governor who was revered in Democratic circles.

No day would be complete without a Hillary article. Today it's the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Sen. Clinton met with the editorial board of the paper yesterday and urged New Yorkers to get past the noise that surrounds her and look at her record. She did concede, though, that there's lots of work to do to turn around upstate New York.

The way has been cleared on the Republican side for Rep. Sue Kelly, of New York's 19th District. Jeff Cook, an official with the Log Cabin Republicans - a group which advocates for gay rights, has pulled out of the race. Cook says running against incumbent Kelly would be too expensive and too combative. Cook never announced his candidacy but did form an exploratory committee. That still leaves about six hopefuls on the Democratic side.

Speaking of Kelly, the Rebulican veteran will get a boost to her campaign from a top Repeublican with whom she has disagreed in the past. Kelly will host Arizona Sen. John McCain at a $500 a plate dinner in Hopewell Junction on April 1. During the 2000 campaign, Kelly criticized McCain's support for New York and New Jersey veterans and voted against the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law.

Weld Calls For Elmination Of State Income Tax On Those Making Up To $75,000

New York GOP gubenatorial hopeful William Weld called this morning for the elimination of the state's personal income tax on individuals making up to $75,000 a year. The AP reports Weld made the proposal at forum of business leaders in New York City this morning. Weld also proposed a plan to let voters, not the legislature, set the level of government spending in New York. The Weld campaign said the tax proposal would cost the state $6.9 billion a year.

Schumer Says Card Resignation Well Short Of Changes Needed At White House

New York Sen. Charles Schumer says the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card falls well short of the type of change needed at the White House. Schumer says policy, as well as people, need to change in the administration. NY1 was among several news outlets to report Schumer comparing the administration to the Titanic.

27 March, 2006

Hillary Painted as A Full-Blown Hawk In Pat Buchanan's Opinion Weekly "The American Conservative"; More Endorsements On GOP Side Of The Senate Race

It's been a long and late night for this blogger, who was busy taking care of some other business tonight. But I thought I'd check in with a couple of quick notes.

Seems we can't go a day without some mention of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who not only has raised the most money of any 2008 presidential hopeful by far but also seems to be getting the most ink. This week's American Conservative, in a pro-isolationist opinion piece, has a not-so-flattering look at the Senator (and a not-so-flattering front cover) which paints a picture of an opportunist who is now capitalizing on the dispute with Iran over nuclear materials to paint herself as the hawkiest of hawks on national security.

CORRECTION: Sunday we called your attention to a column by Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star. In our post we implied that the Star was in Kansas. As a reader correctly points out, the Kansas City Star is in Kansas City, Missouri not Kansas City, Kansas. Thanks for the catch!


Former Yonkers mayor John Spencer got four more endorsements from upstate today for his GOP Senate campaign. The support came from the leaders of the Cayuga, Madison, Oswego and Onondoga Repblican parties. Spencer claims to have more than enough backing to win a spot on the primary ballot.

Meanwhile, Spencer's GOP opponent got her third official endorsement today. Despite questions about her spotty voting record in general elections and reports of her accusations that Hillary Clinton is spying on her, former Reagan Defense Dept. spokeswoman KT McFarland got the endorsement of the Sullivan County Republican Committee.

26 March, 2006

TIME Reports Dem, GOP Strategists Privately Agree Dems Would Retake House If Elections Were Held Now; Class War Seen At Work In NY GOP Races

The TIME magazine issue that hits the stands tomorrow has an interesting look at the 2006 mid-term elections. In a story by Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen, the news weekly reports that top strategists of both parties see a Democratic takeover in the House if the election were to be held now. The reports says polls and fundraising, two key factors, indicate the Democrats may be on their way to gaining the 15 or more seats they need to become the majority party again in the House.

Meanwhile, columnist Robert Novak says one of the seats which might be flipped belongs to the man heading the national Congressional campaign for the Republicans, New Yorker Tom Reynolds, who represents New York's 26th District. Novak, in his column today, mentions claims by the Democrats of secret polls that show Reynolds' seat is competitive. Novak reports the Democrats are also aiming at three other New York seats, those held by incumbents Rep. James Walsh (25th District) and Rep. John Sweeney (20th District), as well as the 24th District seat, which will be open due to the retirement of Rep Sherwood Boehlert.

The political Web site Newsmax.com has a story today quoting former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani as saying he won't make any decision about running for president in 2008 until the 2006 elections are in the books.

Meantime, out in Kansas - one of the reddest of the red states - Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star has an opinion piece today on why he thinks New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has a very good shot to win in 2008, despite her political baggage and her reputation in other parts of the country as an Eastern liberal.


On Newsweek's Web site Eleanor Clift weighs in today on Sen. Russ Feingold's call for censure of President Bush over wiretapping. Clift argues, as many have, that it may have been a smart move politically for the Wisconsin Democrat but not such a wise move for the party as a whole.

Looking at things on the state level. Two recently published articles argue that the the state GOP faceoffs this year are an indication that class warfare is dividing the Republicans. In a story by Niall Stanage, the New York Observer says races like Weld/Fasso (for governor) and McFarland/Spencer (for Senate) show the brie-and-merlot wing of the party is trying to regain a foothold. Meanwhile, in the New York Times today a story on former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's recent outspokenness seems to back up the argument made in the Observer story.


Speaking of Spencer, the New York Post, quoting GOP sources, is reporting today that the former Yonkers mayor will get the endorsements tomorrow of the Republican chairmen of Onondaga, Cayuga and Oswego counties. The Post said the sources also indicated Spencer can expect the backing of the Nassau and Suffolk county chairmen soon.

25 March, 2006

Senate Hearing Set on Feingold's Call To Censure Bush On WireTapping; Maloney Explains His Plan To Sue To Halt Program

Reuters reports the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up Sen. Russ Feingold's proposal to censure President Bush over his warrantless wiretapping program. As we discussed extensively yesterday, the Wisconsin Democrat's proposal is a controversial idea on both sides of the aisle.

On Thursday we told you about New York attorney general candidate Sean Patrick Maloney's proposal to sue to stop the wiretap program. In an e-mail to supporters today Maloney outlines his plan and explains why it is within a state attorney general's power to file such a suit. Maloney stresses he favors wiretapping of terror suspects, but wants to make sure the administration's program is within the parameters of the law. Maloney will talk more about his proposed suit on the Kirtzman & Co. talk show tomorrow morning on WCBS-TV at 11:00 a.m. EST.

Edward Brancati, a former member of Rep. Nita Lowey's staff, has announced he will run for state Senate. Brancati, from northern Westchester County, will challenge Republican Sen. Vincent Leibell, who's 40th District seat covers all of Putnam County and parts of Dutchess and Westchester counties. The Journal News reports Brancati will attack Leibell's alleged "lack of action" in his 12 years in the Senate.

Post Reports McFarland Accuses Clinton Team of Spying on Her; McFarland Says It Was All A Joke

More bad publicity today for KT McFarland, who has had her share of PR problems since stepping into the Senate race on the GOP side three weeks ago. McFarland has had to cope with revelations that she didn't vote in several general elections, questions about the accuracy of her resume and confusion over her stance on abortion. She was also the subject of a curious claim by her GOP opponent John Spencer, the former Yonkers mayor, that the Clintons put her up to running to hurt his cause.

Today the New York Post is running a story saying McFarland accused Clinton of "spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons." The Post quoted a number of annonymous sources who said McFarland made the comments at a gathering of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday. Suffolk County Republican Chairman Harry Withers, who hosted the event, is one of only two persons quoted by name in the article to confirm the statements. The other is McFarland's GOP opponent John Spencer. According to the Post, McFarland spokesman William O'Reilly said the comments were made as a joke and they elicited laughter. But, according to the Post's unnamed sources there was no laughter, just a kind of curious silence. A Clinton spokesman quoted by the Post, Howard Wolfson, denied there has been any spying going on.

The AP followed up with a report of its own which quoted a release from McFarland herself calling the comments a joke and its own quote from Spencer that the comments were made and no one found them funny.

24 March, 2006

Stop the Presses! Dems, GOP Agree on Something -- Both See Iraq and President Bush's Job Performance as Election Keys

The National Journal posted a poll of "political insiders" today and it shows the GOP and the Democrats agree that three issues will dominate the mid-term elections; the war in Iraq, President Bush's performance and the economy, in that order.

On another topic, the poll asked the political pros who is likely to benefit the most from Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold's proposal to censure President Bush over wiretapping. The Republicans, by a wide margin, think they will benefit. The Democrats on the other hand, who fear the issue may cause them to look too radical and combative, think Feingold himself is the most likely to benefit.

The New Republic Online this week has two articles on Feingold's censure proposal. One, by Ryan Lizza, argues that it was a selfish, grandstanding move by the Wisconsin Democrat. The other, by Peter Beinert, argues that Feingold's proposal helps to move the idea of censure from the fringe to the mainstream - which he argues is good for the Democrats.


Two of Hillary Clinton's opponents are trying to force the senator to take a stand on Feingold's proposal. Jonathan Tasini is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nod. The blog on his campaign Web site questions both Clinton's silence on censure and her support for the war. One of Clinton's Republican challengers, John Spencer, accuses her of hypocrisy on the issue. Congressional Democrats pushed for the issue to be put on ice until they get back from the current recess so they can study the matter (or perhaps check the polticial winds back home).


While we have Russ Feingold in the spotlight, we might mention that Feingold's political action committee, the Progressive Patriots Fund is running an online sweepstakes of sorts. The fund will donate $5,000 to the Congressional challenger who can drum up the most votes online from supporters. Eight Democrats who are challenging incumbent Republicans are listed on the ballot, including two from New York - Kirsten Gillibrand who is taking on Rep. John Sweeney of New York's 20th District and Eric Massa who is looking to unseat Rep. Randy Kuhl in the 29th District. If you have another favorite, you can apparently write them in.

Gillibrand, by the way, has offered up what she calls an "ethics IOU" to people in the 20th District. Among the promises she makes is full disclosure of any contact she has with lobbyists. She filed the first such report earlier this month.

The Albany Times-Union's political blog reports some additional endorsements today. KT McFarland, the former Reagan administration official now running for Senate on the GOP side, got her first endorsement yesterday, as we reported here. Today she got her second, according to Capitol Confidential, from the Linvingston County Republican Party.

Although her two endorsements leave McFarland with a long way to go before she is assured a spot on the ballot, Capitol Confidential also reported today that Republican attorney general candidate Jeanine Pirro has picked up a couple more endorsements on Long Island that could asssure Pirro of a clear ride to her party's nomination.

23 March, 2006

Maloney Threatens Suit To Stop "Illegal" Wiretapping If He Wins NY Attorney General Race

Sean Patrick Maloney, one of the myriad of Democrats seeking the party's nomination for state attorney general, became the first to produce a TV ad for the race. In the race Maloney says if he becomes attoney general he'll file a suit in federal court on the state's behalf to stop President Bush's warrantless-wiretapping program.

Clinton, McCain Top First ABC News 'Invisible Primary' Ratings

Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain sit atop their respective parties in the first installment of what ABC News is calling its "invisible primary ratings" for 2008. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is listed fourth among Republicans while New York Governor George Pataki comes in eighth.

ABC says the rating system is meant to read how the candidates are doing in their pre-primary jockeying for position.

According to ABC here is what the ratings measure:

"The ratings reflect a sense of who has 'juice' - a demonstrated ability to elicit favorable attention from critical sectors of the political world, including activists, major fundraisers and member of the news media who are paying minute daily attention to what has become the earliest and most intense presidential campaign ever at this stage."

Among the things weighed in the final number are money potential, biography and spouse, perceived electability, TV campaign skills and something called "fire in the belly."

You can see a breakdown of each party's candidates and all strengths and weaknesses by viewing the rating summary.

Giuliani, McCain In Dead Heat In Latest GOP Presidential Poll

A new poll out today shows former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain in a dead heat among GOP voters in a nationwide presidential preference survey Giuiliani has a 42%-40% lead in this Diageo/Hotline poll. The interesting tidbit is that pro-Bush and anti-Bush respondents clearly differ on who they back for 2008. Giuliani scores highest among Bush supporters (45% to 38%), while McCain is favored by those who don't think highly of Bush (51% to 34%).

President Bush's approval rating among the Republicans questioned in this poll is at 80%, while Vice President Cheney's is at 76%

When asked where they usually get their news, 39% said FOX News, while just 9% said they get their news from national newspapers such as the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The top three people Republicans turn to for news and commentary - Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, in that order. Sixty-two percent said the never read political blogs, while only 17% said the read blogs more than once a week. For a condensed summary click here, for every detail of every question asked click here.

Faso Gets Backing Of Yonkers GOP

In the all-over-the-place race for the GOP gubenatorial nomination any endorsement is a big endorsement. John Faso's campaign is announcing the support of the Yonkers City Republican Committee. Yonkers is resonably large and urban so the endorsement adds another decent feather in Faso's cap. The former Assembly minority leader has recently garnered the support of the Queens, Westchester and Manhattan Conservative Party committees as well.

Claims In KT McFarland's Resume Qustioned: New York Times; On The Bright Side McFarland Gets Her First Endorsement

Former Reagan Defense Department official KT McFarland's bid to win the GOP Senate nod in New York has gotten off to a rocky start. First came the questions about her commitment to politics given that she has not voted in many of the general elections that have been held since she left the government payroll. Today there are new concerns about McFarland, regarding her resume. The New York Times has a story questioning the accuracy of a couple of claims McFarland has made - namely her role in authoring President Reagan's famous "Star Wars" speech, and her rank among women in the Reagan Administration. Are the claims a big scandal, or the routine "polishing" of resumes that goes on all the time? At the risk of sounding like FOX News, let me just say you can read the story here, and decide for yourself.

There was a bit of good news for McFarland today, as her campaign announced its first formal endorsement, from the GOP in Wyoming County. Wyoming County is, as the Manhattanite's campagin Web site points out, the leading dairy-producing county in the state. You might say she's milking this first endoresement for all it's worth. Sorry about that!!! (By the way, if you look at the press release it is put out by a campaign official named Bill O'Reilly. Just for the record, it is not THAT Bill O'Reilly.

21 March, 2006

Who Wears the Pants?; When it Comes to Politics in the Clinton Household Apparently It's Hillary : The Daily News

Looks like a Hillary night tonight on the blog.

A few weeks ago when the Dubai Ports deal was still hot, we ran a story from the Financial Times which exposed former President Bill Clinton's role in advising the folks in Dubai on how to sell the deal in the U.S. At the same time of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton - unaware of her husband's freelance work - was pushing hard and publicly against the deal.

The Daily News reports today that the staffs of each Clinton are working hard to see that something like that doesn't happen again, with Hillary and her staff having the final say on all things political.


Mayor Bloomberg is making some Hillary news today too. The AP reports the nominally Republican Bloomberg is keeping all his options open for this fall as far as endorsements are concerned and, according to an aide, would consider a couple of high-profile Democrats - Clinton for the senate and Eliot Spitzer for governor.


New York's junior senator is also highlighted in a major poll out today. FOX News has a presidential preference poll showing Clinton is well ahead of other Democrats who are, or who may be, in the race. In FOX's poll, Clinton - at 43% - is about 30 points ahead of her nearest challengers or would-be challengers, Al Gore, John Kerry and John Edwards.

Among registered Republicans, the FOX poll puts former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani ahead of John McCain 29% to 22%. Governor George Pataki checks in at 2%. The poll leaves out Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who says she isn't interested, but, strangely, includes Dick Cheney (and may I say NOBODY is interested in seeing that).

When pitted one-on-one, both McCain and Giuliani beat Sen. Clinton by about a dozen percentage points.

The poll goes a lot deeper with some good - and maybe not so good - questions. It even asks respondents if they think President Bush is "a nice person." FOX News - always asking the right questions.


Don't know if you are familiar with it, but there's a Web site out there called JustHillary.com. As you might guess it contains news exclusively about the senator - good, bad or otherwise. The site today lifted a story from the St. Petersburg Times in which New Mexico's governor, Bill Richardson, said the Democrats would do better to nominate a governor with executive experience rather than Clinton. Wonder who he might be talking about?

Last night we told you about Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and how she seems to be getting some attention in her bid to unseat U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, the Republican from New York's 20th District. Today comes word from the Times-Union's political blog, Capitol Confidential, that Gillibrand has a rival for the Democratic nomination. Doug Walters of Milan, who calls himself a progressive Democrat since 1968, came out swinging - not against Gillibrand, but against the war and Sweeney's support for it.

20 March, 2006

"Roll Call" Spotlights New York As A Battleground State In '06; Rep. Sue Kelly's Seat Listed Among 7 House Seats In N.Y. Worth Watching

If you are looking for evidence of shifting political fortunes, you need look no further than right here in the Empire State. So says Stuart Rothenberg, a Washington journalist who runs his own political Web site, the Rothenberg Report, and is a contributing writer for Roll Call, a must-read newspaper on Capitol Hill. In his latest offering in Roll Call, Rothenberg says the GOP has a legitimate shot in only one statewide race this fall - Jeanine Pirro's run for attorney general. He also points out that the national Democratic Party thinks as many as seven Congressional seats in the state are "flippable," including one lower-Hudson seat - the 19th District seat held by veteran Republican Sue Kelly. Rothenberg is quick to point out that most of the seven seats are longshots for the Dems, including Kelly's, but he says if a Democratic tidal wave starts to form New York may be among the states that feels it the most.

Getting tho most attention from the national party among the New York group is Kirsten Gillibrand, who is challenging Republican incumbent John Sweeney in the 20th District (the Saratoga area). The Albany Times-Union's political blog, Capitol Confidential, excerpted both Rothenberg's report and one from the The Cook Political Report highlighting Gillibrand.


The line of candidates to replace Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of New York's 24th District (Rome and Utica) is already forming, just a couple of days after Boehlert announced his decision to hang 'em up. The AP reports today there will likely be a GOP primary battle for this seat between state Senator Raymond Meier and former Seneca Falls mayor Brad Jones. The race already has four Democratic hopefuls, the AP reported.


The Southern Republican Leadership Conference concluded Sunday, and Sen. Hillary Clinton managed to figure into this very partisan affair. According to Hotline On Call, A Web site published by the National Journal, Clinton was named most often by the delegates when asked "which Democrat is most likely to win electoral votes in your state?" New York's junior senator was named on just under 24% of the ballots, followed by John Edwards at 20%. On the GOP side, two New York hopefuls didn't fare as well. Gov. George Pataki finished in the middle of the pack among first-choice picks in the GOP presidential preference poll, while former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani finished well down the list. When first and second choices were tabulated together, both New Yorkers finished in the middle of the pack.


An let us not forget our faithful readers in New Jersey. There's a poll for you today too. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows that Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, continues to hold a slim lead over his likely opponent this fall, Republican state Senator Tom Keane Jr. Menendez is up 40% to 36%, with 19% undecided. In the last poll, in January, Menendez was up 38% to 36%.

The Quinnipiac poll also shows President Bush's support is sliding in New Jersey, which fits in with the national trend. Some 65% of New Jersey voters disapprove of Bush's performance in office, while 31% approve. Two months ago those numbers were 59% and 36%.

Not surprisingly, in the presidential preference portion of the Quinnipiac poll, Sen. Clinton is well in the lead among Democrats in New Jersey while Republican voters have a strong preference for Giuliani.

19 March, 2006

New In The News Mags: George Will Says Tweeks In Dem's Primary Calendar Will Help Hillary

Once again, not much happening on the local political scene.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democrat who took state Senator Nick Spano to the wall in 2004, was to announce today that she would try to finish the job this year. Stewart-Cousins, a member of the Westchester County legislature, lost to the high-profile Spano by 18 votes last time, after three months of ballot challenges.

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi was, to this observer's eyes, the first gubenatorial candidate to hit the airwaves with advertising in the NYC television market. I noticed a spot running this evening on NBC. He needs to get his name out there if he wants to make any kind of challenge to popular state attorney general Eliot Spitzer in a Democratic primary.

Looking ahead to tomorrow's weekly newsmags, U.S. News and World Report, in its Washington Whispers column, quotes a "key Republican senator" offering some evidence that Rudy Giuliani is indeed planning to run for president in 2008.

And, in Newsweek, George Will says in their efforts to come up with a primary schedule that will produce the best national candidate, the Democrats are tweeking their 2008 docket in a way that just may make it easier for the well-heeled (Hillary Clinton) to take the nomination.

18 March, 2006

New Poll, Same Results As Bush's Approval Rating Continues To Teeter

I tried. I really did. Checked all the other blogs. Made a phone call or two. Looked at every newspaper's Web site I could think of. Checked out all of the candidates' Web sites. There's just not much happening today.

Having said that, there's a new poll out showing us pretty much the same thing we've been seeing for weeks now. President Bush's approval rating in the mid-30's. This time it's coming from Newsweek.The new Newsweek poll puts Bush's approval at 36%. The president continues to slide quickly when it comes to his handling of Iraq, as just 29% approve of his handling of the war, while 65% disapprove.

As far as Congress goes, 50% of voters overall say they want the Democrats to regain control of the House and Senate while 34% favor the Republicans. Among Independents, the Democrats are preferred by more than a two-to-one margin, 51% to 22%.

17 March, 2006

Upstate Congressional Seat Is Suddenly Up For Grabs

A congressional seat in New York is suddenly in play. Veteran Republican lawmaker Sherwood Boehlert, who represents the 24th district which includes Utica and Rome, announced today he would not seek re-election this fall. The retirement of the 24-year congressional veteran should touch off a competitive race in the fall, giving the Democrats a chance to pick up a House seat. The Washington Post's political blog, The Fix, offers a few thoughts about what might happen in the district. Congressional Quarterly, upon word of Boehlert's retirement, quickly put the district in its `no clear favorite' category.

Yesterday we told you about an American Research Group poll that indicated 48% of Americans favor censuring President Bush for his wiretapping program. Today, another poll and a different outcome. In a Rasmusen Reports survey, only 38% of those questioned said they thought Bush should be censured while 45% are opposed to the idea, promoted by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin. Senate Republicans tried to force an immediate vote on this issue when Feingold introduced it earlier this week, but Democrats argued they need time to digest the proposal (or perhaps check the political winds back home). John Spencer, the former mayor of Yonkers who hopes to beat Hillary Clinton out of her Senate seat this fall, is trying to make a little political hay of his own on the issue. In a press release Spencer accused Clinton of condemning Bush's wiretap program but not having the political will to take the step of supporting censure. "Senator Clinton - after condemning the President for `a secret program that spies on Americans' in a fundraising letter - lacks the intellectual integrity to support Feingold. Polls and personal ambition seem to come first and principal comes last, " Spencer said.

For what it's worth on this St. Patrick's Day, CQPolitics.com, the Congressional Quarterly's political Web site listed the most-Irish congressional districts in the country, the districts that had the highest percentage of people in the 2000 census list their ethnic background as Irish. Many are in New York, including New York's 19th, which covers parts of Rockland, Westchester, Orange and Dutchess counties as well as all of Putnam County.

16 March, 2006

Things Pretty Much Status Quo as This Blogger Comes Back to the USA; Bush Approval Still Sinking

I'm back in the good old U.S.A. after about a week in Paris. Haven't had a real chance yet to see what's been going on here, but some things don't seem to change. President Bush's approval rating is still heading downward and I see Jeanine Pirro shot herself in the foot again.

For the past week while watching European TV I was basically able to determine three things: Slobodan Milosevic died and was buried, the Dubai Ports deal is dead and college students in France have been involved in minor riots to protest a new law which makes it extremely easy for companies to fire young workers without any real reason.

Seems the European cable networks are pretty much like the ones here -- latch on tightly to one story for three or four days, beat it to death and then move on to some fresher, sexier story.

In the few hours since I've been back I did notice that Jeanine Pirro made another gaffe on the campaign trail, revealing her upstate astuteness by telling an Albany radio station about New York's border with Ohio (hint to other New Yorkers who probably learned in geography class that the U.S. has two regions, New York and everything west of the Hudson - there is no NY/Ohio border). Having grown up in Ohio, where they teach real geography, I can tell you for certain you have to cut through a little corner of Pa. near Erie, if you want to get from Ohio to New York. If you missed the story, it's in today's New York Post. It's a shame these things keep cropping up for Pirro who, in this blogger's humble opinion, would have been the GOP's best candidate to run for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat before she was drummed out of the race by party higher-ups.

Upon my return I stumbled on a poll which showed President Bush's approval rating at an all-time-low 33%. I thought I was back in Pare -eee reading a poll in Le Monde, but I was actually looking at a Pew Research Center poll published yesterday. The poll also showed that only 40% of those polled found Bush to be trustworthy, while 38% said the president was well informed and 35% said he was a good manager -- all well down from the most-recent figures in October when Bush was smarting from the Katrina aftermath. The poll also shows Bush's approval rating is off eight points among Republicans and nine points among conservatives since October.

I see also that the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, published yesterday, has Bush's approval rating at 37%, down from 39% two months ago. This poll asks an interesting follow up question, with 58% of those polled saying they think recent events have been such a setback to the president that he is not likely to recover politcally, while 26% say Bush is facing a short-term setback that can be reversed

And then there is the poll by the American Research Group, which dares mention the "I" word. Forty-three percent of voters questioned in this poll said they would favor impeachment proceedings against Bush for his wiretapping program, while 50% aren't ready to go quite that far. However, 48% of voters say they would approve of a Senate measure to censure the president, while 43% are opposed to censure.

The ARG poll also shows Hillary Clinton well ahead of all Democratic candidates for the presidency in seven states with early primaries. The only one beating her is a candidate named "undecided." John McCain is ahead of all comers, including "undecided," on the Republican side of the ledger. But the poll does not include Rudy Giuliani, which makes is somewhat more irrelevant than most polls at this stage of the game. New York Gov. George Pataki gets 12% of the vote among Connecticut Republicans, but barely shows up in any of the other states.

That's about all I've got for now. I'll try to bone up and get back into the swing of things by tomorrow.

I'm sure a lot has happened in the time I've been away so I'm asking for your help. Please post a comment or send me an e-mail on something that has happened in the past week that you found interesting or worth knowing. I look forward to hearing from you!!!

09 March, 2006

A Little Levity As We Head Off On Another Long Weekend

Your editor here at NYpols will continue his globetrotting this weekend. Look for us again next Thursday, a week from tonight. In the meantime, a little something to laugh at for folks on both sides of the aisle.


This interesting post on The Corner, the blog of the National Review. It's title - "Great Moments in Photo Cropping"

(photo by Reuters)

And for those of you who might find humor elsewhere, I'm borrowing the next little tidbit from the good folks at the Politicker, who borrowed it from Jay Leno (Hey it worked for Milton Berle!)

"More problems for Hillary Clinton. The head of New York state's leading gay rights group describes Hillary Clinton as a disappointment on same-sex marriage. Today, her husband Bill described her as a disappointment on opposite-sex marriage." - Jay Leno

CQ Does a Little Q&A With KT: Why McFarland Has Decided to Run

KT McFarland, in a fresh interview with Congressional Quarterly, says it was her kids that took her out of big-time politics two decades ago and her kids who urged her to get back in the game.

The former Reagan-era Defense Department spokeswoman says the one issue that motivated her back then is the same issue she is most concerned about now - national security.

Read the full text of the CQ interview.

McFarland will have her first face off with her Republican opponent, former Yonkers mayor John Spencer, Monday night in Glenns Falls, NY (way up in the Adirondacks). The political forum will be held at the Glenns Falls Civic Center at 7:00 pm EST. It's not a debate so much as a chance for each candidate to present thier views and take question individually. GOP gubenatorial hopeful John Faso, the former Assembly minority leader will also be there.

Latest Poll Shows Some Bumps in the Road for Hillary

Another day, another poll. This one is from the Siena Reasearch Institute at Siena College and it shows some clouds developing on the long-term horizon for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

While Clinton still holds a big lead in her Senate race against former Yonkers mayor John Spencer, this state-wide poll indicates some turbulence for the Senator in 2008.

The poll of voters shows that 60% of New Yorkers think the senator will run for the presidency in 2008. But 48% of those polled said they would not vote for Clinton if she does run, while 36% said they would.

Also, while Clinton's "favorable" rating is at 55%, that's the lowest it has been in the past 12 months in this poll.

In the upcoming senate race, Clinton holds a 57% to 32% lead over Spencer, with the incumbent losing a point and the challenger gaining one since last month.

Interestingly, 77% of those polled said they have no opinion of Spencer.

Spencer is sharing his annonymity state-wide with three of his GOP counterparts running for governor. Roughly three-fourths of voters say they have no opinion of the three men, former Assembly minority leader John Faso, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and former New York secretary of state Randy Daniels. Legislator Patrick Manning, R-Hopewell Junction, curiously, is not mentioned in the poll.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, is well out in front of the Republicans in one-on-one races against each.

Two other names were left out of the polling. KT McFarland, the late entry in the GOP race for the senate and Tom Suozzi, the Nassau County Executive who is challenging Spitzer on the Democratic side, were not included in the polls.

08 March, 2006

At Least One Red State Still Has Bush On Its Mind

The other day on this blog we showed you several polls indicating that President Bush's support is weakening at its core, including the Southeastern states. At least one Dixie state has kept the faith though. In the latest Strategic Vision poll, this time in Georgia, Bush's approval rating still stands at 51%, while 39% disapprove. Fifty-three percent approve of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and 54% of Georgians polled think he is doing a good job in fighting the so-called war on terror.
By the way, if you scroll all the way to the bottom of this poll you'll find two New Yorkers, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, atop the list of presidential candidates in their respective parties.

New York 1 and Newsday published part two of their latest poll today. Again, not much to get excited about. The poll indicates Sen. Clinton seems to have a smooth ride ahead in her re-election bid. Clinton leads Republican challenger John Spencer 57% to 30%, but the poll doesn't include the latest contender, former Reagan administration official KT McFarland who announced this week.

On the presidential front, this state-wide poll indicates Giuliani seems to be the strongest of the three (or might it be four) New Yorkers who are considering a run. Fifty-nine percent of those polled said Giuliani has a good or excellent chance of being elected president. With Clinton, it's a good news-bad news situation, with 50% saying she has a good-to-excellent chance and 46% saying she has no chance or not much of a chance. While 50% of those polled by News 1/Newsday approve of the job George Pataki is doing as governor, most voters don't see him as a strong presidential candidate. A total of 69% of voters said Pataki has no chance or not much of a chance of being president. Mayor Bloomberg, who is being goaded by some in his organization to run, has a 70% approval rating but the poll did not ask about his prospects in a presidential bid.

Back to the Senate race. Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, has a post on PoliticalWire.com today, arguing that much too much is being made of the entry of KT McFarland into the race. Rothenberg contends that no matter how you slice it the end result is Hillary in a walk. Meanwhile The Journal News did an interview with the new candidate, published today. After reading it I'm more confused than ever about McFarland's views on abortion, the one issue that seems to set her apart from her Reagan crowd.

07 March, 2006

Who is KT McFarland? Not Even the Reaganites Know for Sure

Last night we told you that Reagan-era Defense Department spokeswoman KT McFarland has decided to battle former Yonkers mayor John Spencer in a GOP primary for the right to face U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton this fall.

The New York City Republican is not a household name yet, and in fact, she seems not even to strike a chord with Defense Department officials from the Reagan years. The New York Sun reports today that many in the department at the time have little or no recollection of McFarland. Of course, that was 20 years-ago and some of those Reagan-era officials are getting up there, if you know what I mean.

One person who has some idea who McFarland is is her opponent. Spencer today, in an exclusive interview with the New York Observer's blog, The Politicker, said the Clintons put McFarland up to running, presumably to cut further into his 30+ point deficit against Sen. Clinton. And, the Politicker followed up nicely with denials from both the Clinton and McFarland camps. Clinton's spokesman Howard Wolfson got in a particularly good shot. "If Mr. Spencer wants to know why Republicans keep trying to find alternatives to him he should look in the mirror, Wolfson said." Spencer has made headlines in this race only when he has made sharp, sometimes outrageous comments. This seems to qualify as the latter.

In the meantime, Clinton's Democratic challenger Jonathan Tasini, the anti-war candidate who is waging a fairly quiet battle, was excited about the nine votes (out of 150 cast) he got at the Democratic Rural Conference in Ithica over the weekend. Here's a post from the campaign's blog, which quotes portions of an Albany Times-Union story about the event.

While no one in either party seems to be gaining much ground against Clinton in the senate race this year, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the senator with a much narrower reach than potential presidential rival Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican. Some 52% of those polled had a favorable opinion of Clinton, while 59% felt positively about McCain. Clinton's "unfavorable" rating was 46% while McCain's was at a rather low 29%. McCain polled almost equally well across the spectrum, with 64% of Republicans, 57% of Democrats and 59% of independents having a positive vibe for him. For Clinton, 80% of Democrats said they had a favorable opinion of her, while only 19% of Republicans had a favorable opinion of the New Yorker. Her favorable rating among independents was 53%, 6 points below McCain.

While we're on the subject of New Yorkers and the presidency, Newsweek's Howard Fineman has an interesting look at whether former mayor Rudy Giuliani will run. In his piece Fineman says a lot of Republican hopefuls want to know the answer to that question, calling Giuliani's decision "pivotal" to the chances of some other candidates.

And for our final note today. There's another poll out on the New York governor's race. This one from Suozzi country, Long Island. A NY1/Newsday poll offers little in the way of surprises. Basically, no one's too excited about any of the GOP candidates at this point and Eliot Spitzer leads big-time against all Republican candidates and against Democratic challenger Tom Suozzi, the county executive in Nassau County. Probably the most surprising numbers are Suozzi's poor tallies on Long Island (21% of registered Democrats) and in his home county (29%).

06 March, 2006

Yet Another Challenger to Hillary as Former Reagan Administration Official Steps Forward

KT McFarland, the top spokesman for the State Department during the Reagan years, officially announced Sunday she will challenge former Yonkers mayor John Spencer for the GOP nod to face Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate race this November.

McFarland's entry seems a bit late, with some key endorsement already being handed to Spencer, but in an interview on her campaign Web site she doesn't seem overly concerned about the timing.

"I have been personally assured by New York State Republican Chairman Stephen Minarik that the nominating process for this seat will be fair and open. For the past several weeks I have been in touch with county leaders of the Republican Party throughout New York State and I am very encouraged by the response. I now believe I will have the requisite support to appear on the Republican ballot this September."

The support of the Conservative Party has also been important for Republicans running statewide in New York. The state Conservative Party has already endorsed Spencer, but McFarland, an upper east sider, seems umbowed.

"I also have met with the Chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, who has personally endorsed another candidate in this race, but who graciously recommended that I meet with other leaders from his party to solicit support. I will certainly do that. "

Check out the campaign website for her positions on the issues. Among the highlights: McFarland says the U.S. "
should be forming a truly effective and united front with its allies to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. That front must include a military option to halt construction of nuclear bomb-making facilities In Iran." No mention on the Web site of abortion. McFarland is pro choice.

Smug in the knowledge that Hillary Clinton is in their stable, the New York State Democrats don't seem too impressed, calling McFarland the GOP's ninth choice for the post.

No mention on the Spencer site about his new opponent.

Numbers Paint Bleak Picture for Bush as Core Support Seems to be Waning

A number of polls were released today and they all show President Bush's approval rate sliding. No surprise there. What is surprising is what those polls say about where he's losing support.

The latest Zogby national poll, released today, puts Bush's approval rating at 38%. That's consistent with other recent polls, which have put Bush in the 40% to sub-40% ballpark. The poll results show that Bush's approval rating in red states - states where he won in 2004 - is 43%, not much higher than the national rate. Just 27% of those describing themselves as moderates, a key block of voters, say they approve of Bush's overall performance. Among rural voters Bush's approval rating is 44%, while in the 'burbs he's at 42%. All of these voting blocks were key to Bush's victory in 2004.

To further illuminate this trend, an Elon University poll released today puts Bush's approval rating at 43% in Southeastern states. According to this poll, 57% of Dixie disapproves of the president's handling of the Iraq war.

How about the Midwest? The states don't come any redder there than Dan Quale's home state of Indiana. According to an Indianapolis Star poll, Bush's approval rating in the Hoosier state has dropped 18 points in a year, to its current 37% level.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll also had some numbers that should be disconcerting to the Bush camp. A total of 52% described Bush as a "strong and decisive leader," but that is the lowest rating Bush has ever achieved on that front. Fewer than half (47%) said Bush was "honest and trustworthy," 45% of those polled said Bush shares their values and only 40% say the president can "manage the government effectively." Some 73% said they feel big business has too much influence over Bush administration policy, and only 38% say Bush is paying adequate attention to what is going on in his administration.

Putting numbers aside, a story this week in The New Republic says leading Republicans in Congress are about to bolt. The story, written for The New Republic by the National Review's (talk about strange bedfellows) White House reporter Byron York, describes GOP leaders in Congress as "furious" with Bush over his missteps and the administration's continued "arrogance" despite the president's falling popularity.

02 March, 2006

Spitzer Holding on to Wide Lead in Latest Poll; Most Americans Think Bush Will Win the Wiretap War

Okay we've had our fun for the day in the last two posts. Now it's time for some heavy reading.

Since I'll be heading to Montreal tomorrow for a long weekend (doesn't everyone go to Canada for a nice winter weekend getaway?), you'll have threee full days to peruse two new polls. Both are loaded with stuff. I'll hit the highlights and leave the rest to you.

The mood of New York voters is well assessed in the latest Strategic Vision poll.

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi's official entry into the Democratic race for governor doesn't seem to have bolstered his support among voters much. New York Democrats questioned in the poll picked Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over Suozzi 73% to 10%.

On the Republican side, former Massachusetts governor William Weld is in the lead at 15%, followed by former Assembly minority leader John Faso (9%), state legislator Pat Manning (4%) and former New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels (3%).

When pitted against each Republican individually, Spitzer trounces them all 60-something to 20-something.

The good news for Suozzi in this poll is, if he should somehow get past Spitzer, he too leads all Republican challengers, but by much smaller margins of between 10% (vs Weld) and 18% (Daniels).

In the race for U.S. Senate, Hillary Clinton leads Republican and former Yonkers mayor John Spencer 63% to 24%.

Although he's not running, the poll indicates former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani would beat Clinton 45% to 41%.

And that brings us to the part of the poll that looks ahead to 2008.

Among voters of all stripes, 64% said they would like to see Giuliani run for president, while 57% said they do NOT want Clinton to run. The nay vote for Gov. George Pataki, also considering a presidential bid, is 51% versus 26% in favor.

Other points of interest in the Strategic Vision poll: President Bush's disapproval rating in New York is 66%; 61% said Roe v. Wade should not be overturned; 78% oppose the Dubai Ports deal; 58% say U.S. troops should be out of Iraq within the next six months; and 80% of New Yorkers think there will be another terrorist attack in the U.S. within the next six months.


Now on to our friends at Quinnipiac University, who released a national poll today.

First things first. President Bush's approval rating in this poll is 36%, compared to 58% who disapprove of the way he's doing his job overall. In the last Qunnipiac poll in December, those numbers were 40% versus 54%.

By 49% to 37%, voters said they hope Congress is controlled by Democrats rather than Republicans after the mid-term elections this fall.

The poll provides an interesting look at the government surveillance issue. By a 76% to 19% margin, American voters say the government should continue to monitor the phone calls and e-mails between suspected terrorists in other countries and people in the U.S. But, by a 55% to 42% margin, those polled said the government should be required to get a court order first. As you know the president says he has the right to do the surveillance without a warrant while much of Congress disagrees. While the voters in this poll seem to side with Congress, most of them think Bush will win the battle over wiretapping. By a 56% to 33% margin, those polled said they believe Bush will win this fight.

Those are the highlights. There's plenty more in both polls. I urge you to take a look.

No to the Dubai Port Deal? Depends on Which Clinton You Ask

It should be an interesting discussion around the Clinton dinner table tonight.

The Financial Times' Web site, FT.com, reports former president Bill Clinton advised top Dubai officials on how to navigate the politics of the controversial deal that would turn over management of key U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, the United Arab Emirates company.

Of course at the same time, Sen. Hillary Clinton, the former president's wife, was out in front of the congressional effort to derail the deal - along Sen. Charles Schumer, her collegue from New York.


In a totally unrelated note, the man behind the effort to draft Donald Trump for president will be on CNN tonight at 7 pm EST. Frank MacKay, chairman of the Independence Party of New York State, will talk about his efforts to coax Trump into running in '08. See yesterday's post on this blog for more details.

g. w. bush - poet laureate

We've all seen the Bushism calendars. We know about those moments when the president seems to find himself to be grammatically challenged. Some time ago writer Richard Thompson gathered some of the quotes and put them together in this poem, which is now making the e-mail circuit. So, on the this dreary winter's day, for those of you who didn't get the e-mail, we present this work of literature:


I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet
Become more few?

How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.

I know that the human being
And the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope,
Where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!

01 March, 2006

Courting The Donald For 2008

A month or so ago Republicans were casting about for someone to run for governor, apparently not satisfied with the current crop of candidates. Donald Trump's name was floated, but it never went anywhere. And Trump didn't seem overly interested. Now someone else has higher ambitions for The Donald and his ears may have perked up just a bit.

The New York Sate Independence Party has started a draft-Trump movement for the 2008 presidential race.

The Daily News reported today that Trump was flattered but not particularly interested. Though he did tell the paper "I never rule out anything."


Another New Yorker whose name and the words "presidential race" have sometimes been linked has a more short-range goal. To get out of the hospital. Gov. George Pataki made a surprise appearance today at a press conference where doctors were updating his medical condition. Pataki, who's still recuperating from an appendectomy and an intesitnal blockage, made the predicatable "rumors of my demise..." joke and said he was anxious to get back to work.

The Working Families Party posted a sarcastic "get well" card for Pataki on its Web site today. The WFP reminded Pataki about the great medical coverage the state has provided him and said it hopes Pataki has used the last two weeks in the hospital to come up with a plan to provide better heath care for the 2.1 million New Yorkers who have jobs but no medical coverage.

You could say it's kicking a man when he's down. Or you might see it as a great "hook"to bring up a problem that should be discussed.


Democratic attorney general candidate Mark Green made a series of stops statewide today to officially announce he is running. He too had health care on his mind, saying his number one priority, if elected, would be "to combat health care fraud and corporate abuse." The former New York City consumer affairs commissioner and public advocate released his "Green Book," which outlines his accomplishments on behalf of consumers. If you are a real wonk, you can read the speech by clicking the link.


Whoever you vote for this fall, you won't be doing it on one of those new-fangled computer thingies. Nope! Here in New York, the state with what has been identified as the least effective government in the country, we'll still be voting on those 100-year-old lever machines.

And the Justice Department is filing suit against New York as a result.

The federal government announced today it will file a lawsuit against New York for failure to comply with the Help America Vote Act, which was passed following the voting fiasco in Florida in 2000. At stake is $221 million the state received from the federal government to install a new voting system that addresses federal concerns. According to the Justice Department, New York has failed to meet the three key provisions of the act - adopt a voting system that provides full access to handicapped voters (voters in wheel chairs can't reach the top levers), create a system that provides a verifiable permanent paper record of each vote and provide a uniform, statewide, voter registration database.

The hangup is deciding whether to use touch-screen systems (like ATM machines) or optical scanners, which scan a ballot filled in by hand.

Early this year, when there was still hope for new voting machines in New York, I did a piece on the controversy for another purpose. You can read it below.

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When Election Day comes next fall, voters in Westchester and Rockland counties will be making their choices on new, high-tech voting machines. Maybe.

Local elections officials face a time crunch and heavy lobbying by voting-machine manufacturers and public interest groups as they try to determine which system to put in place. Their choice is being made more difficult by the fact that the state has yet to come up with a list of suitable machines for the counties to choose from.

Spurred by the problems encountered during the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election - you'll recall the hanging and the dimpled chads - Congress appropriated money in 2002 to help states replace antiquated voting systems. New York received some of that money to replace its lever voting machines, but must have new machines ready to go by the September primaries to comply with the new law.

The choice comes down to two types of machines, the touch-screen machines similar to ATM machines, and optical scanners, which electronically scan ballots that are marked by hand. The decision is proving to be not only difficult, but controversial.

Public interest groups, including the New York chapter of the League of Women Voters and the New York Public Interest Research Group, are clamoring for optical scanners, arguing that the scanners are cheaper, easier to implement, more reliable and less prone to tampering. Most importantly, according to Aimee Allaud, Elections/Government Specialist for the League of Women Voters of New York State, the machines leave a paper trail. "The primary reason we are endorsing these machines is that they use a paper-ballot system which provides a recountable means of determining the voter's intent. No other system can tell you what the intent of the voter is."

In addition, said Allaud, touch-screen systems make elections vulnerable to computer malfunction or manipulation. "I have concerns on all fronts, malicious and non-malicious, for mistakes with use of electronic voting machines."

Rockland County Legislator Denise Kronstadt, D-Piermont, was not as concerned about the paper-trail issue, saying the state will require that any voting system adopted by the counties provide a paper printout of each vote.

Kronstadt, who heads a special committee overseeing the machine selection process in the county, said the touch- screen systems provide a wealth of information for post-election evaluation and "are better than they are perceived" by their critics. But, she said she finds the optical-scan systems easier to use. "Voting, because it is so important, should be the simplest thing we do and the simplest way to vote is with an optical scanner."

Cost is another factor. Joy Rosenzweig, president of the Westchester County chapter of the League of Women Voters, said touch-screen computers would have to replace the current lever machines one-for-one, but, she said, fewer scanners would be needed to replace the current machines. In addition, Rosenzweig said the touch-screen systems would require representatives from voting-machine companies to run the election since the systems are complicated to program and the companies are loath to surrender their code to election officials. "So," she said, "you have the vendors running the elections, which is costly and a little scary to me."

Kronstadt said she had no reliable figures yet on how much each system would cost to implement, but agreed with Rosenzweig that the cost difference would be "significant."