- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

Republican woes

A wave of late-breaking retirement announcements have left beleaguered House Republicans swamped in recent days as five members have told House leaders they will not seek re-election this fall, Reid Wilson writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

The announcements bring to 27 the number of open seats Republicans will have to defend throughout the year, and some believe the end is not yet in sight, Mr. Wilson said.

In the past week alone, Reps. Jim Walsh, Ron Lewis, Dave Weldon and Tom Davis have all announced they will not seek another term next year. Missouri Republican Kenny Hulshof, who represents a district just north of St. Louis, said he will run for governor, a seat that came open when incumbent Republican Matt Blunt surprised political observers by withdrawing after just one term. …

Whether plagued by an aching back or ethics scandals, whether faced with a tough fight or an easy decision to stay home with the grandkids, the sheer number of retirements in seats Democrats might pick up is stunning. Democrats are targeting two promising seats in New Jersey, three marginal contests in Illinois, three in Ohio and two in New Mexico. As if it could get any worse, a recent poll showed Democrat Gary Trauner, a second-time candidate, leading a Republican who had been elected to statewide office by one point in normally ruby-red Wyoming. If even that state isn’t safe, it’s hard to imagine Republicans having anything but a bad night in November.

Romney’s problem

There was good news and bad news for Mitt Romney from the debate [Wednesday] night in California: He probably won, but it’s not likely to matter, Stephen F. Hayes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

Presidential debates happen in moments and Romney had several good ones. At the very beginning of the debate, Romney defended his record as Massachusetts governor from criticism leveled by John McCain. He gently corrected McCain when McCain mistakenly claimed that Romney’s lieutenant governor had been campaigning with him. (It was Romney’s predecessor.) The rest of his answer was equally authoritative and he certainly sounds commanding when he talks about the economy, Mr. Hayes said.

But some of the biggest moments of the debate came during discussions of national security. McCain wins those debates-within-the-debate simply because they are having them. I suspect that Romney’s complaints about the timing of McCain’s Iraq-focused attacks will not resonate with voters, seeming a bit whiny in the midst of a debate about who is better capable of winning wars. You can see what Romney was trying to do — demonstrate that for all of McCain’s talk about a different kind of politics, he is old school — but it did not work. For one thing, Romney later in the debate praised McCain’s ‘integrity,’ an odd thing to do after accusing your opponent of dirty politics.

Obama top liberal

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the most liberal senator in 2007, according to National Journal’s 27th annual vote ratings, reporters Brian Friel, Richard E. Cohen and Kirk Victor wrote yesterday for the magazine.

Mr. Obama shifted further to the left last year in the run-up to the primaries, after ranking as the 16th- and 10th-most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate, they noted, adding that his rival for the Democratic presidential nod, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, also shifted to the left last year. She ranked as the 16th-most-liberal senator in the 2007 ratings. … In 2006, Clinton was the 32nd-most-liberal senator.

The ratings were based on 99 Senate votes, selected as key by National Journal reporters and editors.

Obama voted the liberal position on 65 of the 66 key votes on which he voted; Clinton voted the liberal position 77 of 82 times. Obama garnered perfect liberal scores in both the economic and social categories. His score in the foreign-policy category was nearly perfect, pulled down a notch by the only conservative vote that he cast in the ratings, on a Republican-sponsored resolution expressing the sense of Congress that funding should not be cut off for U.S. troops in harm’s way, the reporters wrote.

Passing the torch

Are we done worshipping the Kennedys yet? And what do you mean by ‘we’? Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop writes.

That was quite a spectacle — the commentariat gushing superlatives over the alleged power of Ted and Caroline to deliver liberals to Barack Obama. Half the electorate wasn’t even born when the sainted John F. Kennedy was assassinated — and few have any idea who Ethel is. Though the Kennedy brand is in steep decline, the wave of conformist opinion still thinks this endorsement is very big, the columnist said.

Americans fought a revolution to free themselves from ruling families. Thomas Paine wrote that ‘we cannot conceive a more ridiculous figure of government than hereditary succession, in all its cases, presents.’

Nonetheless, the Kennedys fancy themselves liberal kingmakers, and the media swallow their presumption whole. ‘The torch is passed,’ the chroniclers scribble, as candidates beg Kennedys for their ‘prized endorsements.’

His Maine chance

Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has a couple of things going for him at this weekend’s Maine Republican caucuses: a band of highly motivated supporters and a natural appeal to the state’s like-minded independents.

His stop in the state earlier this week also made him the only presidential contender from either party to visit before the caucuses.

I think that [because] he’s paid attention to Maine, he’ll be rewarded, R. Kenneth Lindell, Mr. Paul’s campaign coordinator in Maine, said yesterday.

Maine’s Republican Party polling today, tomorrow and Sunday may be Mr. Paul’s best shot at winning a state, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Lindell wouldn’t get into specifics about the number of volunteers Mr. Paul has in the state, except to say they number in the hundreds — not a small figure considering Maine’s relatively small population and meager share of the national delegate pool.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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