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Political Scene

- - Sunday, September 12, 2010

ELECTION

Obama strategists downplay GOP edge

INDIANOLA, Iowa | Two top Democratic strategists said Sunday that President Obama has the nation moving in the right direction, downplaying polls that suggest Republicans have a big edge heading into November's midterm election.

White House adviser David Axelrod and David Plouffe, Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign manager, headlined Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's 33rd annual steak fry, one of the most prominent Democratic events each year.

Some polls have predicted the GOP will take control of one or both chambers of Congress after November's election, a result that could cause severe headaches for Mr. Obama as he begins preparing for his own re-election effort in 2012.

"I know what the conventional wisdom is today," Mr. Axelrod said. "We've made a good living betting against the conventional wisdom."

TREASURY

Lawyer tapped to replace czar

The Obama administration says it's chosen a Treasury Department lawyer to replace pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, who stepped down Friday, ending a contentious 14-month tenure.

Mr. Feinberg was accused of failing to act aggressively enough to recoup excessive pay for Wall Street bankers. He said in a final report that he thought his work had helped reform compensation policies.

The administration says Mr. Feinberg will be replaced by Patricia Geoghegan. She will be responsible for setting pay guidelines for top executives at the four companies still getting exceptional assistance from the government's $700 billion bailout fund.

Those companies are American International Group, General Motors, Chrysler and Ally Financial Inc., the financing arm for GM and Chrysler.

Ms. Geoghegan spent much of the past year working with Mr. Feinberg as he issued a series of compensation reports. She came to Treasury after retiring as a partner from New York law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore, where she had specialized in tax law and executive compensation.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Establishment, Palin mix it up

MANCHESTER | Can the Republican establishment and Sarah Palin find happiness in New Hampshire?

First-time candidate Kelly Ayotte hopes so as she campaigns for a Senate seat in a state known for a late-deciding, independent-minded electorate.

In New Hampshire, as elsewhere, the economy, federal spending and the role of government are the issues. The 42-year-old Miss Ayotte, a former attorney general, is campaigning as a conservative who wants to eliminate agencies and earmarks.

With Tuesday's crowded primary coming up fast, her backing from the party hierarchy as well as from Mrs. Palin and other groups is giving her opponents hope of another upset in a primary season that's seen GOP voters repeatedly reject establishment candidates.

COLORADO

Senate hopefuls spar on tax cuts

GRAND JUNCTION | Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado says tax cuts for the middle class should be extended, but he disagreed with his Republican challenger over tax cuts for the wealthier in the first debate.

Republican Ken Buck insisted during the Saturday night debate that tax cuts scheduled to expire in January should be extended even for the wealthier.

The first debate between the two candidates was largely cordial, although the two bickered near the end over an attack ad being aired by Mr. Bennet.

The ad uses snippets of Mr. Buck's remarks to describe him as too conservative. Mr. Buck and several news organizations have described it as misleading.

Mr. Bennet defended the ad and said he wouldn't take it off the air.

OHIO

Politician goes viral with pitch

CANTON | An Ohio politician looking for a promotion has become a YouTube sensation with his double-fisted pitch to GOP leaders.

Minerva Village Councilman Phil Davison's fiery six-minute appeal to Republican leaders in Canton and Stark County was not successful: He lost out on the nomination for county treasurer.

Mr. Davison, pacing back and forth and shouting at times, said his nomination would send a message to Democrats that "I'm coming. Both barrels. Guns loaded."

Video of his speech Wednesday was posted on YouTube, where it got more than 70,000 views, and spread on other sites.

Mr. Davison told the Repository of Canton that interest in the speech has "spiraled out of control" and that he's been busy responding to interview requests.

ARIZONA

Judge won't kick names off ballot

PHOENIX | A federal judge has denied a request by the Arizona Green Party to kick a majority of the party's candidates off the November ballot.

U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell made the ruling last week, hours after hearing arguments in the case.

The Green Party calls the disputed nominees "sham candidates" and says they were placed on the ballot "to mislead voters and rig the election process."

Greens and Democrats say Republican officials took advantage of a little-known provision in election law that applies only to the Green Party. It allows people in some cases to become a Green Party nominee with a single write-in vote.

Democrats worry the Green Party nominee would be a tempting option for liberal voters who might otherwise support the Democratic candidate.

From wire dispatches and staff reports