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BARBOUR’S REACH

“Haley Barbour has gone from candidate to kingmaker. Every potential GOP nominee will now be lining up for his endorsement. His name may not be on the ballot in 2012, but his political influence will continue to be felt,” says Lou Zickar, editor of the Ripon Forum, on Mr. Barbour’s decision to drop out of the 2012 presidential race.

A LIBERAL DOSE

Brace for impact. A new MSNBC promotional campaign is now under way, and it has been fomenting since last fall. The brusque outreach expands on the network’s neutral sounding “Lean Forward” motto, pushing phrases such as “enough with the arguments, it’s time to advance the issues.” That in mind, Hollywood director Spike Lee coaxed a series of “unscripted” video spots from hosts Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Ed Schultz, to air in the nation’s theaters, on assorted NBC and MSNBC media platforms, and in major print and digital ads.

But it is liberal and progressive thinking that gets the big boost, though MSNBC wraps the pitches with noble-minded polling data that suggests Americans are “optimistic” about their nation. There is also a sense that the network is intent on reviving some of the old “hope and change” mindset of yore. Ms. Maddow holds forth on “America’s greatness.” Mr. Matthews insists Republicans don’t think President Obama is “as American” as they are, while Mr. Schultz contends that healthcare reform is not liberal enough.

“These ads are unlike anything else. They are mini-documentaries that express the passion of our primetime hosts. You’re able to truly learn what drives them,” explains MSNBC President Phil Griffin.

“Until now, MSNBC’s ‘Lean Forward’ ad campaign had largely avoided wearing the network’s leftward slant as a badge of pride,” counters Ken Shepherd, managing editor of Newsbusters.org. “Sure, there were hints here and there that ‘Lean Forward’ really means ‘left-leaning,’ but the older ads were subtle compared to the latest batch which beat you over the head with their liberal take on major political issues.”

POMPADOURABLE

“Donald Trump dogged by rumors his hair is not from U.S.: So-called ‘Balders’ movement gathers steam.”

(Parody headline from comedian Andy Borowitz).

PENSION DIMENSION

Wisconsin isn’t the only state to provide an ongoing litmus test of public employee pensions. Across the political spectrum, Californians are “overwhelmingly” in favor of overhauling the pension system, says a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll released Monday.

Seventy percent of California voters support capping public employee pensions now and in the future; this includes 66 percent of liberals, 71 percent of moderates and 69 percent of conservatives. Among people in unions or union households, almost two-thirds also support the idea.

“I can’t remember an issue that has exploded on the political landscape with the speed and force of the debate over public employee pensions,” says Dan Schnur, a political scientist at the campus and director of the research.

“If Gov. Jerry Brown decided that he was willing to take on the pension issue and a spending cap in order to attract the Republican votes he needs in the legislature, these results show he’d have very strong public support. Democratic legislators don’t like the pension issue any more than Republican legislators like tax increases, but California voters have clearly decided that they’re more comfortable with compromise than their elected representatives,” Mr. Schnur says.

There is also an ethnic divide: 50 percent of white voters support cutting retirement benefits for public employees; 52 percent of Latino voters oppose the idea. Six out of 10 white voters support raising the retirement age for public employees; 52 percent of Latino voters oppose it.

THE BP PRIZE

The green-minded are appealing to Republicans and conservatives to save the Gulf Coast from Congress. Hands off the BP penalty money, says the Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America. The collective — operating as the “Gulf Renewal Project” — has bought up advocacy ad time on 22 conservative talk radio stations in five Gulf states. The message:

“Congress still has not passed legislation to dedicate the oil spill penalties to restoring our coast’s environment and economy. And unless Congress takes action, the oil spill fines could be diverted to other things. Congress must get together, and get it done now, by passing legislation to dedicate the BP oil spill penalties to restoring our coast’s environment and economy,” the radio spot says.

Of course there’s a poll.

The organizations have released findings revealing that 83 percent of voters nationwide say BP oil spill penalties should go to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. “An overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the tea party movement,” the research says.

POLL DU JOUR

• 53 percent of likely voters favor a repeal of healthcare reform legislation.

• 40 percent oppose a repeal of the law.

• 53 percent say healthcare law will “increase the federal deficit.”

• 18 percent say it will decrease the deficit, 17 percent say it will have “no impact.”

• 52 percent say the healthcare plan will be “bad” for the country.

• 34 percent say it will be “good” for the country.

• 52 percent predict the cost of healthcare will go up under the new plan, 19 percent costs will stay the same.

• 18 percent say costs will go down.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted April 23 and 24.

Hue and cry, ballyhoo, balderdash to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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