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Inside the Beltway: Republican Black Friday special

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Attention shoppers: The Grand Old Party has a message for you. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is intent on grabbing the attention of Black Friday bargain hunters in Louisiana, Michigan, Alaska, Iowa and Georgia — all home to Democrats who are now vulnerable for re-election in 2014 because of their fierce endorsement of Obamacare.

The committee — led by Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rob Portman of Ohio and Ted Cruz of Texas — has made significant online ad buys in those states to showcase the misplaced loyalties of such lawmakers as Sens. Mary Landrieu of Lousiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, among many. And in the spirit of the shopping frenzy, the committee has recruited grass-roots volunteers to place gaudy fliers on car windshields in mall parking lots to bring home the point.

"Black Friday sellout!!" the assorted designs proclaim, each done up in the high- impact type and brilliant colors of a discount store. The idea? Republicans are determined to remind voters that many panicked Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from their support of the faulty health care law. The public, they say, now deserves a "refund."

As far as money goes, both sides of the aisle could use a little cash in the meantime, according to current filings with the Federal Election Commission. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee currently has $11.1 million cash on hand, but $6.25 million in debts. Their Republican counterparts have $5 million in cash on hand and no debts. And it's interesting to note that 2014 dawns in less than a month.

GORETOPIA

The news that Al Gore has become a vegan just like former President Bill Clinton has fattened up the media world. The revelation of Mr. Gore's new lifestyle choice was inadvertently revealed in a recent Forbes business story about a vegetarian foods manufacturer. Ironically, the big news was just a casual aside — merely an appetizer, rather than a main course.

But the press feasted. The former vice president's vegan option generated more than a hundred news accounts from major news organizations in several countries. And oh, what headlines. They were positively meaty. A small portion:

"Al Gore embraces an inconvenient diet" (Time), "The Clinton-Gore ticket now belongs to the vegan party" (Red Alert Politics), "Al Gore is now a vegan for some reason" (The Blaze), "Al Gore outed as vegan" (Salon), "Just in time for Tofurky season, Al Gore joins Bill Clinton in vegan virtue" (Examiner.com), "Are you going vegan because Al Gore did?" (Yahoo News).

How new is this news? It's actually pretty wilted. There have been reports dating back to 2006 that claim Mr. Gore was either a vegetarian or had "sharply" cut back his meat consumption.

SHOPPING AS A NATIONAL EXERCISE

Republicans, Democrats, tea partyers, liberals, Libertarians — there is one thing many will likely agree on during the next 72 hours. Up to 140 million people plan to, or will shop over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. They had a head start, though. An estimated 33 million shoppers ventured out, bargains on their minds, on Thanksgiving Day.

Black Friday itself remains the most popular 24-hour time period though: 69 percent of Americans — that's around 97 million shoppers — will do battle in stores and malls. Another 44 percent — 61 million — will shop Saturday, while 24 percent (34 million) will be in stores on Sunday. The numbers are based on a survey of 6,200 U.S. adults.

And how much will they spend this weekend? The amount is going up: the federation's "Retail Insight Center" shows average spending over Thanksgiving weekend has grown steadily over time — from $360 in 2006 to $423 in 2012.

GOOD BUSINESS

A round of applause, please, for the always tenacious Media Research Center. As of Sunday, the conservative watchdog will have accumulated the largest broadcast and cable news archive on the planet in its longtime zeal to detect and chastise liberal bias in the media. We're talking 506,450 hours of footage dating back to the organization's launch on August 31, 1987. And the collection is growing.

Currently, the center records about 650 hours of news programming each week across multiple networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC, and CNBC among others.

"The Media Research Center is built on two pillars: the talented team of analysts, researchers, writers, and editors who have spent the last quarter century exposing and cataloging the media's liberal bias; and the MRC's remarkable archive of video footage," says the center's founder and president Brent Bozell.

"No other media watchdog organization has an archive like ours. For over 25 years, our generous and dedicated benefactors have empowered us to create this invaluable resource for the conservative movement," he adds.

TAILS OF OBAMACARE

We live in an age where pet insurance is a big business. Then there's this Obamacare vignette from one Shane Smith of Fort Collins, Colo., who attempted to sign up for replacement insurance after his own policy was canceled in the wake of the new health care law. Mr. Smith dutifully called Connect for Health Colorado to apply, and in the course of the conversation, the navigator asked him a personal security question to protect the application. Mr. Smith volunteered "Baxter," the name of his venerable old Yorkshire Terrier, as a code answer.

Then, voila. It was the magic of Obamacare.

"Wow. This is so awesome, I thought. They went out of their way to insure my 14-year-old Yorkie," Mr. Smith told KDVR, a Fox News affiliate in Denver.

Yes, there was a mix-up. He received a letter from the sign-up group announcing that Baxter was now insured, and he was not.

"It's typical Obamacare that they would insure your dog by mistake. They fixed it. Well, I think they fixed it. There have been a lot of headaches coming from this — all the phone calls, all the nonsense," Mr. Smith said. "They ended up giving me good coverage. I think. But who know if they're going to take it away? Who knows?"

MR. BUSH, ARTIST

Many have pondered the newly realized painting talents of former president George W. Bush, who was inspired to take up the pastime by Winston Churchill, who had a penchant to paint in days if yore. Mr. Bush now has a daily date with his easel and even takes lessons at Southern Methodist University. And now the amateur becomes a professional of sorts. A cheerful painting of a crimson cardinal by "43" is the centerpiece of the George W, Bush Presidential Center limited edition Christmas ornament.

Laura Bush deemed the image ideal for the handsome decoration, as well as the center's greeting card.

"I'm flattered," Mr. Bush says. "I hope my painting meets expectations."

The ornament is gift boxed and priced at $30; find it — and other Bush-ian fare — here: shop.bushpresidentialcenter.com

POLL DU JOUR

• 59 percent say that "regardless of what happens in Washington," their overall spending habits will not change much in the next year.

• 53 percent say that because of the "uncertainty with the federal government," they will probably spend less on Christmas and holiday presents this year.

• 53 percent give President Obama a negative review of his job handling the economy.

• 50 percent say their household financial condition will likely stay the same in the next six months.

• 45 percent say that they will be less likely to make year-end charitable contribution because of the potential of another government shutdown in January.

• 44 percent say the U.S. economy will stay the same in the next year.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,250 U.S. adults conducted Nov. 13-18 and released Tuesday.

Doggerel and catcalls to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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