Inside the Beltway: And the password is panic

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Observers are calmly standing back and taking in the dramatic tableau unfolding in front of them. The Democratic Party is edging toward panic mode, a revelation now emanating from both critics and the mainstream media in radioactive waves. The party’s loss to Republican Rep. David Jolly in a Florida special election almost a week ago is now framed as a harbinger of things to come. The party may need a fallout shelter from the fallout.

“Watch in the week or so ahead for a few more retirements by veteran House Democrats. I’m told the Florida special election results were the last straw for at least two and perhaps more House Democrats facing tough 2014 races. Leadership will make a run at persuading these lawmakers otherwise — but with hope of regaining the majority all but lost, watch the Capitol exits,” CNN “Inside Politics” host John King predicted on Sunday.


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The New York Times points out that “Democrats are becoming increasingly alarmed about their midterm election fortunes” while MSNBC host Chris Matthews mournfully chimed in, “They’re going to lose the Senate.” Even former White House advisor David Plouffe is getting antsy, telling Bloomberg News that “a screaming siren” has gone off.

“Is it time to panic yet?” asks Weekly Standard columnist Geoffrey Norman, who suggests the prevailing theme of the moment is “Democrats in trouble.” And they could get raucous.

“Most of the doom is attributed to the damage done to the party’s brand by Obamacare’s troubles and — all together now — those horrible Koch brothers and all of their money,” Mr. Norman says.

“There is talk of going for turnout and scaring voters with stuff about how the Republicans are coming for their Medicare and Social Security. And surely this will happen, along with warnings of wars on women, the young and the climate. More interesting, perhaps, is what is not mentioned. Namely, the economy,” he continues, noting that some six in 10 Americans insist the U.S. is in a recession.

“One doesn’t want to go too far out on a limb here, but might that not incline a lot of voters to think it is time for a change? Been six years and, still, things don’t seem to be getting much better,” Mr. Norman concludes.

THE INTERCHANGEABLE CONTENDERS

Once again, Sen. Rand Paul has riveted popular imagination. He’s won yet another survey of Republican voters, garnering 16 percent of the support for a White House run in 2016 according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Just behind him: Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with 15 percent, Texas. Gov. Rick Perry with 11 percent and Mike Huckabee with 10 percent.

Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and three more contenders are down in the chilly single digits. Of note: Mitt Romney turned in last place with 3 percent of the vote. It is significant, however, that CNN chose to include him. But the network sees the roster of names as almost interchangeable at this early stage.

“With a crowded field and no clear front-runner among the potential candidates, we should expect to see constant fluctuation in the amount of support most candidates get and the order of finish, so it would be easy to read too much into these numbers,” says CNN polling director Keating Holland.

BUMPER PATROL

Ted Cruz/Rand Paul 2016

— Bumper sticker spotted in Grand Prairie, Texas.

O’BAMA

“We reflect on proud traditions handed down through the generations, and we celebrate the many threads of green woven into the red, white, and blue. Irish Americans have defended our country through times of war, strengthened communities from coast to coast, and poured sweat and blood into building our infrastructure and raising our skyscrapers. Some endured hunger, hardship, and prejudice; many rose to be leaders of government, industry, or culture. Their journey is a testament to the resilience of the Irish character, a people who never stopped dreaming of a brighter future and never stopped striving to make that dream a reality. Today, Americans of all backgrounds can find common ground in the values of faith and perseverance, and we can all draw strength from the unshakable belief that through hard work and sacrifice, we can forge better lives for ourselves and our families.”

— From President Obama’s official proclamation recognizing Irish-American Heritage Month, which is throughout March.

BATTENING DOWN FOR BROWN

Are they worried about Scott Brown — or just annoyed by the whole idea? New Hampshire Democrats are giving the former Massachusetts senator plenty of pushback as he seeks the U.S. Senate seat in the Granite State. Mr. Brown, however, has already embarked upon a “Main Streets & Living Rooms” listening tour of the region.

“Scott Brown is for Scott Brown and the Wall Street and big oil millionaires that back him, not New Hampshire,” says New Hampshire Democratic Party communications director Harrell Kirstein, who notes that Mr. Brown has been “flirting” with a potential run for almost a year.

“If he manages to survive a Republican primary against Republicans who are actually from New Hampshire, he’ll have an even tougher general election against Jeanne Shaheen whose common sense leadership makes a difference for New Hampshire,” Mr. Kirstein observes, already armed with talking points.

“New Hampshire isn’t going to let Scott Brown and his special interest supporters buy themselves a Senate seat to push reckless plans to privatize Social Security, end Medicare’s guaranteed benefit for seniors, and raise taxes on middle class families to pay for more tax breaks for big corporations, oil companies and millionaires,” he concludes.

NEXT STOP, BEIJING

It is quite the journey. First lady Michelle Obama departs the nation’s capital on Wednesday for China, returning a week later after visits to Beijing and Chengdu. Her mother Marian Robinson and daughters Malia and Sasha will accompany her. Among the many, many events, Mrs. Obama will meet with Madame Peng Liyuan, wife of China’s President Xi Jinping

“My husband and I take the time to visit countries like China because we know that today, more than ever before, our lives here in America are connected to the lives of people around the world,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement on the White House website, filed under “foreign policy” issues, interestingly enough.

Her emphasis is on children and education; there will be much social media involved. “I’ll be posting a daily travel blog, complete with videos and photos, and I’ll be taking — and answering — questions from kids across America as I go,” Mrs. Obama advises.

More to come on the China trip, and soon. Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff Tina Tchen and deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes will take questions from the curious press on Monday morning.

POLL DU JOUR

78 percent of Americans say Russia President Vladimir Putin is “a strong leader”; 12 percent have a favorable opinion of him.

58 percent say they are “closely” following the events in Ukraine.

55 percent say that it is “not at all likely” that Russia will remove its troops from Ukraine if the U.S. imposes economic sanctions.

50 percent say it is not at all likely that Russia will remove its troops from Ukraine if the U.S. also sends troops to the nation.

42 percent say their sympathies are with Ukrainians; 28 percent are “unsure” where their sympathy lies.

24 percent approve of the way President Obama has handled the Ukraine crisis.

Source: A YouGov/Economic survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted March 8-10.

Churlish remarks and curiosities to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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