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Inside the Beltway: McConnell victory not so impressive

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2014

So was that big "establishment" Republican win over a conservative challenger in the Blue Grass State really all that crushing? Maybe not, says one academic source, which offers a historic perspective.

"While he enjoyed a 24-point victory over Matt Bevin, Mitch McConnell hardly scored an impressive victory for an incumbent when situated in the context of Kentucky electoral history," says Eric Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota political scientist who pored over state primary election records over the last 100 years, with some noteworthy results.

He says the 60 percent won by Mr. McConnell during the primary last week is the "lowest support registered" by a sitting Kentucky U.S. senator from either party since 1938.

"The last time a sitting senator from the Bluegrass State registered less voter support than McConnell's 60 percent was during a primary election 76 years ago when two-term Democrat Alben Barkley faced six challengers on the primary ballot including Governor Happy Chandler, en route to winning 56.1 percent of the vote," says Mr. Ostermeier.

HOW BIG IS 'BIG' GOVERNMENT?

"Even the experts can't agree on the total number of federal government agencies, commissions and departments. Most estimates suggest there are probably more than 2,000 of these," notes an analysis from the Independence Hall Association, a historically minded nonprofit organization in Philadelphia. Academic sources, and even the White House varies on the count, with estimates starting at a minimum of 500. For those with intense curiosity, there is an "A-Z Index" master list at USA.gov; which is, in fact, the second most popular spot at the federal website, second only to the jobs listing.

In stark terms, meanwhile, the federal government took in $2.8 trillion in revenue during fiscal year 2013, but spent $3.5 trillion, this according to the Congressional Budget Office. The feds currently employ 2.7 million civilians, 1.5 million uniformed military personnel and 64,000 judicial or legislative folk, says the Office of Personnel Management. And what does this translate too? A reality check, perhaps.

"The fact is big government is too big for meaningful oversight and effective management from the Oval Office to the White House. It just is. But why are we surprised that the government that runs the post office badly and runs Amtrak badly can't run a health care system? Delivering a postcard from a to b, or a passenger from point a to point b is a lot simpler than delivering health care. So we shouldn't be surprised by this," columnist George Will told "Fox News Sunday."

WORDS FOR THE DAY

"The security that lets us live in peace, the prosperity that allows us to pursue our dreams, the freedom that we cherish — these were earned by the blood and the sacrifices of patriots who went before. This Memorial Day, as we near the end of more than a decade of war, let us never forget their service and always be worthy of the sacrifices made in our name. And today and every day, let us pray for and hold close the families of the fallen.

"Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 a.m. of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I also ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day."

— From President Obama's official Memorial Day proclamation.

BECAUSE IT'S A HOLIDAY ...

Because there's socializing afoot, here's a recipe for "Tex Chex Mix," a favorite of former President George W. Bush's during his time in the White House; several versions of this recipe are floating about. This appears to be the most official, and hails from the "White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen," a 2007 cookbook by Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups (each) of Corn Chex, Rice Chex and Wheat Chex cereal; 1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, 1 cup small, thin, salted pretzel sticks; 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled; 1/2 tablespoon Yucatan Sunshine hot sauce or your favorite hot sauce; 1/2 tablespoon Tabasco sauce, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 250 F. In a large bowl, combine the cereals, pepitas, pistachios, and pretzel sticks. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients until well incorporated. Pour this mixture over the cereal mixture and toss well to coat but gently so as not to break the cereal and pretzels. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring gently every 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, let the mixture cool, and serve, or serve in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

TEA PARTY STILL BREWING

It's business as usual for the tea party. The grassroots movement is not heeding repeat warnings from the news media or Democratic strategists that the tea party is weakened, ailing, dying or dead. Nope. The half dozen larger tea party umbrella groups, in fact, are forging ahead — staying on unapologetic message, organizing public events, drumming up donations and singling out their chosen candidates.

The Georgia-based Tea Party Patriots is a good example.

"The tea party movement was created by ordinary citizens who banded together to take their country back. And we've been very successful," notes Jenny Beth Martin, chairman of the Tea party Patriots Citizens Fund, a political action committee, in an outreach on Sunday.

"Now, however, we need to go toe-to-toe with the establishment politicians and their political action committees. We need to defeat big-government politicians in primaries and general elections and send a new crop of limited government leaders to Washington," she says.

And they are succinct. The group has endorsed 18 candidates in House and Senate races, including he re-election efforts of Republican Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Jeff Sessions of Alabama plus Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Justin Amash of Michigan and Tom McClintock of California.

And among the House hopefuls: Igor Birman of California and Curt Clawson of Florida. Among Senate hopefuls: T.W. Shannon of Oklahoma, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Sam Clovis of Iowa and Alex Mooney of West Virginia.

POLL DU JOUR

75 percent of Americans say the "war on terror" is still going on; 96 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats agree.

10 percent say the U.S. has "lost" the war on terror; 6 percent of Republicans and 8 percent of Democrats agree.

6 percent say the U.S. has "won" the war on terror; 3 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats agree.

58 percent overall say it is "acceptable" to have unidentified remains of those who died in the 9/11 attacks at ground zero interred at the National 9/11 Museum in New York City; 58 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats agree.

36 percent overall say it is acceptable to have 9/11 brands and commercial merchandise; 40 percent of Republicans and 39 percent of Democrats agree.

33 percent overall say a gift shop at the 9/11 museum is unacceptable; 30 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats agree.

15 percent say all 9/11 brands are unacceptable; 14 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A You/Gov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted May 19-20.

Yawns, annoyances, happy talk to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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