- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CRIST’S TROUBLES

“If anyone is sweating the recent goings-on in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, it’s Gov. Charlie Crist, who finds himself in growing battle with conservative upstart Marco Rubio in next year’s Florida GOP Senate primary,” the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“When Mr. Crist threw his hat into the race for retiring Sen. Mel Martinez’s seat, the economic populist was instantly embraced by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Mr. Crist had a great brand name, great approval ratings as Florida’s governor, and a lot of money. But that was then. Unemployment has surged in Florida. The shine is coming off Mr. Crist’s stellar ratings - a recent survey showed only 42 percent of likely voters thought he was doing an excellent or good job. Meanwhile, Mr. Rubio has been climbing in the polls and has won nearly a dozen county GOP straw polls, which means he has juice with the people who actually vote in Florida’s closed Republican primary,” the columnist said.

“All this may sound vaguely similar to what happened in New York state, where renegade Republican Doug Hoffman challenged the party’s choice of Dede Scozzafava, a liberal Republican, for a special House contest. Mr. Hoffman and conservative activists eventually drove Ms. Scozzafava out of the race. The similarity certainly seems to ring bells with Mr. Crist, who lately has been ramping up efforts to win back conservatives, including reminding them of his tough-on-crime stances back when he was a state legislator.

“He also has been endeavoring to, er, correct the record about his famous hug of President Obama when the president was selling his stimulus plan in Florida last spring. To CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last week, Mr. Crist denied ever endorsing the Obama stimulus: ‘I didn’t even have a vote on the darned thing. But I understood that it was going to pass, and I wanted to be able to utilize it for the benefit of my fellow Floridians.’

“Never mind that, in introducing Mr. Obama to a local audience at the time, his exact words were: ‘We know that it’s important that we pass this stimulus package.’ Mr. Crist is now running radio ads touting himself as a fiscal hawk, but the charm campaign seems unlikely to convince politically active conservatives. Last week, the Club for Growth, which backed Mr. Hoffman in New York, launched its first ad in the race, hitting Mr. Crist for his stimulus support.”

DREAMLAND

Barack Obama and the Democrats want you to know they had a good week,” Clive Crook writes in the Financial Times.

“Last Tuesday, Republicans threw away a New York congressional seat they had held for a century, preferring to fight each other than win an easy contest. Excellent, say Democrats. Civil war in the Republican Party augurs well for next year’s midterm elections.

“What’s that, you say? Oh, yes, Democrats did lose the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia, with huge swings to the other side, but this was to be expected with the economy in such bad shape. Read nothing into that, say Democratic strategists.

“Still joyous over this electoral affirmation, Democrats in the House of Representatives then made history over the weekend, with passage of their health reform bill. The margin was narrow, admittedly, in a chamber they dominate. So what? A win is a win (except in New Jersey or Virginia). Everything is going [according] to plan.

“Here is the disturbing part: Watching administration officials shovel this nonsense, one begins to wonder if they believe it,” Mr. Crook said. “If they do, and keep it up, they are asking for a drubbing in 2010 that will do for Mr Obama’s agenda what the wipeout of 1994 did for Bill Clinton‘s.”

ABORTION DEBATE

“The flashiest health care controversy this weekend involved what’s now known as the ‘Stupak’ language, which was added to the House health care bill ostensibly to prevent pro-life Democrats from abandoning ship,” Marc Ambinder writes in a blog at theatlantic.com.

“The House leadership gulped it down as if it were a barium swallow. The amendment restricts private insurers participating in the exchange from offering abortion coverage as part of their policies. They can still offer add-on abortion-only coverage, but the subsidies that the health care bill provides couldn’t be tapped. …

“In a sense, the rapidity with which the Democratic leadership caved tells us two things about the larger abortion debate: It is increasingly being fought on a territory that is hospitable to pro-lifers - and that the Democratic leadership believes that it can essentially take the support of women’s rights activists for granted. …

“In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi [Monday], 40 House pro-choicers insisted they would not support the product of the House and Senate conference if it included the Stupak language, calling it ‘an unprecedented and unacceptable restriction on women’s ability to access the full range of reproductive health services to which they are lawfully entitled.’

“Notably, the White House refused to divulge the president’s position on the language. By not divulging the president’s position, the White House effectively divulged the president’s position: He doesn’t like the language, but he wouldn’t want to sacrifice the bill.”

TRUTH-IN-LABELING

“Everyone and his brother has opinions about what happened [last] Tuesday, but not all assessments are equally correct, just as not all of the descriptions of the contests, while they were in progress, were equally on the mark,” Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

“What were some of the mistakes and mischaracterizations during the campaigns and after the voting?” Mr. Rothenberg asked.

“One of the worst, I thought, was the widespread characterization of Dede Scozzafava, the Republican nominee in New York’s 23rd District, as a moderate. I realize that those of us in the media use that term to distinguish certain Republicans and Democrats from their more ideologically consistent colleagues, but in this case, the label was inappropriate.

“Scozzafava doesn’t only support abortion rights - often a marker for Republican ‘moderates’ - she supports gay marriage. But she doesn’t only support gay marriage; she supported President Barack Obama’s stimulus proposal that not a single House Republican favored. But she didn’t just support the stimulus package; she supports the Employee Free Choice Act (what opponents call ‘card check’), which is opposed by virtually the entire business community. And in the end, of course, she endorsed the Democrat in the race.

“Scozzafava is a liberal Republican by any standard, and she should have been labeled as such. She is more liberal than every Republican in the House of Representatives and many Democrats.”

&#8226 Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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