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One of the highlights of my week is waiting for the information contained in Salena Zito’s weekly article. This week’s article doesn’t disappoint because she paints a picture of America outside the DC Beltway:

Nothing better crystallizes the deep disconnect between Washington and Main Street America than the peculiar narrative surrounding Nick Rahall’s re-election bid for a U.S. House seat.

West Virginia’s 3rd District congressman faces the most important challenger of his 37-year career — himself.

On paper, Rahall has everything going for him: He lives in a state where Democrats hold a huge voter-registration advantage over Republicans; as an 18-time winner, he has the built-in protection of incumbency (statistics show incumbents are more than 80 percent more likely to retain their seats); he is running against a Democrat-turned-Republican state senator, and voters sometimes view a party switch as suspect.

But that is all on paper.

The reality is that Rahall has become a creature of Washington. And Washington, despite its geographical proximity to West Virginia, has a Versailles-like lifestyle and progressive mindset that is far removed from the values of most West Virginians. So, Rahall might as well govern from a palace.

Rahall suffers from what Midwesterners call Tom Daschle Disease. Sen. Daschle earned the reputation of sounding like President Bush’s best friend when he visited South Dakota, then plotting liberal strategy with Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. Rep. Rahall’s other, bigger, problem is that he isn’t listening to his constituents anymore:

His voting record against his state’s economic interests is astounding, beginning with his 2007 support for cap-and-trade and his repeated support of progressive climate policies during the first two years of President Obama’s term, when Democrats still controlled the House.

And his 2010 vote for ObamaCare, followed by his vote against its repeal last year, only adds to his complex re-election bid.

Apparently, Rep. Rahall hasn’t learned the first rule of holes:

What made his support for this budget so jarring is that it contained a carbon tax that would impose a $25-per-ton price on carbon dioxide (increasing 5.6 percent a year) and a rollback of more than $100 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies over 10 years — all while spending more money on renewable energy.

Not a particularly wise vote for a man who lives in a district where nearly 20,000 folks are employed by the very coal industry that would be devastated by this tax.

The question is whether Rahall’s constituents will do to him what miners did to Jim Oberstar: throw him out for voting against mining. If they vote for someone who will fight for their interests, Rahall’s toast. Simply put, he isn’t paying attention anymore. It’s like he’s living in a bubble.

Finally, check out Salena’s newest venture. Salena is now the co-host of a new talk radio show called Off Road Politics:

I have had the honor of interviewing three presidents, two vice presidents, four speakers of the House, two U.S. attorney generals, two secretaries of Defense and State, and hundreds of representatives. But the most incredible interviews have always been with generals or soldiers returning from war and regular folks in coffee shops, on streetcorners and farms, at factories.

Their question has always the same: Why can’t Washington do a better job?

There is a natural bubble that forms around any governing body, from school boards to county councils and state legislative chambers. The branches of the federal government are no different. It is as frustrating to those outside of the bubble as it is for those on the inside, albeit for very different reasons. Our job at Off Road Politics will be to jab that bubble and tell the real story.

That sounds like a fascinating show, one I’m sure I’ll try listening to on a regular basis.

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Yesterday, HHS announced that another part of the Affordable Care Act is getting delayed:

The White House is delaying the launch of its online small-business exchange by one year, a Health and Human Services (HHS) official confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.

The delay is another setback for the troubled enrollment process of President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Companies with fewer than 50 employees were slated to begin buying coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), an online ObamaCare exchange, this month. The exchange’s delay means small businesses will instead have to seek out coverage through an agent or broker.

The ACA’s tax increases started on time. Anything that included a penalty has been implemented on time, with the exception of big corporations and big labor.

The health care law, President Obama’s latest name for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is a dead man walking. Democrats are panicking bigtime. If President Obama hadn’t held his ‘mea culpa press conference’ 2 weeks ago, Democrats might’ve already abandoned him for all intents and purposes. He headed off a full-fledged stampede with that press conference. Temporarily.

HealthCare.gov is a disaster. State-run exchanges aren’t working well either. Millions of people have gotten cancellation notices saying that the health insurance they liked will expire at midnight New Year’s Eve. The new policies come with higher premiums, higher deductibles and tinier networks of coverage.

In other words, the new policies replacing the policies they’d originally bought are substandard policies. (So much for President Obama’s promise that the new policies would be better and cheaper.)

The healthcare law allows small businesses to either offer a single plan to all of their workers or pick a certain benefit level and let workers choose among plans at that level. The HHS delayed the latter option earlier this year, saying it’s too complicated for insurers to implement right away. Workers will still not be able to choose from an employer-approved benefit level of plans during the one-year delay.

It finally dawned on the administration that administering health insurance is complicated. What a revelation. It isn’t surprising that the Obama administration has looked like the latest iteration of the Keystone Cops.

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During yesterday’s hearing, Congressman Jason Chaffetz took Elijah Cummings to task for suggesting that this investigation was over. Rep. Cummings said that that isn’t what he was asking for. This video catches yesterday’s exchange:

Here’s what Rep. Cummings said in defending his indefensible statements:

CUMMINGS: Let me be clear because this is just old talking points going on here…
CHAFFETZ: To suggest that these are just talking points. These are not just talking points.

A month ago, Rep. Elijah Cummings was interviewed by CNN’s Candy Crowley about whether the investigation into the IRS scandal was over. Here’s Cummings’ reply:

Here’s the important line from the interview:

CUMMINGS: Based on everything I’ve seen, the case is solved and, if it was up to me, I’d wrap this case up and move on.

In other words, what Chaffetz said about Rep. Cummings wanting to wrap up the hearings into the IRS are 100% accurate. Cummings’ interview with Candy Crowley is verification for Chaffetz’s claims.

Cummings has turned from being outraged with the IRS to defending the administration. That’s borne out by another exchange that Peggy Noonan highlighted in this column:

It was Maryland’s Rep. Elijah Cummings, the panel’s ranking Democrat, who, absurdly, asked Ms. Hofacre if the White House called the Cincinnati office to tell them what to do and whether she has knowledge of the president of the United States digging through the tax returns of citizens. Ms. Hofacre looked surprised. No, she replied.

It wasn’t hard to imagine her thought bubble: Do congressmen think presidents call people like me and say, “Don’t forget to harass my enemies”? Are congressmen that stupid?

Cummings’ partisanship is showing and it isn’t a flattering look on Cummings.

Looking at this from a big picture perspective, there’s only one conclusion a thoughtful person can draw: that this investigation is making slow, steady progress and that it’s going to get to the bottom of this administration’s scandals. I’d further add that these investigations are beyond the administration’s control.

The only thing that will stop the investigation is if Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker again. The terrible news for the Obama administration is that that won’t happen anytime soon.

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Newt Gingrich is one of the best political strategists of our time. Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, whether you think he’s too temperamental or whether you think he’s utterly brilliant, there’s no denying the fact that he’s got a fantastic knack of understanding main street. This video is a tour de force presentation by Newt:

Here’s the first thing Newt said that caught my attention:

It’s great. It’s the American drama. After all the talk, after all the ads, after all the pontificating, the American people get to tell us.

I’ll just say this. It’s about time. Let’s get this started. I’ve had enough of looking at deceitful polls. I’m tired of listening to President Obama’s stump speech. It isn’t time for the pontificators to leave the stage. It’s just time for them to add insight into why the American people made the decision they made.

This is the next thing Newt said that caught my attention:

I’ll give you one example. They’re talking about Democratic early voting in Ohio but they’re counting the counties along the Ohio River, which is coal country, which are Second Amendment gun rights country, which are God-fearing counttry, which are the very things that Obama had contempt for in San Fransisco. Those Democrats are going to vote against Obama.

It’s wrong to think of these coal-mining Democrats as Romney Democrats, at least at this point. It’s possible they’d be accurately described as Romney Democrats. It’s entirely possible they’ll just join the GOP.

At this point, though, it’s best calling them anti-Obama Democrats. At this point, they’re best described as people agitated that a Democrat wouldn’t fight for the blue collar Democrats that once was the backbone of the Democratic Party.

This statement spoke volumes to me:

NEWT: I was struck by something Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, hardly a right wing reporter, said that the states he’d been in this week, his phrase was “The organic enthusiasm was for Romney.” There was a mechanical machine for Obama but there was an organic enthusiasm for Romney. My experience in politics is that organic enthusiasm,. the whole wave effect, always defeats the mechanical machine.

Notice that Newt didn’t criticize the machine. He simply said that a mob of genuinely enthusiastic voters will defeat the machine every time. I couldn’t dispute that if I wanted to.

Later, they talked about Todd Akin. Here’s what Newt said there:

Well, first of all, Callista and I have both been out campaigning with him. I’ve really liked Todd Akin. He was given a very bum rap by the national establishment. She is a very Obama-like voter in a state that voted by 71% against Obamacare and then she voted for Obamacare six weeks later. And Romney’s going to carry the state by 8-12 point so I think Akin wins by 3 points.

Frankly, I hadn’t thought about the folks along Ohio River Democrats voting early for Mitt but it makes sense. If that’s what’s happened, then that drops Ohio comfortably into Mitt’s lap. Similarly, if Mitt’s winning Missouri by double-digits and if Missourans don’t like Claire McCaskill like I think is the case, then I think Todd Akin wins.

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I’m usually not a big fan of the RCP polling averages because too many junk polls get included in their averages. That said, it’s occasionally a good indicator of the state of specific races.

One of those races is the U.S. Senate race in Florida between Republican Connie Mack and Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson. In a rare instance of a trio of recent polls from highly qualified pollsters that sampled likely voters give us a strong indication of the state of the race.

SurveyUSA puts the race at Mack 48%, Nelson 42%. Mason-Dixon puts the race at Nelson 47%, Mack 42%. Finally, Rasmussen has it at Mack with 46%, Nelson at 37%. Each of these polls were within the past 2 weeks and sampled likely voters.

At this point, I wouldn’t count this as a GOP gain but I’d certainly put it in the leans GOP gain column. If a former astronaut like Bill Nelson is having difficulty winning re-election in Florida, think what that says for President Obama’s chances of winning Florida again.

At this point, Sen. Nelson is in trouble. It wouldn’t surprise me if President Obama is, too.

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In this article, Scott Walker confirmed what I suspected. Here’s what Gov. Walker said:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says President Barack Obama’s political machine is pulling out all the stops to defeat him in the pivotal June 5 recall election, a race that could determine the future of many efforts around the country to curb runaway government spending.

“I think you’ll see the most radical elements on the left are going to be involved in this recall, because again for them, this is so critically important,” Walker told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

“I think they understand that when we win, this will send a powerful message not just to other Republican governors, but to even some of the discerning Democrats who hold governorships and even mayoral positions across the country.”

Here’s what I wrote about potential ramifications from the recall election:

There’s alot riding on this recall election for both sides. If the unions dump tons of money into defeating Gov. Walker, which they will, but Gov. Walker still wins, it’ll be another stinging defeat for the unions. If they’re defeated, that means President Obama’s campaign will be fighting an uphill fight.

With the Wisconsin GOP GOTV operation off to a successful start, Democrats, especially the unions, have alot to worry about.

The fact that President Obama knows that he must spend tons of money in Wisconsin says that he knows he’s in trouble if Gov. Walker wins this recall election. First, the unions’ bankrolls will be severely depleted after these recall elections.

They’ll be scrambling for the cash they’ll need to protect pro-union legislators in state legislatures and Congress. They won’t have the warchest they’ll need to go on the offensive. Additionally, they’ve got to protect the incumbents they’ve got. If they don’t protect their incumbents, things could get ugly in state legislatures and in DC alike.

President Obama knows that Gov. Walker winning also energizes Republicans. That’s something he can’t afford in Wisconsin. With Saturday’s impressive GOTV operation, morale will be riding high for GOP GOTV volunteers.

In 2008, President Obama raised a ton of cash, which he used to bury Sen. McCain with. This cycle, he’s raising tons of cash, too. This time, though, he’ll need every penny of it to fend off his GOP opponent.

When the dust settles on June 5, there’s a distinct possibility that political historians will mark that as the date President Obama’s re-election campaign suffered a mortal blow.

A recent PPP poll showed Walker with a 50 to 45 percent edge over his leading Democratic opponent, Milwaukee County executive Tom Barrett. He also holds a 50 to 43 percent advantage over his other potential rival, Kathleen Falk, the former Dane County executive who is the unions’ favorite.

That Gov. Walker is over 50% against both of his opponents can’t help the Democrat’s morale. They’ll still work hard but they’re still fighting an uphill fight.

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