Archive for the ‘Heartland’ Category

I appreciate Salena Zito’s latest column because, once again, it’s about what’s important to Beltway pundits and what’s important to real people living in America’s heartland. This week, Ms. Zito’s column focuses on the fight between getting distracted by gimmickry or focusing on fundamentals:

Though he never was called up to serve in Vietnam, Garfein, out of Fort Lewis, Wash., led an armored reconnaissance unit and a field artillery battery. “I’ve always felt a connection to the men who fought in the Civil War.”

His conversation turned to leadership, honoring the past, the government scandals of the last five years and the country’s future: “I was taught at a young age to value your community and to serve it. We need more emphasis on that from those who want to lead our country. “And we need to hold those in power in check; stop chasing the unicorns and start chasing and revealing the truth and demanding competency.”

A week later, more than two dozen reporters chased the next presidential cycle’s first unicorn, Hillary Clinton, around an Iowa community college on her first official campaign stop. The optics of that was as comical as a tiny car releasing scores of clowns into a circus ring. But it doesn’t amuse people like Garfein, who wish the media would chase down government corruption and incompetency with the same gusto.

The ‘reporters’ covering Hillary on the campaign trail are making asses of themselves. They breathlessly told us that Queen Hillary had ordered the burrito bowl from a Chipotle in Ohio. They informed us that she’d ordered the “guac”, though Jon Stewart noticed that they didn’t tell us how many napkins she took:

The media are, for all intents and purposes, Hillary’s puppets. For all the talk about how Hillary won’t get the same kid glove treatment from the media like then-candidate Obama did, it’s looking like the media isn’t exactly fired up to investigate Hillary. While she won’t get the slobbering coverage that President Obama got, she’ll get kid glove treatment.

This week, we saw the Hillary ‘correspondents’ do some embarrassing things. First, they acted like puppets chasing her vehicle around a community college building. This morning, veteran NPR political reporter Mara Liasson told media critic Howard Kurtz “For some reason that I’ve never understood, the public wants to know everything that the Clintons do.” That’s what Beltway reporters think about the people’s appetite for the Clintons? Seriously?

There’s no finer example of the difference between real reporters from America’s heartland and ‘reporters’ from inside the DC Beltway.

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I’ve written before that reading Salena Zito’s Sunday columns is one of my favorite things to do, mostly because she ventures into flyover country. Salena’s columns are more likely to quote people we’ve never heard of than people we’ve heard of altogether too often. Thank goodness for that. We need that realism. This morning’s column touches on something that Washington hasn’t seen coming:

PLEASANTVILLE, Pa. – The homemade sign along state Route 96 in Bedford County could easily be missed if a driver is distracted by the winding curves at the base of the Allegheny Mountains.

“Our country is dying. Please pray for all of us,” it says in blue letters on a white board. A bouquet of slightly wilted wildflowers is tied to it with a blue bow.

The sign doesn’t blame anyone in particular; no political brand or elected official is named, no familiar tagline from social media or cable news is part of the message. In fact, its poignant words (all lower-case, no wild-hare punctuation) and slightly hidden position in some ways reflect the underground populist movement that this column has warned about for months, moderate in tone, big in impact.

It’s undeniable that people of all political stripes want government to work. It’s also true that they want government to listen to them. DC has stopped doing that:

When Eric Cantor lost his primary race Tuesday, it wasn’t because he wasn’t conservative enough for his base.

It wasn’t because of the Republicans’ tea party element. It had nothing to do with immigration reform, or some Democrat conspiracy to flood the polls. And it was not driven by right-wing talk-radio hosts or operatives from Heritage Action, Club for Growth, Citizens United or ForAmerica (which claimed Cantor’s defeat was an “apocalyptic moment for the GOP establishment”).

This was a complicated recipe, according to Republican strategist Bruce Haynes.

“There were more than four-and-twenty blackbirds baked into this pie,” Haynes said, adding that ultimately the loss had everything to do with Cantor: He lost touch with his constituency; he became too Washington, too associated with the D.C.-bubble brand; he forgot how to relate and to be that guy from his district.

Something like that is happening in Minnesota, where the DFL is just waking up to the fact that Iron Rangers are upset that they’re being ignored. They’re being ignored because environmental activists are essentially telling the DFL to ignore the Iron Range.

There’s no question but that these Rangers want a new influx of mining jobs and upper middle class incomes. There’s no question that professional environmental activists hate mining, especially precious metals mining. The DFL is taking the Iron Range vote for granted. That’s the first step in activating populism.

One thing that hurt Eric Cantor the most was that people thought he talked out of both sides of his mouth. He told his constituents that he opposed amnesty, then he supported the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. Technically, Mark Dayton issn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth. He’s just doing whatever he can to not get either side upset.

Al Franken is even more ‘cautious.’ He isn’t saying anything on the subject. Sen. Franken didn’t mention mining during his 26-minute-long acceptance speech. Mining isn’t mentioned on his campaign website, either.

If there’s anything that Eric Cantor’s loss tells us, it’s that ignoring major constituency groups is potentially disastrous politically.

If the “homemade sign along state Route 96 in Bedford County” was found alongside Highway 53 near Eveleth or Virginia, it would read ‘Our way of life is dying an nobody’s listening. Please pray for us.’

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Political junkies like me have known about Paul Ryan for 5-6 years. The man that will step into the spotlight tonight is the smartest man on policy in DC. That’s why he gets under President Obama’s skin so easily. President Obama’s narcissism won’t let him admit that he isn’t the smartest man in the room about anything.

Ryan steps into tonight’s spotlight as a seasoned veteran of the political wars. He’s most famous for demolishing the ACA during the Health Care Summit at Blair House:

Paul Ryan stepped into the spotlight that day without hesitation, with an outstanding grasp of the health care facts and with an understanding of the American people. When he was done with the GOP’s closing argument, President Obama sat humbled and silent.

That’s the man I expect to see step to the podium tonight.

Last night, Chris Christie talked about telling the American people the truth about adult subjects. Tonight, I expect to hear Paul Ryan talk about the challenges we face. I expect him to talk about why it’s vital that we reverse course ASAP. Finally, I expect him to give a midwestern perspective for what’s at stake if we don’t change course.

I don’t expect him to deliver ‘the plan’ in full, though I’d expect he’ll touch on that.

Finally, I expect him to a) critique the Democrats’ agenda, b) keep the Christie momentum going and c) tee things up for Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech Thursday night.

Paul Ryan is part of the new leadership of the GOP. He’s an expert. He’s fearless. He’s principled. Most importantly, he’s in touch with the American people because he’s from a small town in America’s heartland.

That’s why he’ll connect with the American people.

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If ever an indictment against was to be written about Washington insiders, you could certainly do alot worse than starting with this article in the National Journal.

The large Republican presidential field, along with the dramatic surges and collapses of several of its candidates, may ultimately be much ado about nothing. That, at least, is the conclusion of the Republican strategists surveyed in this week’s National Journal Political Insiders Poll, who almost unanimously identified Mitt Romney as the most likely candidate to win the nomination. In the five times the GOP Insiders have been asked that question in 2011, Romney has never surrendered the top spot.

It’s apparent these Washington insiders don’t count trustworthiness, leadership and consistency as important characteristics in presidential candidates. If they did, they would’ve disqualified Mitt months ago. It’s apparent that the insiders consider having a spine optional, too.

This part is quite frightening:

Democratic Insiders, meanwhile, largely believe Republicans are on the right track, with more than two-thirds of them naming Romney as the strongest candidate the GOP could nominate for the 2012 election.

It’s proof that Democratic insiders are as out of touch with America’s heartland as GOP insiders. Seventy-one percent of Democrat insiders said that Mitt Romney would be the toughest candidate to run against, followed by 19% saying Gov. Huntsman would be the toughest, with Gov. Perry and “Other” each collecting 5% of Democrat insiders’ votes.

This isn’t insanity. It’s outright stupidity. The 2010 GOP landslide wasn’t won because Republicans recruited a great crop of squishy moderates. The GOP landslide was possible because they recruited great conservative candidates.

By picking Huntsman and Romney, the 2 most liberal GOP presidential candidates this year, Democratic insiders are either saying that 2010 didn’t happen or that it was just an aberration.

Without a fired up base, the GOP candidate can’t win. Without a solid conservative at the top of the ticket, the GOP loses alot of independents. With Romney as the GOP nominee, the TEA Party won’t enthusiastically support the GOP candidate. It’s that simple.

If these GOP insiders don’t care about winning, they should just admit it so we can ignore their opinions. If the GOP insiders like a flip-flopping, spineless, leadership-challenged candidate, that’s their right.

Here’s a little advice for the insiders from both parties: spend the next 2-3 months away from DC, away from the campaigns. Get into your cars and drive to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, West Virginia and Wisconsin. That’s what Salena Zito is doing, which is why she’s staying so connected with political reality.

While you’re away from DC, actually listen to real people. Find out what’s important to them. Don’t reflexively accept the Beltway’s conventional wisdom as Gospel fact.

If the DC insiders from both parties did that, most of the crap that’s happening in DC would be ridiculed until Beltway CW became a laughingstock.

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According to this NYTimes article, the Obama administration said in court filings that their right to tax is the justification that allows them to impose mandates to buy health insurance:

In a brief defending the law, the Justice Department says the requirement for people to carry insurance or pay the penalty is “a valid exercise” of Congress’s power to impose taxes.

Congress can use its taxing power “even for purposes that would exceed its powers under other provisions” of the Constitution, the department said. For more than a century, it added, the Supreme Court has held that Congress can tax activities that it could not reach by using its power to regulate commerce.

Whether the Supreme Court has ruled that “Congress can tax activities that it could not reach by using its power to regulate commerce” is irrelevant to the extent that the Supreme Court isn’t infallible. As human beings whose rulings are often driven by their policy preferences, previous rulings might well be wrong according to the text of the Constitution.

I’d argue that the mandates are unconstitutional because providing health care isn’t one of the Constitution’s enumerated powers given to the federal government. If the Constitution prohibits the federal government from providing health care, then it can’t argue, in essence, that they can tax people for not doing what the federal government isn’t authorized to mandate.

Here’s why the Obama administration’s arguments are tougher in the court of public opinion:

While Congress was working on the health care legislation, Mr. Obama refused to accept the argument that a mandate to buy insurance, enforced by financial penalties, was equivalent to a tax.

“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” the president said last September, in a spirited exchange with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “This Week.”

When Mr. Stephanopoulos said the penalty appeared to fit the dictionary definition of a tax, Mr. Obama replied, “I absolutely reject that notion.”

I didn’t think that the 2008 election confered on President Obama the authority to rewrite the dictionary. Here’s’s definition of tax:

a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.

It’s a tax according to that definition. More importantly to this situation is that the underlying activity, i.e. the mandating the purchase of health insurance, isn’t sanctioned by the Constitution.

If the Supreme Court ruled that Congress can force people into buying health insurance, future congresses would be allowed to mandate the purchase of healthy foods or buying hybrid cars or green energy heating systems.

Sane justices would see those things as major infringements on a person’s individual liberties. I’m not confident saying that justices like Breyer, Sotomayor or Ginsburg would put a higher priority on individual liberties as they would put on ruling in favor of anything that made their policy preferences a reality.

Opponents contend that the “minimum coverage provision” is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress’s power to regulate commerce.

“This is the first time that Congress has ever ordered Americans to use their own money to purchase a particular good or service,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.

In their lawsuit, Florida and other states say: “Congress is attempting to regulate and penalize Americans for choosing not to engage in economic activity. If Congress can do this much, there will be virtually no sphere of private decision-making beyond the reach of federal power.”

The good news is that if SCOTUS rules that the mandate is a tax, a future congress and president could eliminate that tax in a simple budget bill. If one congress and administration can levy a tax, then it’s certainly possible for another congress and administration to cut or eliminate that tax.

If Republicans turn President Obama into a one-term wonder, which is certainly possible, and if they have control of the House and Senate, which I think they will, their first bill should repeal the health care taxes, if not repealing the entire thing.

Democrats challenging Republicans to run on repealing Obamacare will find out that America didn’t like much of it once they learned what was in the bill. They’ll find that the American people rather viscerally hate the legislation, complete with $670,000,000,000 in new taxes.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

I just finished watching Esme Murphy’s interview of Tarryl Clark. One thing that Tarryl said was so utterly absurd that I replayed it 3 times to make sure I heard Tarryl right. During one of her answers, Tarryl said that “she voted for higher taxes for 95 percent of Americans when she voted against the Recovery Act.”

Tarryl’s statement was a reply to a question about fiscal responsibility. What spending $862,000,000,000 on pork projects and keeping government inflated and paying off public unions has to do with fiscal responsibility is beyond me.

I’m guessing, but I’m anything but sure on this, that Tarryl is spinning this to mean that voting against the one-time rebate checks is the equivalent to a tax increase.

The logic, if that applies in this instance, is this: a vote against spending money on a $600 rebate is a vote for tax increases. In reality, it’s just a vote against increasing spending and a vote against skyrocketing deficits.

President Obama touts the $600 checks as a tax cut but it’s nothing of the sort. It isn’t attached to anything in the tax code. In truth, it’s just money spent.

I’d further argue that voting to not lower taxes isn’t a tax increase. A tax increase is when you vote to raise the marginal tax rate on small businesses, which is what Tarryl did when she cast the 67th and decisive vote to create a higher income tax bracket for small businesses. That tax legislation would’ve created a top marginal rate of 9.25 percent, significantly higher than the current top marginal tax rate of 7.86 percent.

Early in the interview, Tarryl said that “Washington still isn’t working for Minnesota and Congresswoman Bachmann certainly isn’t.” Yes, it’s true that Washington isn’t working for Minnesotans or anyone else. It’s dominated with Democrats who repeatedly refused to listen to the people in passing the stimulus bill without reading it and passing Obamacare against the wishes of the people and without reading the legislation.

Tarryl’s solution to Washington being broken? Send more Democrats to Washington to rubberstamp President Obama’s radical agenda that gets anemic support in the heartland but gets stratospheric support on K Street. That’s so intellectually inconsistent that it’s insulting.

Later, Tarryl says that Minnesotans want someone who will fight for them, not fight for their own agenda. Let’s stipulate that that’s true. When Michele called for a rally in DC to oppose Obamacare, polls showed that Obamacare had a net approval rating nearing -20, meaning 60 percent of the people opposed Obamacare while 40 percent approved of it.

I’d argue, based on those verifiable facts, that Michele was fighting for what Minnesotans wanted.

I’d argue that voting against the ARRA was voting the way Minnesotans wanted, too, because ARRA was nothing more than a payoff to big government unions. That certainly isn’t what Minnesotans supported.

That’s quite the opposite of Tarryl casting the 67th and tie-breaking vote to raise taxes on small businesses. That certainly isn’t fighting for the things that Minnesotans want. Just because it gets the Matt Entenza/Dane Smith stamp of approval doesn’t mean it gets Minnesota’s stamp of approval.

Later in the interview, Tarryl said that Michele voted to raise her own salary, something that didn’t happen. Meanwhile, Tarryl said that she reduced the cost of her staffing. I can’t verify whether that’s true or not but what I can verify is that Tarryl voted in 2007 to raise her per diem from $66/day to $96/day.

Factoring in the 43 days of out-of-session per diem she collected in 2008 plus the 280 days of regular session per diem at $96/day, that’s a total of $31,008 in per diem payments. Had Tarryl voted against raising per diem those $30/day, that total would’ve been $21,318, or $9,690 less than less than she collected.

Note that that’s just counting the per diem paid in between one session and another. That isn’t counting the out-of-session per diem paid to Tarryl in other years. Note that that money doesn’t factor in the rent subsidies legislators get or the gas money they get reimbursed for. That’s per diem only.

Let’s question why Tarryl thinks that a state legislator needs $96/day for incidental costs. There’s just a little catch with that, though. House members get paid a paltry $77/day in per diem. Why does the Senate deserve an additional $19/day for their per diem than the House gets?

Tarryl, do St. Paul restaurants charge senators $19/day more than House members?

That’s before factoring in Tarryl voting against Amy Koch’s amendment to restore per diem to its pre-2007 rate of $66/day. What’s Tarryl’s justification for not returning to the still substantial $66/day per diem when the state was running a $6,400,000,000 deficit?

I’d submit that Tarryl can’t justify that $96/day per diem any time, much less with Minnesota facing a $6,400,000,000 deficit. I’d further submit that Tarryl’s argument that she’s the fiscally responsible candidate in this race is pure spin, that it’s part of Tarryl’s PR campaign, that it isn’t based on reality.

I’ve always thought that too many of Tarryl’s statements were fabrications. During a 4:56 interview, Tarryl said at least 3 things that were effortlessly proven as spin or fabrications.

If Tarryl can’t be more credible than that, she’ll get pounded this election because voters aren’t in the mood for spin and PR. This election, voters are demanding the straight truth, something that’s apparently in short supply in the Clark campaign office.

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This LATimes article is just another article highlighting the difficulties Democrats are having running in this environment:

A new poll out of Ohio, which is called the Buckeye State but is really a political keystone state in this year’s midterm election and beyond — waves a large flag about Democratic hopes to hold the governor’s office.

Ohio Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, like many incumbents across the country, is sliding into deep trouble when racked up against his Republican opponent, former Ohio congressman John Kasich.

According to the Ohio Newspaper Poll as published in the Dayton Daily News, Kasich currently leads Strickland 51-45. Last fall, despite earnest campaign efforts by the White House, Democrats lost control of the governors’ offices in Virginia and New Jersey. Another three dozen are up this year.

The reason for Gov. Strickland’s problems is the economy. The Democrats took control of a number of governorships in 2006. After the economy went south, a number of these governors haven’t fixed the economy. As a result, they’re getting blamed.

Strickland is the leader whose state has a high unemployment rate. Based on this article, it sounds like Ohio voters will hold him accountable for his lack of economic accomplishments:

But in the last couple of years Ohio’s economy has gone farther south than all of Kentucky. And the latest state unemployment figures show the jobless rate increased from 10.6% in November to 10.9% in December, despite the best economic we-share-your-pain talking and ribbon-cutting by the Obama-Biden administration.

“Voters are going to want to hear about the economy first, the economy second and the economy third,” said Eric Rademacher, the poll’s director. Strickland’s approval-disapproval is 50-45, but on the economy it’s 54 disapprove and only 42 approving.

Having a double-digit negative rating on the most important issue of the day is a quick ticket into retirement. That statistic reminds me of what happened the day before the 2004 presidential election. The last poll before the election showed Walter Mondale leading Ronald Reagan in 10 of the 12 categories polled for.

History shows that that poll was essentially useless because Mondale won the electoral votes from Minnesota and the District of Columbia. If you’re wondering which issues Reagan won, here’s the answer to that trivia question: the economy and national defense, the two most important questions of the day.

If ever there was a candidate that can exploit this issue, it’s John Kasich. Kasich is the architect of 5 straight balanced federal budgets. During his time as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, the economy created 22,000,000 new jobs. These days, that set of accomplishments probably tell voters everything they need to know for making their pick.

I’m betting that this will become a cornerstone of the Kasich campaign:

It’s still about 10 months until election day. But 47% of Ohioans said their standard of living is worse now than it was 48 months ago.

If I was advising the Kasich campaign, which would be one of the best jobs in campaign history, I’d simply remind Mr. Kasich to hammer on his message of prosperity through prioritizing spending, tax cuts and fiscal discipline. (For that matter, I’d use the same message to defeat House and Senate Democrats, too.)

This race says that 2010 is a totally different world than 2006. This year, Democrats are running into a strong headwind. In 2006, they ran with the wind at their backs.

It’s understatement to say that this could be a disastrous year for the Democrats. Now what’s left is to see how many seats they lose.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Last night on OTR, Greta asked a simple question of Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman about the now-infamous Nebraska Kickback. To his credit, Gov. Heineman gave a straightforward reply. Here’s the relevant portion of the interview:

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, you talk about “all these” special deals, and I take it that you mean, like, all the ones to Florida, to Connecticut. What about to your state alone? Are you willing to give up the…are you willing to say, We don’t want the $100 million in our state, Nebraska?

HEINEMAN: Absolutely. Nebraska doesn’t want a special deal. We only want a fair deal. We’re embarrassed by what’s going on. We’re very surprised. Nebraskans are angry and upset about what occurred. And so they need to set this straight.

I’ve also asked Senator Nelson…I’m going to repeat it again tonight. He has a chance tomorrow to vote no on cloture. That would be the best thing for Nebraska, the best thing for America. Send this bill back to committee. Go home for Christmas and think about it and get it right.

Anyone thinking that Sen. Nelson’s troubles will soon be behind him doesn’t know human nature. According to Frank Luntz, 72 percent of the American people “are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.” Dr. Luntz said that the anger that people are feeling right now is equal to what they felt in 1994.

Back then, huge numbers of voters felt like Congress didn’t represent them, that Congress essentially ignored them. Another similarity between then and now is that people feel like politicians only hear the things said inside the Beltway echochamber. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s apparent that Sen. Nelson went looking for a deal with Sen. Reid so he could rationalize his support for the bill. It’s apparent that Sen. Nelson was counting on the goodies to buy off the resentment coming from his constituents. Nebraskans figured out that those goodies don’t mean a thing because they’re going to pay higher insurance premiums and their taxes are getting raised.

I’m betting, too, that Sen. Nelson wasn’t expecting Gov. Heineman and Sen. Johanns to react as strongly as they did. You can tell that because Sen. Nelson’s speech on the Senate floor was totally defensive. He tried rationalizing his actions. He tried telling Nebraskans that this was a good deal for them.

During the course of his radio interviews yesterday, Nebraskans told him that the few trinkets given to the government wouldn’t help them pay higher insurance premiums and higher taxes. Sen. Nelson essentially misread Nebraskans. They’re a fiscally conservative state. They aren’t as gullible as Sen. Nelson needed them to be. He needed them to think that a few trinkets would distract their attention.

Nebraskans, led by Gov. Heineman, emphatically responded by telling Sen. Nelson that they didn’t want any part of his bribe. In 2012, they’ll emphatically respond by giving Sen. Nelson an election night surprise retirement party.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative


Romney: We need to invest more into R & D, make the tax cuts permanent, “stop the housing crisis” & reduce our dependence on oil.
McCain: Some jobs aren’t coming back, Education is key for those who’ve lost jobs. We aren’t heading for a recession.
CWallace: What about shortterm?
McCain: Cut gov’t. spending. He’s dissing South Carolinians by talking about Michigan alot. Otherwise nondescript answer.

As expected, Ron Paul gave the wierdest answer, saying that we’re in a recession, then saying that “we don’t know when it’ll come.” Then he dug his hole deeper, saying that we’ve delayed a serious recession.

Fred had a great answer, saying that he’ll defend Rudy’s tax cut plan because “it sounds an awful lot like the plan I introduced months ago.” He then stated that revenues are always more than the so-called experts predict before saying that “we’ve got too many two-handed economists”, saying on the one hand this, on the other hand that.

McCain should get off the climate change kick. That isn’t a selling point with conservatives.

Health Care/Abortion Rights question to Mitt:

Mitt: That wasn’t my decision. The courts mandated that coverage. “My term as governor was decidedly pro life.” (WRONG!!! As I said here, Gov. Romney knew about that decision before signing the bill. He put a higher priority on the signing the health care bill than on preserving life.)

Huckster talks about rebuilding the Reagan coalition, denying he said it was dead. Immediately following that, Fred jumps in with “a bigger point to make.” Fred then says that Huckster got the NEA endorsement because “he’d veto a bill for school vouchers. Fred then says that Huckabee has a liberal vision of foreign policy of blame America first. Fred then said that Huckabee has said that he’d sign a federal ban on smoking. “So much for federalism and states rights.” Fred also got in a great shot on Huckabee for wanting to “close down Gitm”, giving terrorists access to our courts. That’ll leave a mark in South Carolina.

Huckabee’s brightest spot was in saying that he trusted the Navy commanders in their handling of the incident in the Straits. Fred had a brilliant moment, first sayign that he agreed with “the Governor”, then saying if the Iranians “had taken one more step, I think we would’ve introduced them to those virgins they’re always talking about.” After a huge roar of applause, Fred then showed his expertise, saying that the Revolutionary Guard clearly was in charge and that “they’ll be more frisky.”

On the subject of Pakistan, Chris Wallace asked what a Thompson administration would do, especially with polls showing support for Musharraf dropping & people wanting us to cut off aid to Pakistan’s military.

Fred: Go against a poll? Nobody does that, do they? Then getting serious, Fred says that stabilizing Pakistan is our highest priority because it’s the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons. Fred said that calling for Musharraf’s resignation was irresponsible, asking replace him with who? He also says that we need to pressure Musharraf to go after terrorists in tribal regions more.

Finally Immigration:

Huckabee gave the worst answer, saying “It isn’t our job to round up those who are here illegally and put them at the back of the line.
McCain’s answer was little better, saying that comprehensive immigration didn’t pass because We The People didn’t trust government. He’s right about that but it goes much deeper than that. We The People rose up because the bill sucked.
Fred’s answer that we “need to be a nation of high fences and wide gates and only we get to decide when to open those gates.” Fred then described his plan of enforcement through attrition. He’d eliminate sanctuary cities. If they refused to cooperate with the feds, then they’d lose fed discretionary spending money.

Overall, I thought Fred won because he was engaged, gave flawless policy answers and did a great job of drawing contrasts with Huckabee. Huckabee didn’t have a good night. Fred ridiculed his foreign policy for sounding like a Democrat (it does.) and for his wanting to close Gitmo.

I thought Mitt was ok when he got the chance to answer but he wasn’t asssertive or confident.

McCain was solid in terms of his national security answers but it’s obvious that his positions on immigration and climate change aren’t helping him with conservatives. His entire strategy is to win independents. After South Carolina, that’s a failed strategy. Even in South Carolina, every independent he picks up means another conservative he doesn’t appeal to.

UPDATE: I agree with Hugh tonight:

Fred had a great night, Mitt a good one and Rudy did fine as well.

Senator McCain struggled, especially on the question of what to do if recession arrives, when he channeled Herbert Hoover and spoke only about cutting spending. His talk of global warming was a bright red flag to conservatives, and his repeating of his “change” answer from Sunday night, that he helped change the policy in Iraq, underscored the impression that he was running through some talking points he understands to be safe. “Not for profit, but for patriotism” was another example of a recycled rhetoric from Sunday. His answer on deferring to captains-at-sea was a strong point, but that was the only one. His halting and often rambling answers and occasional grimaces and winks just don’t work on television, and his immigration answers just don’t fly. He has had three sub-par debate performances in a row.

The huge loser tonight was Mike Huckabee, thanks largely to Fred and Chris Wallace who peeled the bark off of Huck’s ideology. Huck bristled at Wallace at one point, and when pushed on why he raised taxes and spending, barked back, “I raised expectations.” That might work with Democrats, though it probably doesn’t in this day and age, but it sure doesn’t work with Republican voters. Huck’s whining about the religion question was also off-putting coming from a candidate who has so often injected religion into this campaign.

Fred, Rudy and Mitt are clearly the best thinkers on stage, though they’re both more liberal than Fred. McCain’s schtick is rehearsed. It doesn’t work on TV. As I said earlier, McCain’s strange affection to global warming isn’t winning him conservative votes.

UPDATE II: Here’s some video of Fred’s strongest moments. First, Fred on the Reagan Coalition:

Then on Iranian aggression:

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

The Bemidji Pioneer reports that Jim Oberstar is still pushing his gas tax increase. They’re also saying that “a change in public opinion is needed”:

From rural highways used to haul grain to the heavily traveled interstate system, the country must invest more to maintain and expand its infrastructure to remain competitive in a global economy, said U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn.

Also, officials said, a change in public opinion is needed because people tend only to care about infrastructure issues when they are affected by a transportation problem, such as the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse.

“We’re not making the investments we need, in neither the public sector nor the private sector, to keep up with the demand on our system that our economy is creating,” Oberstar said during a Monday forum sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies.

Oberstar, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said without constant investment, the country will see a deterioration of its roadways, even as they become more important to the economy.

“We’re going to need more revenue. There’s no question about it,” he said.

The task facing transportation officials mainly is to find new revenue sources, said Bud Shuster, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and House transportation committee chairman. He said a variety of options must be considered, including a gasoline tax increase and toll road systems in which the proceeds are used to maintain and expand highways.

“The problem is money,” Shuster said.

Bud Shuster was the House Transportation Committee Chairman that passed a pork-laden Highway Bill in 2005. To have him say that “the problem is money” is appalling. The problem isn’t money; the problem is politicians like Rep. Shuster and Rep. Oberstar whose waste of taxpayers’ money is robbing legislatures of the money needed to maintain roads and bridges.

I’ve said before that the earmarks that the Shusters and Oberstars of the world need to dramatically reduce the amount of money spent on earmarks. It’s galling to hear them say that We The People need to change. That’s wrong-headed thinking. They need to change. They need to stop piling $24 billion worth of earmarks into Highway Bills. They need to stop funding Bridges to Nowhere with those earmarks. They need to stop using the Highway Trust Fund to build bike trails and interpretive centers.

They shouldn’t even talk about a federal gas tax increase until they’ve changed their wasteful habits. It isn’t likely that they’ll change until We The People make it known loudly, consistently and persistently that we won’t tolerate their wasteful ways. We The People need to start making noise about that change in Washington mentality ASAP.

Communicating with the public is important to building support for costly highway projects, said Tim Martin, a former Illinois transportation secretary.

“Find out what the public wants. Give the public what they want. Tell the public that you’re giving it to them. Remind them that you gave it to them,” Martin said. “And, celebrate your successes.”

Mr. Martin isn’t aware that the Heartland definition of success is dramatically different than the Washington definition of success. The Washington definition of success is usually measured in whether it helped them win re-election. The Heartland definition of success is always measured in whether our roads and bridges are properly maintained.

Our definition is the definition that matters because Congress works for us.

I’d bet that Martin doesn’t realize what he said. Think about the implications to his saying “Find out what the public wants. Give the public what they want. Tell the public that you’re giving it to them.”

My friend King doesn’t mince words when he hears transportation advocates talking about needs. King’s said numerous times that advocates use very subjective criteria to define needs. Martin doesn’t even pretend to worry about needs. Leaders don’t give “the public what they want.” They tell them what needs fixing, then they fix the things that need fixing.

I wonder what would happen if we started a campaign that asked every congressman nationwide to sign a pledge saying that they wouldn’t propose earmarks? I’d bet that John Murtha and Jim Oberstar would have eruptions. That alone makes it worthwhile.

Another thing we should do is get Derek Brigham to design “It’s the Spending Stupid” bumper stickers, then have organizations like the Taxpayers League and the Chamber of Commerce buy and distribute them to anyone that wants these bumper stickers.

On the big picture, Oberstar’s and Shuster’s statements are additional proof that Washington is totally out of touch with real people. That makes it all the more important that we flood their email inboxes with ‘doses of reality’ that tells them that wasting our money isn’t acceptable.

My question to you is simple: Are you willing to join me in this fight? All it takes is for all of us to step forward and send a clear, unambiguous message to Washington.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative