The Revenge of Aqua Buddha

Democratic candidate Jack Conway looked like he was gaining ground on Republican Rand Paul in the Kentucky senate race, but then he launched a controversial ad attacking Paul for being disrespectful of Christianity by invoking the name of Aqua Buddha — a reference to a bizarre college prank involving Paul, though the exact details are in dispute. The ad drew widespread criticism, even among liberal commentators. Our own Jim Antle wrote about the issue here.

Today, a pair of polls suggest that Conway’s infamous Aqua Buddha ad has backfired, with Paul now opening up a lead of 7 points in one and 13 points in another.

If we learn one thing from the 2010 elections, it’s don’t mess with Aqua Buddha.

What Pelosi and Boehner’s Election Night Plans Tell Us

While Republicans have announced that they want to be cautious not to repeat the celebratory images of Democrats partying in 2006 given the economic environment, it’s clear by their choice of venue for their election evening gathering that they’re gearing up for a much bigger night than Democrats. 

You can tell a lot about a political party’s expectations based on how they plan to spend election night. I remember noticing this back in 2006, after spending the earlier part of that election evening at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in DC, where a handful of reporters gathered and Elizabeth Dole would pop down every few hours to chat. Then, later in the evening, I wandered over to the Hyatt Regency where Democrats had rented out a massive ballroom, and Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Rahm Emanuel and Harry Reid took the stage with a rock star reception from the audience.

However, ABC reports that this time Nancy Pelosi is expected to attent a “Speaker’s Cabinet Election Watch Reception” at the Liaison Hotel, a boutique hotel on Capitol Hill with a total of 10,000 square feet of event and meeting space, according to its website. By contrast, John Boehner will be at a Republican gathering at the downtown Grand Hyatt, which boasts 42,000 square feet of event space plus an additional 7,609 square feet of prefunction space.

So, whether you choose to look at the generic ballot, polling in individual races, or the political parties’ election night plans, the story remains the same. Next Tuesday is likely to be a big day for Republicans.

Dem FL Gov. Candidate Alex Sink Breaks Rules During Debate

Political reporters are used to getting deluged by emails making all sorts of claims and counter claims following a debate. So when I started getting emails sent to me about how Florida Democratic governor candidate Alex Sink “cheated” during her debate last night with Republican nominee Rick Scott, I was skeptical at first. Remember, for instance, the theory about the “mystery bulge” in President Bush’s back that conspiracy mongers claimed as evidence he was getting messages radioed to him during a debate with John Kerry. But in the case of Alex Sink, it turns out she did actually break the rules of the debate by accepting a text message from a staffer giving her advice during one of the commercial breaks. CNN, which hosted the debate, posted the video with additional details here.

Sink subsequently fired the staffer who sent the text message and tried to play dumb, but the damage has already been done to her candidacy. Sink and Scott spent the evening trading barbs over who could be trusted, but this incident severely undermines her credibility. The very best defense you can make about Sink is that this incident displays incompetence and suggests she doesn’t have the proper management skills even to control her own staff. And the sheer novelty of the story will likely ensure it gets a lot of play.

Obamaflation Watch

Just weeks into the Obama administration, I wrote about how runaway spending could combine with a stagnant economy to lead to severe inflation. 

With the Fed expected to inject more money into the economy by buying up bonds when it meets next week, inflationary expectations are on the rise in the bond market.

As a result, for the first time ever on Monday, the government sold inflation-protected bonds for a negative yield. As the Wall Street Journal put it in layman’s terms: “This suggests investors are so terrified of inflation that they’re willing to pay the government money every year to buy insurance against it.”

The Fed is currently more concerned about deflation. But as we saw in the 1970s, it’s quite possible to have both a stagnant economy and rampant inflation at the same. And the spending polices of the Obama administration make this more likely, because the federal government has to find buyers for all the debt it’s issuing, or else the Fed will have to to jump in and print more money to purchase it.

To be sure, actual inflation could be years away. But things are certainly trending in that direction.

Deficit Panel and Taxes

The Wall Street Journal reports today President Obama’s fiscal panel is considering a proposal that would scale back tax deductions and credits for mortgage interest, health insurance, and children.

On the surface, it would make sense to eliminate these policies. The mortgage interest deduction is more or less a subsidy to the real estate industry. It’s unfair to those who cannot afford a down payment to purchase property and was a contributing factor to the housing bubble. The child tax credit adds complexity to the tax code. The health insurance deduction perpetuates the employer-based health care system, driving up health spending while limiting choice and portability.

The problem is, none of these changes are being proposed as part of broader reforms to simplify the tax code and improve our health care system. Instead, they’re merely being looked at as a means of raising revenue. Americans for Tax Reform estimates that if not offset, this would translate into an effective tax increase of $2.4 trillion over five years.

Politically, none of these proposals would have a chance of going anywhere in Congress. This is especially true of the mortgage interest deduction, which is extremely popular and the subject of intense lobbying efforts by the real estate industry. With the housing market still weak, it’s unlikely that there would be much of a constituency for ending this subsidy.

Rhode Island’s Dem Gov. Candidate Says Obama “Can Take His Endorsement and Shove It”

The Democratic Party’s nominee for governor of Rhode Island had some harsh words for the President Obama, who has withheld an endorsement in the race because ally Lincoln Chafee is running as an independent.

“I never asked President Obama for his endorsement and what’s going on here is really Washington insider politics at its worst,” nominee Frank Caprio said on a radio interview, ABC News reports. “He can take his endorsement and really shove it as far as I am concerned.”

In 2008, Obama carried Rhode Island by 28 points. The three-way governor’s race this year is currently a dead heat between Chafee and Caprio, with Republican candidate John Robitaille further behind.

Defunding NPR More Politically Viable

Earlier today, I noted Sen. Jim DeMint’s announcement that he plans to introduce legislation to defund both NPR and PBS. While I agree that they should both be defunded, as several commenters remarked, politically speaking, it would probably be easier to pass a standalone bill to defund NPR. 

The problem with targeting PBS is that it’s easy for liberals to portray Republicans as bad guys who want to kill Big Bird and Elmo — which people have warm associations with. I can’t imagine that targeting NPR would create as many PR problems for Republicans. Especially given that NPR only depends on government funding for a small percentage of its budget.

DeMint Says He’ll Introduce Legislation to Defund NPR and PBS

Sen. Jim DeMint on Friday declared that he would introduce a bill to strip taxpayer subsidies of NPR and PBS in the wake of the Jaun Williams firing controversy.

“The incident with Juan Williams reminds us the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree,” he wrote on Twitter. Then, a few minutes later, he added, “I’ll introduce legislation to end taxpayer funding for NPR & PBS.”

In 2005, a similar effort failed in the House by a 284 to 140 vote.

Daschle Sees Defunding as a “Very Serious Threat” to ObamaCare

Tom Daschle, one time nominee to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services and White House health care czar, has said that he sees the prospect of Republican-led defunding efforts as a “very serious threat” to the national health care law.

Asked by Kaiser Health News which aspect of the pushback against ObamaCare worries him the most, Daschle said:

Well, there are three major threats. There’s the legal threat. I’m not too concerned about that. We’ve already seen one decision in Michigan. I’m very hopeful that as we go through the courts and the legal process that we’re going to continue to be sustained and I have reasonable confidence that we will be. I’m not too worried about repeal efforts, because I don’t think those will go anywhere.

I do think defunding is a very serious threat and we have to be concerned about that. And I’m concerned about implementation. We’re electing 37 governors in this cycle. Those governors are going to have a lot to say with regard to the enthusiasm and the success of implementation. Because so much of what happens is going to happen at the state level. Now, we have a fallback position where the federal government can step in if the states don’t do what the law requires. So that fallback gives me some confidence that we’re going to have continuity with implementation.

I wrote about the strategy of defunding ObamaCare should Republicans take at least one chamber of Congress here. Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan told me there were limits to this strategy. And I reviewed Tom Daschle’s new book on ObamaCare here.

ASCME Union is “Big Dog” in 2010 Campaign Spending

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union has emerged as the largest outside spender of the 2010 campaign season, doling out $87.5 million to help elect Democratic candidates, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“We’re the big dog,” Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations, told the WSJ. “But we don’t like to brag.”

Later in the same article, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, declared: “We’re spending big. And we’re damn happy it’s big. And our members are damn happy it’s big–it’s their money.”

The latest revelations blow a hole in several arguments the White House and their liberal allies have been making over the past year.

For all of President Obama’s attacks on the Chamber of Commerce for its political involvement, it turns out that AFSCME has been spending more. And for all of the complaints about the Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United decision paving the way for more corporate influence, it turns out s that three of the top five spenders during this cycle are unions — the others being the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association. And as the article notes, Citizens’ United made it easier for the unions to spend money on elections.

Apparently without a sense of irony House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ramped up the rhetoric against the Chamber of Commerce, telling MSNBC, “They give new meaning to the term ‘Buy American’â€_  they want to buy these elections.” She went on to say that if they win it would mean America was “a plutocracy and oligarchy” and that “Whatever these few wealthy, secret, unlimited sources of money are can control our entire agenda.”

Of course, expenditures by the public sector unions are okay, because they’re only trying to elect members who will keep funneling federal tax dollars to projects that increase their membership, allowing them to spend more on Democrats in future elections.