Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jackass George

Don't mention the president: how Republicans hope to stay in power

Bush factor is proving a negative for voters and candidates along the campaign trail

Suzanne Goldenberg in Phoebus, Virginia
Tuesday October 17, 2006
The Guardian


Congresswoman Thelma Drake at a parade in Phoebus, Virginia
Congresswoman Thelma Drake at a parade in Phoebus, Virginia. Photograph: Jocelyn Augustino


The congresswoman curls her bare toes into the white leather seat of a Lincoln stretch convertible, and leans back to wave at the crowd lining the parade route, basking in the warm autumn sun and the attention of the two small grandsons riding in the car with her.

It rarely gets as good as this on the campaign trail for Thelma Drake, a first-term Republican member of Congress fighting for her political survival in the November 7 midterm elections. This was supposed to have been one of the safest seats in the country. "Borderline of vicious, that's how it's been," said her husband, Ted Drake.

The 2nd congressional district of Virginia is deeply conservative terrain. It is home to the world's largest naval base, and more than 20% of the population is military, on active duty or retired. George Bush carried 58% of the vote here in 2004. Ms Drake took her seat with a 10-point margin, and that was as a last-minute replacement for a conservative Republican who resigned after being outed as gay.

But in this election season, where opinion polls and analysts suggest the Republicans are in serious peril of losing control of the House of Representatives, the president is now seen as a liability for Republicans like Ms Drake who are in tight races. Mr Bush's image has been scrubbed from Republican television ads in all but the most secure districts - although he is everywhere in Democratic attack ads. When he goes out on the campaign trail, it's for closed door high-ticket fundraisers, with a guaranteed friendly crowd.

But even that was too much exposure for Ms Drake. The congresswoman was so nervous about being seen in public with an unpopular president that she stayed behind in Washington when Mr Bush visited the district last summer for a $5,000 (£2,700) a plate fundraiser.

Ms Drake's biggest challenge remains deflecting charges from her Democratic challenger, Phil Kellam, that she is a rubber stamp for the White House. "They are trying to say that I vote for President Bush all the time, but if I disagree with President Bush I don't go along with that," she insisted.

Mr Kellam is scornful. "She just blindly follows the president and hasn't asked the tough questions," he said.

Such exchanges are being played out in dozens of congressional districts across America in an increasingly competitive election. Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, believes as many as 50 seats could change hands in these elections, of which 42 are held by Republicans. For Ms Drake and others who are locked in tight races, being seen with Mr Bush is just not worth the risk.

With the president's approval ratings hovering in the low to mid-30s, many Republican candidates are finding it necessary to dissociate themselves from Mr Bush. "Republicans are trying to run not as Republicans, not as surrogates for Bush, they are trying to run as themselves," said Stuart Rothenburg, who publishes a well-regarded political newsletter in Washington.

Ms Drake was not the only candidate to flee when the president came to call. (In her defence, Ms Drake said she stayed behind to vote on a bill that would direct projects to her district. The bill passed 395-0).

Michael Steele, who is running for a Senate seat in Maryland, left for Las Vegas when Mr Bush visited his state for a fundraiser. Tom Kean, who is running for the Senate in New Jersey, did not go to those extremes - but he made sure not to turn up at his fundraiser until the president had left.

"I think the country is upset with the president. It's making Republican races throughout the country very tough," said Tom Gear, the local representative to the Virginia house of delegates, who is also a Republican.

Republicans are also giving a wide berth to their party leadership in the House of Representatives following reports that the speaker, Dennis Hastert, tolerated for years the behaviour of a Florida congressman who made sexual overtures towards teenage congressional pages. Would Ms Drake welcome a campaign swing by Mr Hastert in the final heat of the campaign? "That is something we have to decide, whether he can do an appearance," she said. "We are down to a time crunch."

While Republicans such as Ms Drake may be camera shy when Mr Bush is around, they continue to rely on the campaign funds that the president and the house leadership can provide. Mr Bush has personally raised more than $180m for candidates this year, and his White House is more actively engaged in the congressional elections than any other in recent memory.

If Republican candidates need to step away from the administration to win re-election, Mr Bush, it appears, is willing to turn the other cheek. The disavowals of Mr Bush are a radical departure from the 2002 congressional elections. In those midterm elections, 20% of Republican candidates relied on images of Mr Bush in their campaign ads, said Joel Rivlin, of the University of Wisconsin project on political advertising.

This time around, Republicans are keen to flaunt their independence. In Minnesota, Mark Kennedy, a Republican fighting for a seat in the Senate, has gone out of his way to point out his disagreements with the White House. "I am not afraid to work for the other side," his ads say.

In Pennsylvania, Republican congressman Jim Gerlach has run ads claiming: "When I believe President Bush is right, I'm behind him. But when I think he is wrong, I let him know that."

Other candidates have tried a stealth approach by removing references to the Republican party in television advertisements. When it comes to posting pictures of Republican leaders on their websites, they are careful to choose mavericks such as the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, and the Arizona senator John McCain.

Some candidates have stayed away from humans altogether. In Maryland, Mr Steele tried to pre-empt Democratic attacks on his proximity to Mr Bush by appearing with a puppy in his arms.

The tactic didn't work. The Democrats snapped back immediately with a television ad showing Mr Steele and Mr Bush, locked together within a heart-shaped frame. "Michael Steele. He likes puppies, but he loves George Bush," the voiceover said.

Explainer: The crucial seats

At stake in the congressional mid-term elections on November 7 are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 33 Senate seats, and 36 governorships.

In the house, the Republicans hold 231 seats, the Democrats 202. The one independent usually votes with the Democrats. One seat is vacant. The Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to win the house, and more than 40 Republican seats are thought vulnerable, compared with nine Democrat. The battlegrounds are in the east: Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, New York and Florida.

In the Senate there are 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one independent. Of the 33 up for election, 15 are Republican-held, 17 Democrat, and the independent seat, Vermont, is almost certain to go Democrat. The Democrats must make a net gain of six seats to win. There are eight vulnerable Republicans: in Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arizona. The Democrats' most vulnerable seat is in New Jersey.

The Republicans have 28 governors, the Democrats 22. Of those up for election the Republicans have the most to lose. Five states seem to have slipped from their grasp - New York, Ohio, Arkansas, Colorado and Massachusetts. Maryland, Nevada and Minnesota could go either way. Democrats are in danger in Iowa, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Interactive guide to the midterms




Special report
United States of America

World news guide
North American media

Media
New York Times
Washington Post
CNN

Government
US government portal
White House
Senate
House of Representatives


The above article and links found here from UK The Guardian

* * * *

Bush lied, kids died. If Bush answered serious questions truthfully, would he be worried? Or, since he suspended Habeas Corpus (click here for post), made the US Constitution Null and Void, and gave himself and others immunity for War Crimes, retroactively, would he just now have his critics jailed without a release date and Torture De Jour?

The War is on You (Click Here for post)



* * * *

In time for the 2008 US elections?:

Stone plans Afghan invasion film
Oliver Stone
Stone's other films include Nixon, Wall Street and Salvador
Director Oliver Stone is to follow up his 9/11 drama World Trade Center with a film about the subsequent US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The film will be partly based on a CIA officer's best-selling book Jawbreaker, which also chronicles the hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Stone has aroused controversy with films including Platoon and JFK.

But the film-maker told Variety magazine that the new movie would be "compelling drama, not a polemic".

Jawbreaker, by CIA officer Gary Berntsen, includes the suggestion that the US bungled a chance to find Bin Laden.

World Trade Center, which tells the story of two police officers trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, received largely favourable reviews in the US.

Stone has called it "the least political film I've made".

The 60-year-old won best director Oscars for Born on the Fourth of July and Platoon, and a best screenplay honour for Midnight Express.

The above from the BBC, found here on the web

* * * *

More posts, Click Here: http://starkravingviking.blogspot.com/

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


Hit Counter