Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Dominant, SC's Haley Heads To Runoff

| Tue Jun. 8, 2010 9:32 PM EDT

Suspiciously timed allegations of extramarital affairs in the weeks before tonight's primary couldn't stop Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Endorsed by Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin, Haley all but swept aside the salacious claims of infidelity made by a conservative blogger and South Carolina political consultant, and scored a dominant victory tonight. Forty-nine percent of Republican voters chose her, while the next highest vote-getter, Rep. Grisham Barrett, received less than half that, with 22 percent support.

But would Haley have reached or surpassed the 50 percent mark without the affair allegations? If she'd cleared this hurdle, she would've surpassed the threshold requiring a run-off vote against the number two candidate in the primary. Instead, Barrett will challenge Haley, a Barrett aide tells Politico, in a June 22 run-off to decide who gets the South Carolina GOP's nomination for the fall election.

Obviously, Haley would've rather won outright in today's primary and avoided a few weeks of intraparty battling. Worse yet, the 14 days between now and the Haley-Barrett face-off will give the second-place candidate more time to harp on the allegations that dogged Haley in the past two weeks. Then again, if Haley had surpassed 50 percent, she'd likely face similar questions from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen, who won today's primary with 59 percent of the votes.

On one hand, Haley's victory is a high-profile win for female candidates on a night in which we'll likely see victories from California's Meg Whitman, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, and Carly Fiorina, a GOP US Senate candidate. Both powerful executives turned Republican politicians, Whitman and Fiorina entered today's primaries leading in the polls, and have a good shot at claiming their respective GOP candidacies.

On the other, as National Democratic Governors Association director Nathan Daschle has said (via Real Clear Politics), Haley's victory is just as much a win for Democrats: "Democrats are the clear winner in both tonight's primaries. The divisive, ugly GOP primary has done nothing but turn off voters who are tired with politics-as-usual. The next two weeks promise a race to the bottom as Nikki Haley and Gresham Barrett battle it out for the nomination."

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Few Show Up for Wacky Maine Race

| Tue Jun. 8, 2010 7:12 PM EDT

Tonight's Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries in Maine are about as wide open as these kinds of elections get. Here's what I reported yesterday on Maine's comically diffuse primaries:

On the blue side, the frontrunner by the slimmest of margins is state Sen. Libby Mitchell with 13 percentage points, followed by former state attorney general Steve Rowe (12 points), businesswoman Rosa Scarcelli (7 points), and Maine conservation department commissioner Patrick McGowan (6 points).

In the Republican primary, the field is even more fragmented. Businessman (and former Boston Red Sox vice president) Les Otten leads the way with 17 points—a 7-point gap over his nearest competitor, Paul LePage, mayor of Waterville. Rounding out the rest of the Republican slate, all with single-digit support, are state Sen. Peter Mills, education executive Bill Beardsley, businessman Bruce Poliquin, and Matt Jacobson, who heads a Maine job creation organization. Whew.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is this: The undecided comprise 62 percent of Democratic primary voters and 47 percent of GOPers. When Maine voters show up tomorrow, there's no telling who'll take the nominations.

Now, with the polls closed, the latest news in Maine's primaries is that voter turnout is expected to—not surprisingly—be quite low. Maine's secretary of state told the Associated Press he's expecting a turnout of just 20 percent. That throws the results of today's Maine primaries further into flux, with so few votes spread across an array of challengers, each separated by a few percentage points in the polls. When the votes are all counted later tonight, whoever does come out on top will likely do so by squeaking out the narrowest of victories.

On Obama Scandals, Public Shrugs

| Tue Jun. 8, 2010 2:48 PM EDT

Remember the supposed White House "scandals" in which Obama administration officials tried to get two Democratic politicians, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) and Colorado's Andrew Romanoff, to drop their respective US Senate bids by offering them other jobs? If you answered "No," shrugged your shoulders, or just don't care, then you're likely among the 44 percent of voters, according to a new Rasmussen poll, who say such offers are standard operating procedure for Washington. Only 19 percent of those polled said they saw anything unusual about the Sestak and Romanoff snafus. "While politicians profess to be shocked at the job offers, voters see business as usual," Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, said.

Now, that's not to say the two events mean nothing to voters. According to the poll, 62 percent of respondents said the White House's efforts to get Sestak and Romanoff to ditch their Senate campaigns would be somewhat important to how they vote this fall. (Only 32 percent said the White House's gaffes will have a major impact on how they vote.) The public's view of the Obama administration's ethics also took a hit from the Sestak-Romanoff flub: 40 percent believe the Obama White House is less ethical than most of its predecessors, while just over 30 percent say Obama and co. are more ethical.

What's certain is that, on voters' priority lists, Dropout-gate isn't anywhere near the top. Any candidate railing the administration's supposed ethics lapses—and not economic or national security issues, which huge majorities list as their top priority—should just, well, drop out now. Word on the street is the White House is hiring.

Could BP Derail Economic Recovery?

| Mon Jun. 7, 2010 9:04 AM EDT

Not only is BP's 49-day-old oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico the worst in US history, its after-effects—especially the moratorium on offshore drilling instituted by President Obama in May—could lead to a crippling economic disaster in the Gulf Coast region, if not the country. In a worst-case scenario, if the spill continues to shut down local industry deep into this fall, experts in the Gulf coast region say the Deepwater Horizon calamity could pave the way for a double-dip recession.

Among the sectors facing shutdown stemming from Obama's moratorium are Louisiana's oil and gas, fishing, and tourism industries. Yet, as NPR's John Ydstie reported today, the woes of those industries will ripple throughout Gulf Coast states' economies, hurting everyone from tug boat captains, boat engine repairmen, hotel operators, to bar owners. As Ydstie reported, the oil and gas industry makes up 16 percent of Louisiana's GDP; tourism and fishing comprise 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The state's economic development organization estimates that 20,000 jobs could be lost, and the Tulane University Energy Institute went so far as to say that the spill's economic reverberations could cause a double-dip recession. (Analysts with Moody's Economy.com denied that claim, NPR's Ydstie says.) "Guys that sell maintenance and repairs, guys that sell engines—there's lots of banks out there who only loan money to the oil and gas sector," Shane Guidry, chairman and CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine, told NPR. "They're going to be affected. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. Carmakers—people won't be buying cars, houses...They won't have jobs to pay for it."

All of this leaves Obama in a nasty pickle. He had practically no choice, in the spill's aftermath, but to place a temporary moratorium on offshore drilling. (Though that hasn't completely stopped the practice.) But in doing so, he risks partly undermining his own efforts to stabilize the economy and add jobs to the workforce each month—not eliminate them. And job creation, at least in the private sector, is something the president's having enough trouble with already. Obama has said he would consider ending the moratorium early based on the findings of a commission studying the spill, but if he does, the move will certainly rile up environmental groups who want an end to offshore drilling altogether. He's stuck between a rock and a hard place, with few good options anywhere he looks.

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