Political MoJo

Watch Midterm Candidates Mention President Obama More Than 500 Times in Less Than 100 Seconds

| Mon Nov. 3, 2014 11:06 AM EST

The midterms! They're almost over—Dear God, sweet God, merciful God, let them be over soon—but not yet! Tomorrow, the House will be decided and the Senate will be decided and various gubernatorial races will be decided and the Presidency will be deci...what's that? The presidency won't be decided, you say? Not until 2016?

It's true, but it's hard to tell based on what the candidates actually running are saying. "Obama this! Obama that!" They do not like Obama on a train. They do not like him in the rain. The Huffington Post went through the debate transcripts of more than 125 races and found more than 500 references to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This makes a certain bit of sense, because it's obviously easier for both Democrats and Republicans alike to run against the president—who isn't terribly popular at the moment—than to run on whatever issues they would otherwise run on.

Here's the video, which reminds us that although elections certainly mater, the things politicians say in campaigns almost surely don't.

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How to Find Your Polling Place

| Mon Nov. 3, 2014 10:49 AM EST

Tomorrow is Election Day!

Whether it's gun control, the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate, or the mere fact these eight candidates are running in the first place, everyone has a reason to get out the vote. So while we can't tell you who to cast your ballot for, we can tell you how crucial it is for everyone to exercise their civic duties.

Below is an excellent tool developed by The Pew Charitable Trusts and Google to help you do exactly that. See you at the polls!

 

This Tea Partier Wants to Turn a 30-Acre Sinkhole Into a Campaign Issue

| Mon Nov. 3, 2014 10:14 AM EST
Rob Maness.

Tea party Senate candidate Rob Maness has found an issue he believes will resonate with Louisiana voters: a 30-acre, oil-burping sinkhole. During a debate with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu on Tuesday, Maness was asked about a lawsuit over coastal erosion filed against 100 oil and gas companies last spring by a local flood protection board. For too long, the retired Air Force colonel warned, oil, gas, and chemical companies had had their way with Louisiana, with little government oversight and often at great cost to residents: "The families of Bayou Corne—it's been over 600 days since they've been under evacuation."

As I reported last summer, the town of Bayou Corne, in rural Assumption Parish, has been under a mandatory evacuation order since August 2012, when a sinkhole suddenly formed from an abandoned salt-mining cavern. The hole has grown to 30 acres, and the presence of potentially dangerous gases underneath the community—and bubbling on the bayou—has kept residents away. In August, Texas Brine, the company that had capped and abandoned the cavern, settled a class-action lawsuit with 269 residents for $48.1 million, but avoided any acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

Perhaps wary of upsetting Louisiana's powerful oil and gas interests, politicians have largely avoided the sinkhole. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal dropped by for a press conference in 2013, but has never returned. But last month, Maness became the first candidate for statewide office to visit the sinkhole. He's even touting the endorsement of one of the main sources for my story, Bayou Corne resident Mike Schaff:

Maness for Senate

Maness lags behind his two main opponents in the polls, but he will probably fare well enough to ensure that neither Landrieu nor Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy will clear the 50-percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. He has also picked up the endorsement of prominent conservative activists, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Red State founder Erick Erickson—which makes his choice of an environmental disaster as a campaign wedge issue all the more noteworthy.

Happy Halloween From Mitch McConnell and Friends

| Fri Oct. 31, 2014 3:35 PM EDT

Republican lawmakers have been getting in the holiday spirit today by reminding people about their longstanding beef with Obamacare. Senate Republicans put out a list of articles on their website under the headlines "Spooked by higher costs" and "All tricks, no treats".

Oh, there's also a video floating around from the Republican-controlled House Financial Services committee. You can watch it below. It's really, really not scary:

Meet Another GOP Candidate Who's Pretending He's Pro-Choice

| Thu Oct. 30, 2014 9:37 AM EDT

Over the past few weeks, a number of Republican candidates have run deceptive advertisements or used sneaky language to paper over their hardline views on reproductive rights. Pols who've done this include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Senate hopeful Scott Brown in New Hampshire, and Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez. Now you can add another name to the list of pro-life GOPers who are suddenly talking about choice: Oregon's Dennis Richardson.

Richardson, a Republican state representative running for governor, cut an ad (watch it above) featuring a self-described "pro-choice Democrat" named Michelle Horgan. Speaking directly into the camera, Horgan says: "I trust Dennis. He'll uphold Oregon's laws to protect my right to choose, and he'll work hard for Oregon families."

The language in Richardson's ad—"He'll uphold Oregon's laws to protect my right to choose"—hews closely to the rhetoric used by Walker, Brown, and Beauprez. All of those Republicans have previously sought to restrict women's reproductive rights (Walker supports eliminating all abortions). But during this election season, they have each tried to strike a moderate tone on the issue.

Richardson's ad is particularly brazen given his long record of opposing abortion rights. He wrote a letter to the Oregonian in 1990 saying that "a woman relinquishes her unfettered right to control her own body when her actions cause the conception of a baby." As a state legislator, he sponsored legislation to give unborn fetuses the rights of humans and to require parental notification for abortions. In 2007, he voted against mandating that hospitals offer emergency contraception to women who have been sexually assaulted.

What's more, Richardson has the endorsement and full-throated support of Oregon Right to Life, the state's main anti-abortion-rights group. Oregon Right to Life's PAC has donated $80,000 to Richardson's campaign. (Right to Life's $50,000 check in September remains the fourth-largest cash contribution of Richardson's entire campaign.) In an email blast to its list, the group touted Richardson as "an excellent gubernatorial candidate" who, if elected, would offer the "opportunity to reclaim political ground and hopefully start changing the way Oregon politics treat the abortion issue. We might actually be able to end our 'reign' as the only state in America lacking a single restriction on abortion."

No mistaking that message: In Richardson, the pro-life community sees an opportunity to finally start curbing abortion access in the state of Oregon. But you probably won't see that message in Richardson's campaign ads any time soon.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 30, 2014

Thu Oct. 30, 2014 9:28 AM EDT

The USS George HW Bush travels through the Gulf of Aden after supporting strike operations in Iraq and Syria. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

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Attack Ad Accuses Democratic Governor of Wanting to Set a Mass Murderer Free

| Wed Oct. 29, 2014 4:11 PM EDT

A man's life literally hangs in the balance in this year's governor's race in Colorado. As I explained earlier this month, Republican candidate Bob Beauprez has singled out a death row inmate by name and promised to ensure that he will be killed. "When I'm governor, Nathan Dunlap will be executed," Beauprez has said.

Dunlap was convicted and sentenced to death in 1996 for murdering four of his Chuck E. Cheese coworkers. But when his execution date neared last year, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a stay, though he refrained from offering permanent reprieve. Hickenlooper backed capital punishment in his 2010 campaign, but has since become an opponent, citing studies demonstrating the death penalty is not an effective deterrent, the cost of executions, and evidence showing it is inconsistently applied. The governor has also expressed qualms about Dunlap's mental illness and regrets jurors expressed about the case after sentencing.

The Republican Governors Association has joined Beauprez's cause in criticizing Hickenlooper for keeping Dunlap alive. The RGA recruited the father of one of Dunlap's victims to star in an ad and call Hickenlooper a "coward" who should be voted out of office. "There's not a day that goes by, I don't think about her," Dennis O’Connor says, looking right at the camera. "You thought you got your day in court and your justice, and I feel most of us were robbed of that."

Here's the ad, which the RGA has reportedly backed with $2 million worth of airtime:

Hickenlooper's campaign has called foul, saying the ad should be pulled for airing false information. At one point the ad suggests that Hickenlooper might "set him free." While Hickenlooper has said he would consider making the temporary reprieve permanent if he loses the race, that would just keep Dunlap off death row and reduce his sentence to life in prison. Hickenlooper isn't about to set Dunlap free to roam the streets of Denver.

The Denver Post, which is cited as the source for the RGA's disputed claim, published an editorial on Tuesday calling the ad's claims "preposterous" and misleading. As the editorial board wrote, "The article in question says no such thing about the possible release of Dunlap, no doubt because freedom for Dunlap is unthinkable."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 29, 2014

Wed Oct. 29, 2014 8:57 AM EDT

US Marines and sailors board a flight out of Afghanistan as all personnel withdraw from the region. (US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson)

Elizabeth Warren Challenges Chris Christie for the Science Behind His Ebola Quarantine

| Tue Oct. 28, 2014 1:46 PM EDT

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is demanding Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) reveal the science behind his controversial decision to place all health care workers returning back from Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone to be placed under a mandatory quarantine. Spoiler alert: the science does not exist.

"He should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that, because we know that we want to be led by science," Warren said Tuesday during an appearance on CBS's This Morning.

"That’s what’s going to keep people safe,” she added. “Science, not politics."

Warren, who was promoting her book A Fighting Chance, was responding to a question about Christie's earlier comments in which he defended the mandatory quarantine against claims the policy is draconian.

"I don’t think it’s draconian,” Christie said on the Today show. "The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we are not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change."

Warren's criticism joins a widening chorus of politicians–both on the right and left–and health officials who have slammed Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) for placing involuntary quarantines in their respective states over the weekend after the first Ebola outbreak in New York City surfaced last Thursday.

Both governors have been accused of playing politics at the expense of basic human rights–Christie hoping to recall the image of an unapologetic, bipartisan leader in times of crisis (a la Sandy); Cuomo hoping to exert any level of control.

On Monday, in light of the newly implemented quarantines, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention unveiled a new set of federal guidelines for local governments to adopt.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also released a statement praising medical officials as "exceptional people." Alluding to Christie and Cuomo's policies, Ban admonished against "restrictions that are not based on science."

(h/t Mediate)

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 28

Tue Oct. 28, 2014 12:50 PM EDT

A US Army soldier plunges into the water in his parachute during a combat water survival test. (US Army photo by Capt. Thomas Cieslak)