tipsheet
Christine Rousselle - Polls in Maine Gubernatorial Election Show Close Race
Posted: 9/22/2014 9:10:00 PM EST

Current Maine Governor Paul LePage won the 2010 election on the slimmest of margins, with just 38.2 percent of the vote in a competitive three-way race. This time around, he's up for re-election against Democrat challenger and U.S. Representative Mike Michaud and independent candidate Eliot Cutler, and polls are showing that the 2014 election is likely going to be another nail biter.

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Current polls show Michaud with a scant +1.7 lead, although a series of CBS/NYT/YouGov polls had LePage up by a point. If Michaud is elected, he will be the first openly gay U.S. governor.

Maine is an unusual state when it comes to gubernatorial elections, and has a strong tradition of viable third-party candidates. Since 1970 there have only been two gubernatorial elections in which the victor received over 50 percent of the votes.

In 2010, Democrat candidate Libby Mitchell effectively played spoiler to left-leaning independent Cutler's bid for the Blaine House, but Cutler has failed to garner the same level of support this election cycle.

Things could get very interesting as November gets nearer.

Ky Sisson - WATCH: Boehner's 5 Points for Resetting America's Economic Foundation in 3 Minutes
Posted: 9/22/2014 6:00:00 PM EST

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) lays out 5 points he believes will restore America's economic foundation and put the United States on the right track for several generations.

This event was held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.

Daniel Doherty - Report: Secret Service Weighing Security Changes After Break-in
Posted: 9/22/2014 5:15:00 PM EST

Last week, an Iraq War veteran, allegedly with PTSD, hopped the White House fence wielding a three-and-a-half inch pocketknife. The break-in was captured on camera and, alarmingly, the perpetrator made it all the way inside the building before he was taken into custody. Thankfully, the first family was not at home at the time of the breach -- but many of the protocols put in place to prevent against dangerous and malicious actors from accessing the White House were not followed. This failure in communication and judgment is reportedly leading top brass at the Secret Service to weigh sweeping policy changes that will ensure something like this never happens again (via the NYT):

The Secret Service is considering screening tourists and other visitors at checkpoints before they enter the public areas in front of the White House in response to the episode Friday in which a man with a knife managed to get through the front door of the president’s home after jumping over the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to law enforcement officials. As part of the screening, the Secret Service would establish several checkpoints a few blocks from the White House, the officials said. The screening would likely be limited to bag checks and not include measures taken at airports by the Transportation Security Administration, which include metal detectors and body scans.

Along with giving Secret Service agents and uniformed Secret Service officers a chance to check for explosives and weapons in bags, the screening would allow them to interact with the visitors and try to identify those who may pose a problem, the officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation or security measures under consideration.

In all honesty, how could this happen? That’s pretty much what everybody is asking. This man not only breached the fence; he made it inside. How?

As noted above, one reason, it seems, is because standard operating procedures were inexplicably abandoned:

According to officials briefed on the review, one of the biggest questions senior Secret Service officials want answered is why officers on the grounds did not deploy attack dogs that are specifically trained to stop intruders, even those sprinting across the White House lawn. At all times, there are several muzzled Belgian Malinois on the White House grounds, officials said. The early assessment by senior agency officials is that the dog handlers should have quickly removed the muzzles and unleashed the dogs.

Agency officials are also puzzled as to why the guard at the front door of the White House did not follow procedure and lock the door as soon as an alarm signaled that someone had breached the fence.

“[I]n my wildest dreams," David Axelrod said today on MSNBC, "I never imagined that someone could do what this guy did.”

For what it's worth, I'm sure most Americans feel the exact same way.

Guy Benson - US Census Data: Uninsured Rate…Increased in 2014?
Posted: 9/22/2014 4:05:00 PM EST

Wait, what? We've expressed a healthy skepticism of the administration's "official" enrollment numbers, and for good reason -- but even I must admit to being a bit flummoxed by the United States Census Bureau's new findings that America's uninsured population increased in 2014 over 2013.  That data, via Phil Kerpen:


A separate government metric indicated that the uninsured population has decreased by 3.8 million overall, which falls far short of the administration's alleged numbers, but is at least an uptick.  Writing at Forbes, policy analyst Joseph Antos delves into the numbers:


This week’s double-barreled release of government statistics on health insurance coverage leaves us with only one question: How many Americans are insured because of Obamacare? Remarkably, the two highly regarded government surveys released this week do not even agree whether the number of uninsured increased or decreased. The survey that received a great deal of attention said there were 3.8 million fewer uninsured. The other, which was hardly noticed, found that there were 1.3 million more uninsured…The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported preliminary results on the expansion of health insurance coverage. Its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) interviewed 27,000 people in the first three months of this year. The survey estimates that the number of uninsured dropped by 3.8 million since 2013. That represents a 1.3 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate, from 14.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent early this year. Estimates from an even larger survey of the uninsured from the nation’s premier statistical agency, the Census Bureau, were released a few hours later. The Census Bureau has been collecting information on health insurance for decades based on the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Data were collected from a sample of 68,000 households in February, March, and April of 2014. That survey found that 42 million—13.4 percent of the population—were uninsured in 2013. Interesting, but last year’s uninsured rate tells us nothing about how much the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded health insurance coverage this year. A day after the two main reports were issued, the CDC quietly placed another table on its website. The new table compares estimates from the NHIS and the CPS for the early months of 2014. It reports the NHIS result that 13.1 percent of the population lacked health insurance when they were interviewed in the January through March time period of 2014. But it also reports the CPS estimate that 13.8 percent were uninsured during the February through April interview period.

Antos calls the timing suspect and discusses the reliability and implications of the dueling surveys:


It is no accident that the administration released CDC’s estimates early on September 16 followed shortly by the Census Bureau’s routine report on last year’s insurance coverage, delaying the comparable Census estimates to the next day. Good news about coverage gains drowned out the Census report. The high reliability of the NHIS was front and center in the press coverage. The contradictory evidence from Census was buried. Although the NHIS is a highly reliable survey, the CPS is even more reliable. Its sample is 150 percent larger than that of the NHIS, which means that its estimates have significantly lower statistical variance. If the NHIS is the gold standard, then the CPS must be the platinum standard.

You may recall that the Census bureau recently uprooted decades of tradition by changing its formula for measuring uninsured rates in America, sparking deserved criticism from several quarters.  Why disrupt the system at the precise moment that a massive new health program is coming on line, diminishing the usefulness of the new data by making the established base line obsolete?  Those concerns still stand, but what's surprising is that the initial figures under the new system -- which experts expected to dramatically improve insured rates -- point in the opposite direction, at least for now.  I'm…skeptical of that trend continuing, but those are the hard numbers so far.  On the CDC data, an increase in the insured population of 3.8 million is obviously better than a drop of 1.3 million, but it's still remarkably weak.  The Congressional Budget Office projected a surge of 12 million newly insured Americans in 2014, and the administration has been bragging about 14 million "new" "enrollees" between the exchanges and Medicaid expansion.  (Reminder: They've been using dishonest math to significantly inflate both numbers).  Just shy of four million newly insured Americans over, as estimated by the CDC, is obviously a far cry from the administration's stats.  One Obamacare-friendly expert objected that the 3.8 million figure doesn't reflect the big influx of enrollees that happened in March -- a fair point, but Antos responds:


The difference between the NHIS estimate of the reduction in the uninsured count and the administration’s enrollment total is about 10 million. If one assumes that March enrollment would double the number of people who are newly covered by insurance, then one might guess that a survey conducted later in the year would find that the insured had declined by 7.6 million instead of the NHIS’s 3.8 million. But exchange coverage accounts for less than half of the increase in insurance according to the Administration. There is no indication of a similar surge in Medicaid enrollment, which is permitted all year around rather than being confined to an open enrollment period. If Medicaid enrollment continued at a steady pace, then the NHIS figure should be adjusted to reflect only the exchange surge. That translates to a decline in the number of uninsured of 5.4 million.

That's still a fraction of CBO projections and the White House's politicized estimates.  Speaking of which, HHS announced last week that the current number of exchange enrollees is 7.3 million, down from the much-touted "eight million" number.  How could that official statistic differ so dramatically from the CDC and Census data?  Well, the large majority of exchange enrollees previously had insurance.  They're signing up for Obamacare having lost their existing plans, in violation of the president's promise.  Those people don't count as "newly" insured, except in the administration's imagination.  Also, that 7.3 number does not reflect the hundreds of thousands of ineligible people who are in the process of losing their coverage and/or subsidies, nor does it account for the significant attrition of once-paying customers that major insurers are reporting.  Also, the government's estimates still can't be verified by a functioning "back end" of the federal data hub because it's still being built.  As Bob Laszewski says, we still don't know how many people are actually enrolled in Obamacare. Before you go, be sure to read Philip Klein's recent stories on the two million families who may be impacted by Obamacare's "family glitch" (which we wrote about years ago), and a national survey of doctors -- roughly half of whom assign the new law a 'D' or F.'  Just 25 percent of American doctors give Obamacare an 'A' or 'B.'

Daniel Doherty - Hmm: Governor’s Race in Left-leaning Massachusetts Surprisingly Close
Posted: 9/22/2014 2:45:00 PM EST

Could Republicans finally wrestle control of the governorship from Democrats in Massachusetts? If these two recent polls are any indication, the answer is ‘yes.’

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller, for his part, argues in his column today that although the odds are firmly stacked in Martha Coakley’s favor, he doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of an upset:

That’s two polls in a row showing the race for Governor of Massachusetts in a virtual dead heat. And while matching polls in September don’t prove much with the meat of the campaign still ahead, it wouldn’t surprise me if those results were right on target for the moment.

As the Democratic nominee in a state that has elected only three Republicans to statewide office in the last 20 years, you’d expect Martha Coakley to be a frontrunner in this race, and that may still happen. Massachusetts Democrats know how to organize and get out the vote, as does organized labor.

Add in the frustration many women feel about the state’s failure to ever elect a female governor and you’ve got a path to victory for Coakley that is easier than Charlie Baker’s.

But there are circumstances under which a Republican can win here.

There sure are. You’ll recall that many Democrats believed Coakley would be the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 2010. That...didn't happen. Amazingly, after boasting an enormous early lead in the polls, she lost the “Kennedy seat” to a little-known Republican state lawmaker named Scott Brown. Some later questioned whether she was the right candidate for the job; perhaps some are even asking the same kind of questions today.

Nevertheless, Keller points out that many voters are not necessarily disenchanted with Coakley, per se, but with the Democratic Party establishment. “A solid 40% tell pollsters the state is going in the wrong direction,” he wrote in his Monday op-ed.

This gives outsider Charlie Baker some grounds for optimism. Whether he can channel that inner optimism into an effective campaign message, however, remains to be seen.

Conn Carroll - Walker Surges as Burke Fires Campaign Staff for Plagiarism
Posted: 9/22/2014 2:00:00 PM EST

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has surged ahead of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, as Burke has been forced to fire campaign staff responsible for copying her campaign's job plan from other failed candidates.

The most recent Marquette Law School Poll, conducted September 11-14, found Walker enjoying a 3-point, 49-46 percent lead over Burke. This was a marked improvement for Walker who trailed Burke in Marquette's earlier poll, conducted August 21-23, by 49-47 percent.

Burke's week only got worse after BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported that portions of Burke's jobs plan had been copied from four other Democratic candidates, three of whom went on to lose their elections. 

Burke had made her jobs plan the centerpiece of her campaign, telling reporters back in March, “I brought Gov. Walker’s plan from 2010. This is 4 pages. I’ve seen 8th grade term papers that had more work put into them."

Faced with evidence that portions of her own jobs plan had been copied from other candidates, Burke fired the consultant, Eric Schunrer, who had produced the offending passages. "The language is not the language that should have been used," Burke told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Walker is no stranger to come from behind victories. In 2012, the same Marquette poll found Walker trailing his then-oppnenent Tom Barrett 46-47 percent. But Walker soon surged ahead of Barrett in Marquette's final poll before the election 50-44 percent, before beating Barrett easily 53-46 percent.

Katie Pavlich - John Kerry: Threat From Climate Change is Just Like ISIS
Posted: 9/22/2014 1:45:00 PM EST

Secretary of State John Kerry, the world's top diplomat, is warning that global warming climate change poses as much of a threat to the world as ISIS. More from The Hill:

Secretary of State John Kerry said the threats posed by climate change should be addressed with as much "immediacy" as confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Ebola outbreak.

During a meeting with foreign ministers on Sunday, Kerry said global warming is creating "climate refugees."

"We see people fighting over water in some places. There are huge challenges to food security and challenges to the ecosystem, our fisheries and ... the acidification of the ocean is a challenge for all of us," Kerry said.

"And when you accrue all of this, while we are confronting ISIL and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola and other things, those are immediate," he added, using an alternate acronym for the terrorist group.

"This also has an immediacy that people need to come to understand, but it has even greater longer-term consequences that can cost hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, lives, and the security of the world," Kerry continued.

While there isn't much evidence to support Kerry's claim that climate change is creating "climate refugees," over the past four days more than 130,000 people have fled Syria because of ISIS.

The number of Syrian refugees who have reached Turkey in the past four days after fleeing advancing ISIS militants now totals 130,000 and could rise further, Turkey’s deputy prime minister warned on Monday. “A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility,” said Numan Kurtulmus warned. …

“This is not a natural disaster… What we are faced with is a man-made disaster,” Kurtulmus said. “An uncontrollable force at the other side of the border is attacking civilians.”

And then of course there was the horrifying situation last month when 40,000 Christian Yazidi refugees were stranded on a mountain top as ISIS climbed to slaughter them.

Tens of thousands of members of Iraqi religious minority groups driven from their homes for fear of the jihadist group Islamic State are dying of thirst and heat on a desert mountainside in the north of the country, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, the UN children’s organisation Unicef says, while upwards of 40,000 more are sheltering in the bare mountains, without food or water or access to supplies. It says 25,000 children may be stranded.

Back in February and prior to ISIS beheading two American journalists, Kerry made similar comments when he classified climate change as the world's "most fearsome" weapon of mass destruction. 

Exit question: When Kerry will have the nerve to get out of the cushy UN board room and into a refugee camp to make his asinine climate change comments? 

Matt Vespa - MI GOV: Snyder Announces New Jobs Initiative, Schauer Hits Him Over Outsourcing
Posted: 9/22/2014 1:15:00 PM EST

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder is at Gentex Corporation Headquarters in Zeeland to announce a new jobs initiative called Talent 2025. The event comes right after news broke that Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest level since 2008. Nevertheless, Michigan’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average of 6.1 percent.

Also, First Lady Sue Snyder said she will help her husband in his re-election bid, but doesn’t like campaigning all that much. Nevertheless, with the last of her children off to college, she can be a more active First Lady, according to MLive [emphasis mine]:

She said she’d love to star in a commercial, but the campaign hasn’t asked her to yet.

She’s flown under the radar as First Lady up until a few months ago, choosing family life over the limelight. But now that the couple’s youngest child is off to college, Snyder has taken a more active role as First Lady.

She has taken on a number of causes recently, and appeared at Sparrow Hospital Thursday to talk about safe sleep. She’s also advocated for vaccinating children, gotten involved in a foster care organization and served as a spokesperson for Ele’s Place, a center for grieving children.

“Most of my issues, besides breast cancer, have a lot to do with families and kids. And I just think it’s so important that I can use my voice, my position as First Lady to raise awareness to these things, and they all so important,” Snyder said.

On some level, she’s lived and breathed issues in the state for the past four years. The governor brings his work home with him “every night,” Snyder said. She has disagreed with some of Governor Snyder’s decisions, but only until he’s fully explained them to her.

I wish that these people could be there to understand what he tells me. Why can’t he just stand up and say ‘people this is the way it is and this is why it happened’? And I’m constantly telling him that,” she said.

One of those issues he may have to explain to conservatives regarding his decision to expand Medicaid in the state. Last week, Gov. Snyder reiterated his support for this policy initiative, saying it has helped low-income Michigan residents.

His Democratic opponent, former Congressman Mark Schauer, agreed with Gov. Snyder’s decision to expand Medicaid, but said, “it took him a long time to get it done.”

In an ad from the Democratic Governors Association, Schauer hit Snyder saying he “gave $1.8 billion in tax breaks to businesses -- even if they send jobs overseas.” That benefits the wealthy in Michigan, according to Schauer. And he noted how in Congress he supported “Buy American” laws to curb outsourcing.

A fact check noted Schauer’s claim about Snyder’s tax breaks benefiting only the wealthy wasn’t entirely accurate. Also, the claim about tax breaks for businesses even those who ship jobs overseas is “mostly true, but misleading” (via Detroit Free Press):

Claim: "Gov. Snyder gave $1.8 billion in tax breaks to businesses -- even if they send jobs overseas."

Reality: Mostly true, but misleading.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed, and Snyder signed, what amounted to a $1.8-billion tax cut when fully implemented by eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a 6% corporate tax only paid by "C" corporations, which have shareholders.

A "tax break" generally connotes a deduction or loophole allowing certain taxpayers to avoid taxes that would otherwise be owed. Elimination of the MBT was an across-the-board elimination of a tax and in that sense not a tax break. Also, the 6% corporate tax that replaced the MBT was designed as a much cleaner tax that did away with the myriad credits and other "tax breaks" that characterized the widely loathed MBT.

It's true the MBT was eliminated for all businesses, whether they move jobs overseas or not. But it's worth noting the only companies that have opted to continue paying the MBT are those who received significant MBT tax credits under the former administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and want to be able to use them.

Claim: "That helps the wealthy, but not the rest of Michigan."

Reality: Mostly false. Most businesses who paid the MBT were small businesses. Most businesses that pay the 6% corporate tax -- "C"

The race is a statistical dead heat.

Katie Pavlich - IRS Official Who Called Conseratives A**holes Says She "Isn't a Political Person," Plays Victim in New Interview
Posted: 9/22/2014 12:45:00 PM EST

“Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” former IRS official Lois Lerner told POLITICO in an exclusive interview released today.

In the piece, Lerner portrays herself as being unfairly attacked by the very groups she spent years inappropriately targeting. 

Lerner, for her part, assumes she is at the center of the storm because “I was the person who announced it. I assume the other part of it is because I declined to talk, and once I declined to talk, they could say anything they wanted, and they knew I couldn’t say anything back.”

Oh, and she wants everyone to know how apolitical she is too. This is the same woman who was in contact with the Department of Justice about putting tea party leaders behind bars for "lying" about political activity and the same woman who called conservatives crazies and a**holes in an email. Speaking of those crazy a**holes, according to Lerner and her husband, Mark Levin and his listeners were the source of that comment.

They’ve released partial emails, including one after President Barack Obama’s reelection in which she and Miles bemoan far-right conservative talk radio, calling them “crazies” and “a—holes.”

The couple said the exchange was taken entirely out of context. Miles wrote the email after listening to callers on the “Mark Levin Show” rant about stockpiling food and guns to fight because Obama was going to run the country into the ground. Lerner, then in London, responded from her work email about hearing chatter about the U.S. being a broken system for its fiscal brinkmanship over the debt ceiling.

Lerner said she is “not a political person,” has voted for candidates of both parties and that the only campaign contribution she ever made was $25 to a fellow law school student running for judge.

And, let's not forget "non-political" Lerner discussing the possibility of joining President Obama's 2012 re-election machine Organization for Action. 

Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations, emailed a colleague about OFA on January 24, who noted that they would primarily operate out of Chicago - but would have an office in Washington D.C.
“Oh--maybe I can get the DC office job!” Lerner emailed back.

Unfortunately, Lerner isn't playing the victim card all on her own. EO Tax Journal Editor Paul Streckfus is helping her.

“By taking the Fifth, Lois put a sign on her back: Kick me," Streckfus told POLITICO for their story.

Lois Lerner isn't a victim, she's a bully backed up by America's most powerful federal government agency, the Justice Department and the Obama administration. People like Becky Gerritson and hundreds of regular Americans like her who were targeted by Lerner and her goons are the real victims and they deserve justice. 

Daniel Doherty - Poll: So Far, GOP "Winning" Enthusiasm Battle
Posted: 9/22/2014 12:30:00 PM EST

Before we get to the poll itself there are some obvious caveats worth repeating. For starters, it’s not set in stone that 2014 will be a wave election year. Nor is it a foregone conclusion that Republicans will flip majority-control of the U.S. Senate. What we can say with some degree of certainty, however, is that self-described Republicans are much more enthusiastic about voting this fall than Democrats:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows that 54 percent of Republicans say they’re highly interested in the upcoming elections, compared to 44 percent of Democrats who say the same.

Another way to look at the GOP intensity advantage: Democrats hold a four-point lead on the generic ballot, 46 percent to 42 percent. But among high-interest voters, Republicans have the edge, 51 percent to 43 percent.

“Off-year elections are about intensity, which becomes a question of which set of voters cares most,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “In the opening lap of the general election, the GOP is winning.”

The D/R/I sample breakdown (32/24/33) is rather interesting, too: 37 percent of respondents describe themselves as “somewhat” or “very” conservative whereas just 29 percent of respondents describe themselves as “very” or “somewhat” liberal. What does this mean?

It means, I think, that even though respondents are much more likely to self-identify with the “conservative” label, the D+8 sample nevertheless greatly favors Democrats. (As a side note, however, it’s increasingly improbable that Democratic turnout will be this high in November, in part because many millennials aren't expected to vote).

Still, the question remains: Will Republicans keep their eyes on the prize and stay engaged through November 4? The answer to that question, after all, will greatly determine how many seats Republicans ultimately pick up.