In the battle for the U.S. Senate, Indiana’s matchup of Republican Richard Mourdock with Democrat Rep. Joe Donnelly is too close to call. Just last week, RealClearPolitics moved it from “Leans Republican” to “Toss Up.” For all intents and purposes, the polls are deadlocked, averaging out to 40.5% for Mourdock and 39.25% for Donnelly.
Furthermore, there’s an awkward factor hampering Mourdock: the man he’s seeking to replace. He defeated current Senator Richard Lugar by a wide margin in the primary, and as can be imagined, the would’ve-been incumbent isn’t exactly sweet on the man who unseated him. Furthermore, Mourdock prevailed in the primary by attacking the more moderate Lugar from the right. He’s a tea party favorite, but Lugar’s middle-of-the-road supporters haven’t exactly been flocking to Mourdock in droves.
The defeat didn’t appear to sit well with Lugar. In his concession speech, the senator expressed hope that Mourdock “prevails in November” in order to help Republicans take back the majority. But he never stumped for the his onetime opponent. And in September, he confirmed that he had no intention to campaign for the man who defeated him.
Lugar and Mourdock are very different Republicans. Mourdock’s unapologetic conservatism clashed with Lugar’s history of working with Democrats. Had Lugar won, the general election would hardly be as competitive as it stands now. The longtime senator’s ability to secure crossover support would have left Donnelly with very long odds.
That’s why Democrats were elated after Mourdock’s primary victory. Not only did it mean Donnelly would face a more conservative Republican who would have a tougher time with independents and Democrats; they were also presented with an opportunity to seize on some of the bad blood in the primary and peel off some Republican support from discontented Lugar supporters. Even if those supporters didn’t vote for Donnelly, the thinking went, some might opt to stay home.
Donnelly, for his part, must contend with his vote for the unpopular Affordable Care Act, a fact that could haunt him at the ballot box. And the Wall Street Journal notes a few other factors that could help Mourdock’s bid: his fellow Republicans.
Mr. Mourdock’s biggest advantage may lie with other Republican candidates. Republican Rep. Mike Pence holds a comfortable edge in the race for governor, leading Democrat John Gregg 47%-34%, while Mitt Romney leads President Barack Obama 52%-40%. That means a good number of Hoosiers would have to split their votes to put Mr. Donnelly over the edge, something that could present a challenge for the Democrat’s campaign.
This is likely a race that will come down to Election Day, and could hinge on voters’ willingness to split their tickets.
From Townhall Magazine's October feature, "Top 8 Most Unusual Candidates," by Kate Hicks:
Here in America, we’re taught to believe that through hard work and dedication, we can be anything we want. You might say that this ambition of upward mobility is the cornerstone of the American Dream. Indeed, ask any classroom full of second-graders what they want to be when they grow up, and you’re sure to get answers as variable as a firefighter, Justin Bieber and, of course, that old standby, president of the United States.
But it’s not just the highest office in the land to which people gravitate. Many aspire to serve the country and effect change at the local, state and federal levels, and there’s nothing like the current election year to remind you that some of those people are downright … unconventional. So, to lighten the tense electoral mood and celebrate the freedom to dream that all of us in the U.S. enjoy, Townhall presents the top eight most offbeat candidates to ever seek office.
Vermin Supreme: Ponies for All His Friends
Race: President of the United States
Stat us: Lost in New Hampshire primary
As home to the first primary contest in the American presidential race, New Hampshire hosted a slew of candidates for the highest office in the land this year, ranging from front-runner Mitt Romney to long-shots like Jon Huntsman to the altogether absurd: cue Vermin Supreme. At the time, he sported a thick, white beard, a black Wellington boot on his head and a host of crazy ideas.
“All politicians are vermin. I am the Vermin Supreme,” the candidate announced in a stump speech featured on Time Magazine’s website.
“I will lie to you,” continued the self-proclaimed “friendly fascist.” “I have no intention of keeping any promises that I make.”
Among those apparently made-to-be-broken promises is a federally subsidized pony for each American citizen. The gift is linked to his chief energy policy, which involves harnessing pony excrement as a replacement for foreign oil. Supreme is also a champion of mandatory tooth brushing, having declared during a debate among some lesser-known candidates, “For too long, this country has been suffering a great moral and oral decay in spirit and incisors,” according to Time.
Unlike many of the others on this list, however, who campaign in earnest, Supreme’s ersatz policy suggestions are a product of his shtick: he’s a performance artist, who seemingly runs for office as a means of satirizing the political process. Curiously, his act earned the adulation of none other than Charles Krauthammer, who reportedly once said of him, “He sounds like a jester out of King Lear. I mean this is a classic figure in history. There’s always the fool in the court who’s half-nuts, but half-wise. The one who whispers in the ear of the conqueror, ‘You’re mortal.’”
Mindy Meyer: The ‘Diva of the District’
Race: New York State Senate (21st District)
Status: Campaigning for general election
As soon as mindymeyer4senate.com loads, visitors are accosted by an instrumental version of dance-pop artist LMFAO’s hit single, “Sexy and I Know It,” while a glittery banner across the top of the shockingly hot pink page announces, “I’m Senator and I Know It.” Welcome to Mindy Meyer’s campaign website, where the 22-year-old Orthodox Jew and law student explains to residents of New York’s 21st State Senate district why they ought to elect her over incumbent Democrat Kevin Parker.
According to “Good Day New York,” the self-proclaimed “Diva of the District” is inspired by Elle Woods, the fictional heroine of the Legally Blonde movie franchise. Her stance on poverty promises “[n]o more Hunger Games” next to a photo of Meyer dressed like the series’ main character, Katniss—mini bow, arrow, and all.
During the interview with “Good Day New York,” Meyer said she hopes her site will inspire young people to get involved in the election process. In an ANIMALNewYork.com video of her canvassing the district, she promised a presumably potential constituent, in her authentic Brooklyn accent, “I won’t lie to you, lady.” Watching her conversations with New Yorkers in the video suggests to the viewer that she’s hoping to introduce a new level of trust between the people and government.
But while her website earned her some attention, it’s her plucky personality, forthright delivery and general lack of political know-how that managed to keep the Internet sensation afloat in the media for several weeks. Indeed, in an interview with the website Capital New York, she confessed to being unfamiliar with Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York. Regardless, however, she’s doggedly pursuing high-profile endorsements. “My campaign manager just spoke to Kim Kardashian’s publicist because she’s a diva and everything, so they’re getting back to me because we’re trying to get her endorsement because, you know, she, whatever, my website is literally like her,” she said in that same interview.
Meyer will face Parker next month in the general election, although she isn’t expected to fare well against the 10-year political veteran in the highly Democratic district. Who knows, though: perhaps her pink site and unbridled enthusiasm will propel her to an underdog victory.
Race: President of the United States
Status: Lost to President Barack Obama in West Virginia primary
Judd made headlines in May when he stole 40 percent of the vote from the incumbent in his primary race – that incumbent being none other than President Barack Obama himself. Thanks to West Virginia’s lax filing regulations—a would-be politician need only submit a $2,500 fee along with a notarized certificate of announcement—Judd landed a spot on the ballot and capitalized on voter discontent with the current president. All this is despite the fact that his current address is a low-security federal prison in Texarkana, Texas. According to Politico, he’s currently serving a 210-month sentence “for extortion connected to making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999” and won’t be released until June 2013.
But who is the man behind, well, the bars? According to Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan group which aggregates self-submitted candidate information for the voting public, Judd lists himself as a “Rastafarian-Christian” who supposedly went to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Politics, founded a group called World Peace Through Musical Communication Skills, is a member of the Federation of Super Heroes (no one seems to know what that means) and possesses “ESP, Telling the Future.” Despite the fact that Judd is a Democrat, his favorite president is Republican Richard Nixon (“He got us out of Vietnam, and began world peace with China and the Soviets”). If he could meet anyone, he would choose Mozart (“He was cool”), and his mother is listed as Lillian Russell, presumably the actress, who died in 1922. Judd was born in 1958.
However, despite Judd’s surprising success in the West Virginia primary, you’re much more likely to see him in the United States Fifth Circuit Court than the Oval Office. According to The Daily Beast, Judd has appeared in 238 different cases that have come before the bench from 1997 to 2011.
See the remaining six candidates who made our list by ordering the October issue of Townhall Magazine.
On CNN this afternoon, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, managed to record what might be the most offensive and out-of-touch soundbite to come out of this election cycle. Speaking with Brooke Baldwin about the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Libya that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, Cutter actually had the gall to say that this is only an issue because Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are making it one:
In terms of the politicization of this — you know, we are here at a debate, and I hope we get to talk about the debate — but the entire reason this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a big part of their stump speech. And it’s reckless and irresponsible what they’re doing.
Hey -- if that's why this is in the news, them more power to them. It's not simply stump fodder, as Cutter portrays it to be; it was a troubling and yet-unsolved breach of national security. It should be getting airtime, and what's more, the Obama Administration's foreign affairs policy should be receiving some skeptical attention. It's fast becoming clear that threats weren't taken seriously -- threats for which Stevens himself requested help -- and as Guy reported earlier, even family members of the dead haven't received answers.
The tragedy never should have occurred to begin with -- not with sufficient embassy security -- but now that it has, it's also been mishandled at every turn. Officials at the highest level of the Obama Administration have distorted the facts -- most glaringly, in blaming a ridiculous YouTube video for the violence. This was a policy failure, and as the man who wishes to become our nation's top policy maker, Romney is well within his rights to question how Obama and co. have dealt with the disaster. He's addressing an issue that many Americans are concerned about, and feel the president has handled poorly.
So for a moment, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, and say that Cutter means Romney is trying to use this issue to make Obama look bad. But that's not even true -- he'd look bad regardless of whether another candidate for his office challenged him on it. The facts about what they knew and when, and the ensuing public relations disaster speak for themselves. For her to sit there and simper into a camera about how Romney is "reckless and irresponsible" about reacting to Libya takes a lot of guts. It was her boss' reckless and irresponsible strategy that landed us here in the first place.
Update: Cutter took to Twitter moments after her disastrous CNN appearance and responded to Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski with the following:
Well, that whole "getting facts" line is not terribly accurate -- see any one of the links above -- and accusing Romney of having "no plans of his own?" How about this: he's in adamant opposition to the sequestration cuts to our national defense, set to take place January 2, 2013, and which would include a $129 billion cut to embassy security worldwide. It certainly seems like preserving and strengthening security at our embassies worldwide is a solid step in the right direction -- and it's clear which candidate has an eye to accomplishing that.
Just keep digging, Cutter.
Update II: Andrea Saul, Mitt Romney's press secretary, just issued the campaign's statement in response to Cutter's remarks:
“President Obama’s campaign today said that Libya is only an issue because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They’re wrong. The reason it is an issue is because, for the first time since 1979, an American ambassador was assassinated and President Obama’s foreign policy strategy of ‘leading from behind’ is failing. This administration has continually misled the American public about what happened in Benghazi and, rather than be truthful about the sequence of events, has instead skirted responsibility and dodged questions. The American people deserve straight answers about this tragic event and a president who can provide leadership, not excuses.”
Look, I get it. Obama got his hat handed to him in the debate last night, and there are a whole lot of pundits on the Left who don't want to admit defeat. Pride is hard to swallow. But this...this is just embarrassing:
I’m gonna say something controversial here. Um…Obama arrived in Denver at 2PM today, just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5.000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust, I don’t know, maybe…
Yes. Al Gore just blamed Obama's terrible debate performance on the altitude. And the best part is, in the background, you can hear someone agreeing with him: "Hm, yes, interesting point."
Oh, Current. Always finding new ways for your hosts to beclown themselves.
Those who favor a market-based approach to predicting the presidential election, take note: while Obama still has a two-thirds advantage on Intrade, the stock market showed a shift that indicates the market sees life in Romney's campaign yet. Hospital stock fell after his strong debate performance, a statistic that is tied to politics thanks to the Affordable Care Act. They stand to gain quite a bit financially from the law, in that the cost of treated uninsured patients will no longer fall directly to them. The day the Supreme Court upheld the ACA, the entire market fell about one per cent, but hospital stocks spiked, up to 8.5%.
So the fact that hospital shares fell last night signals fears that the Act will be repealed -- which, of course, only happens if Mitt Romney wins in November:
Shares of U.S. hospital operators fell after Republican nominee Mitt Romney's strong showing in Wednesday's U.S. presidential debate raised doubts about the future of President Obama's healthcare reform.
Hospital operators Tenet Healthcare Corp, HCA Holdings Inc, Healthsouth Corp and HCP Inc were all down between 1 percent and 3 percent Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, as it is popularly known, has set forth a mandate that will force millions of Americans to buy health insurance by 2014. This will free hospitals from bearing the costs of treating uninsured patients.
Romney's perceived win in the debate accounted for the negative outlook on hospital stocks on Thursday, Wells Fargo Securities analyst Gary Lieberman said.
"Hospitals had been rallying on the likelihood of Obama's healthcare reform getting implemented as it looked like he had pulled ahead in polls," Lieberman said.
But Romney's Wednesday performance showed the race was tightening, increasing the risk to hospital stocks, RBC Capital Markets analyst Frank Morgan said.
Of course, the race is far from over -- we're just about at the month mark, and a lot can happen -- but it's an indicator that Obama hardly has the race locked up, and the market knows it.
In keeping with the rapid-fire pace of this election cycle, the respective party committees have already produced post-debate videos, and much like the candidates performances' themselves, one is significantly more effective than the other. The debate gave Team Romney quite a bit more to work with than Team Obama, and it's painfully evident in the two videos they each produced.
Let's look at the Democrats' offering first, "Mitt Romney: What a Guy." They don't have much to work with; their candidate's performance was tepid at best -- Charles Blow in the New York Times called him "President Xanax," which has to hurt -- so naturally, their focus is on attacking the other guy. It features a few Lefty talking heads disparaging Romney as "overly aggressive," interspersed with clips of Romney "attacking" moderator Jim Lehrer (nevermind the fact that Obama was guilty of the same moderator-scolding).
Props to them for managing to use Obama's bewildered, half-present facial expression in a way that made him look more hapless than irritated and bored. Truly, that's a feat of video editing few would've thought possible.
Interestingly, that ad lacks any substance whatsoever -- they're not hitting Romney for any of what he said, nor are they using their own guy's words to build him up. The best they could do after the debate was whine that Romney was too harsh on Obama and Lehrer. Splicing together a few seconds-long clips of Romney sparring with the moderator is a great way of admitting, "We have nothing to offer affirmatively." Besides, given the tone of ads like this, I'd hardly say they're in the position to call for civility.
The RNC, by contrast, managed to take a shot at Obama while simultaneously highlighting some of Romney's especially strong points in "Smirk." The whole video is a split screen of Romney talking about how to fix the economy -- and how Obama has continued to harm it -- with the president nodding, smirking, and looking down at the podium while listening to the powerful indictment of his job.
In addition to trotting out statistic after statistic about the ways Obama has failed on the economy, Romney managed to up his likability score by emphasizing the plight of average Americans. He's faced quite a bit of criticism -- from both sides -- that he comes across as out of touch with the middle class, but he did a good job of identifying their struggles and noting the ways he would work to relieve them. All the while, Obama avoided eye contact with his challenger, a shortcoming for which even uber-liberal Bill Maher chastised him. Obama doesn't appear defiant, or like he's dying to bust out and defend his record; on the contrary, he looks wildly uncomfortable, and that translates culpability.
The different tactics the videos used -- one devoid of substance and based on personality politics, the other focused on lifting up a candidate's words while showing the other's reaction -- provide a good contrast of what each campaign has to work with, and what direction they're going. And as Guy noted earlier in his post about focus groups, the substance -- and lack thereof -- was not lost on undecided voters.
When even your Left-as-can-be former green jobs czar thinks you lost...you lost. Mitt Romney delivered the debate of his life last night, and this telling soundbite from Van Jones illustrates why: Romney did a better of job connecting with, and dare we suggest, empathizing with, his audience.
President Obama’s former environmental jobs czar believes his former boss lost the debate.
Van Jones, President Obama’s former special adviser for green jobs, said on CNN that the president was not ready for Wednesday night’s debate against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“I think he took Romney too lightly. I think he did not expect Romney to throw that kind of heat,” Jones explained.
Jones added: “Romney was able to ‘out-Obama’ Obama. On the connection piece, on the authenticity piece, on the being able to tell the story.”
Jones said Obama’s game-plan set him up for failure.
Well, that's one way of putting it. Obama looked bored and petulant, and failed to produce any meaningful data on why his plan for America is better than his Republican challenger's. Romney, meanwhile, was engaged, used more anecdotal evidence, and consistently called out the president's poor record. Heck, Romney even won among people with the sound turned down! Out-Obama'd Obama, indeed.
In an attempt at preemptive damage control, Team Obama has been downplaying the boss' debate skills while insinuating that Romney possesses some kind of unparalleled rhetorical genius -- the point being that it's expected Romney wins the debates.
But in an interview airing on CNN at 7PM tonight, First Lady Michelle Obama admitted that while she's certainly nervous for her husband, he is really good at what he's about to do. Well, at least someone's honest:
"I get so nervous at these debates," a laughing Obama told CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin. "I'm like one of those parents watching their kid on the balance beam. You're just standing there trying not to you know, have any expression at all."
Although it may be difficult for her to watch her husband, President Barack Obama, debate on stage, she said she refrains from offering him advice beforehand. And after, she said, only gives "positive reinforcement."
"He doesn't need much advice," she said. "He's a very good debater, so I do tell him to have fun and relax and just be himself."
Some of the president's aides have said he's working on keeping his answers concise and steering clear of the long winded responses that have become a staple of his White House press conferences. When pressed to point out any of her husband's potential challenges headed into the first debate, the first lady demurred.
"He's a great speaker, you know? I mean he's good at this," she said. "Going into it ... He's gonna do his best."
It would have been easy for her to sit there and play the supportive wife card while also gently undermining his abilities, thereby following the same script that John Kerry and Jen Psaki did, so strangely enough, I commend her for speaking honestly. Obama is a great speaker -- heck, he basically talked his way into the White House! -- and despite his aversion to the prep work, he's still a formidable opponent with the benefit of incumbency. At least Michelle isn't trying to pretend he's doomed before he gets on stage.
There's been a troubling uptick in "green on blue" violence as its known -- Afghan troops turning on their NATO counterparts and at times, killing them. Now, it seems an Afghan military official and a NATO chaplain have pinpointed a cause: cultural misunderstandings, where Western troops accidentally and unknowingly gravely insult Aghan troops. The two leaders have written a pamphlet for the Afghan troops, explaining that mortally offensive gestures to them are often completely meaningless to the Westerners.
It warns Afghan soldiers that their international allies may blow their noses in public or "show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind", both taboos in Afghan culture.
The pamphlet, entitled “Cultural Understanding — A Guide to Understanding Coalition Cultures", also cautions that Westerners may put their feet up desks without realising that showing the soles of feet is considered a serious insult in Islamic culture.
"They are by no means trying to offend you. They simply don’t know or have forgotten the Afghan custom," according to a translation seen by the [Washington] Post.
The 18-page guide is being distributed after a sharp rise in the number of "green on blue" attacks, the nickname for incidents in which Afghan troops turn their weapons on Nato soldiers.
This year 51 Nato troops have been killed by members of the Afghan security forces, including nine British soldiers.
The booklet is being accompanied by three one hour-long seminars designed for new recruits, many of whom are from isolated areas with little or no exposure to Western culture.
It also tries to give a sense of the distant lands where Nato's forces originate from, describing the US as "a little like a lovely carpet. Different colored strands combine to make a beautiful whole.”
That's a lovely description of America -- and an accurate one, too! It may seem somewhat ridiculous that a pamphlet like this is necessary, but it's a timely reminder of the stark contrast of our two cultures. Apparently, one man's stuffy nose is another man's insult to his manhood. Here's hoping for greater understanding, and far less intra-coalition violence.
In an effort to make the economy look a little rosier than it is, the Obama administration is basically coercing defense contractors so as to prevent news of layoffs hitting voters before the election. With sequestration about to result in some major cuts to the defense budget, contractors will lose government business -- and that means, employees will lose jobs. But to prevent poor numbers ahead of the November election, the Obama administration has made it very, well, fiscally unwise for companies to issue layoff notices too early.
The Labor Department issued guidance in July saying it would be “inappropriate” for contractors to issue notices of potential layoffs tied to sequestration cuts. But a few contractors, most notably Lockheed Martin, said they still were considering whether to issue the notices — which would be sent out just days before the November election.
But the Friday guidance from the Office of Management and Budget raised the stakes in the dispute, telling contractors that they would be compensated for legal costs if layoffs occur due to contract cancellations under sequestration — but only if the contractors follow the Labor guidance.
The guidance said that if plant closings or mass layoffs occur under sequestration, then “employee compensation costs for [Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification] WARN act liability as determined by a court” would be paid for covered by the contracting federal agency.
Senate Republicans, who accused the White House of trying to hide job losses after the first guidance, said Friday that the new OMB statement “puts politics ahead of American workers.”
“The Obama Administration is cynically trying to skirt the WARN Act to keep the American people in the dark about this looming national security and fiscal crisis,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement. “The president should insist that companies act in accordance with the clearly stated law and move forward with the layoff notices.”
The fight over WARN Act notices began in June when Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens said his company might send the notices to all 123,000 of its employees.
Some companies were hesitant to follow Lockheed, but several others told McCain in letters earlier this month they might send the notices, too, despite the Labor Department guidance.
Basically, the government has tried to circumvent some inevitable bad news in an attempt to give the economy an artificial cushion. It's worth noting the Obama administration's duplicity, as well as the terrible effects of its policies.