Monday, October 30, 2006

SNAKE POPPING I hope Connecticut voters haven't forgotten that this was Sen. Joe Lieberman (CFL-CT) only a couple months ago:
BECK: I've been saying this before we even went into Iraq, that we're trying to change the face of the Middle East. The weapons of mass destruction was a nice side benefit. We were trying to go and pop the head of the snake in Iran. That's what we were trying to do. And I don't think anybody had the courage or could actually come out and say that with world politics the way they are.

LIEBERMAN: Well, you're right. And I think if I fault the administration for anything before the war--cause I think we did the right thing in going in to overthrow Saddam--it's that they oversold the WMD part of the argument.
Is Ned Lamont reminding them?

Friday, October 27, 2006

ELECTION NIGHT CHEAT SHEET Here's your hour-by-hour guide to election night 2006, as promised.

There are bound to be at least a couple mistakes and misjudgments buried in here. (Spot one? E-mail us.) On the whole, though, this rundown should give readers an idea of what to watch for as the evening of November 7 unfolds.

Five preliminary notes:

1) Results in many congressional races will be slow to trickle in. In some cases it may be hours (or weeks!) until we know the winner. So the hour-by-hour rundown below is very much a theoretical snapshot. The actual counting of votes is likely to be more fluid, especially where the numbers are close.

2) This rundown isn't a tally of all the seats that could conceivably change hands. Instead, I've focused on the House and Senate races where there is a substantial chance that one party or the other will gain a seat. (Sorry, no governors races here.) I've also highlighted (in bold) some bellwether races that may help us see where the evening is headed.

Those are obviously judgment calls, and I take responsibility for all the judgments. (Although MyDD and Election Central have been invaluable.) If you think I've left an especially tight race off the list entirely, please let me know.

3) Races in italics are potential Republican pick-ups. All other races are potential Democratic pick-ups.

4) For uniformity's sake, Republicans are listed first in all races.

5) All times are ET.


Polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


VA: Sen. Allen v. Webb


GA 12: Burns v. Rep Barrow
IN 02: Rep. Chocola v. Donnelly
IN 07: Dickerson v. Rep. Carson
IN 08: Hostettler v Ellsworth
IN 09: Sodrel v Hill
KY 03: Northrup v Yarmuth
KY 04: Rep. Davis v Lucas
VA 02: Drake v Kellam

ANALYSIS: It wasn't the GOP plan, but the Virginia Senate race is now a must-win for Republicans. So if Sen. George Allen goes down to an early defeat here, Democrats ought to be giddy about their prospects. On the other hand, if challenger Jim Webb loses handily--by 8+ points--we're likely on track for yet another "better-than-expected" election night performance from the GOP.

On the House side, election analyst Charlie Cook's prediction seems like a sound one: Democrats will have a hard time picking up the fifteen seats they need to take the House without winning two of Indiana's competitive seats; and Republicans need at least one of the two Kentucky toss-ups to prevent disaster.

So in Indiana, keep an eye on Rep. Chris Chocola: Democrats are unlikely to meet Cook's test without knocking him off. In Kentucky, watch Rep. Geoff Davis' numbers. If he falls, the GOP may be in the early stages of a disaster that even Katherine Harris can't rescue them from.


Polls close in Ohio and West Virginia.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


OH: Sen. DeWine v. Brown


OH 01: Rep. Chabot v. Cranley
OH 02: Rep. Schmidt v. Wulsin
OH 12: Rep. Tiberi v. Shamansky
OH 15: Rep. Pryce v. Kilroy
OH 18: Padgett v. Space

ANALYSIS: If Sen. Mike DeWine survives in Ohio, Dems are in for a long night. It'll mean that the pre-election conventional wisdom was wide of the mark and that Karl Rove's October optimism was rooted in something other than fantasy. Expect a week's worth of discussion of the GOP's vaunted "72 hour-plan" and nasty public exchanges between Chuck Schumer and Howard Dean.

Ohio's 15th and 18th districts are two more contests that Democrats believe they'll win handily, while the 2nd is more of a stretch. If neck-and-neck battles develop in the first two races, Nancy Pelosi dreams of ear-flicking President Bush during the State of the Union will be all but dashed.

But if Victoria Wulsin is able to unseat Dem nemesis Rep. Jean Schmidt in the Republican-leaning 2nd district, a loudmouth pol will have received her comeuppance and Democrats will be on track for a big night.


Polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


CT: Sen. Lieberman (CFL) v. Lamont
MD: Steele v. Cardin
MO: Sen. Talent v. McCaskill
NJ: Kean v Sen. Menendez
PA: Sen. Santorum v. Casey
TN: Corker v. Ford


CT 02: Rep. Simmons v. Courtney
CT 04: Rep. Shays v. Farrell
CT 05: Rep. Johnson v. Murphy
FL 08: Rep. Keller v. Stuart
FL 13: Buchanan v. Jennings
FL 16: Rep. Foley/Negron v. Mahoney
FL 22: Rep. Shaw v. Klein
IL 06: Roskam v. Duckworth
IL 08: McSweeney v. Rep. Bean
IL 10: Rep. Kirk v. Seals
IL 11: Rep. Weller v. Pavich
NH 02: Rep. Bass v. Hodes
NJ 07: Rep. Ferguson v. Stender
PA 04: Rep. Hart v. Altmire
PA 06: Rep. Gerlach v. Murphy
PA 07: Rep. Weldon v. Sestak
PA 08: Rep. Fitzpatrick v. Murphy
PA 10: Rep. Sherwood v. Carney
PA 18: Rep. Murphy v. Kluko

ANALYSIS: The night's busiest hour. Missouri and Tennessee are where the rubber meets the road for Republicans: If they don't pull out one of these two senate races, their days in the majority are probably numbered. On the other hand, if Democrats fail to pickup even one of these seats, discussion will focus on the RNC's race-baiting "Playboy Party" ad, Claire McCaskill's Michael J. Fox spot, and the persistent failure of Democrats to capitalize on red state opportunities.

After 8pm, House Democrats will have a much better sense of their fate: If long-popular blue-state Republicans like Rep. Chris Shays survive, it will show that Rahm Emanuel's "northeast strategy" was a failure. It may be hours--or years--before the House changes hands.

But if the GOP can't hold Clay Shaw's seat in Florida, Republicans are in line for some serious pain: A 30+ seat swing is likely taking shape. Watch for Bill Kristol soberly explaining to Fox News viewers that Republicans would have fared much better if they'd all just followed his advice.

We'll also have our first evidence, at 8pm, of the effects of the multiplying GOP congressional scandals: Rep. Curt Weldon's FBI woes and Rep. Don Sherwood's adultery problems. If their ethical lapses put these entrenched incumbents out of business, fire up the YouTube: We'll be in for some unusually entertaining concession speeches.


Polls close in Arkansas and North Carolina.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


NC 08: Rep. Hayes v. Kissell
NC 11: Rep. Taylor v. Schuler

ANALYSIS: Larry Kissell is the kind of longshot, grassroots candidate who has nonetheless emerged in recent weeks as a serious contender. If he's able to unseat Rep. Robin Hayes, Bush administration lawyers would be wise to ready themselves for a raft of John Conyers-signed Judiciary Committee subpoenas.


Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraka, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


RI: Sen. Chafee v. Whitehouse


AZ 05: Rep. Hayworth v. Mitchell
AZ 08: Graf v. Giffords
CO 04: Rep. Musgrave v. Paccione
CO 07: O'Donnell v. Perlmutter
MN 01: Rep. Gutknecht v. Walz
MN 02: Rep. Kline v. Rowley
MN 06: Bachmann v. Wetterling
NM 01: Rep. Wilson v. Madrid
NY 19: Rep. Kelly v. Hall
NY 20: Rep. Sweeney v. Gillibrand
NY 24: Meier v. Arcuri
NY 25: Rep. Walsh v. Maffei
NY 26: Rep. Reynolds v. Davis
NY 29: Rep. Kuhl v. Massa
TX 22: Rep. DeLay v. Lampson
WI 08: Gard v. Kagen

ANALYSIS: By now House Democrats will either be biting their nails or on the way to a landslide. If the battle for control remains close, part of the reason will be the GOP's intensely negative TV strategy; Michael Arcuri in New York's 24th--a victim of one of the worst smears of the election season--will probably be one of the losers. But if Arcuri triumphs it means that Rove and crew have finally have met an electoral climate so unfavorable that even well-timed slime has little impact.

All eyes will focus on Thomas Reynold's race, also in New York. A Democratic victory against the Foley scandal-tarred RCCC chair will be especially sweet for Dems, and doubly brutal for Republicans. The same is true in the Texas, where Nick Lampson faces a write-in campaign by a DeLay replacement. If this seat winds up providing the Democratic margin for victory, somewhere Shakespeare will be smiling.


Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


Montana: Sen. Burns v. Tester


IA 01: Whalen v. Braley
IA 02: Rep. Leach v. Loebsack
IA 03: Lamberti v. Rep. Boswell

ANALYSIS: If Democrats have run the table, a Montana victory for Jon Tester would catapult them into control of the Senate. Conversely, if Abramoff-entangled Sen. Conrad Burns defies the pundits and pulls out this race, he probably won't be the only compromised pol to survive. Markos Moulitsas will not be amused.

On the House side of things, Democrats better hope they've reached the magic number of fifteen net pick-ups once this hour's results have trickled in; if not, their chances of making it over the top at 11pm will be slim. But if Democrats are by now padding their victory margin, somewhere on cable TV Robert Novak will calling this the least important election in American history.

10pm is also the Republican party's last best chance for a pick-up. They're unlikely to gain any seats at 11pm--but they could still bleed a few more at that hour.


Polls close in California, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington.

RACES TO WATCH: (Republican v. Democrat)


CA 04: Rep. Doolittle v. Brown
CA 11: Rep. Pombo v. McNerney
ID 01: Sali v. Grant
WA 08: Rep. Reichert v. Burner

ANALYSIS: We're into icing-on-the-cake territory here--for one side or the other. Will Richard Pombo win in a walk, solidifying a narrow GOP majority? Or will he be the last Republican in a GOP-friendly district to go down in an upset? If Pombo gets his pink slip at 11pm, he'll have plenty of GOP company.

Sources: The Green Papers: 2006 Poll Closing Times.

Find an error? E-mail us.

UPDATE: Glad the cheat sheet has generated so much interest.

A programming note: On Tuesday, we'll be tracking election returns all night long here. Stop by early, stay late.

EITHER OR Some vintage Billmon:
The collective sound of all those attack ads is starting to remind me of the one of my uglier childhood memories. I must have been about 10 or 11, and I was walking across a highway overpass not far from my house when I saw a dog on the road down below. It was a big yellow dog, some kind of shepherd mix, and it must have just been hit by a car, because its hindquarters were all smashed up and it was writhing around on the pavement in torment. The traffic wasn't that heavy, and cars were swerving around it, but it was obviously only a matter of seconds before another car or truck came along and mashed it to a pulp. The dog might even have been able to see the vehicle bearing down on it--that is, if it wasn't already out of its mind with pain.

I knew I didn't want to see what was going to happen next, so I turned and ran. But as I did, over a lull in the traffic noise I could hear the dog howling--an indescribable sound, like no sound I've ever heard an animal make, before or since. One final, despairing, agonizing, awful appeal to the canine gods. It made me want to jab out my eardrums with a sharp stick, it was so bad.

And then, abruptly, the howling stopped, and I knew what had happened. But I kept on running -- for blocks it seemed like. And then I stopped and threw up into the bushes.

I think I hear that same sound coming from the Rovian machine right now--a doomed, crazed animal in its final death throes.

Or maybe I'm just imagining that's what it is. Maybe what I'm really hearing is the feral, triumphant howl of a wolf who is proving to the world that he's still the leader of the pack -- by ripping the throats out of a few of the weaker members. Either way, I'll be awfully glad when November 7th rolls around and it finally stops.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

THE HARD SELL It's worth remembering that, hard as it is to believe, many voters are just now beginning to educate themselves about their local contests. Plenty can change between now and November 7, and it probably will.

If you've already maxed out your political giving for this cycle--good for you. But if you haven't yet given a cent, be honest--couldn't you spare $100 to help oust the most illiberal, corrupt group to come down the pike in a long time?

If you don't have $100 to spare, I bet you've got $20.

Remember: Last congressional session, Republicans were all too willing to shirk their oversight responsibilities, and to sanction presidential law-breaking when it seemed politically convenient.

Who knows what they'll come up with next.

Of course, it won't much matter what Republicans say or do if they lose control of congress. It'll matter even less if they lose both houses. And that's where you come in.

Give here or here--or to your favorite candidate. If you don't, we'll all regret it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

GEORGE BUSH ABRIDGED I was for staying the course before I was against it.

ABOUT THAT NIGHT Careful, long-time readers may be wondering if CONTRAPOSITIVE will be reprising our immensely-successful, widely-linked, election night cheat sheet in the lead-up to November 7.

The answer is yes. Which accounts, at least in part, for the infrequent posting over the last couple weeks.

So stay tuned.

Friday, October 20, 2006

HASTERT AGAIN Many thanks to Andrew Sullivan for his Monday link to my post about the Hastert-Palmer relationship.

Of course, my prediction about Scott Palmer's job security has proven delusive: He remains the Speaker's chief of staff almost two weeks after a pair of congressional officials went on the record claiming he'd been warned about Foley.

Still, it's clearer than ever that Hastert won't be Speaker for much longer: The White House decided that the political cost of ousting Hastert before the election was higher than retaining him, but come November 8, the picture will be different.

And even so, the decision to sit pat seems to have been a mistake.

Voters may not mention the Foley mess at the top of their list of grievances, but that doesn't mean its impact has been less than pervasive.

As a reader over at Josh Marshall's site observed:

Here's the thing about the Foley scandal: it gives people space to change their minds about things. Think about when you've admitted a mistake or accepted someone's knockdown argument on a topic you believe in strongly. Sure, you look at the facts and exercise your capacity for reason. But there is an emotional component too, and it's a lot easier to change your mind when the other person, or in this case the general public mood, makes it OK for you to shift your perspective.

That's what Foley has done--provided an emotional space within which people can reevaluate their views without having to question themselves or their previous beliefs too deeply. I believe there has been a growing sense in the country that things are going badly, very badly, on all sorts of fronts. Foley, frankly, doesn't have much to do with that. But now it's OK to step up and say, "Hell with it, I'm tired of this crap." And change your vote.
As reputedly "safe" Republican districts have migrated into the "toss-up" category over the past few weeks, it seems likely that the Foley scandal--and the GOP's failure to take steps to diffuse it--has had a psychic impact. At least with a small percentage of voters.

We won't know for sure for a couple more weeks. But if Republicans wake up on November 8 with 20+ seats in the "loss" column, you can bet that we'll hear a lot of second-guessing about the party leadership's unwillingness to hold Hastert accountable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NEW RELEASE STREET FIGHT is now available on dvd. Queue it up.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

WHY HASTERT IS DONE Republicans could have spared themselves a second disastrous week by dumping House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) on Thursday or Friday. Instead, by deciding not to hold the Speaker accountable for the Foley mess, they've guaranteed at least a few more days of political turmoil.

And in the end, Hastert will have no choice but to resign anyway. Here's why:

The Washington Post now has a second congressional staffer on the record corroborating Kirk Fordham's allegation that Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, knew of concerns about Mark Foley years ago. What's more, the article alleges that Palmer talked to Foley at the time about his contact with male pages:

The staff member said Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, met with the Florida Republican at the Capitol to discuss complaints about Foley's behavior toward pages. The alleged meeting occurred long before Hastert says aides in his office dispatched Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) and the clerk of the House in November 2005 to confront Foley about troubling e-mails he had sent to a Louisiana boy.
Pressure will now build on Palmer to step aside--I wouldn't be surprised if he's gone by Monday.

But that won't be enough.

It won't be enough, because people will point to Hastert's unusual, almost uniquely close relationship with Palmer: Palmer's been the Speaker's chief of staff for nearly twenty years; knowledgeable observers characterize the relationship as extremely tight; and the two men live together during the week.

Here's The Hill on May 14, 2003:

Hastert and Palmer have known each other for 25 years--so long, in fact, that Palmer has a photo of Hastert's adult sons on his desk from when they were toddlers. The two men started working together on a day-to-day basis in 1987.


"There is no staffer on Capitol Hill that better understands Denny Hastert than Scott Palmer," [Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.)] said. "Palmer is the one guy who has always been in Hastert's inner circle."
Here's the Associated Press on January 22, 1999:
At the top of any list of Hastert's kitchen cabinet is Scott Palmer, his longtime chief of staff, and deputy chief of staff Mike Stokke. John Feehery, a former aide who is returning, called the Hastert-Palmer alliance "almost a brother-type relationship."
And last but not least, here's the Chicago Tribune on May 29, 2005:
Palmer, a former employee of Aurora College who started with Hastert as a volunteer on a state legislative campaign, has been Hastert's chief of staff since he arrived in Washington in 1987. At the center of the speaker's operations, Palmer is described by some as Hastert's "alter ego."

"You cannot underestimate the relationship that the speaker has with Scott," said Hastert campaign spokesman John McGovern. "Scott is Denny's closest and most trusted adviser."


When in Washington, Palmer, Stokke and Hastert share a townhouse near the Capitol. And, like Hastert, his top aides maintain residences in Illinois--Palmer in Aurora and Stokke in Bloomington.

A typical night in Washington for Hastert is likely to end with a dinner with Palmer and Stokke at AV Ristorante Italiano, a red sauce Italian restaurant in a transitional neighborhood of Washington.
In short, Palmer isn't just Hastert's chief of staff. He is the Speaker's "alter ego"; a man with whom he has "almost a brother-type relationship"; whom he eats dinner with on a typical Washington night; and whom he shares a roof with during the work week.

Given this portrait, the notion that Palmer would have sat Foley down to discuss something as dicey and potentially explosive as the congressman's inappropriate behavior toward pages without informing Hastert seems beyond improbable. It seems ridiculous.

And it's not hard to see how that ridiculousness will be framed in the political debate: I mean, they live together for crying out loud. It's a refrain we're likely to hear a lot of in the coming days.

GOP officials may not have seen this twist coming. But they should have.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

TOO TRUE Billmon says
I think there's a long post, if not a book, to be written about...the Jeckyll-and-Hyde split between appearances and reality in 21st century America--the America where prostitutes pose as journalists (or vice versa), "Christian" activists lobby for legalized torture, generals swagger like Rambo in front of the cameras but cringe before their civilian masters in private, libertarian law professors write secret memos justifying the creation of a police state, sworn enemies of big government gorge themselves on pork, vomit, then gorge some more, and U.S. Senators with the racial values of a klavern leader masquerade as "compassionate conservatives."


Collectively, all these coincidences have given a whole new national meaning to the phrase "in the closet." Congressman Foley, it seems, had a foot in both.

It would take a Truman Capote or a Theodore Dreiser to do this story justice--not just Rep. Foley's story, but also the insane and occasionally tragic comedy of secrets this country has become.

DEPT. OF EXEGESIS I'm a day late in raising this, but it's bizarre enough that I can't quite let it go. Namely:

On Sunday, more than two days into the Foley scandal, the story was gathering steam: Salient questions remained unanswered (many of them still remain unanswered) about the role of the House leadership; about the scope of Foley's contacts with pages; and about the legality of his actions. In short, there was a lot of reporting to be done.

As the story developed throughout the day on Sunday, editors at The New York Times were faced with a choice: What kind of piece should the paper run on page A1 in Monday editions?

They answered that question by fronting a story headlined, "Former Pages Describe Foley as Caring Ally." That story, as its title suggests, focuses on the heartbroken reaction of several pages to the Foley revelations.

In other words, it's a story written mostly from the perspective of Foley's fans, rather than one that shed any light on recent developments. Indeed, it's a full seven paragraphs into the story that Friday's revelations are even mentioned.

Now, I'm not saying that this type of reporting has no place. But with facts rapidly accumulating, with the scandal snowballing, with so many juicy, newsy questions still unanswered--what kind of news judgment puts this story on A1?

Was this the most important news that The Times had for its readers about Foley as of Sunday evening--that several people liked him? That some pages thought of him as a "caring ally"?

I'm totally perplexed.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

UMM Help me out here.

ABC News:

Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page.

Matthew Loraditch, a page in the 2001-2002 class, told ABC News he and other pages were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk's office.
The New York Times:
Matthew Loraditch...said a supervisor had once casually mentioned that Mr. Foley "was odd"...

But Mr. Loraditch said he was never warned by program supervisors to stay away from him. "He was friendly," said Mr. Loraditch.
Am I missing something?

UPDATE: The explanation appears to be that Loraditch changed his story:

Firstly, as to the ABC "Warned" story, while I may have inadvertently used the word, "warned," in communication, I can assure you it was not intended. The fact of the matter is in an informal situation a supervisor mentioned that Foley was a bit odd or flaky and did not connote by tone or otherwise that he should be avoided.
So either Loraditch originally inflated his story to get into the news and then fessed up; or he told ABC the truth and then had second thoughts about dragging the unnamed "supervisor" into the story.

Take your pick.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.