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October 25, 2006

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The only weapon the Republicans have left is their ability to smear Democratic candidates in the last few days before the election in hopes that it will depress voter turnout. Rove is known for saving his biggest smears for the last few days before the election so his opponents won't have time to fight back. Next week we'll see what he has up his sleeve. And if it work this time around.

It's nice to hear Frank Luntz articulate the same reality I perceive (especially when some "mainstream" journalists are still expecting Karl Rove's pony to arrive). Hard-core Bush-supporters are deluding themselves that, even if this election goes poorly, they'll quickly reverse things in '08. The don't get that, while some districts might fall on a fluke (and be changed next time out), many of the NY/PA/CT ilk are philosophically Democratic already, and those new incumbents will be tough to dislodge. As for '08 -- don't they understand things have to get BETTER for voters' mood to improve?

Regarding '08, something struck me yesterday: could the economy be to the next two years what Iraq was to this cycle? At this point it's hard to find anyone but a sycophant who doesn't think Iraq is a cataclysmic failure. But let's not forget: only 18 months ago, it was being called not only a success, but a transformative one. Everything halfway positive in the Middle East (like Lebanon, briefly) was credited to the genius in the White House -- "Bush was right" wasn't only being mentioned, it was being SUNG, without irony.

What's the analogy to the economy? Yesterday I came across an article where Caterpillar Inc. downgraded its forecast for not just the next quarter, but all next year. Since Caterpillar's range of business encompasses energy, transportation, mining and manufacturing, this is something of a big deal. But the gist of the article was financial analysts essentially telling Caterpillar to shut up; it couldn't possibly be as bad as they were suggesting. We know the discerning public has rejected the "what a good economy" argument even during the past 2-3 years of moderate (though poorly distributed) growth, but the CNBC crew has been adamant in echoing Bush's the-economy-is-strong-and-growing-stronger. What'll happen when the effects of the housing slowdown really hit -- or when the recent drop in job creation comes to be seen as the norm, not a one-month blip? Could we see the happy-talkers on the economy reduced to figures of ridicule the same as we've seen on Iraq?

Two more quick things: Dem, you should bring over that link to Howie Kurtz you've appended to this post at Kos. I was astonished to see him refer to the "disputed 2000 election". This is the first time I've heard him say anything about that contest that didn't essentially include "get over it". More change in the atmosphere.

Finally, just for my info: does anyone know anything about the location of the displaced New Orleans voters? All focus has been on how the city has lost so many dependably Dem ballots, which will surely hurt Mary Landrieu in two years. But no one seems to wonder about where they went, and whether their sudden influx into another state/district might affect traditional voting patterns elsewhere, starting this year. Anyone with any inside knowledge?

demtom: my understanding is that the largest, concentrated, number of displaced NO residents are in Houston. I would suspect though that a significant number of the permanently displaced are non-voters (unless some organized force works really hard to change that.) There is probably an opportunity there, but it would take sustained, targetted local inputs.

"The train has left the station."

At this point, I think that the Republicans can regroup and not lose badly. The House that is.
The Senate as I have said, and I am in the pack on this, is up for grabs.

One or two incidents, in the next weeks might make the difference, for either party as regards the Senate and the actual numbers in the House. But I think Pelosi will be the next speaker barring the disclosure that the Democrats keep a stable of black jewish children as sex slaves down in the cellar of the House. (Pardon horror of that example, but I am trying to make a strong point.)

I have been hearing DemFromCT's pep talk about how this is the beginning of a new era, and he could be right if he can persuade the Democratic office holders to moderate some of their views. For example, aim for:
Civil Unions for Homosexuals not marriage.
Do away or severely limit 3T abortions.
Strive for a compromise with Religion and Government.
Strive for better preparation for minorities and for underprivileged generally rather than condoning reverse discrimination.
Recognize that it is better to be safe with things like obvious profiling, detaining, rather than to be sorry, because you can be sure that this will bite the Dems in the proverbial butt sooner or later. That doesn't mean that after the fact, abuses shouldn't be punished, and that redresses shouldn't be made.
etc.
etc.

Now some Democrats will say NEVER!
Well I then will say that the Republicans [[will change.]]
They will modify their stances! They will produce new "clean" candidates.
Of course my problem with that is that the Republicans seem only to change enough to gain power which they then use for their big Donors.

So I think that for good goverment by either Democrats or Republicans, a drastic change must be made in Lobbying, and TV ad financing.

(... and there I just really dispair. It is like trying to pull the big hogs out of the trough.)

Kurtz as per demtom's request.

For 15 years, the conservatives who dominate talk radio have served as shock troops for the GOP, bashing Democrats, hitting the hot buttons and rallying their listeners. Since the Republicans' 1994 takeover of Congress, in which Rush Limbaugh played a catalyzing role, through the disputed election of 2000 and President Bush's first term, the radio talkers have wielded a powerful megaphone for their ideological side.

But as Karl Rove, Tony Snow, Michael Chertoff, Bartlett and other top administration officials worked the tent during yesterday's day-long event, it became apparent that there are serious cracks in this once-solid wall of support.

"The corps of Bush supporters are just seething, angry and disappointed," said Jan Mickelson, a fixture in Des Moines radio. Iraq, he said, has become "ungovernable," voters are upset about "perceived corruption in the Republican Party," and "social conservatives feel like they've been used again." But in a point echoed by several of the hosts, Mickelson said that "immigration is the number one issue" fostering disgruntlement with the Republicans, because his listeners are "seeing the effects of lack of border control every single day."

Actually, I think there are more displaced New Orleanians in Baton Rouge than in Houston (certainly proportional to the size of the cities that is true). Organizing the folks here (I live in Houston) will be very complicated. Honestly, I wish we could let those folks concentrate on getting their lives back together while we look out for their political interests, but sadly, I don't think that is possible. I am starting to see the neglect of New Orleans as a physical manifestation of the political neglect of our democratic society.

demtom, I think you are on to something. The new Dow highs are masking some of the real problems in the economy and our unstable financial edifice. Its not only Caterpillar. Walmart same store sales are in the bottom of their range. Many tech companies in the consumer value chain are guiding down their sales and earnings prospects. But what is scary with consumer tech is the growth rate of inventory and receivables relative to sales. The biggest house of cards is the financial sector with deep exposure to housing finance. Several companies including Countrywide, Washington Mutual have indicated that they are taking back loans that they securitized and sold off to investors as they are on default watch. Mortgage finance took off with securitization and the volume of derivatives around this has been stupendous. Derivative pricing has all been based on models on past behavior. It does not take into account dislocations and the magnitude could swamp these thinly traded securities. Countrywide is now borrowing money to buyback shares. We've had six months of month-over-month decline in housing sales transactions. Inventory is building and pricing is starting to decline in the frothiest markets like Florida. If this gains momentum the RTC bailout will look small. Housing was a big part of job growth over the past 3 years. It will now bleed jobs. Mortgage finance is already cutting back. The best case scenario is a measured slow down but there are even odds of a major dislocation in housing finance. If that occurs it could bring down the rest of the economy. The next 2 years are going to be dicey. With an intransigent and oblivious Bush and a newly energized Democratic House we can expect a lot of confrontation politically while the financial environment swirls in an unpredictable manner.

Jodi, Recogniz[ing] that it is better to be safe with things like obvious profiling, detaining, rather than to be sorry is all well and good so long as you aren't one of the profiled and detained, eh?

Meteor Blades,

I have to say that you give a bit of insight into your own thinking. It seems self centered.

It isn't about me or you specifically, it is about the country, and public safety..

If they want to strip search me every time I go on a plane because it is usually tall blondes, in a (moderately stylish) business suit that carry bombs or weapons onto a plane, well, I think that is a small price to pay to protect children, and innocents.

I have to admit I would fly less frequently, but I would understand.

Would you be willing to protect your country, Meteor Blades?

Public Agenda's latest Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index (http://www.publicagenda.org/foreignpolicy/index.cfm) shows there is a marked dissatisfaction on immigration. Nearly eight in 10 Americans give the United States low grades (http://www.publicagenda.org/foreignpolicy/foreignpolicy_reportcard.htm) for protecting U.S. borders from illegal immigration. And eight in 10 worry (http://www.publicagenda.org/foreignpolicy/foreignpolicy_worries.htm) that it may be too easy for illegal immigrants to come into the country.

Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group devoted to public opinion and public policy. For more information on who we are and what we do, go to http://www.publicagenda.org.

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