Saturday, December 24, 2011


Next Year’s House 
John Boehner’s job seems safe.
csmonitor.com
For Republicans, 2012 is a year of high hopes and immense possibilities. By this time next year, the GOP could have won the White House and the Senate and kept control of the House of Representatives. But if fortune turns against Republicans next cycle and the White House and Senate escape their grasp, what’s the outlook for the House, the GOP’s last line of defense against a second term of Obama? Republicans currently occupy 242 of the 435 seats; can Speaker John Boehner keep the total above 218?
For now, the outlook for House Republicans is quite healthy. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) contends that not only are the odds of the GOP keeping the majority extraordinarily high, but they have opportunity to win a sizable number of seats that narrowly eluded them last year.
The first advantage that Republicans see is an essentially unchanged issue environment from 2010. “It’s a cliché that ‘a year is a lifetime in politics,’ but we are still talking about the big issues from 2010,” said NRCC political director Mike Shields on a conference call Wednesday. “Unemployment, spending, debt, taxes — we’re still having that fight. Those issues were huge drivers of votes among both independents and our base voters, and they’re still what we’re talking about — we’re still debating it this week! If the mood of the country shifts or underlying issues change, then the coming year’s election will be different from last year’s, but we seem to be heading into a similar political environment.”
REDISTRICTING
The biggest change from 2010 will be altered district lines in many populous states — minor changes in some, dramatic changes in others. Shields says that the NRCC believes that 15 once-competitive seats have become safely Republican through redistricting.
Pennsylvania appears to be on the verge of finalizing a new map that illustrates the phenomenon well. The Keystone State lost one congressional seat from population shifts in the past decade, and the result is likely to be at least one fewer Democrat in the state’s delegation and several more Republicans with better odds for reelection. In the Cook Partisan Voting Index, Rep. Mike Kelly’s northwestern 3rd district has shifted from R+3 to R+5; Rep. Jim Gerlach’s 6th district has shifted from D+4 to R+1; and Rep. Lou Barletta’s 11th district leaped from D+4 to R+6.
Republican lawmakers achieved this by making some heavily Republican districts less Republican, but still safe (Rep. Bill Shuster’s 9th district, the most Republican in the state, changed from R+17 to R+10) and safe Democratic districts even more heavily Democratic (Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s 13th district shifted from D+7 to D+13) — essentially, moving excess Republicans into swing districts, and moving swing districts’ Democrats into districts that already go Democratic anyway.
“[Democratic incumbents] Mark Critz and Jason Altmire are now drawn into [the] same district, and it’s an R+6,” Shields says. “It doesn’t look like the [former Democratic Rep. John] Murtha district anymore. . . . We feel pretty bullish about Pennsylvania and North Carolina. In one, we shored up some of our members, and we unzipped a ludicrously Democratic map in the other. The most heavily Republican district in that state is [three-term Democratic congressman] Heath Shuler’s.”
The redistricting process is not yet complete nationwide; to the NRCC, the biggest unresolved issues remain in New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas.
Adam Temple, a spokesman for the Republican State Leadership Committee, offered perspective on the process so far: “As of today, new maps for 278 of the 435 U.S. House seats have been enacted — although 81 seats are located in states in which [federal] approval of their plans is required under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act . . . and that approval has not yet been granted. This means that 64 percent of the congressional redistricting is completed. Right now our projection is that the GOP/Democrat box score is a +1, but a more cautious view might be −1.” He also notes that in some states — including New Mexico, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, and Virginia — courts are hearing cases that challenge decisions or seek to resolve deadlock.
RECRUITING
Asked which challengers have him particularly excited at this point in the cycle, Shields immediately names Ricky Gill in California. Gill is running against a three-term Democratic incumbent, Jerry McNerney, in the newly drawn 9th district, which comprises parts of San Joaquin County, East Contra Costa County, and southern Sacramento County.
“We came close in the last cycle in this district [McNerney won by one percentage point over Republican David Harmer], and while this district became a little more Democratic in redistricting, it now includes more of the San Joaquin Valley. Ricky is from that part of the district,” Shields says.
Gill, an Indian-American law-school student, will be 25 — the minimum age to serve in the House — on Election Day 2012. In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Ricky to the California State Board of Education. Following his confirmation by the California state senate, Ricky served as the youngest member of the administration and the sole representative of more than 6 million public-school students.
Shields is also happy to see that several GOP candidates who came close in 2010 are coming back in 2012. “When you have a big wave election, a sort of hangover happens — you see a continuation of momentum some cycles. Some Democrats become not so sure they want to run with Barack Obama; some of our guys feel like they may have missed a good opportunity in 2010.” He mentionsRandy Altschuler in New York, Andy Barr in Kentucky, and Jackie Walorski in Indiana as near-misses who may get over the top with the experience of the previous cycle. Those three lost the closest, fourth-closest, and eleventh-closest House races in the country in 2010.
“We reject the notion that we have to play defense this cycle,” Shields says. “Last year the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] said they were going to play offense, and they ended up playing offense [i.e., funding challenges to incumbent Republicans] in two districts. This year, we think we’re in 14 districts where we have solid races, and we could get to 17–18 by the time we’re done.”
THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE’S IMPACT
On paper, a high-stakes presidential campaign should bring out each party’s base and create potential trouble for red-state Democrats and blue-state Republicans. But Shields says he’s actually more worried about what he calls “orphan states” — ones that are considered not competitive in the presidential race, and thus are less likely to see considerable investment from other party committees and grassroots groups.
California, Illinois, and New York — those are states where we have competitive offensive opportunities, but we need to create the infrastructure,” Shields says. “In the last 20 years in California, there have hardly ever been any competitive races. This cycle, we could have eight, nine, maybe ten competitive races there.” By contrast, House Republicans in states such as Ohio, Colorado, and Wisconsin will be helped by the expected furious get-out-the-vote campaigns by the Republican nominee’s campaign and its allies, and of course will face similar efforts from the Obama campaign and its allies.
“When we won our majorities, we did not win with a bunch of swing-y states that go with the tide,” Shields said. “We won our majority by winning a lot of Republican seats that we really never should have lost,” pointing to seats in conservative, often rural regions in places such as Alabama, Missouri, and Arkansas. “These are ones that are never going back. Our map is built on those types of districts, and through redistricting, we’ve been able to strengthen some of those marginal seats.”
Clichés about quick reversals of fortune in politics are cited for good reason, but for now, in an election cycle marked by continued debate about anxiety about employment, the political leader in Washington with the best odds of keeping his job might be House Speaker John Boehner.
— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.


Friday, December 23, 2011


U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Pays Homage to Obama—But Not Jesus

December 19, 2011
    
This ornament, celebrating President Barack Obama, adorns the Capitol Christmas Tree that was officially lighted on Dec. 6, 2011. (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
(CNSNews.com) - The 63-foot Sierra White Fir lighted at the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Dec. 6 as the official 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree includes a prominently displayed ornament paying homage to President Barack Obama, but includes no ornament readily visible to a person standing near the tree's base that uses the word “Christmas,” or includes an image of the Nativity, or bears the name or image of Jesus Christ.
On the north side of the tree--at a height of about 4 feet and easily visible to people standing near it---there is an ornament that says: “I President Obama.”
When asked whether the tree included any ornaments that mention or depict Christmas or the birth of Jesus, the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for the tree, told CNSNews.com that it “does not have a policy nor any restrictions concerning the themes for the ornaments” that go on the tree. The office could not say, however, whether or not this year’s Christmas tree does in fact include even a single ornament that directly references or depicts Christmas or Christ.
The 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
The office of the Architect of the Capitol also did not directly respond to the question of whether any other elected official—in addition to President Obama—is mentioned on any ornament hung on the tree.
“There may be ornaments like those you describe near the top of the tree, or they could have been obscured or moved due to wind or weather,” the architect’s office said in a written statement to CNSNews.com.
Each year since 1964, Congress has been decorating a Christmas tree on the Capitol Grounds. Until 1968, the decorated tree was a live tree planted on the Grounds. Since then, the tree has been cut down—usually in a National Forest--and brought to the Capitol from somewhere in the United States. Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has been responsible for providing the tree.
Over the years, the Capitol Christmas Tree has come from an irregular rotation of states—including, not exclusively, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, and California. The state that sends the tree in any given year, according to the Architect of the Capitol, chooses the theme for the ornaments it will bear. People from that state create the ornaments and donate them to the government.
This year’s tree came from the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County, Calif., which sits on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, due East of San Francisco.
The view looking past the Capitol Christmas Tree toward the Washington Monument. (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
The theme for this year’s ornaments was “California Shines.”
“Ornaments should be designed to reflect our theme ‘California Shines’ by showing how the rich cultural and ecological diversity of this state make it shine,” says the tree’s official website, which was funded by corporate sponsors.  ”From the Pacific Ocean to the sparkling deserts, from the high mountain peaks to its forests, rivers and abundant Central Valley, the diversity of nature and the people who live here are what make the great state of California shine.”
While the website said that all Californians were invited to submit ornaments, it put a special emphasis on getting students to participate.
“We invite participation from all Californians,” said the website. “From individuals, artists, crafters, young and old alike, any and all are invited to create and send in an ornament.”
But a flyer distributed by the website said: “Although anyone can participate, a special invitation goes out to school classes, after-school programs, home school groups, scout troops and all other interested youth groups to create the ornaments for the outdoor tree.”
In keeping with this special invitation to students, the official website also produced some environmental “lesson plans” that teachers could use in helping their students create ornaments.
“We ask that all ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree be made out of natural or recycled materials,” said the introduction to the lesson plans. “Please share the thoughts in our mini-lesson ‘There is No Away’ with your students when they create an ornament for the Tree.”
This ornament shows gold miner, backed by a Bible, circled by a quote from Psalm 19. (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
“Ask students where they think that trash goes when they throw it away,” said this introduction. “Work with them until they understand that trash eventually ends up in a landfill. Show students the image of a landfill.”
Although the Capitol Christmas Tree, as it stood on the morning of Dec. 19, included no readily visible ornament that mentioned or depicted Christmas or Jesus, it did include one ornament that pointed to the Bible and Psalm 19. This ornament, made from an aluminum pie tin, shows a miner panning for gold with a Bible behind him. There is a gold cross on the cover of the Bible. Around the interior wall of the pie tin, these words are written with what appears to be a blue marker: “More precious than Gold” and “Psalm 19.”
This lonely religious ornament cites Psalm 19 with what appears to be a blue marker. (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
Psalm 19 says in part: “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold.”
The tree also includes an ornament that from a distance looks like it could be a cross--but closer up turns out to be a road sign, pointing the direction not to California—but 4837 miles to Hawaii.
Other prominent ornaments on the tree tout Disneyland, Hollywood, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The tree also includes a number of ornaments representing Christmas gift packages. The ribbons on these packages are arranged in a cross pattern--but all of them have "Happy Holidays" ensribed on them.
The official website of the Capitol Christmas Tree has posted 87 photos of Californians making ornaments or posing with ornaments they have made. One of these photos shows a young girl holding an ornament that depicts one of the missions founded in California in the 18th century by Spanish Franciscan missionaries. It is unclear whether this ornament was placed somewhere on the 63-foot tree.
From a distance, this ornament appears as if it could be a cross, but turns out to be a a mile marker pointing toward Hawaii. (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
CNSNews.com sent a series of question about the ornaments to the U.S. Forest Service office in Tuolumne County, Calif., that was responsible for securing the tree and collecting the ornaments and sending them to Washington, D.C. These questions asked if any ornaments had been excluded because of their content and if there were any ornaments actually hung on the tree that expressly mentioned or depicted Christmas, or the birth of Jesus, or any Christian cultural site in California, such as the California missions.
Along with these questions, CNSNews.com sent the Forest Service a photograph of the ornaments that said “I President Obama” and that quoted Psalm 19, and asked if there were any other ornaments on the tree that mentioned an incumbent elected official or that cited a biblical passage from either the Old or New Testament.
A number of ornaments depict Christmas packages tied with ribbons in a cross pattern--but all say: "Happy Holidays." (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
The Forest Service said that it had simply sent all ornaments that had been donated by Californians--along with the 63-foot White Sierra Fir--to Ted Bechtol, who works under the Architect of the Capitol as the Superintendent of the Capitol Ground. The Forest Service also said it had forwarded CNSnews.com’s questions to Bechtol.
Separately, CNSNews.com sent the questions and photos directly to Bechtol and Eva Malecki, communications officer for the Architect of the Capitol. Malecki responded with this statement:
An ornamental star celebrating Hollywood on the Capitol Christmas Tree. (CNSNews.com/Terence P. Jeffrey)
“Thank you for your inquiry. The Office of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) does not have a policy nor any restrictions concerning the themes for the ornaments donated for the Capitol Christmas Tree. Each state determines its own theme each year, and the U.S. Forest Service collects the ornaments from communities throughout the state from which the tree is donated.  (For more information about the types of ornaments collected and collection process, I recommend you speak with the U.S. Forest Service.) Thousands of ornaments are delivered by the U.S. Forest Service to the U.S. Capitol in large boxes along with the Capitol Christmas Tree. There is no selection process to determine which ornaments were to be placed on the Capitol Christmas Tree and which were not based on theme or content.  Rather, the Capitol Grounds crew has to decorate a 65-foot tree in a matter of days, therefore they place ornaments on the Capitol Christmas Tree until it is fully decorated.  Their only concern is that the ornaments stand up to the weather (durable and waterproof). We cannot provide you with the information you requested as to the location of specific ornaments on the Capitol Christmas Tree. As I noted earlier, the Capitol Grounds crew placed thousands of the hand-crafted ornaments on the 65-foot tall Capitol Christmas Tree. There may be ornaments like those you describe near the top of the tree, or they could have been obscured or moved due to wind or weather. The Capitol Christmas Tree has been a wonderful tradition on Capitol Hill for more than 45 years, and it is not the AOC’s policy or practice to exclude the display of donated ornaments on the Capitol Christmas Tree because of any viewpoint of those individuals who created them.” 
Original Story Here

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gordon Lights! In Action

video

The Wells Report Technical Director and Videographer Sean Young visited Fabian Gordon at his home to view the Gordon Lights.  After hearing him on The Wells Report yesterday Sean was compelled to find out what made Fabian and Ellen Gordon decide to open their home to a wonderful Christmas Light/Music Display and accept donations to Operation Homefront of Texas!

The lights and music stay up until January 6th!  Visit Gordon Lights for more information and years past videos.



FBI sees drop in violent and property crimes



(AP)
(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON — The FBI said violent and property crimes in the U.S. reported to police are dropping despite tough economic times.
An FBI report out Monday said violent crimes reported in the first half of 2011 were down 6.4 percent compared to the first six months of 2010.
The number of property crimes, including burglary, larceny and vehicle theft, decreased 3.7 percent.
All four offenses in the violent crime category — murder and non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — decreased between the first half of 2010 and 2011. The largest drop (7.2 percent) was in cities with populations of 50,000-99,999.
Robbery experienced the biggest drop of 7.7 per cent.
The number of arson offenses dropped 8.6 percent in the first six months of 2011.
There were drops in every region of the U.S.
The report is based on information from more than 12,500 law enforcement agencies.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


AP IMPACT: EPA rules threaten older power plants
interestingenergyfacts.blogspot.com
 DINA CAPPIELLO 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to shut down and an additional 36 might have to close because of new federal air pollution regulations, according to an Associated Press survey.
Together, those plants - some of the oldest and dirtiest in the country - produce enough electricity for more than 22 million households, the AP survey found. But their demise probably won't cause homes to go dark.
The fallout will be most acute for the towns where power plant smokestacks long have cast a shadow. Tax revenues and jobs will be lost, and investments in new power plants and pollution controls probably will raise electric bills.
The survey, based on interviews with 55 power plant operators and on the Environmental Protection Agency's own prediction of power plant retirements, rebuts claims by critics of the regulations and some electric power producers.
They have predicted the EPA rules will kill coal as a power source and force blackouts, basing their argument on estimates from energy analysts, congressional offices, government regulators, unions and interest groups. Many of those studies inflate the number of plants retiring by counting those shutting down for reasons other than the two EPA rules.
The AP surveyed electricity-generating companies about what they plan to do and the effects on power supply and jobs. It was the first survey of its kind.
The estimate also was based in part on EPA computer models that predict which fossil-fuel generating units are likely to be retired early to comply with the rules, and which were likely to be retired anyway.
The agency has estimated that 14.7 gigawatts, enough power for more than 11 million households, will be retired from the power grid in the 2014-15 period when the two new rules take effect.
The first rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from dirty power plants. The second, expected to be announced Monday, would set the first standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plant smokestacks.
Combined, the rules could do away with more than 8 percent of the coal-fired generation nationwide, the AP found. The average age of the plants that could be sacrificed is 51 years.
These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn't happen.
Other rules in the works, dealing with cooling water intakes at power plants and coal ash disposal, could cause the retirement of additional generating plants. Those rules weren't included in the AP survey.
While the new rule heralds an incremental shift away from coal as a power source, it's unlikely to break coal's grip as the dominant domestic electricity source. Most of the lost power generation will be replaced, and the coal-fired plants that remain will have to be cleaner.
"In the industry we retire units. That is part of our business," said John Moura, manager of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corp. NERC represents the nation's electrical grid operators, whose job is to weigh the effect a proposed retirement will have on reliability.
With so many retirements expected, that process could get rushed. "We are getting a little hammered here, because we see multiple requests," Moura said.
NERC, along with some power plant operators, is pressing the Obama administration to give companies more time to comply with the rules to avoid too many plants shutting down at once.
In addition to anticipated retirements, about 500 or more units will need to be idled temporarily in the next few years to install pollution controls. Some of those units are at critical junctions on the grid and are essential to restarting the electrical network in case of a blackout, or making sure voltage doesn't drain completely from electrical lines, like a hose that's lost its water pressure.
"We can't say there isn't going be an issue. We know there will be some challenges," Moura said. "But we don't think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue."
That hasn't stopped some critics from sounding alarms.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a letter to the White House this month that the EPA mercury rule could "unintentionally jeopardize the reliability of our electric grid." At a speech in New Hampshire in November, GOP presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman predicted summer blackouts. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad said a single EPA regulation "could threaten America's energy supply."
Particularly at the older, less efficient plants most at risk, coal already was at a disadvantage because of low natural gas prices, demand from China and elsewhere that was driving up coal's price, and weaker demand for electricity.
For many plant operators, the new regulations were the final blow. For others, the rules will speed retirements already planned to comply with state laws or to settle earlier enforcement cases with the EPA. In the AP's survey, not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.
"The EPA regulation became a game changer and a deal changer for some of these units," said Ryan Stensland, a spokesman for Alliant Energy, which has three units in Iowa and one in Minnesota that will be retired, and four in Iowa that are at risk of shutting down, depending on how the final rules look. "Absent the EPA regulations, I don't think we would be seeing the transition that we are seeing today. It became a situation where EPA broke the back of coal."
Some believe the change is long overdue. The two rules will cut toxic mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent, smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution by half, and soot-forming sulfur dioxide by more than 70 percent.
"Many of them are super old. They've either got to be brought up to code, fixed with the best available technology, or close them down," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "You can't keep on going."
The impact is greatest in the Midwest and in the coal belt - Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia - where dozens of units probably will be retired.
Coal "is the fuel that is local to this area," said Leonard Hopkins, the fuel and compliance manager for the Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, which serves rural electric customers in 25 counties in the state. "We are scrambling to find ways to comply."
His options: switch to a lower sulfur coal, install additional pollution controls or retire the oldest boiler and buy cheaper power from elsewhere.
For many of the country's oldest coal-fired plants, retirement is the cheapest option.
"It is more expensive to retrofit these plants than retire them and build new generation," said Chris Whelan, spokeswoman for Kentucky Utilities, which announced in September that it was retiring three coal-fired power plants in the state. The plants, which came on line in 1947, 1962 and 1950, employ 204 people.
Whelan said the company is "going to do everything we can to reallocate the work" by shifting employees to a new gas-fired power plant.
In some places, a job at the power plant is the best thing going.
Thirty people work at the Central Electric Power Cooperative plant in Chamois, Mo., where EPA regulations have put the plant in danger of shutting down. Some employees are looking to see if there are other power plants where they could find work.
"We always knew there was a chance we could get shut down," said Robert Skaggs, who has worked at the 50-year-old power plant for 10 years and is also an alderman in the town of 400. "It's pretty obvious. Our plant is an old plant."
Chamois Mayor Jim Wright saw the sewing factory leave and doesn't understand why coal has to do the same.
"Coal's coal. If you are going to dig and ship it to China, you might as well burn it here," he said.
Electricity bills are also a concern.
Kentucky Utilities expects its customers to see as much as a 14 percent rate increase to make up for the $800 million it is spending to replace what will be retired, and the $1.1 billion it plans to spend on anti-pollution upgrades. Other power companies have applied to recoup the cost of retrofits or of building new gas-fired power plants. The EPA estimates that industry will spend $11 billion complying with the two rules by 2016.
For others, the biggest issue with plant retirements is the loss of property taxes. As plants wind down and close, their assessed value drops, reducing what they pay to local governments.
In Salem, Mass., Dominion plans to retire two units at the Salem Harbor Station later this year, a move that could halve the plant's workforce in a town famous for its 17th century witch trials and where the major business is tourism.
The loss of its 50-year-old power plant poses two dilemmas: how to replace its biggest taxpayer and what to do with the 60 acres of waterfront property when the plant is gone.
"It's not like losing a Dunkin' Donuts," said Mayor Kim Driscoll, noting that attractions such as Baltimore's Inner Harbor took decades to redevelop from abandoned industrial property.
For the next five years, Salem will make up for Dominion's dwindling $4.75 million tax bill with state money, but after that the future is unclear.
"It's a big chunk of change when you're looking at we still have the same number of kids in school, we still have the same number of calls for police and fire, we have the same number of parks and resources that need to be maintained and kept up," Driscoll said. "That's not to say there aren't folks locally that are happy with the fact that a coal-based plant won't be here forever. There are certainly folks here that see it as a way for Salem to flourish in other ways."


Obama Campaign Strategist Axelrod Accuses GOP of 'Screwing Up' Economy to hurt 


By Ed Henry 

Published December 19, 2011


newsroom.unl.edu
Happy to be in Chicago at home helping to run President Obama's re-election effort, David Axelrod claims he's not salivating over the chance to slam Republicans over the latest dust-up back in Washington over the extension of the payroll tax cut.
"If I have the choice between extending the tax cut for a year and energizing our economy and having an issue to run on, I'd rather energize the economy," Axelrod said in an exclusive interview with Fox News. "I think that it's better for the country, it's better for the president. Frankly it's better for the Congress even if they don't see it."
In the next breath, however, Axelrod flatly charged the latest move by House Republicans to block a Senate compromise extending the tax cut for two months is an effort by the GOP to choke off any economic recovery and damage Obama's already difficult re-election prospects.
"You have to wonder whether some folks over there think somehow -- think screwing up the economy, throwing a wrench in the works is a good political strategy for them," Axelrod told Fox News. "Somehow if they can slow the recovery down, if they can cost a half million or delay a half million jobs, that that will hurt the president."
House Republicans were expected to reject Senate-passed payroll tax legislation with a price tag is $33 billion. The Senate measure allows for the Social Security tax rate to stay at 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent for another two months instead of the year that most House GOP members prefer.
"Doing a two-month extension instead of a full-year extension causes uncertainty for job creators," House Speaker John Boehner said in remarks to reporters. "A two-month extension creates uncertainty and will cause problems for people who are trying to create jobs in the private sector."
Boehner said he wants to come up with a compromise the old-fashioned way -- in a conference of House and Senate lawmakers, though House votes on the issue were postponed until Tuesday.
Back in Washington, the president and his aides say they're not watching the GOP nomination fight closely as they deal with the Congressional endgame. Here in the president's hometown, however, Fox News was given a tour today of the Obama team's 50,000-square-foot re-election headquarters where dozens of paid staffers are working around the clock to be ready for the eventual Republican standard bearer.
In an interview across town in the offices of Axelrod's private consulting business -- which is lined with photos of political memorabilia and campaigns past -- the president's top campaign strategist mused this year's race is even more exciting than the 2008 Democratic slugfest between then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
"It's the most peculiar race -- most unusual I should say -- race that I've seen," Axelrod said. "On the Republican side certainly and probably both sides because of how unpredictable it's been."
Axelrod said he's no longer sure about the conventional wisdom that former Governor Mitt Romney will eventually outlast former Speaker Newt Gingrich and the other contenders.
"I think that the assumption has been that Governor Romney will wear everybody out, that you know he'll win the war of attrition," said Axelrod. "But who knows?"
Nevertheless, Axelrod still trained his fire on Romney.
"The whole core of Governor Romney's campaign is that I'm not a politician, I'm a businessman," said Axelrod. "Leave aside the fact that he's been running for office for 17 years, and that he's put 52 million dollars of his own money into those campaigns. I think when you spend 52 million dollars on your own campaigns, you qualify as a politician."
Axelrod also mocked Gingrich by borrowing an old adage from a former Chicago alderman who years ago decided not to run for higher office.
"'The higher a monkey climbs up a pole, the more you can see his butt,'" recalled Axelrod. "Meaning that the more prominent you become, the more you become the front-runner, the more everybody takes a close look at you. And that's certainly what's happening with the Speaker.”
Still, Axelrod vowed that if Gingrich winds up as the GOP nominee, the Obama campaign would not use any of its ads or other mediums to slam the former Speaker about his personal life -- although the door, of course, would still be open for outside Democratic groups to launch such attacks.
"Obviously people will make judgments on these candidates as human beings and how they live their lives," said Axelrod. "I'm not going to stray into those waters."
Axelrod said the Obama campaign would rather focus on substantive issues like the economy, and believes it has a compelling case the President rescued the nation from a second Great Depression and slowly but surely is turning it around.
In order to size up the entire Republican field, Axelrod borrowed a line from Romney, who recently charged to The New York Times that some of Gingrich's ideas are "zany" and not mainstream conservative.
Axelrod noted there were more than two dozen debates in the 2008 Democratic primary and he suggested the current GOP field is nowhere near as strong as the group that included Obama, Clinton and other Democrats like then-Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.
"There were a lot of plausible presidents on that platform," said Axelrod. "It was a -- it was really I think a substantive exchange and it's different in many ways from what you've seen on the Republican side, which is, you know -- I don't know -- dare I say 'zany'?"

Story Here

 


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