capitol-hill

Ryan Is Damned if He Does, and Damned if He Doesn’t

Ryan is the one person who might hold House Republicans together. But for how long? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I no longer underestimate Paul D. Ryan.  

I first met the Wisconsin Republican when he came in for an interview on Nov. 19, 1997. Then 27, he most recently had been a Capitol Hill staffer for conservative Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback.  

Remembrance of Shutdowns Past

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans scored big gains in the 2010 and 2014 elections because both of those midterms were about President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Democrats had successful elections in 2006, 2008 and 2012 primarily because they made those elections about the GOP and George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.  

You might think politicians from both sides of the aisle would understand that a political party does best when it makes the national political discussion about the weaknesses, failings and shortcomings of the other party. But some politicians (these days mostly Republicans) seem to have problems appreciating that.  

Will Improving Economy Help Obama's Case on Keystone?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Events matter in politics and, for a change, they potentially seem to offer a bit of aid and comfort to President Barack Obama in his upcoming battle with the Republican-controlled Congress.  

After an impressive across-the-board victory that included a new Senate majority, gains to the party’s House majority and wins at the state legislative level, Republicans are poised to confront the White House over the Keystone XL pipeline. “As we consider the Keystone jobs bill, let’s keep focused on the real issues at hand: things like jobs for the middle class and reliable energy costs for families,” said new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a recent statement.  

Mary Landrieu’s Loss and the End of Ticket Splitting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s defeat in the Dec. 6 runoff certainly was no surprise. If anything, it seemed inevitable since the evening of Nov. 4, when it became clear a Republican rout was underway and Democrats would lose control of the Senate.  

But the veteran Democrat's defeat is another reminder we have entered a period of parliamentary elections, where the parties stand for starkly different ideological agendas and where ticket-splitting, which follows from individual evaluations apart from party, is relatively rare.  

For Democrats, It’s All About (Years) After November

Politics is often about keeping one eye on today and another eye on tomorrow. That’s especially true for Democrats, who should not be completely disheartened about their party’s prospects.  

November certainly looks like a challenging election for supporters of President Barack Obama — given the president’s anemic job approval numbers , recent generic ballot tests showing a virtual dead heat in congressional vote intention, the public’s deep dissatisfaction with Washington, D.C., and turnout trends in midterm years.  

'The Political Middle Has Disappeared'

A terrific post-shutdown “after action report” by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who is one-half of the bipartisan polling team that conducts the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, includes one slide (No. 7) that I found particularly instructive.

Titled “the political middle has disappeared,” it shows the ideological distribution of Republican and Democratic members in the House in 1982, 1994, 2002, 2011 and 2012, based on National Journal ratings.

For GOP, the Damage Is Undeniable

The Cruz wing of the GOP doesn't really believe in negotiation, which, at its core, requires compromise. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The deal to open the government and raise the debt ceiling may be done, but the damage to the national Republican Party is considerable.

One GOP consultant — who clearly hails from the more conservative end of his party — didn’t hold back recently in slamming the “no compromise” conservatives who led House Republicans off the political cliff with a government shutdown and by flirting with a debt default.

Is Cruz Causing a Democratic Wave? Maybe, but Don't Jump the Gun

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Last week I observed that I hadn't yet seen “compelling evidence” that a Democratic political wave could be developing. I can no longer say that after seeing the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

That highly regarded poll showed Republican numbers have taken a considerable hit because of the shutdown and the media coverage around it. The GOP’s 24 percent positive/53 percent negative image obviously is a red flag, especially compared with image numbers for the Democratic Party (39 percent positive/40 percent negative) and President Barack Obama (47 percent positive/41 percent negative).

Shutdown Fever: Is the House in Play Now?

On Sunday, a Huffington Post headline screamed what most Democrats were hoping: “GOP In Grave Danger Of Losing House In 2014, PPP Polls Show.” Of course, anything coming from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling and MoveOn.org Political Action, which paid for the surveys, must be taken with at least a grain of salt.

PPP isn’t your typical polling firm. Its surveys often are intended to boost Democratic recruiting, fundraising or prospects. In this case, the “polls” were almost certainly commissioned to create a narrative about the political repercussions of the shutdown and the nature of the midterms.

OMG!!! A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. Or Maybe Not

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Once again, Henny Penny is running around to warn us that the sky is falling. A government shutdown is only [fill in the blank] days, [fill in the blank] hours and [fill in the blank] minutes away. The countdown clock shows the seconds ticking by. The end is near.

Well, maybe that’s true. Maybe the government is going to shut down. The national parks will close. You won’t be able to renew your passport, making it impossible for you to flee to some enlightened land where the government is still open and operating normally. You’ll have to re-schedule your visit to the Washington Monument. (Actually, it is closed for repairs anyway, so don’t blame the shutdown, if there is one.)