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Tip of the Speier

Rep. Jackie Speier speaks with constituents July 19 in Pacifica

Rep. Jackie Speier speaks with constituents July 19 in Pacifica

[This post was updated Tuesday. See below.]

Rep. Jackie Speier, who is now in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, paid a visit to the Times last week to provide an update on her first year in Washington.

Speier touched on several topics over the course of about 45 minutes, starting with the first federal bill she’s authored, an attempt to lower America’s oil consumption by setting a national speed limit of 60 mph in urban regions and 65 mph in rural areas.

The legislation has sparked a bit of an outcry, which is understandable, since Americans love their cars and love to drive fast. Great numbers of U.S. citizens enjoy watching automobiles drive in a circle for hours, and they’ll pay large sums and absorb near-fatal doses of sunlight to do it.

But Speier said she’s not deterred by the criticism.

“I’m not there to make friends,” she said. “I’m there to do the people’s work.”

Speier said reducing oil consumption is the sort of thing that’s missing right now from the national debate about energy, with Republicans screaming for offshore oil drilling that won’t yield its miniscule benefits for more than a decade and Democrats pushing for alternative-energy incentives.

Speier acknowledged that it’s unlikely H.R. 6458 will get a hearing during the September congressional session, meaning the bill may not get off the ground until next year.

In case you were wondering, all of Highway 101 from San Jose to San Francisco would be a 60 mph zone, according to federal guidelines for defining urban and rural areas.

Speier also offered her take on a subject that’s had many liberals on edge for weeks: Barack Obama’s recent inability or unwillingness to counter the relentless attacks from his Republican opponent’s newly dirty campaign.

(As Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote on Monday, “many Democrats have had the sick feeling that once again their candidate brought a knife to a gunfight.”)

It had been one bad news cycle after another for Obama during the month of August, at least until last week when John McCain forgot how many houses he and his wife own and cable TV news shows began obsessing about Obama’s choice for vice president.

But Speier said she’s confident that Obama will pull out of it. Obama is a quick study, she said, and he’s more aggressive in responding to political attacks than John Kerry was in 2004.

“The truth is the public loves a competition,” Speier said of the presidential race. “They want it to be close right now.”

(The Insider happens to agree with this assessment, but only if you substitute the word “media” for the word “public.”)

“They’re swiftboating” Obama, Speier said of the McCain campaign, which is now being run by political operatives who learned their trade at the hooves, er, feet, of Karl Rove.

The common perception in 2004 was that Kerry’s biggest strength was his military experience, which could protect him from Republican smears suggesting he hated America and despised the troops.

Obama’s biggest strength is his personal magnetism, which makes McCain look creaky and creepy by comparison, so the McCain team has launched its “celebrity” ads to turn Obama’s star power against him, Speier said.

“You take someone’s absolute strength and try to wrap it around their neck and choke them,” said Speier.

Speier said Obama needs to frame the election around the Supreme Court, since the next president will choose as many as two or three justices. The choices to replace the justices who are on the verge of retirement will have a major impact for “the rest of this century,” Speier said.

UPDATE:

A few other observations from the interview.

– Regarding an account we’d heard indicating that Speier has been surprised by the arduousness of her commute to and from Washington, Speier confirmed that, especially in the first months, the travel has been hard.

When Congress is in session, Speier typically flies to Washington first thing Monday morning and returns Friday on a late afternoon flight so she can spend the weekends with her family.

“My body doesn’t know what time zone it’s in anymore,” she said.

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Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Activism, Barack Obama, Jackie Speier | No Comments »

This little piggy got a prize

The Insider is making its return to the Web after a pathetic absence. What’s the meaning of the above image: a metaphor for this year’s political elections, or a sly reference to our own indolence? Nope, it’s just a pretty picture.

The photo does, however, serve to preview the San Mateo County Fair, which begins Aug. 8 and features pig races. The shot above was taken June 20 at the Alameda County Fair by MediaNews photographer Doug Duran.

Posted on Thursday, July 24th, 2008
Under: 2008 Assembly Race, 2008 Congressional Race, 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, San Mateo County | 1 Comment »

Another look at Super Tueday

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So where did it all go wrong for Barack Obama on Tuesday? He appeared to be gaining in polls of California voters leading up to the election, the Bay Area seemed to be a receptive environment for his campaign and he even looked to have run a better grassroots campaign in San Mateo County.

Meanwhile, the campaign of Hillary Clinton appeared to skirt the county, focusing on San Francisco and then skipping down to Palo Alto and Silicon Valley. For example, a listing of local events on Clinton’s Web site on the weekend before Super Tuesday contained multiple entries for Santa Clara County and not a single one for San Mateo County.

Several things appeared to have been at play. For one, we learned all over again that polls are fallible. In particular, a Zogby poll that showed Obama surging into the lead statewide turned out to be flat-out wrong.

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Posted on Friday, February 8th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Colma, Democratic Party, East Palo Alto, Elections Office, Hillary Clinton, San Bruno, San Mateo County | 1 Comment »

Who’s it going to be?

obama.jpg

[Updated at 7 p.m. Wednesday. See below.]

One and a half hours until the polls close in California, so how is it looking in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination? Will Barack Obama, pictured above, complete his come-from-behind surge, or will Hillary Clinton hold him off?

Early exit polls show Clinton with a slight lead, but then this piece in Slate tells us to disregard exit polls in California because they’re skewed by the large number of absentee voters.

One poll released just before voting started today showed that Obama had not only erased Clinton’s lead, which was in the double digits a couple weeks ago, according to some polls, but was in position for a convincing win.

We’ll see. Democratic insider and famed trial attorney Joe Cotchett told us Friday for our election preview that he’s seeing a big shift to Obama by Edwards supporters, especially trial lawyers. He pointed to Assemblyman Keith Jones, D-Sacramento, who is head of the Judiciary Committee, by way of example.

Incidentally, we’re hearing that voter turnout is insane tonight. San Mateo County Elections Manager David Tom is now predicting turnout as high as 65 or 70 percent.

UPDATE: Well, so much for Obama’s surge. Clinton dispatched him with relative ease. Tomorrow we’ll take a close look at Tuesday’s result and empty the old notebook, so come on back.

Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Assembly, Barack Obama, Democratic Party | No Comments »

See Rudy plunge

giuliani-2.jpg

When Rudy Giuliani paid a visit to Broadway Grill in Burlingame last spring, he was the frontrunner in the race to capture the Republican nomination and riding high in the polls. (This poll from April 2007 gives a sense of his status at the time.)

As of Wednesday, he was out of the presidential race, his campaign having suffered a collapse of historic proportions.

There are lots of theories as to what happened, chief among them Giuliani’s unusual strategy of focusing on Florida rather than some of the earlier contests.

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Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Burlingame, Republican Party | No Comments »

Johnny Edwards and the California campaign

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The Insider paid a visit to the Green Building Exchange Tuesday, not only to buy some pervious concrete and cork flooring for the Chateau d’Insider, our secluded compound, but also to check out a new effort, spearheaded by PG&E and Sustainable San Mateo County, to help people go “green.”

And who should we run into but our old friend* Jeffrey Anderson, co-chair of the John Edwards for President campaign here in California.

Anderson said he stopped by to say hello to his buddy, Bill Coleman, president of the Green Building Exchange and former chief operating officer of Planktos Inc., a Foster City company that aims to reduce carbon dioxide levels by expanding the growth of the ocean’s phytoplankton.

“This is a chance to see old friends and meet new ones,” said Anderson, adding that the Edwards campaign is deeply invested in energy and environmental issues.

So what did the California co-chair think of Edwards’ performance at the San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll (which the former vice presidential candidate won with 29 percent of the vote)?

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Posted on Friday, November 16th, 2007
Under: 2008 Presidental Race, Aaron Kinney, Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Environment, Political Campaigns, Redwood City | 1 Comment »