Spinning PPIC’s poll on the U.S. Senate race

The Public Policy Institute of California poll released yesterday shows U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., doesn’t have majority support against any of her Republican challengers but leads them all by varying margins.

Former Congressman, state finance director and Cal business school dean Tom Campbell fares best in a head-to-head match-up, with Boxer at 45 percent and Campbell at 41 percent among November’s likely voters. While 79 percent of Democratic likely voters favor Boxer, 84 percent of Republican likely voters favor Campbell; independents are more divided but favor Boxer over Campbell, 42 percent to 37 percent. Boxer has a 14-point lead among female likely voters (50 percent to 36 percent), and Campbell has a 6-point lead among men (46 percent to 40 percent).

Boxer has an eight-point lead over both former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (48 percent to 40 percent) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine (47 percent to 39 percent).

Among likely voters in the GOP primary, Campbell leads at 27 percent, with Fiorina at 16 percent and DeVore at 8 percent. Campbell leads among likely voters with household incomes both below and above $80,000, and among both men and women. This survey of likely voters includes the 12 percent of independent voters who say they will choose to vote on a Republican ballot.

The margin of error for the 1,223 November likely voters is three percentage points, and the margin for the 425 Republican primary likely voters is five points.

Campbell’s camp says their man might be doing better than this poll indicates; they think PPIC’s methodology short-sells older voters, who seem to like Campbell more.

Fiorina’s camp said the poll “confirms yet again that Barbara Boxer is a highly vulnerable incumbent.”

“More and more Californians are disenchanted by her lackluster record and, despite having been in office for 18 years, she is still unable to break the 50 percent threshold in this poll against any Republican candidate. Carly will continue to hold Boxer accountable for her disappointing tenure in the U.S. Senate, and as voters get to know Carly better in the coming months, her name identification will rise – as will her poll numbers. Meanwhile, Tom Campbell’s performance in both the primary and the general election matchups shows his electoral weakness, despite the higher name recognition that comes with having run for office nine times before. Once voters learn about his record championing higher taxes and bigger government, his support will erode quickly.”

DeVore’s campaign manager, Leisa Brug Kline, said it’s “an interesting and welcome poll for several reasons.

“Though there’s a long way to go, Chuck DeVore’s support is quietly building on the enthusiasm and support of Republicans and conservatives across California – and across America,” she said. “It’s useful to note that this poll was conducted in the week before Scott Brown’s upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race – an event that has generated tremendous interest in Chuck DeVore and his message of a winning conservatism in California.”

DeVore campaign communications director Joshua Treviño took the fight more directly to Fiorina:

“As Chuck DeVore’s support steadily grows, Carly Fiorina’s is steadily collapsing. The establishment that supported her is defecting to Campbell, and the conservatives who want the real deal are turning to Chuck. With the margin of error on the PPIC poll, and the identical results on the hypothetical general-election matchup, Fiorina and DeVore are in a de facto tie for second place. Even worse for Carly, Chuck DeVore is at dead parity with her in support from women, a demographic she thought was hers.”

“Carly Fiorina’s inevitability narrative died when Tom Campbell entered the race. Now her electability narrative dies as she can’t do better than Chuck DeVore either against Barbara Boxer, or in appeal to the women’s vote. If these trends continue, we’ll see this primary race end as a real choice between a real liberal in Tom Campbell, and a real conservative in Chuck DeVore.”


Reactions to the State of the Union address

California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring said that after a year of President Obama trying to jam his agenda down Congressional Republicans’ throats, tonight’s speech sounded more like political positioning and rhetoric than substantive policy. “I saw an attempt to salvage the same health-care package. I saw largely repackaging more than the adoption of a more centrist policy agenda.”

“This unfortunate, constant blaming of his predecessor and his predecessor’s programs – that’s not taking responsibility, that’s not leadership,” Nehring said.

The President also engaged in “a bit of trying to rewrite history” by emphasizing the tax cuts included in the economic-stimulus legislation rather than its wasteful government spending, Nehring said, noting that despite President Obama’s promises to the contrary, the national unemployment rate now hovers around 10 percent and California’s around 12 percent.

And on foreign policy, he said, Obama’s resolute words don’t mask the fact that Iran’s nascent Iranian nuclear program and continued support of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah still destabilizes the Middle East and stands in the way of regional peace efforts including a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, said he’s pleased that President Obama named as a stimulus success story the $535 million loan guarantee to Fremont-based Solyndra, which will build a plant to produce state-of-the-art solar panels. Alas, Stark said, he didn’t mention the imminent closure of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant, which will cost the East Bay 4,000 to 5,000 jobs.

“He’s got the broad picture right but he was terribly short on specific programs,” Stark said, adding he wishes he’d heard more about money targeted toward communities for infrastructure improvement. “I’m willing to give him credit for trying … I thought it was inspirational, I thought it was a bit short on detail, that’s all.”

Stark, who chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, also said the President’s health-care reform comments indicate he “seems to think more optimistically than I do that he can get it past the House and the Senate. I don’t think he can, I don’t think he can get the Senate to make the changes that are necessary.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, embraced President Obama’s optimism and resoluteness on health-care reform.

“We’re going to continue to meet with the Senate to come to an agreement on what we can pass in the senate on a majority vote, which they can do,” Miller said shortly after the speech. “If you do nothing, people continue to lose their insurance, people continue to be devastated by medical bills … The status quo is crushing our companies and its crushing our families.”

Overall, Miller said, PResient Obama “did a hell of a job” with the speech, given declining polls, the GOP victory in the Massachusetts Senate election, and a tough battle behind and ahead on health care. “I thought it was inspirational, I think he was speaking directly to members of Congress and telling us we have an obligation to do the business of this nation.”

In particular, Miller said, “I think he took the senate to the woodshed” by noting the House has passed bills on jobs, financial reform, education and energy and climate change, and now it’s the Senate’s turn. “He was really telling them, you’ve gotta get this done.”

“If they don’t change, we’re not going to meet the needs of the country”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also appreciated that President Obama “put the Senate on the spot,” and also that he did the same to the U.S. Supreme Court over last week’s decision lifting long-standing restrictions on corporate and union spending on federal campaigns. “Very bold of him, but that was the right thing to do.”

Like Stark, Lee said she would’ve liked a few more specifics. “I think he gave us parameters for what he was talking about,” she said, “but I wanted to hear what kind of jobs bill he thinks the Senate should pass” as pertains to targeting the areas of highest need, retraining workers for green industries, creating summer jobs for youth, and so on. “I think we do need a direct government investment in creating jobs, but I think all and all it was a very profound speech, very inspirational, and gave a lot of hope to people.”

Although she said she’s glad he’s “staying the course” on issues such as health-care reform, climate change and issues, there are some things on which Lee flat-out disagreed with President Obama. Her opposition to the 30,000-troop increase for Afghanistan is already on the record, but she said she’s also dead-set against the discretionary spending freeze the President described tonight.

“In a time of despair, during an economic downturn and recession, you don’t freeze discretionary spending. You don’t hurt those who need help the most,” she said, adding she didn’t buy his argument that delaying the freeze until 2011 will alleviate its effect on the struggling economy. “For whatever reason, this is something he thinks has to be part of his economic policy at this time.”

More reactions after the jump…
Continue Reading


Excerpts from Obama’s State of the Union

The White House just sent out excerpts from the State of the Union address that President Obama will deliver tonight to a joint session of Congress:

We face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope – what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds and different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared. A job that pays the bill. A chance to get ahead. Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to school. They are coaching little league and helping their neighbors. As one woman wrote to me, “We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.”

It is because of this spirit – this great decency and great strength – that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We don’t allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise.

By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time for something new. Let’s try common sense. Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let’s meet our responsibility to the people who sent us here.

To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.

That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why – for the first time in history – my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.

But we cannot stop there. It’s time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my Administration or Congress. And it’s time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign companies – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

I’m also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single website before there’s a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.


Alioto-Pier quits Insurance Commissioner race

San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier just announced she’s withdrawing as a candidate for state Insurance Commissioner.

“Michela suffered an injury to her leg which required surgery and will entail additional time in the hospital time to heal,” her husband Tom Pier said in an emailed statement. “The necessary recuperation, as well as the demands of her duties as a San Francisco Supervisor and as a mother of three young children, make a statewide run for Insurance Commissioner impractical at this time.”

Alioto-Pier entered the race in August and had won endorsements including those of former Vice President Al Gore, and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid.

Still in the Democratic primary for this race: Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate; Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento; and former Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka. On the GOP side, there’s Assemblyman Mike Villines, R-Clovis.


Obama, Arnold, Steinberg throw down on taxes

So is it President Obama versus California Democrats, Schwarzenegger versus the truth, or both?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office this morning sent reporters a missive noting President Obama’s comment in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer yesterday that “I can guarantee that the worst thing we could do would be to raise taxes when the economy is still this weak.”

Although the President was talking about federal taxes, the governor’s office juxtaposed this with Legislative Democrats’ calls to help close the state’s chronic budget shortfalls and structural deficit with some revenue increases. Among those was this:

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) Calls For Tax Increase On Independent Contractors.
“Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento said the state could generate a one-time boost of $2 billion simply by requiring tax withholdings on payments to independent contractors.” (Judy Lin, “Schwarzenegger Doesn’t Blame Voters For Ill Will,” The Associated Press, 1/25/10)
Steinberg: “At every opportunity I decry the governor and minority party’s refusal to consider applying the same tax withholding rules to businesses that we apply to working people. The Franchise Tax Board tells us that applying a 3 percent withholding for independent contractors would raise $2 billion.” (Senator Darrell Steinberg, “Schwarzenegger’s Budget Doesn’t Reflect California’s Priorities,” San Jose Mercury News, 1/18/10)

Steinberg’s office shot back a short while ago, accusing the governor of perpetuating his pattern of not letting the facts get in the way of his rhetoric.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s office today released a document stating that Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg’s endorsement of a tax withholding requirement on independent contractors is a tax increase.

That assertion is patently false, and is yet another example of how the Governor refuses to let the facts get in the way of his rhetoric.

Here are the facts. Under existing law, employers are required to deduct and withhold from wages an amount equivalent to an employee’s reasonable tax obligation. Each quarter, employers are then required to remit to the Employment Development Department the total amount of income taxes they withheld. These provisions do not currently apply to payments made for goods and services performed by independent contractors.

In other words, the proposal endorsed by Steinberg does not increase anybody’s taxes; it only proposes that independent contractors pay the taxes they currently owe. Indeed, according to the Franchise Tax Board, such a policy would result in more than $1 billion in revenue for fiscal year 10/11, with ongoing revenues in the hundreds of millions in the following years.

So here’s a question for the Governor: Why do you believe that the law-abiding taxpayers of California should be forced year after year to pick up the slack for tax-dodgers?


Deborah Stark endorses Nadia Lockyer

Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 2 candidate Nadia Lockyer today announced she has the endorsement of Deborah Roderick Stark, whom she described as “a nationally recognized expert in child and family policy” and a First Five Alameda County Commission member.

“As a mother, former adult caregiver, and someone who deals with families everyday as the Executive Director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center, Nadia understands the needs of families and what it takes to keep communities healthy. Nadia Lockyer will be a voice for the children and families of Alameda County when she will serve on the Board of Supervisors, representing the people of District 2,” Stark said in the news release.

The news release delves deeper into both women’s professional bona fides, but doesn’t mention that Lockyer, 38, is the wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, 68, or that Stark, 43, is the wife of Rep. Pete Stark, 78.

The question is: should it?

On one hand, Lockyer might be trying to campaign only on her own qualifications, which seems admirable; on the other hand, her husband’s long political career indisputably enhances her name recognition and political connections. Ditto Stark, to some extent; though she’s certainly a respected child and family policy expert, I find it hard to believe she’s not better known around here as Pete Stark’s wife.

Or is that just because hacks like me keep pointing it out? Does a candidate omit the information with the knowledge (and/or tacit consent) that journalists most likely will report it anyway? And, should we?

I’d argue for it, as I think a person’s marriage is a part of who they are, and newsworthy for those seeking office especially when that marriage has political dimensions; I’d say the same for a famed politician’s husband seeking his own office. Others might argue against it, saying it’s a demeaning implication that the candidate is riding his/her spouse’s coattails. What do you think?

The Board of Supervisors District 2 seat represents parts of Hayward, Newark, Union City, Fremont, and Sunol; incumbent Gail Steele isn’t seeking re-election. Others in the race include former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol; Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling; and Union City Mayor Mark Green. The election will be held June 8.