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Musings on the state GOP, Congress, pot & Kansas

A few observations on Tuesday’s elections, with a hat tip to my colleagues Paul Rogers and Ken McLaughlin for their thoughts:

CALIFORNIA GOP: Tuesday’s results seem to be a vindication and victory for the “Brulte Doctrine,” spelled out by the state GOP chairman at his party’s convention in March: Don’t waste much effort trying to win unwinnable statewide races, but instead rebuild the party by “grinding it out on the ground” in local races – a strategy that will take several election cycles to bear larger fruit.

Despite their buzz, Ashley Swearengin and Pete Peterson couldn’t make it happen statewide: as it stands now, it looks like a 5.6-point loss for Swearengin in the controller’s race and a 5-point loss for Peterson in the secretary of state’s race. Those are respectable losses but losses nonetheless, and I submit that the GOP putting more money and party resources behind them might actually have resulted in wider margins of loss – I think they did this well in part by distancing themselves from partisanship.

Instead, Brulte’s GOP concentrated on denying Democrats their legislative supermajorities – and now it’s “mission accomplished” in the state Senate while the Assembly still hangs by a thread as vote-by-mail ballots are counted.

In doing so, the GOP is hatching a new generation of up-and-comers. Exhibit A: Catharine Baker, who at this hour is up 3.8 points over Democrat Tim Sbranti in the East Bay’s 16th Assembly District race. Baker, an attorney hailed as a cream-of-the-crop “California Trailblazer” at her party’s convention in March, was far outspent by Sbranti, who already had some name recognition among the electorate as Dublin’s mayor. But GOP officials and activists came from around the state to pound the pavement for her, and it looks like it could pay off with the first Bay Area Republican sent to Sacramento since Guy Houston was term-limited out (in the same part of the East Bay) in 2008.

CONGRESS: Anyone who’s surprised that Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and gained seats in the House isn’t very well-versed in history. A two-term president’s party almost always loses ground in his sixth-year midterm.

Sure, President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating stood at 42 percent (per Gallup) on Tuesday. And President George W. Bush’s job approval was at 38 percent in November 2006 as Democrats picked up five Senate seats and 31 House seats, making Harry Reid the new Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi the new House Speaker. And President Ronald Reagan was riding high with a 63 percent job-approval rating in November 1986 (although he was about to take a precipitous dive as details of the Iran-Contra scandal came to light) as Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, putting Robert Byrd in the driver’s seat, and five House seats to cement the majority they already had.

The exception was President Bill Clinton, who saw his party pick up five House seats in 1998 – a stinging defeat that left Republicans in control but forced Newt Gingrich to resign as Speaker – while the Senate was a zero-sum game. Clinton, under fire for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, still was at a 66 percent job-approval rating at the time.

But Bubba always had a way of defying the odds.

MARIJUANA: If Oregon and Alaska got enough younger voters out to the polls in this midterm election to approve marijuana legalization, just imagine what California can do in 2016’s presidential election with an initiative forged in the trial-and-error of four other states’ experiences.

KANSAS: Kansas has had private-sector job growth that lags the rest of the country, and adopted tax cuts big enough to blow a still-widening hole in the state budget requiring school closings, teacher layoffs and increased class sizes – but doubled down with its Republican governor and Republican U.S. Senator. I guess you can lead a Jayhawk to water, but you can’t make it drink…

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McCarthy leads House GOP junket to Silicon Valley

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is bringing a group of House Republicans on an “Innovate to Create” tour of Silicon Valley this week to meet with leading tech entrepreneurs and discuss how innovation leads to American job creation and economic growth.

“Silicon Valley is the cradle of twenty-first century innovation and the home to businesses that have effectively harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country so great. Visiting these companies and meeting with their leaders is a great opportunity for members of Congress to see firsthand how innovation leads to job creation and economic growth across the entire country and around the world,” McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said in a news release.

“Washington must be mindful of the impact its policies can have in either fostering or hindering this growth. House Republicans are committed to unshackling entrepreneurs from onerous government-manufactured burdens that threaten to dampen opportunities for development so that there are no limits to what America’s innovators can imagine for our future.”

The lawmakers will meet with representatives from Google, Facebook, the Internet Association Roundtable, Engine Advocacy, Good Technology and Palantir Technologies. Besides McCarthy, lawmakers on the tour include Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind.; George Holding, R-N.C.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.; Patrick Meehan, R-Pa.; Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.; and Steve Scalise, R-La.

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Gitmo to Alcatraz: Sarcastic or stupid?

Inanity erupted in both chambers of Congress yesterday. (Big surprise.)

In the House, it was Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s ranking Republican.

“Alcatraz would be a good place to put these people,’’ he said yesterday of the detainees who will have to be moved out of their prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within the next year under an executive order signed Thursday by President Barack Obama. “There’s a lot of discomfort about the idea of bringing the detainees in to the United States. That’s why I’ve suggested Alcatraz.”

In the Senate, it was U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

“I can’t think of any city or town across this country that will be thrilled to have Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah living down the street,” said the Senate Intelligence Committee’ ranking Republican. “If you really want to bring them back to the United States, people in Missouri and Kansas believe Gitmo is just fine. Folks in San Francisco want it closed. I’d suggest you put them in Alcatraz.”

So… stupid, or sarcastic? Follow me after the jump as we tackle both possibilities… Continue Reading

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Torch detour made the best of a tense situation?

The dust has settled, the Olympic torch is in Buenos Aires. Summing yesterday up:

  • The torch was run through the San Francisco’s streets, though not as planned.
  • The world saw it happen, while also seeing the passion of the thousands of protestors who forced the detour.
  • Many people who’d come just to see the torch were disappointed.
  • Nobody got hurt.
  • Only two or three people were cited by police.
  • One could make a pretty strong argument that things went better than most expected. Would it have been better to stick to the original plan, risking chaos far in excess of what we ended up seeing? Everyone had their say and got their publicity this way, and with so many angry people and so many law enforcement officers all jammed together yesterday, it’s pretty amazing things went as peacefully as they did.

    People should consider why San Francisco was chosen for the torch run in the first place, as the city has earned its reputation many times over as a hotbed of activism. Even if China hadn’t incurred the world’s wrath with its recent crackdown in Tibet, you can bet your bottom dollar that pro-Tibet, pro-Burma, anti-Darfur-genocide, anti-sweatshop, animal-rights and other activists would’ve hit the streets en masse here anyway — protesting is one of the things San Francisco does best. (I’m still convinced that somewhere out there among the protesting throngs yesterday was somebody toting a “Free Mumia” banner; mission creep is another thing San Francisco does best. But hey, that’s free speech — it’s not like we’re China or something.)

    If organizers had wanted a bucolic run, they should’ve taken it to any number of other U.S. cities: maybe Salt Lake City, site of the most recent U.S.-hosted Olympic Games, maybe Atlanta, maybe freakin’ Topeka. (Booooo, Jayhawks!)

    Bringing the torch here guaranteed yesterday’s result — a thorough airing of all views. The world saw the Olympic torch carried by proud Americans, and also saw it protected by a phalanx of officers as it dodged through San Francisco like the target in a carnival Whac-a-Mole game.

    Messages received; so much the better that they weren’t written in blood.