As we wait for the votes to start trickling in, and get ready to focus on a vast landscape of close races, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on some unclose races where the bad guys have already lost. First up, there’s Ricky Santorum of PA, who is sort of a poster boy for all those big-time Washington pols who get a little ahead of themselves. Not that long ago, after establishing himself as a hero to the Cultural Right, and serving as the Senate point man for the lobbyist-shake-down K Street Strategy, Ricky was lookin’ damn good in the mirror each morning. Indeed, as recently as late last year, he was maneuvering to succeed Bill Frist as Republican Leader in the Senate, and envisioning himself occupying the Oval Office in 2009. He reportedly regarded the Democrat who is likely to trounce him tonight, Bob Casey, somewhat like a pit bull regards a raw steak. Now Ricky’s about to become an ex-senator. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.Then down in FL, there is Senate Republican Nominee Katherine Harris, who perfectly represents the blowback from the savage Bush-Cheney endgame in 2000. Having done more than anyone outside the Supreme Court to secure the presidency for W., she became the Conservative Republican Base Champion par excellence, and thus could not be denied a Senate nomination when she asked for it. Her bizarre, if-you-love-Jesus-you-gotta-love-me campaign, which was marked by repeated resignations of her staff and consultants, will end tonight with an ignominous defeat by Bill Nelson. And for dessert, Democrats could pick up her old House seat. It wouldn’t be quite accurate to call OH Secretary of State Ken Blackwell the Katherine Harris of ’04, but there’s no question in my mind that he aspired to the title. Along with Harris, he’s a living advertisement of the case against partisan election administration. He’s also so violent a cultural conservative that none other than George W. Bush (according to the recent Bob Woodward book) called him a “nut.” And in his doomed gubernatorial race this year, he showed his class by letting his campaign drop broad hints that his opponent was gay, soft on sexual predators, or both. On top of everything else, his political meltdown tonight should convince GOP strategists that African-Americans are not going to vote for just anybody who is African-American.When these three folks go down hard tonight, I will pause to enjoy the moment. And let’s not forget the earlier fine moment when another bad guy, Ralph Reed, lost the opportunity to lose tonight (the Republican who beat him in the Georgia Lieutenant Governor primary, Casey Cagle, is in a tight race with distinguished Democrat Jim Martin tonight).
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.