December, 2013

Obama Approval Rises While on Vacation

President Obama “has picked up five points in public approval since he’s gone away to Hawaii for a year-end family vacation,” Bloomberg reports.

“The president’s public approval rating was hanging at 39% in the days before Christmas, by the Gallup Poll’s average of daily tracking surveys. Today… his approval has risen to 44%. His disapproval rating, 54% pre-Christmas, is down to 49%.”

Schweitzer Ignored Inspector General’s Report

As Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer (D) said “he threw away the 2010 U.S. Army inspector general’s report concluding that Adj. Gen. and now Lt. Gov. John Walsh had improperly used his position in the Montana National Guard for personal gain,” the Helena Independent Record reports.

Said Schweitzer: “I treated it with the respect it deserved. I put it in the round file.”

Walsh is one of three Democrats running for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and the disclosure of the investigative report is being used by his opponents.

Fewer Recalls in 2013

Joshua Spivak notes a steep drop off in elected officials who were recalled by voters this year.

“In 2011, we had 151. In 2012, we had 168, with 509 attempts. In 2013, we have 107, with 478 attempts. Of those 107 recalls, 73 were ousted; 51 officials lost a race, and another 22 resigned — a 68% removal rate. As in the past, these number probably understate the amount of recalls that took place.”

Illinois Tax Refunds Come with Spending Info

Chicago Tribune: “Illinois taxpayers will get a little something extra with their tax refunds in 2014: a one-page sheet from Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka that offers a broad overview of how state government spends money.”

“The flier will be sent to those who receive their refunds via a check in the mail. It features a chart showing how the state’s $35.2 billion budget is divided among various programs including education, health care and retirement funds for state workers. It will also detail the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, currently estimated at $7.6 billion.”

GOP Retaliation Could Jam Senate in 2014

“Senate Republicans still smarting from a Democratic rules change that diminished their power to block President Obama’s appointees are vowing retribution against the majority when lawmakers return to work in January,” the Washington Examiner reports.

“The GOP in the final weeks of the 2013 session provided a glimpse into what that might mean in 2014. Unable to block most presidential nominees because of the Democratic rule change, Republicans are using their remaining authority to slow the Senate to a crawl, delaying action on routine matters that typically pass uncontested.”

Baucus Oversaw Diminished Power of Finance Chair

The imminent departure of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), from both the Senate and the Senate Finance Committee, “has put a new focus on the panel and the chairmanship, which has declined in stature and influence compared with the vital role it played in the Senate almost from the beginning,” the New York Times reports.

“Without a shift in the power structure of the Senate, it appears likely the next committee leader will have only a fraction of the clout of those in the past.”

Fewer Republicans Believe in Evolution

A new Pew Research survey finds that 60% of Americans say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while 33% reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”

Most interesting: “In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.”

Another Democrat Jumps Into Race for Ohio Governor

Todd Portune (D) told WCPO that he will challenge Ed Fitzgerald (D) in a Democratic party primary for governor of Ohio in May.

“Fitzgerald’s campaign to challenge Republican incumbent John Kasich hit a rough spot late in 2013 when his running mate for lieutenant governor, State Senator Eric Kearney withdrew from the race under pressure surrounding poor vetting. Even with that bump in Fitzgerald’s road, he has somewhat of a head start against Portune. Fitzgerald officially kicked off his campaign for the state office on Aug. 24.”

Republicans Dominate the Sunday Shows

Steve Benen: “The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, State of the Union and Fox News Sunday, hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?”

“In all, 10 of the top 13 are Republicans, as are six of the top seven.”