Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: DNC

Obama woes spark jump in Republican fundraising

Protesters on health care outside an Obama rally in Portsmouth, N.H. summer 2009

Call it the summer of their discontent, a steamy August of town hall outbursts and pistol-packing protesters, a collective railing against government-run healthcare and soaring federal deficits.

Now, the guns of August have produced a surge in the fortunes of Republican causes. According to an analysis by USA Today, GOP campaign committees out-raised Democrats by $1.7 million in August.

"Republicans have been able to tap into some of the anger against Democrats in power and translate that into fundraising," Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report told the paper. "There are a lot of Republicans who wish the election were this November, not November 2010, because they feel like the momentum is on their side now."

The breakdown: Nationally, the Republican National Committee brought in $1 million more than the DNC. In the Senate, the Republican fundraising committee brought in $3.1 million, compared with $2.2 million by the Democratic committee. Only in the House did Democrats manage to out-raise Republicans in August, by $200,000. So overall, advantage Republicans.

The question: Is it a trend?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Protesters outside a town hall meeting where President Obama spoke about healthcare in Portsmouth, N.H. Credit: John Spencer / Getty Images

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New Joe 'You lie!' Wilson video: He explains his outburst, seeks $$$

Well, now it's Joe Wilson's turn to try to make money off the outburst over his outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress last night.

This morning  right here The Ticket reported that because he shouted "You lie!" when Obama claimed his healthcare reforms would not cover illegal immigrants, opponents of the 62-year-old South Carolina Republican mobilized overnight and claim to have raised way more than $100,000 to help defeat him next year.

We also included the shout video there and other reactions, including efforts to support the sudden-nobody-turned-somebody who became God's gift to Thursday cable news yakkers. The redoubtable Don Surber has a photo over here of what the new Joe Wilson T-shirt looks like.

Wilson apologized, of course, for his inappropriate behavior while maintaining opposition to the president's plans.

And he's just now posted his own video explanation of the incident (see below) and -- you'll never guess what else -- an appeal for money over here to counter the appeal for money by people seeking to counter his membership in the House. At this point Wilson would probably accept even Confederate dollars.

As always with videos and TV news, feel free to heckle the speaker back.

But then you might have to apologize too.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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The call to Democrats hoping to build the party -- Go West!

The independent West

The West is different, as anyone who has ever spent time in the cloister of the Boston-Washington corridor can tell you. There is all that opportunity, untamed beauty and wide, wide open space. There is also the mythos that attaches to the West, embodied in words like freedom, self-reliance and rugged individuality. 

Some of it is actually true.

Over the last decade or so, the Mountain West has emerged, politically speaking, as one of the hardest-fought and most closely watched regions of the country, a cluster of swing states that, unlike those of the Midwest, still have that sense of the future about them.Half Dome

The Democrats, who have been on something of a roll out in the Rocky Mountain states, will host a first-of-its-kind gathering later this month in Denver, mustering 400 or so of the party’s top leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, as well as campaign strategists, demographers and other political savants. Jim Messina, a Montana boy and the deputy White House chief of staff, will serve as an emissary from the Obama administration.

The event is being hosted by Project New West, a Democratic group that has been an important party builder in the region. The idea is to swap lessons from campaigns won and lost and to brainstorm “in real time, not looking back 20 years later, like we did in the South,” said Jill Hanauer, the project’s director.

To understand the political terrain, pollsters for Project New West took to the field to survey voters in several states that promise to be battlegrounds in 2010 and beyond.

Among the findings to be discussed in Denver:

-- Nearly three-quarters of the western voters surveyed display the American flag at home, work or on their car. That compares to 60% nationally in a Pew poll released in January 2007.

-- Roughly nine in 10 Western voters say they...

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Obama's healthcare 'pocket cards' may be the silliest donation gifts ever

Obama-health-care-pocket-ca

Normally when we receive e-mails from the Democratic National Committee promoting a new program or "alerting" us to an upcoming political event that had been on our calendars for months, we give a quick glance and then swiftly toss them into the digital trashcan.

But the one we received recently titled, "Take these with you," had us reading it twice. So, we thought we'd share.

To encourage DNC members (or those too lazy to voluntarily unsubscribe from the mailing list) to donate, the committee was offering "pocket cards" that outline President Obama's plans for healthcare reform. A donation of at least $20 will earn you 50 pocket cards.

But it looks like the organization quickly pulled the promotion, perhaps acknowledging how ridiculous it was. Either that or they sold out. A DNC spokesperson with knowledge of the cards couldn't be reached, but it's unlikely that the committee distributed a boatload because the link to download and print them has also been removed.

"Unfortunately, our pocket card offer has expired," according to a note on the BarackObama.com donation page. "But your donation can still make a huge difference in supporting the fight for real health care reform."

According to the pocket cards e-mail, they were created to combat the public confusion about Obama's healthcare reform. That confusion was most certainly caused by the evil lies spread by "special interests and Washington attack groups."

The cards were to encourage "one-on-one conversations with friends and neighbors" about the program. Card holders would presumably pull one of these nifty cheat sheets out of their pockets and wave them frantically in front of acquaintances, shouting about the misinformation and lies that mainstream consumers have been fed.

Apparently, Obama's healthcare goals are to "reduce costs," "guarantee choice" and "ensure affordable, quality care for all," according to the pocket cards.

Nevermind.

-- Mark Milian

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Joe Biden Gaffe update: He fires N.J. gov, moves another guy in

Democrat Vice president Joe Biden either getting on or off of Air ForceTwo somewjhere

For your Joe Biden Gaffe files:

Washington. Mandarin Oriental Hotel. LGBT fundraiser. Hauled in about $1 mill. 33% better than last year with Michelle Obama.

Virginia Democrat Governor Tim Kaine

Maybe four dozen protesters outside, impatient with the Obama administration's perceived slow pace on lesbian and gay issues. Signs: "SHAME." "Gay Uncle Toms." Chants: "Shame on You." "Boycott the Bigots."

Inside, Biden spoke 20 mins. Lots of applause. "I am not unaware of the controversy swirling around this dinner and swirling around the speed or lack thereof that we are moving on issues that are of great importance to you."

Boasted the new administration has appointed 60 gays or lesbians, including nine requiring Senate confirmation. Promised to "put some pace on the ball."

Standing ovations as he pledged to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, Don't Ask Don't Tell and get passage of the Lieberman-Baldwin bill on health benefits.

Additionally, Biden promised to put a ban on workplace discrimination, get adoption rights for all and endNew Jersey Democrat Governor Jon Corzine the HIV travel ban.

Biden also praised Tim Kaine as the "great governor of New Jersey."

One problem: Tim Kaine's not governor of New Jersey.

Jon Corzine (right) is governor of New Jersey (Remember, he didn't wear his seatbelt in the state patrol car for the big high-speed crash).

Tim Kaine is governor of another state, called Virginia.

He's also chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Biden is from Delaware.

He used a Teleprompter.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credits: Getty Images (top and middle); N.J. Governor's Office (bottom).

Ralph Nader shakes up Virginia governor's race with charge that Terry McAuliffe once tried to bribe him

Clinton ally Terry McAuliffee campaigning for governor of Virginia with musician will.i.am at his side May 11, 2009

Terry McAuliffe, the money man of the Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaigns, is running for governor of Virginia. Yes the behind-the-scenes back-slapper is looking to move out front.

With two other competitive candidates in the Democratic primary, McAuliffe has borrowed a page from Barack Obama's playbook, organizing a massive grassroots effort, campaigning (as seen above) with backing from will.i.am, stumping as an agent of change, someone who can "shake up" politics and business in the Old Dominion.

Now comes Ralph Nader, the bad boy of Democratic politics, to shake up McAuliffe.

A onetime car safety advocate and perennial presidential candidate, Nader is widely viewed as the spoiler who robbed Al Gore of the controversial 2000 election eventually decided for George W. Bush by drawing votes away from the Democratic vice president in Florida.

Now, Nader is telling reporters that in 2004, when McAuliffe was the Democratic National Committee chairman, he offered presidential candidate Nader an unspecified amount of money to spend in 31 states if he promised to stay out of 19 battleground states where he could potentially hurt Democrat John Kerry.

Although McAuliffe's staff has not denied the allegation, it's clearly are not happy about this.

"It looks like Ralph Nader misses seeing his name in the press," said spokeswoman Elisabeth Smith. "Terry's focused on talking with Virginians about jobs, not feeding Ralph Nader's ego."

Nader made the charge in an interview with the Washington Post, calling to verify the allegation, which was made in a recent book by Theresa Amato, who was Nader's national campaign manager in 2000 and 2004, called "Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny."

Nader not only confirmed it, he made clear he thinks the former DNC chairman and Syracuse, N.Y., native now running for Virginia's governor is unfit for office. Nader's actual words: “Terry McAuliffe is slipperier than an eel in olive oil.”

With the primary election on June 9, it's not clear how much such an allegation will hurt among the Democratic base, who regard Nader with all the warmth of a skunk at a family reunion.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Bill Tiernan / Associated Press

Barack Obama to Hollywood: Without you, no Obama White House

When rock stars need to replenish their bank accounts, they hit the road and go on tour.

President Barack Obama demonstrated again Wednesday night that he is the current star money-raiser of American politics, as he brought his support-the-Democratic National Committee tour to Beverly Hills and packed not one room, but three at the Beverly Hilton there.

How big a draw is the president?

Well, big enough to convince 250 Hollywood bigwigs and stars like Seth Rogin, Marisa Tomei, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Foxx, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Holly Robinson Peete, Tyler Perry, Nicky Hilton, Lawrence Bender and the entire Avant family.

Not to mention newly minted Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter and healthcare go-to guy Sen. Chris Dodd -- to spend more than $30,000 a couple to eat dinner in one of the hotel's private ballrooms.

By the way, for that check the diners got Sonoma greens, marinated artichokes, pepper goat cheese, roasted tenderloin, kabachi ravioli, grilled organic chicken and sunchoke rosemary mashed potatoes.

Last night, as we reported here earlier, Obama helped raise $2 million for a lesser Las Vegas crowd of Harry Reid supporters, while VP Joe Biden had another fundraiser in Denver, also for the DNC.

The president was introduced by Katzenberg, who said, "If you look in the dictionary under 'grace under fire,' it will say Barack Obama."

Obama, ever the basketball fan, quipped about the Lakers-Nuggets playoff game, by then underway at Staples Center, "It was tied in the first quarter," he said. "That's the story. We will get out of here before the end of the third. Some of you will get out of here before halftime."

And they did, lining up for their cars behind police lines and opposite a group of protesters on Wilshire Blvd.

The president went on to thank Katzenberg, saying "If it weren't for you, we would not be in the White House."

Addressing the assembled big-ticket donors, Obama added that, it's "because of Americans like you, who are willing to dig deep," not just with money but also going door to door and volunteering ... that we have the chance to bring about change."

One of those particularly thrilled by the president's remarks was Bender, an early Obama supporter who had to miss the inaugural because he was in Berlin working on a film with Brad Pitt. Bender said he had to pinch himself to make sure he really was in the same room with the president.

After dinner, it was on to a bigger ballroom for a concert by the other sort of rock stars (Earth, Wind and Fire and Jennifer Hudson). Obama still got the biggest applause.

And an estimated $4 million from the party for the party.

-- Tina Daunt

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Political bundler Norman Hsu -- remember him? -- admits fraud

Quick update for all you waiters and postal workers out there who had hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to Democratic political campaigns in your name in recent years.

Your pal, Norman Hsu, pleaded guilty today in New York to 10 counts of wire and mail fraud. Seems he was also running a Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of some $20 million. As well as arranging generous donations to politicians like Hillary Clinton from people who would seem unable to afford them.

"I knew what I was doing was illegal," Hsu told the federal judge.

Still to come, a trial on four counts of violating federal campaign finance laws. The feds say Hsu made substantial donations in other people's names to acquire access to and influence with some 50 politicians, whose friendship he would then advertise to draw in Ponzi investors.

"He's like a groupie," explained Hsu's lawyer, Alan Seidler. "He just likes the political process."

As blogger Don Surber describes it, "Hsu is Bernie Madoff's Mini-Me."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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DNC to Norm Coleman: 'Enough is enough'

It's been 24 weeks since the Senate election in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and comedian-turned-Democrat Al Franken.

And still the wrangling continues.

The latest news was Tuesday's development. A three-judge panel in the state ruled that Franken "received the highest number of votes legally cast." At last count, the former "Saturday Night Live" performer  was ahead by 312 votes out of nearly 3 million coast.

But Coleman has vowed to take his case to the state Supreme Court, arguing that more than 4,400 absentee ballots have yet to be counted. And both Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a Democrat, seem content to let him take one last appeal to the state Supreme Court before this movie comes to a conclusion.

But Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said it was time for Coleman to concede, accusing him of putting his own ambition ahead of voter interests.

And just in case he didn't hear the message from Kaine, the DNC started running ads on news stations in the Twin Cities today, accusing Coleman and Republicans of wanting “to thwart the will of the voters” and delay the outcome.

“Enough is enough,” says an announcer, noting that Franken won the original election, the recount and a legal challenge. “America is in an economic crisis -- and Minnesota faces unique challenges of its own. Minnesota deserves two senators and voters deserve to have their verdict stand without delay.”

-- Johanna Neuman

No Obama job for him, DNC's Dean brags, then leaves

Having been rejected by President Barack Obama for a coveted Cabinet post, ex-Gov. Howard Dean is now ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

No vote necessary. A day after Tuesday's inauguration ceremony, Dean was replaced by a real Obama favorite, Gov. THoward Dean before learning he was losing his Democratic Party chairmanship and not being invited into the Barack Obama Cabinetim Kaine of Virginia, who'll be part-time DNC chair until next year when term limits end his statehouse career. Barring scandal, Kaine will be Obama's running mate in 2012. You read it here first, and anyway, you'll forget by then if we're wrong.

Dean was apparently busy when Obama made the Kaine announcement earlier this month because he didn't make the event.

Dean's been DNC chair since 2005, after his 2003-04 bid for the presidency exploded with his temper one disappointing night in Iowa.

Dean did preside over the party at a time of some significant political achievements, as he details below, including large gains in Congress and now winning the White House.

There was, however, that unfortunate Michigan-Florida invalid Democratic primary mess, and some Obama aides got the sense that Dean wouldn't mind if Hillary Clinton won the nomination.

Additionally, Obama and his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, the former congressman who thinks he had more to do with the party's congressional gains, come out of the Chicago machine school of  #$%*&{@  politics. And let's just say, Vermont is pretty in the fall, but it ain't Chicago.

Next week, the Republican National Committee actually will vote on its new chairman from a field of six candidates competing to rummage through the party's political wreckage for survivors and new blood.

So for the Democrats, Kaine's in. Dean's gone. And while he's on the way to the airport, with the DNC's applause ringing in his ears, we decided to publish Dean's goodbye speech in full here for all to admire.

DNC Farewell Remarks by Howard Dean

My friends, let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity to lead this Committee and this party for the last four years.  After logging more than 727,000 miles visiting Democrats in all 56 states and territories, I say with confidence that I return to you a party stronger than the one we inherited four years ago.

That could not have happened without you, and all the hard work you have done in your states.  It could not have happened without the dedicated, talented and hard working staff at the DNC and your state parties. It could not have happened without the leadership team we assembled at the DNC, including the outstanding slate of Vice Chairs with whom I have had the privilege of serving for the last four years.  Please join me in thanking them all.

At our Winter Meeting in 2005, you elected me as your chairman. Together we set out to....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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