Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Senate Races

Rod Blagojevich found guilty on 17 charges, Twitter says goodbye

Rod Blagojevich found guilty of 17 counts, could see 20 years in jail

Rod Blagojevich, the bushy haired former governor of Illinois, was found guilty Monday on 17 of 20 federal corruption counts, including attempting to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.

After the verdicts were announced Monday, Blagojevich said he and his wife, Patti, were shocked.

"I frankly am stunned," he said. "There's not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out."

Blagojevich, who could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, will be the fourth Illinois governor thrown in the pokey. Democrats Otto Kerner, Dan Walker and Republican George Ryan all found their way behind bars. Ryan is still serving time in federal prison.

This is the second time the Democrat has been in court for the Senate seat corruption charges. Last August Blagojevich, 54, dodged a bullet when the jury deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts, convicting the boisterous politician on only a single charge of lying to federal agents.

The 2011 trial lasted only three weeks because prosecutors decided not to charge Blagojevich with racketeering, instead focusing primarily on the allegation that the former governor was serious when he said on a tapped phone line that Obama's seat was a "valuable thing" and that "If I don't get what I want ... I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

Although the governor may have been shocked, those on Twitter were not very stunned at all. Nor were they sad to see him go. A selection of the mostly jovial reactions after the jump.

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Orrin Hatch not conservative enough for 'tea party' group


This is an updated post, please see below

Orrin Hatch in 1976 while campaigning against longtime incumbent Frank Moss said, "What do you call a senator who's served in office for 18 years? You call him home."

The people of Utah listened to Hatch, sent Moss home, and elected the Republican to Senate. Thirty-five years later a "tea party" group is saying that it's Hatch who has not only spent too much time in Congress, but over the years he has turned less conservative than the group would prefer.

"The bottom line is Hatch doesn’t represent the state of Utah," Russ Walker, vice president of political and grass-roots campaigns for FreedomWorks PAC, said in a statement. "The state of Utah is far more fiscally conservative than Orrin Hatch is."

That is not a new sentiment. A little more than a year ago, a Salt Lake Tribune poll showed signs of a crack in Hatch's popularity. The poll, which the paper reported in May 2010, found that 51% of respondents said they would elect someone other than Hatch if he were up for reelection that year, while only 35% would support him.

FreedomWorks is launching a “Retire Orrin Hatch” campaign at the Utah Republican Convention this Saturday in Salt Lake City. 

"It's clear that Sen. Hatch is trying to capitalize on the popularity of the tea party movement by reinventing himself as a fiscal conservative," Walker explained, "but his recent rhetoric and actions in favor of limited government simply do not erase decades of bad votes, costing taxpayers trillions of dollars. Indeed Hatch's body of work proves he cannot be trusted to consistently adhere to a fiscally conservative agenda, and possible primary challengers like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-3, UT) give conservatives in Utah and around the country a great opportunity to trade up."

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Will Scott Brown view the Osama bin Laden death photo? 'No comment'

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott BrownYou know Northeasterners.

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who once exposed virtually everything he owns in a women's magazine photo shoot, isn't sure he wants to see Osama bin Laden's death photo.

Because of its alleged gruesomeness, President Obama has decided that the American people and the world should not see the photos of the slain al Qaeda founder, killed by Navy SEALs in his Pakistan bedroom 10 days ago.

The announced fear is that jihadists will become insanely homicidal, although the White House has said it is "entirely appropriate" for the president to tout the Muslim's killing in Obama's two most recent political fundraising speeches, which raised $2 million in Texas on Tuesday evening.

This despite the likelihood that such U.S. government censorship combined with the announced hastiness of the disposal of Bin Laden's body will feed conspiracy theories that Bin Laden lives.Faked Osama bin Laden Death Photo

Last week, soon after the president's decision to withhold the image against the advice of his CIA director, Brown announced that he had seen the death photo and was convinced the terrorist plotter was dead. Afterward, Brown aides admitted the senator had, like millions of others, been fooled by this fake death photo widely published in Pakistani newspapers.

Now, however, because members of Congress are presumed adults (see mirror photo of ex-Rep. Chris Lee), Obama has decided a few select committee members may see the photo at CIA headquarters.

Asked if the freshman senator would be visiting Langley for a photo peek, his spokeman said, "No comment on this."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Josh Reynolds / Associated Press (Brown); unknown.

Nevada's Sharron Angle returns to politics, as will all the ways Harry Reid slammed her

Sharron Angle 

Is Sharia law taking hold in U.S. cities? Are the unemployed spoiled? And what exactly constitutes a 2nd Amendment remedy?

Republican Sharron Angle gave us all sorts of things to ponder during her failed 2010 bid to oust Democratic Sen. Harry Reid. Now, Nevada's doyenne of head-scratching statements -– who once characterized entitlement programs as a form of idolatry –- is returning to the political arena, where she'll likely dole out more.

Angle, a former state lawmaker and a "tea party" darling, announced this month that she would vie for the congressional seat that Republican Rep. Dean Heller is vacating to run for the Senate. Many Republicans in the Silver State groaned. They'd prefer an establishment candidate, such as Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki or state GOP Chairman Mark Amodei, who wouldn't carry as much baggage into the general election.

In her race against Reid, Angle raised millions of dollars and charmed a number of voters with her warm persona. But the unpopular Reid still trounced her by about 6 percentage points. To be sure, Angle ran a flawed campaign, but what ultimately sank her was Reid's barrage of commercials drubbing her lightning-rod statements.

Angle often speaks in fiery rhetoric that simultaneously rallies her conservative supporters and turns off moderates. For example, when asked what she'd tell a teenager who'd been impregnated by her father, Angle essentially said she'd encourage the girl to give birth, turning "what was really a lemon situation into lemonade."

Not the best metaphor.

To outdistance Angle, a tireless campaigner, her rivals will likely ...

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Except for the affair, ethics probe and no money, Nevada's GOP Sen. Ensign was a certain 2012 victor

Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign and wife Darlene announces 2012 retirement 3-7-11

Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign, a Christian who preached strong family values until about the time he admitted a sexual affair with a former aide who was married to a current aide whom he then helped get lobbying work, says he's putting his family ahead of his own career by deciding to retire next year.

Other factors that may have had something to do with the 52-year-old ex-veterinarian's surrender to political reality are: an ongoing Senate Ethics Committee investigation, a distinct lack of money, zero support from fellow GOP senators, a growing array of challengers, a high unfavorable rating and his name atop the list of most vulnerable 2012 incumbents.

Other than that, the former House member would have been a shoo-in for a third Senate term. Ensign said his self-imposed troubles had "zero effect" on his decision. So, add that whopper to the list of reasons he's gone.

Ensign's overdue departure sets up an even more interesting national ....

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Obama launches the 2012 political fundraising season: What's he telling donors this time?

Obama at Florida Fundraiser with Bill Nelson and Patty Murray 3-4-11

The vice president he appointed to head the crucial bipartisan budget talks with a two-week deadline has flown off to Europe for the entire week. So President Obama spent the day in Florida, touting new investments in education and, this being Miami, headlining two Democratic fundraisers to pour $1 million more into the party purse.

First things first, right? It's that time again already.

With only 613 days left, Obama's campaign has determined it needs $1 billion for his reelection drive, $255 million more than last time. Obama has no viable Republican opponent yet. But Democrats must defend 23 of the 33 Senate seats up for election in 2012, after losing six others in 2010. Plus, of course, losing control of the House to a speaker not from San Francisco.

So, there was the ex-state senator himself at the Fontainebleau Resort before more than 400 adoring supporters Friday night. "We love you," one shouted. And Obama replied, "I know you do."

With barely 20 months left, what's Obama's opening pitch to rich Democrats still willing to give? What themes is he taking up, what new favorite phrases, to set the tone for his bid for a second set of 1,461 days in control of the U.S. presidency?

You won't be surprised to learn that Obama's new basic fundraising speech (full text below, as usual) involves money.

He made his now routine pitch for bipartisanship, which the assembled Democrats apparently didn't like. They roundly booed mention of former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who'd accepted the president's invitation to visit a recovering inner-city high school that day in a show of bipartisan support for education reform.

The president professed interest in cutting spending: "I am willing to cut whatever ....

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Obama State of the Union 2.0: Cheesehead Edition

democrat president Obama in Wisconsin 1-26-11 at Orion Energy

Fresh from his 62-minute State of the Union oration, President Obama flew out to Wisconsin today to wave and repeat his opening 2012 campaign message of investing instead of spending. If you don't know the difference, that's perfect.

Innovation is also a big theme of the Democrat nowadays. It's positive, optimistic and means he doesn't have to talk specific cuts, which he hopes to force House Republicans to do first and set themselves up as targets.

Obama spoke for only 17 minutes at Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, enough to praise innovation, winning the future and sucking it up in tough times, which Americans are good at, he said. And which they better be good at these days, he didn't say.

Of course the president, who's actually a Pittsburgh Steelers backer, made the obligatory...

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Despite all the talk, worry over jobs is back as Americans' top concern, Gallup finds

February 2009 President Obama promises new hiring if his stimulus bill passes

You probably could never guess what problem Americans see as the No. 1 job for the No. 1 elected official to address right now:

It's jobs/unemployment -- again -- still.

That's been the major concern along with the overall economy across the country for way more than a year now. Exactly 353 days ago in his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama asked himself: "How long should we wait?" Republican Scott Brown had just pulled off an historic Senate election upset in Massachusetts, in large part over voter unhappiness with the president's healthcare preoccupation instead of the stagnant jobs situation.

Twenty-three months ago in a speech at the Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Ill. (see photo above), the new president promised that the economy would recover with many thousands of new jobs if his economic stimulus package passed Congress. Which it did. But they didn't.

Last Saturday in his weekly remarks, the president said the usual about jobs, that he was encouraged by some growth in hiring but he knew it wasn't enough and more jobs would be arriving real soon. When the ....

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Michele Bachmann said to ponder a presidential run

Republicans Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann campaign together in April 2010

Michele Bachmann, yes, Michele Bachmann is considering a presidential run, according to several of her aides who suddenly started talking about the subject with Minnesota reporters.

In fact, the Iowa native (Waterloo) will travel to her home state later this month to talk against the massive spending of you-know-who at a fundraiser for the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC in Des Moines.

Bachmann, now starting her third House term, has proven a media magnet like her like-minded fellow Republican conservative Sarah Palin; both are often quoted, often derisively. This fall, Bachmann was targeted by numerous prominent Democrats but proved adept at raising both many dollars and votes.

Consumers of American political news should always be wary when they read about....

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Ticket Replay: Joe Biden says he's campaigned for some 'real turkeys' over the years

Democrat Vice president Joe Biden once campaigned for a turkey this big

During the holiday season, as in years past, The Ticket is republishing some of our favorite items from the previous political year. This story was originally published on April  16, 2010:

Vice President Joe "Did You Know I'm from Pennsylvania Too?" Biden" took some time off from another busy Thursday to campaign in Pennsylvania's Bethlehem for John Callahan.

At Biden's encouragement, Mayor Callahan is challenging the three-term Republican House incumbent, Charlie Dent, a former state legislator and development officer for Lehigh University, who's represented the 15th District since 2005.

It cost up to $1,500 for the snacks and VP's speech, $1,250 less if you could do without a Biden photo. Many folks don't remember that Biden entered the U.S. Senate long before Barack Obama; in fact, Obama was only 11 at the time Biden first took the oath and started riding the train.A Turkey

Biden told nearly 300 people that he has campaigned for an awful lot of Democrats over all those years including, he said, some "real turkeys."

But that obviously didn't stop him from touting their credentials for public office.

Biden, who turns 68 this year, did not actually list which Democrats during those decades were "real turkeys." Who knows? Conceivably it could have been Obama himself during 2008.

But the ex-Delaware senator did indicate that Callahan was probably not among them, saying the mayor had accomplished much for his city and few others "have the talent and intuitive sense this guy has."

Then, Biden added, "I can see exactly why John Callahan should be in the United States Senate."

Some in the crowd began laughing, realizing that Callahan is a House candidate and Obama and Biden have already endorsed one-time Republican Arlen Specter for the Pennsylvania Senate race.

Biden caught himself, explaining he'd just been on the phone with Harry Reid and had the Senate on his mind.

Meanwhile Thursday, Obama -- did we mention he was only in the sixth grade when Biden first entered the Senate? -- was in Florida for two Democratic National Committee fundraisers, including one with a $30,400 ticket price. While there, he also sought to explain his new policy for space exploration.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press (file); Getty Images.



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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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