Alex's Outlook

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

More fallout, no movement in Bush's poll numbers

A recent Newsweek poll showed Bush's job approval at a record-low 42 percent, and even the Bush-friendly Washington Times is sounding the alarm, signaling a deepening Republican pessimism.

I don't want to sound like Donald Lambro, but with GIs dying every day to Shiite rebels, the media still playing up Abu Ghraib and voters' lagging awareness of the economic recovery (again, no irony intended), it's incredible how well Bush is doing.

First off, Kerry is dead even with Bush in the most dismal weeks of Bush's presidency.

More importantly, though, are polls from individual battleground states and "blue" states that show major weaknesses in Kerry's candidacy.

Two Oregon polls show a +2 Kerry lead and a +5 Bush lead. Gore won Oregon by .4% in 2000, and Oregon will be a hard-fought contest this year.

The latest poll from Michigan shows Bush leading by 4 points, 48-44.

A California poll by SUSA shows (incredibly) a dead heat between Bush and Kerry in that state, 46-45 Kerry. (Gore won CA by 11 points.) An Illinois poll by Rasmussen shows a Kerry lead of only 5 points in a state that Gore won by 12. And the latest poll of New Jersey shows a Kerry lead of 6 points (43-37) in New Jersey, which Gore won by 15 points. An older NJ poll gave Bush a 4-point lead over Kerry, and a pre-Abu Ghraib poll of Maryland gave Kerry only a 5-point lead in that state.

Individually, I would have discounted all of those blue state poll results. But taken together, they represent a serious weakness in Kerry's candidacy. If he is running that far behind Gore, he has no prayer of winning this election.

The only cloud on Bush's horizon is Ohio, which I think has swung decisively leftward over the past two years. It has been rather badly mismanaged by the Voinovich-Taft one-party Republican regime over the past fourteen years, and it was very hard hit by the manufacturing job losses. Kerry's leading there by seven points. To compensate, Bush would have to win two smaller blue states (New Mexico and Oregon) or a large one like Michigan or Pennsylvania. Considering how poorly Kerry has performed thus far, my money is still on Bush.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Yet another reason for optimism

There's a new CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll out, and the results are encouraging indeed: Bush 48, Kerry 47.

This is the low point of Bush's presidency. Washington is wrapped up in hysteria over Abu Ghraib, and even though the economy is picking up, the Index of Consumer Sentiment hasn't fallen in step yet. In other words, the recovery is not yet apparent to a lot of people. (That wasn't meant to sound funny...) Anyway, barring a full-blown civil war in Iraq, Bush's situation simply is not going to get worse. And Kerry can't even manage a tie.

The $70 million or whatever that the Bush campaign dumped on Kerry was fortuitously well timed. Kerry was essentially defined as a flip-flopping serial tax raiser before the latest round of bad news. Kerry's own $25 million ad buy is not going to dent that. All Kerry's ads say is that he was a Vietnam hero, which was the only thing he (and the media) said during the entire Democrat primary season. It's the only thing Kerry talks about on the campaign trail. He's not going to change anybody's mind by repeating that mantra yet again.

Zogby and GOP despair

As I noted below, Republicans are seriously depressed about Bush's reelection prospects. They were particularly bummed out by pollster John Zogby's assessment of Bush's prospects:

I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.

Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win. And if he doesn't, it will be because he blew it. There are four major reasons for my assertion:

First, my most recent poll (April 12-15) shows bad re-election numbers for an incumbent President. Senator Kerry is leading 47% to 44% in a two-way race, and the candidates are tied at 45% in the three-way race with Ralph Nader. Significantly, only 44% feel that the country is headed in the right direction and only 43% believe that President Bush deserves to be re-elected - compared with 51% who say it is time for someone new.

In that same poll, Kerry leads by 17 points in the Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000, while Bush leads by only 10 points in the Red States that he won four years ago.

Second, there are very few undecided voters for this early in a campaign. Historically, the majority of undecideds break to the challenger against an incumbent. The reasons are not hard to understand: voters have probably made a judgment about the better-known incumbent and are looking for an alternative.

Third, the economy is still the top issue for voters - 30% cite it. While the war in Iraq had been only noted by 11% as the top issue in March, it jumped to 20% in our April poll as a result of bad war news dominating the news agenda. The third issue is the war on terrorism. Among those who cited the economy, Kerry leads the President 54% to 35%. Among those citing the war in Iraq, Kerry's lead is 57% to 36%. This, of course, is balanced by the 64% to 30% margin that the President holds over Kerry on fighting the war on terrorism. These top issues are not likely to go away. And arguably, there is greater and growing intensity on the part of those who oppose and want to defeat Bush.

The President's problem is further compounded by the fact that he is now at the mercy of situations that are out of his control. While the economy is improving, voters historically do not look at indicators that measure trillions and billions of dollars. Instead, their focus is on hundreds and thousands of dollars. In this regard, there is less concern for increases in productivity and gross domestic product and more regard for growth in jobs and maintaining of health benefits. Just 12 years ago, the economy had begun its turnaround in the fourth quarter of 1991 and was in full recovery by spring 1992 - yet voters gave the President's father only 38% of the vote because it was all about "the economy, stupid."

The same holds true for Iraq. Will the United States actually be able to leave by June 30? Will Iraq be better off by then? Will the US be able to transfer power to a legitimate and unifying authority? Will the lives lost by the US and its allies be judged as the worth the final product? It is difficult to see how the President grabs control of this situation.
Finally, if history is any guide, Senator Kerry is a good closer. Something happens to him in the closing weeks of campaigns (that obviously is not happening now!). We have clearly seen that pattern in his 1996 victory over Governor Bill Weld for the Senate in Massachusetts and more recently in the 2004 Democratic primaries. All through 2003, Kerry's campaign lacked a focused message. He tends to be a nuanced candidate: thoughtful, briefed, and too willing to discuss a range of possibly positions on every issue. It is often hard to determine where he actually stands. In a presidential campaign, if a candidate can't spell it out in a bumper sticker, he will have trouble grabbing the attention of voters. By early 2004, as Democratic voters in Iowa and elsewhere concluded that President Bush could be defeated, they found Governor Howard Dean's message to be too hot and began to give Kerry another look. Kerry came on strong with the simplest messages: "I'm a veteran", "I have the experience", and "I can win". His timing caused him to come on strong at the perfect time. As one former his Vietnam War colleague of told a television correspondent in Iowa: "John always knows when his homework is due."

Though he is hardly cramming for his finals yet and is confounding his supporters, possible leaners, and even opponents with a dismal start on the hustings, the numbers today are on his side (or at least, not on the President's side).

We are unlikely to see any big bumps for either candidate because opinion is so polarized and, I believe, frozen in place. There are still six months to go and anything can still happen. But as of today, this race is John Kerry's to lose.

There are a few things Zogby left out, of course. Kerry dumped something like $2.5 million of Tay-ray-za's Heinz money at the last minute against Bill Weld, his 1996 challenger. (They had agreed at the beginning of the campaign to not use more than $500,000 of their own money - they were both filthy rich - in the Senate campaign. Kerry justified it by saying that it was his wife's money, not his.) As for the 2004 primary, Dean was an idiot, and it frankly defied belief that the Democratic base put up with him for as long as they did. I guess Democrats figured that Kerry's War Hero (TM) status made him magnetic to swing voters. They blew that one big time.

More to the point, though, I don't know why Republicans listen to Zogby. I certainly don't trust him. His polling relentlessly favors Democrats, and is consistently the most pro-Democrat that I know of. Everyone talks about how he "called 2000 perfectly" and "called 2002 perfectly." Well, I don't know about 2000, but he sure didn't call 2002.

The race for control of Congress is neck and neck and too close to call, latest Zogby America Poll results show.

In the final Zogby America Poll before the November 5th elections, 51% of likely voters nationwide say they will vote Democratic in the upcoming Congressional elections, and 49% say they will vote for a Republican candidate. The poll, conducted of 1,006 likely voters nationwide between Oct. 26-29 has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.2%.

The actual generic was 51-46 Republican.

Zogby even apologized for his failures in the 2002 elections 36 hours after the fact.

As a fan of politics nothing could be more exciting than seeing the unexpected occur again and again.

But as a political pollster, whose reputation is impacted seemingly by every race polled and every percentage point reflected, Election Night was cause for much more grimacing than we at Zogby International have been used to over the last several years.

Republicans really ought to relax, and not listen to Zogby. The market fundamentals point to an economic rebound. Iraq can't get worse unless a full-blown revolt begins, and after we quash al-Sadr I think the chance of that will diminish considerably.

Thoughts on the recent fiasco

The Beltway is full hysteria mode. Conservatives are in despair. With the WMD justification for war wiped out, the Administration shifted to the even more shallow humanitarian justification. (I always thought that both explanations were ridiculous. I have been a hawk because I think that Sunni Muslim extremism can be defeated only by liberalizing the Middle East, starting with Iraq.) The abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib just nullified the humanitarian justification.


I think that is the Bush Administration's rationale - it has been the neo-con position all along - but the Administration was too squeamish to be honest with the American people. Now the Administration is paying the price.

Rumsfeld, a hero to conservatives, has failed abysmally in Iraq. There is no other way to put it. The high command demanded more troops, and Rumsfeld shrugged them off. As a result, when the Sunnis and Shia radicals revolted, the US had to negotiate instead of crush them. As I explained below, negotiating with quasi-terrorists in Falluja (the Sunnis) and al-Sadr's Iranian-funded Shia radicals in Najaf would be inexplicable unless the US did not have sufficient resources to cope with it.

Despite all that, Rumsfeld is going to keep his job. According to Robert Novak, the conservative elite consensus is that Rumsfeld has to go, but I just don't see it happening. It would be a repudiation of Bush's entire foreign policy. And despite Rumsfeld's failures in Iraq, the Iraq war is hardly lost, his performance in Afghanistan was exemplary, and the public is still behind him.

So, now to what really does all this affect Bush in November? To be more specific, how badly does this hurt him?

The answer: not much. Conservatives are panicking, but they should calm down. Heads will roll over Abu Ghraib, and it will blow over. Payrolls are surging along with economic growth; the economy will be a major plus for Bush by November. Iraq is a wild card, but again, barring a full-blown insurrection or a dramatic election-eve jump in casualties, it will not hurt Bush significantly unless the economic recovery falters as well.

Remember, even if Bush loses, Kerry can't be that much worse. The Bush tax cuts will die, but federal spending will stagnate along with it. The Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives no matter what, and will probably barely hang onto the Senate too, even in the event of a Kerry victory.

The tragic thing about a Kerry victory would be the signal it would send to the Arab world. Bush has been bad news for radical Sunni Islam, period. A repudiation of Bush would be a repudiation of that record. That is why I am supporting him. Domestically, Bush's record on the only significant variable (federal spending) has been grotesque.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Re the posting hiatus

I have Advanced Placement exams this week (French, Amer. history and Calculus BC), so no posting for another week. Besides, I'm still grumpy about Toomey's hair-splitting loss.

The good news is that I need a 2 on French (today) to get credit at Notre Dame.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Specter's lead vanishes on election eve

Survey USA:


Undecided 4%
Data Collected
4/23/04 - 4/25/04

State of Pennsylvania

Sample Population
478 Certain Voters

Margin of Error

Toomey's got the momentum, to be sure. Apparently Bush's visit has indicated Specter's weakness, and has failed to mobilize conservative support for Specter.

The race tomorrow really could be a landslide either way, or it could be very close. Toomey's got the Big Mo at this point. Toomey's supporters are much more zealous, so they will get themselves to the polls. Specter, however, has the Republican establishment machine behind him.

Had the race remained in a 48-42 Specter lead, I would have given Toomey slightly weaker odds than Specter. Now, however, I'd have to say Toomey's the favorite. Specter's record simply does not have the purity needed to mobilize primary supporters the same way Toomey will. Specter's supporters are not pissed off the way Toomey's are (i.e. insane GOP spending, plus Specter's carrying water for the tort bar and labor unions). Specter did hit Toomey pretty hard with some ads claiming that Toomey flip-flopped on abortion, but I don't think that'll save Specter's liberal hide.

Toomey's actual campaign has been a disaster. However, this one of those rare campaigns in which personalities and organization are being trumped by ideals and genuine anger at the fiscal chaos perpetrated by the national GOP. I think that this anger will defeat Specter's superior organization.

I'm predicting that Toomey will win, about 53-47.

The liberal blogger kos, who has been watching the race closely (and who believes Specter is less electable than Toomey), also has his money on Toomey. Tradesports, however, has Specter as the 2-1 favorite, which were exactly the odds I bet on with my dad. The new SUSA poll changes the landscape a bit, though.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Liberals' fear of Toomey grows 

Markos Zuniga, aka kos, is not exactly a conservative. In fact, he's a very successful, very liberal blogger. I find his ideology repugnant, but his site is still a good pulse of the liberal base. It should be required reading for anybody, liberal or otherwise, who has a more than passing interest in politics.

Today he made an interesting post on the Specter-Toomey duel:

PA-Sen: Toomey closing in on Specter
by kos
Tue Apr 20th, 2004 at 11:47:44 EDT

Quinnipiac Univ. 4/12-18. MoE 4.7%. (April 7 results)
Specter (R) 49 (52)
Toomey (R) 44 (37)
Toomey is well funded for the stretch run, has the support of every big-name conservative and the election is only a week away. Odds are he'll win this one. He's got the strong support of the who's who of the conservative movement -- Forbes, Bork, Norquist, Dobbs, and so on. Toomey's people are motivated to oust a senator they consider a RINO -- Republican in name only.
CW was that Toomey would be an easier candidate to beat in the general, but I'm not so sure. He's run a great, fearless campaign. He's firing on all cylinders. And any candidate ousting a sitting Senator will be a force to be reckoned with.

At this point, I'm actually hoping for a Specter victory. Specter will be broke and bloodied. He's been so demonized by Toomey (who morphed Specter into Kerry in an ad) that it may hurt Specter's ability to get Republican votes and money in the general. (The Q poll has the numbers -- only 57 percent of Toomey voters would vote for Specter in the general if their guy loses.)

Toomey is much further right than the PA electorate, but ideology oftentimes takes a back seat to well run campaigns and a good story. Toomey has both. And our candidate, Hoeffel, still hasn't made much of a mark in the state. A March 15 Q-poll noted that 70 percent of PA voters hadn't "heard enough" about Hoeffel.

At least the liberals now realize what Santorum, Bush and others don't: that Toomey is a much more formidable general election candidate than any of them previously thought.

Toomey, despite Specter's slander accusing him of allowing dealers to sell drugs and alcohol (to underage people) on a bar that Toomey once operated, is surging. He has the momentum and the passionate supporters. Whether one is a liberal Democrat seeking the most liberal Republican or a conservative who wants to keep Specter's seat in GOP hands, Specter isn't drawing anybody to the polls based on personal or ideological charisma. Toomey is the complete opposite--charismatic, telegenic, young(42; Specter is 74), and very conservative. The future of the conservative movement.

Conservatives have already won a partial victory. This race is going to be either a close Specter win or a Toomey landslide. Either way, a band of fiscal conservatives called the Club for Growth have proven that not even the insular, cozy, RINO-infested Senate is immune to grassroots outrage over GOP spending. Arlen Specter's race is the last stand of fiscally liberal Republicanism, and conservatism's great opportunity to whip the Senate into line and reshape the party according to the limited-government ideals the GOP championed until after the 1996 elections.

The main battle isn't over yet. Toomey still badly needs money. Next Tuesday is Pennsylvania's referendum on conservatism, and Specter has a healthy cash advantage as well as the support of the Republican political establishment. You can donate now to the Toomey campaign online at, or mail a check to:

Toomey For Senate
PO Box 8658
Allentown, PA 18105

Toomey surges as primary date draws closer 

A new Quinnipiac poll has some good news for conservatives regarding the most important election outside of the presidential election itself.

Conservative voters have shifted to U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey who has narrowed the gap in the Pennsylvania Republican primary, trailing incumbent U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter 49 ? 44 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac poll released today.

Sen. Specter held a 52 ? 37 percent lead in and April 7 poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN uh-pe-ack) University.

In this latest survey, which includes voters who are leaning toward a candidate, conservative Republicans support Rep. Toomey 56 ? 39 percent, while liberal and moderate Republicans back Specter 63 ? 28 percent. One week before the primary, their mind is made up, 77 percent of Specter supporters and 82 percent of Toomey supporters say.

In the April 7 poll, conservative Republican voters split with 46 percent for Specter and 43 percent for Toomey.

Specter is "too liberal," 51 percent of likely Republican primary voters say, up from 43 percent April 7; 14 percent of Republicans say Toomey is "too conservative."

"Conservative Republicans are rallying behind Congressman Toomey's charge that Sen. Specter is too liberal for Pennsylvania. The 10-point swing in the last two weeks comes from conservatives who deserted Specter in favor of his challenger from the right," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

As I've said before, knocking off Specter would do wonders to move the Senate rightward. In my opinion, Toomey would be favored to win over Joe Hoeffel, the Democrats' nominee, but even if he doesn't, Specter's defeat would scare the hell out of moderate Republicans to quit spending so much taxpayer money.

It's hard to win a conservative primary when you don't have any conservatism to run on, even if, like Specter, you have $10 million in the bank.

Monday, April 19, 2004

It's official: L. Paul Bremer has botched the reconstruction 

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi, coalition and local Fallujah officials agreed that a U.S. siege on the violence-ridden city would end if insurgents hand over their heavy weaponry, a coalition spokesman said Monday.

Well, what I dreaded has come to pass. The Coalition had a chance to liquidate the Fallujan rebels, not to mention make an example out of the Sunni al-Qaeda and Baathist holdovers who had concentrated their forces in Falluja, inviting annihilation at the hands of 2500 Marines.

What could Bremer have possibly lost by subjugating Falluja? Iraqi Sunnis hate us. It would have struck a chord of fear into Sunni and Shia rebels alike. It would have shown that America will not countenance rebellion; that rebels will be crushed, harshly and efficiently.

The international press hates us, too. They won't get a bloodbath in Falluja, but they will find others to suit their anti-American, pro-terrorist slant.

The Shia radicals under al-Sadr now know how weak we are, considering what a good hand we just threw away. (We just passed up an opportunity to smash their organized resistance once and for all, because we are so frightened of more revolts.) Sadr now knows that, not only will he survive, but he can bargain for more American concessions because we are so allergic to fighting. Then he, and any other opportunizing demagogue, can turn his militia into a grassroots, "legitimate" political movement, raise more hell, and get more concessions from the Americans.

So what's next? Well, the Sunnis will keep on fighting. Not only are the Iraqi Sunnis ideologically radical, but they're screwed under the new order (no more subsidies from Uncle Saddam), and considering their powerlessness as a minority in a democracy they have every reason to fight that democracy. Had the US moved decisively against Falluja, the Sunnis would at the very least be severely mauled and much less capable of rebelling.

The Shia under Sistani and al-Sadr will get more concessions. Sadr could wait and then revolt again, or they might just take over democratically. We lose either way.

Regarding the Sistani/Sadr connection, I'm sure Bremer was spooked when Sistani told Americans to stay out of Najaf, where Sadr's joke of an army is holed up, waiting to be liquidated. But Bremer needs to understand that Sistani and Sadr, although they are rivals who hate each other, have the same goal: increasing leverage against the Americans to "Shia-ize" the Iraqi government.

Sistani really didn't have much to lose under the current arrangement. As Iraq's leading Grand Ayatollah, he is the spiritual leader of most Shiites. Since Shiites are about two-thirds of the country's population, Sistani would have more power than just about anybody else under a democratic arrangement. The democratic nature of the country wouldn't be much of an obstacle to him or his ideals; additional leverage over the Americans is not important enough for Sistani to start a revolt (he has a lot of leverage now), but more wouldn't hurt.

Sadr, on the other hand, is much younger than Sistani and the respect he commands is much less widespread. He would have been powerless compared to Sistani. He needed to somehow alter the situation before June 30, when Iraq would officially become a democracy. Hence the revolt.

However--this is important to understand--Sadr's revolt in Najaf has the effect of increasing Shia leverage over the Americans, benefiting not just Sadr, but Sistani as well. Hence Sistani's call for the US army to stay out of Najaf, and the unlikely bedfellows Sadr/Sistani. Sistani is effectively using Sadr to gain leverage over the US at no risk to himself.

The obvious course of action, especially in light of Sistani's conflict of interest, is for Bremer to reject Sistani's demand and liquidate Sadr's forces. If Sadr escapes this unscathed, his support will skyrocket. He will have a virtual army that he could use to gain power through elections, or he could arm them and attempt a larger rebellion later. Considering that Sadr is an Iranian pawn and has been funded by the Iranian government, letting Sadr remain alive is asking for an explosion down the road. All that's certain is that Sadr and his supporters will become emboldened at the Americans' weakness and Sadr's successful stand against Uncle Sam; and considering that Sadr's hostility against America will not abate, he will only become more of a nuisance later. Which is why Bremer needs to make an example of him!!

Sadly, Bremer won't. If he won't kill the Sunni rebels (he wouldn't lose anything except two or three hundred troops at the very worst), he certainly won't go against Sistani's demand to respect the integrity of Najaf. Sadr and the Sunnis will both get away and raise more hell later.

I thought the coalition was doing an excellent job of the reconstruction up until now; the liberal charges that Iraq was falling apart were, at the time, baseless. The Sunni/Shia rebellion was simply the confluence of hostile elements. Had the Americans played their cards right and smashed them both, even at the cost of hostile press, the major enemies of Iraqi democracy would have been decapitated in one stroke. Instead, of course, Bremer was offered the insurgents' heads on a platter, and he wavered. American strength, and Bush's poll numbers, will bleed because of this.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) betrays conservatives for Arlen Specter 

Like many other conservatives, Stephen Moore feels puzzled and betrayed by Rick Santorum's support for the worst Republican Senator, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

No one can question Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's free-market and pro-growth credentials. Santorum has been ranked as one of the most fiscally conservative Republicans in the Senate by groups like the National Taxpayers Union. He has led the fight for tax cuts and smaller government. And pro-growth contributors, for their part, did a lot of heavy lifting to help get Santorum into the Senate in the first place and into the leadership position he now holds. It was an investment that has paid off in spades.

That is why Santorum's recent interventions on behalf of Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Republican primary are so bewildering. Specter is now locked in a razor-tight race against conservative three-term congressman Pat Toomey. Toomey's voting record, especially on economic-growth issues, is very similar to Santorum's and is as impressive as Specter's is dreadful. Specter was one of only three Republicans who tried to eviscerate the Bush tax cut; he was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the Washington, D.C. school-voucher bill; and he was ranked by the Citizens Against Government Waste as the "Pork Spender of the Year."

We understand how Santorum is obliged to give at least lukewarm public support for Specter, out of senatorial courtesy. But why does he have to actively sabotage Toomey's insurgency?

[Santorum] has discouraged donors from contributing to Toomey. He has cut TV ads for Specter that portray the senior liberal senator as a friend of the taxpayer. He has staff people in Pennsylvania actively campaigning against Toomey.

Worst of all, Rick Santorum is running around Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., perpetuating the myth that Pat Toomey is "too conservative to win in Pennsylvania." This is precisely what liberals said about Rick Santorum when he ran for the Senate back in 1994. Santorum proved that wrong. So did Ronald Reagan, when he won Pennsylvania with a fairly right-wing message in 1980 and 1984. Pennsylvania is the signature state of the Reagan Democrat voter. These are middle-class, often unionized, blue-collar voters who are pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-tax.

Pat Toomey has a demonstrated record of winning Reagan Democrat voters. Toomey represents Allentown, Pa. Allentown is the steel city that Billy Joel immortalized in song about an economically depressed area where out-of-work unionized steel workers are "filling in forms, standing in lines." Toomey wins the district where few other Republicans prevail. And he wins with a voting record that is for free trade, private accounts for Social Security, and lean budgets ? with no pork. (In fact, Specter is running as the man who brings home the bacon, and attacks Toomey for his unwillingness to vote for budget busters that have caused the federal deficit to soar into the stratosphere.)

Despite this principled free-market position on issues and his unwillingness to chase pork spending, Toomey won the district even George Bush lost it in 2000.

This contention that Republican candidates lose when they position themselves to the right and when they run on pro-economic growth issues, rather than away from them, is plain wrong. When Republicans run on principles, they win. Santorum sounds like the Reagan skeptics of the 1970s: He's way too right wing to ever win the presidency. How many times does the conservative movement have to disprove this fallacy?

Pennsylvania is a key battleground state for President Bush. The Bush team and Santorum want Specter on the ticket. But our polls indicate that Specter on the ticket may very well hurt Bush in Pennsylvania, not help him. Toomey will turn out hundreds of thousands of conservative voters, whereas Specter will turn them away.

I think that, other than the presidential race, there is not a single race more important in 2004 than the Specter vs. Toomey primary. We are all familiar with the Republican Congress' disgraceful record on spending, and with people like Arlen Specter in power, the corruption and profligacy (+30% spending so far under Bush, less than half of which has anything to do with the war on terror--and much less if you count the Department of Homeland Security for the pork-barrel joke that it is) will only get worse.

Toomey's insurgency is a chance to teach the GOP spendaholics a lesson, and get a second excellent conservative senator from Pennsylvania. There are eleven days left before the primary--you can donate to him now and empower the Republican wing of the Republican Party by ousting Specter on April 26!

Out with Jamie Gorelick--along with the callow, washed-up, has-been RINOs who are defending her! 

It's understandable, if contemptible, that Ben-Veniste & Co. are defending the disgraceful record of former Clinton deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick. But what the hell are the Republicans doing defending this pathetic partisan hack themselves?

Another gem from NRO today:

Compared to unraveling the intricate web of factual, legal, and bureaucratic circumstances attendant to the 9/11 attacks, judging conflicts of interest is Sesame Street stuff. The 9/11 Commission is assessing the intelligence lapses that may have factored into the suicide hijackings; it has been revealed that, as Deputy Attorney General in 1995, Commissioner Jamie Gorelick was a key architect of an information "wall" that virtually guaranteed just the types of intelligence lapses that occurred. That's a conflict, Q.E.D.

If Chairman Tom Kean and the other 9/11 Commission members now rallying around Gorelick cannot grasp that straightforward equation, they've got no business taking on the complexities of international terrorism and intelligence overhaul.

Kean's effrontery in decreeing, when pressed about Gorelick in an interview Wednesday, that "people ought to stay out of our business[,]" is so mind-blowing it's difficult to decide where to begin. Let's start with the most obvious: The work of the 9/11 Commission is America's business; it is not the private aerie of its ten plugged-in appointees. America expects its tribunals to exude integrity, to be above crass suspicions that the fix is in or that decisions are being made based on something other than a dispassionate review of the relevant circumstances. A tribunal, like the 9/11 Commission, cannot achieve that standard of probity if it has, sitting as a judge, a person whose conduct is at the core of what must be judged.

This ain't quantum physics. It's elementary. Consequently, Kean's obtuseness — like that of his fellow commissioner Slade Gorton, who so thoughtfully pronounced that criticisms of Gorelick's status were "garbage" — makes the commission's entire body of work suspect. Even Kean's defense of Gorelick bespeaks a thorough-going ignorance about what is at issue. He says that she is among the hardest working and most bipartisan of all the commissioners; the first assertion is no doubt true, the second is dubious, but more importantly both are wholly beside the point.

Here, sports fans, is Conflicts 101: You rob a bank; as you are fleeing, there's a woman at the door who sees you, but you point your gun at her, she ducks to the floor, and you skip around her and make your escape. You are arrested and brought to trial. When you get to the courtroom and glimpse up at the bench, who do you see wearing a black robe? Why, it's the woman who witnessed the bank robbery. No way, you say — and you'd be right — the court will find you another judge because this one is an actor in the facts that are the subject matter of the case.

It doesn't matter that the judge happens to be the hardest working, best, most accomplished jurist in the land. It doesn't matter that she is so apolitical no one knows whether she even votes, let alone for whom. Most of all, it doesn't matter that she may not have done anything wrong or anything to be ashamed of. Her conflict does not lie in her work ethic, her political views, or what we might think of her conduct. It is strictly a matter of perception. We have reason to think that she will render judgment based on what she saw in the bank that day rather than what gets presented in the courtroom; we have reason to think she may rule against you not on the merits of your legal arguments but because you pointed a gun at her. Of course, she may not actually do any of those inappropriate things; she may be the very epitome of rectitude. But even if she is, we will always wonder. And if we are left to wonder, the court's rulings lack integrity and legitimacy. If you get convicted, we'll think you might have been railroaded; if acquitted, we'll think you may have intimidated the judge. But one way or the other, we will never be confident that we know what happened in the bank that day.

Now our judge's conflict is even more profound. She is not merely an actor in the facts; she has actually done something, however innocently, that may have contributed to the damage. She now has a powerful motive to skew the fact-finding. We have to worry that she would use her position as judge to steer the trial away from any inquiry into how her actions may have led to the pedestrian's death. The trial is now likely to veer into overblown recriminations about less salient matters, like whether the police were aggressive enough or whether the pedestrian was crossing the street against the traffic light when he was struck. Worse, the perversion of the fact-finding is so patent, and it draws so much outraged attention to the flawed process, that we begin to lose sight of the fact that the real culprit here is you, the bank robber/murderer, not the police, the pedestrian, or our unfortunate panicky judge.

This isn't about whether Jamie Gorelick is partisan. The partisanship on the commission is depressing but inevitable. This body was consciously set up with five Republicans balancing five Democrats — it is "bipartisan" only in the sense that it was hoped the even split would balance out the predictable hijinks. No one was naïve enough to think we were getting ten Solomons.

Neither is this about whether Gorelick is a good, hard-working public servant and a superb lawyer. She is all those things. The wall that prevented intelligence agents from communicating effectively with criminal agents and prosecutors (who by 1995 had developed a considerable body of knowledge about militant Islamic terrorism) was a serious mistake. But it was made with good intentions, and Gorelick did not make it alone — far from it. There were plenty of people then, just as there continue — despite 9/11 — to be plenty of people today, who are willing to risk national security because of the transcendent value they place on civil liberties, the rights of criminal suspects, and maximizing litigation posture in connection with a problem they regard as strictly a law enforcement issue. For my money, they don't see that without national security all those things are empty aspirations. But that doesn't mean they are bad people or that the values they venerate are unimportant. For Kean and Gorton to suggest that questioning the probity of the commission's process is the equivalent of attacking a patently conflicted commissioner's character is low-ball demagoguery.

Finally, Gorelick's facile time defense, which Kean and the others have bought onto, is just lame — and is again grounds for concern about the commission's comprehension of simple issues. Gorelick, who was Deputy AG from 1994 until 1997, figures the problem is solved if she recuses herself from questioning witnesses — such as former AG Janet Reno and former FBI Director Louis Freeh — with whom she served closely during those years. Conflicts, however, are not time-specific so much as they are issue-specific. If you and I are investigated for stock fraud in 1997 and you get indicted for fraud in connection with the same stock in 2000, I don't get to be the judge in your case. I don't get to say, "What does 1997 have to do with 2000?" The issue is: Do I have involvement in the business practices and knowledge about your intentions that are core issues of the trial. If I do, someone else ought to be the judge.

The temporal defense is especially troubling for an additional reason. What happened on September 11, 2001, is borne on directly by practices, like the wall, which produced the patchwork body of intelligence, and screwy methods for handling it, that were in effect when al Qaeda succeeded in killing 3,000 of us. It was irresponsible of Gorelick, knowing that, to accept the appointment under those circumstances. But more importantly, what does inviting her to serve her say about the commission and those who designed it? It says we are making a judgment that nothing terribly relevant to 9/11 happened much before the Bush administration came to power. Given that we are in a war, and the body count started in 1993, that is simply stunning. It smacks of politics over a search for truth.

Remember, moreover, those glory days of the Richard Clarke era — only two weeks ago? Recall the outcry after he testified? From the grandstanding commissioners themselves? "He has raised very serious issues of fact." "Constitutional separation of powers be damned: The president must waive privilege and have National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice testify publicly." "We must have her testify out in the open to respond to Clarke's immensely important charges." Well, it sure looked to me like Attorney General Ashcroft raised some serious issues of fact this week when he slapped Gorelick's 1995 memo on the table and said: This wall stopped agents from connecting the dots. I must have been out of the room when Chairman Kean and his brethren demanded that Gorelick step down as a member of the commission and testify under oath — not on Hardball — about these rather serious assertions. I don't mean to bring up "garbage" or interfere with "our business," but their silence has sure been deafening.

Most sadly ironic, do you know what the rationale for the wall was? Read Gorelick's memo: It was to avoid the appearance of impropriety. It sacrificed national security in an effort to inoculate the government from a hypothetical, ill-conceived claim that national-security wiretapping power had been used as a pretext to build ordinary criminal cases. If the mere appearance of impropriety was a good enough reason as far as Gorelick was concerned in 1995 to gamble with American lives, why is it not a good enough reason in 2004 to promote the integrity of the 9/11 Commission by making sure its work is not tainted by a patent conflict of interest?