By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising
May 20, 2011
THE FINAL FOG ON THE HILL; GOP; INSIDE POLITICS
It's the final days, if not the final hours of this year's session of the General Assembly. That means so many things are happening so quickly, a sort of a fog envelopes the Hill and it can be hard to keep up with all the developments.
With the goal of still getting everything done (only passing an operating budget is required) by sometime Saturday, or maybe coming back early next week if needed, here's where many of the key issues still stand as this is being written Friday afternoon.
Republican Presidential candidates are joining the 2012 race, while others are dropping out. The result is probably just more confusion if you are looking for a clear-cut front runner to take on President Barack Obama.
First, Donald Trump announced he is not running (after weeks of what appeared to be activities and statements by the Donald that sure looked and sounded like he was a candidate). The billionaire businessman said he was certain if he ran he could win. But he now appears to be in a distinct minority of folks who still think he has much of a chance, and now Trump has wisely finally fired himself. Oh and by the way, the announcement came just as network TV rating sweeps were about to come to an end, in case you, like many, thought that had something to do with this boondoggle.
On a more serious note, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says he won't run again in 2012. While that decision was not unexpected, it did bring some additional clarity to the field. It has led some to name former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney the front runner, especially after he raised $10 million dollars in one day (May 16)alone (by the way, Romney reportedly has a fund raiser coming up in Tennessee this month according to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL/May 18)).
But Romney's problem continues to be an image of being a "flip-flopper" particularly on the issue of health care. While he was governor, Romney passed a statewide health care program, that like the much reviled (at least by Republicans) Obamacare requires all individuals to purchase insurance coverage. Despite doing a recent major speech to prove that what he passed is not the same as the new national health care plan, so far that doesn't seem to be working for him, despite all the money he's raising. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL said this on the subject during an editorial on May 12: "Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off (Vice President) Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket."
Romney is not the only Republican presidential candidate who is having trouble with the health care issue. So is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who in the past has spoken in favor of the individual health insurance mandate. But that's only one of several issues Gingrich is trying to explain to voters. His biggest goof was calling Representative Paul Ryan's Medicare plan (which all but 3 GOP congressman have voted to support) as "radical…right wing social engineering."
This has set off a political firestorm throughout the Republican Party including Tea Party members, The Club for Growth and others questioning his temperament and his abilities to be President. Disclosures of his Tiffany's credit card bills and being hit by a glitter bomb during a book signing event didn't help either. This was clearly a most forgettable political week for the former Speaker who has long been known to shoot from the lip. Maybe the only Republican who had a tougher week was former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who has admitted he had a love child ten years ago with a family maid and now his wife has left him.
Getting back to health care, even candidates not in the field are being attacked because of their past support of the individual health care mandate. That includes Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (who is set to come to speak to Tennessee Republicans later this summer). An article on HUFFPOST POLITICS on May 19, reported Democrats heaping praise on the former Office of Management & Budget Director under President George W. Bush for the work he is doing to implement Obamacare in his state. The article also cites an October 23, 2003 story in THE SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE where gubernatorial candidate Daniels was reported as follows: "The candidate said he favors a universal health care system that would move away from employee-based health policies and make it mandatory for all Americans to have health insurance."
On another topic, another GOP would-be presidential candidate former Senator Rick Santorum got some pushback after he criticized the GOP's 2008 presidential candidate Senator John McCain. McCain has been outspoken in criticizing those who said Osama Bin Laden was captured because of "enhanced" interrogation techniques. Not so says McCain. But according an article on Salon.com by Justin Elliot on May 17, Santorum on a recent syndicated national radio show (Hugh Hewitt) said McCain "simply doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works."
Oh, yeah. Isn't this the same John McCain who spent over 5 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and was interrogated while undergoing a series of beatings and torture? Are you sure about that, Senator Santorum?
Moving on to another potential GOP candidate, despite her steep decline in recent voter polls, former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin looks like she may get in the 2012 race after all, sending out a message to supporters that "2012 can't come fast enough" and later telling reporters that she thinks she has "the fire in the belly" it takes to run.
But for now, it seems the more things change in the 2012 Republican presidential race, the more they stay the same….more than a bit muddled with no clear front runner emerging yet.
As the Tennessee General Assembly begins to go home, the Metro city elections are about to move to center stage here in town. The qualifying deadline was last Thursday (May 19) with well over 100 candidates in the field to be Mayor, Vice Mayor or one of the 40 members of the Metro Council (they can still withdraw from running before May 26).
So what will this election be? What are the key races and issues? To answer those questions, I have invited two local government reporters to join me on INSIDE POLITICS this weekend. They are Micheal Cass of THE TENNESSEAN and Joey Garrison of THE NASHVILLE CITY PAPER. Join as we discuss where the campaigns stand and what to expect this summer. That includes a discussion of the possible Metro Charter amendment to make it almost impossible to ever change the use of the State Fairgrounds property in South Nashville.
It will still be a couple of days yet before we know for sure if supporters of the Fairgrounds got the voter signatures needed to put the matter on the ballot. But in the meantime there continues to be speculation that the Fairgrounds amendment is an attempt to boost the chances of term-limited Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, an ardent Fairgrounds supporter, who is seeking to oust Mayor Karl Dean, who has wanted to redevelop the Fairgrounds for other uses.
Micheal Cass doesn't mention this on the show, but he does have a piece on THE TENNESSEAN's political blog site that says that the Craddock campaign and the SAVE OUR FAIRGROUNDS group do share a common telephone number. I guess that could be a clue, huh?
You can see INSIDE POLITICS several times each weekend on THE NEWSCHANNEL 5 NETWORK. That includes on the main channel, WTVF-TV, Channel 5 on Sunday morning at 5 a.m. You can also see us on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS, which can be seen on Comcast & Charter Cable channels 250 and on Channel 5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2. Our PLUS air times are 7 p.m. Friday, 5 a.m. & 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.