National Democrats are reeling after Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat, lost to Scott Brown, a Republican state senator who was virtually unknown on the national stage until his upstart campaign began to gain momentum in recent weeks. Brown’s bid to finish out the remainder of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s final term gained traction in part because he campaigned on a pledge to be the 41st vote Senate Republicans need to block Democrats’ health care reform bill.
“John, we lost a very important seat, a very important vote,” Democratic strategist Donna Brazile told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“It’s a disappointment,” Brazile also told King. “It hurts like hell. I can’t tell you how much it hurts. But, it’s also a gift. If we learn the lessons to get back to the basics, to deliver for the American people the change we promised them in 2008.”
“Well, maybe we can find more under the tree,” Bill Bennett, the host of conservative talk show “Morning in America,” said in response to Brazile. “If that’s the gift, then we want to keep on giving,” the conservative commentator added.
Washington (CNN) - Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry is expected to announce Monday that he will not seek re-election and instead retire at the end of the year, two Democratic sources confirm to CNN.
Berry would become the 12th Democrat to announce that he will not run for his House seat again in 2010. Six of those Democrats, including Berry, will not be running for another office, while the other six are either seeking a Senate seat or the governorship of their state.
Berry, a member of the conservative Democratic "Blue Dog" coalition, is currently serving his seventh term and was unopposed in the 2008 election. But Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, overwhelmingly defeated then-Sen. Barack Obama in Berry's northeast Arkansas congressional district by a 59 percent to 38 percent margin in last year's presidential contest. Four years earlier, President Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry by a 52 percent to 47 percent spread.
For now, Rick Crawford is the only Republican in the race for Berry's seat, but with his decision to retire, expect others to jump in.
Democratic leaders are keeping a close eye on their colleagues hoping to convince any fence-sitting Democrats to run for re-election in November. Across the aisle, House Republicans face 14 retirements, 11 of whom are running for another office.
The Washington Post first reported that Berry would retire on its Web site Sunday evening.
– CNN's Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
This week’s Sunday conversation included a feisty debate about the Massachusetts Message and its lasting political power, much of it in the context of just what tone President Obama should take – and what issues he should put front and center – when he delivers his State of the Union Address midweek.
“You will hear in the State of the Union his ideas about additional steps that we can take to help create jobs and stir hiring across the country,” senior presidential adviser David Axelrod told us.
“What happened in Massachusetts is just part of an American awakening,” was conservative Sen. Jim DeMint’s take.
Other pocketbook issues in play:
Asked about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke who has been nominated by President Obama for a second term heading the nation’s central bank, Shelby said, “I believe if you look at his record objectively, you shouldn’t vote for him.”
“I believe the Federal Reserve is part and parcel of the whole problem [that led to the recent financial crisis], that helped create the problem – loose money and too little regulation Now they want to ride to the rescue with the taxpayers’ money. I believe that is not a good record by the Fed, led by Ben Bernanke. I intend to vote against him.”
Asked whether not confirming Bernanke could spook already shaky financial markets, Shelby brushed aside the suggestion that protecting the markets is a reason to back Bernanke.
Washington (CNN) - Money talked in the Massachusetts special election last week that reshaped the U.S. political landscape by filling Ted Kennedy's Senate seat with a Republican.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake revealed Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, ran no polls for several weeks in the short campaign because she lacked funding.
According to Lake, Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, asked national Democratic organizations for funding for her campaign but was turned down. Lake said Democratic officials told Coakley, "You don't need it."
By contrast, Brown ran daily field polling from Dec. 31, said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. Brown's campaign received strong backing from conservative groups and national Republicans.
The revelation added to a widespread perception that Democrats believed Coakley would easily win the race for the Senate seat held for almost 47 years by Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, until his death last August.
Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans oppose the economic stimulus program, according to a new national poll.
Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Sunday say they oppose the stimulus package, with 42 percent supporting it.
Last March, just weeks after the stimulus bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama, a CNN poll indicated that 54 percent of the public supported the program, with 44 percent opposed.
The program, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, attempts to stimulate the country's economy by increasing federal government spending and cutting taxes at a total cost to the government of $787 billion. No Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate voted in favor of the bill.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted January 8-10, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.
Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside political adviser to the White House, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Plouffe’s increased role in advising the White House political operation comes in the wake of Democrats’ stunning loss last week in a Massachusetts special Senate election which deprived Obama’s party of the filibuster-proof supermajority it previously held in the Senate. The loss of a crucial 60th vote in the Senate has immediately deprived Democrats of the support necessary to pass a health care reform bill, Obama’s top domestic agenda item of the past year, and has likewise called into question some of Obama’s other ambitious plans including a cap-and-trade energy bill and financial regulatory reform.
Asked whether the White House’s decision to bring in Plouffe suggested that he had not done enough, Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Sunday that he welcomed Plouffe.
“We welcome the White House beefing up their political operation in a volatile political atmosphere,” Menendez told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
“Clearly, we did everything we could in Massachusetts,” Menendez also told King, defending his committee’s work in support of Martha Coakley’s failed campaign.
“I think the big take-away from Massachusetts, however, is that, in fact, there is enormous economic angst in the country. . . . And that economic angst came out to play in this election. It is something that I expect the president to deal with in his State of the Union speech and something we will deal with as a jobs package.”
“I’d have a rough time supporting it, to be honest with you,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on State of the Union. “I think it’d just wind up being another excuse [to raise taxes] rather than facing the tough problems that we all should be facing right now, that the president should be facing . . . He ought to do something about it rather than push it off again to another commission that never seems to work anyway.”
The President reversed course and issued a statement Saturday supporting the statutory proposal which could make recommendations binding on Congress. The White House previously proposed the commission be created by executive order – meaning its recommendations would have been non-binding.
Asked whether he would support the statutory proposal, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, said he was considering both alternatives.
“I haven’t made that final conclusion,” Menendez told King. “I’m looking at, in fact, which of the two might be the best way to ensure that we reduce the deficit.”
Menedez’s sticking point with statutory proposal is the fact that it would only allow an “up-or-down” vote on the bipartisan commission’s recommendations. The other proposal now abandoned by the White House would have allowed Congress to amend the commission’s recommendations.
Washington (CNN) - The White House rejected criticism Sunday that President Barack Obama has not delivered on his promise of "change" during his first year in office.
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said the president has brought about "enormous change."
"I think what we've seen is a dramatic difference in terms of how the United States is perceived around the world," Jarrett told NBC's "Meet the Press," on the final Sunday before the president's State of the Union address.
Obama's travels have established relationships with world leaders that "lay a foundation for keeping America safe and making us a partner around the world," she added.
Jarrett also credited the president with having "pulled back the economy from the brink of disaster."
"That's an enormous amount of change when you consider where we were a year ago right on the brink," she said. "And he's adding discipline in government to try to get control over our fiscal house. So I think that we've seen enormous change."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the same program, countered that "if you look at the first year of this administration, we haven't made much progress." He complained about the deficit in the president's budget and the health care reform package that Republicans oppose.