Cigarette and Coffee Breakfast, 2/24/2014

– The Democrats seem to have set their election year message, and it’s about the same as every other election season in recent memory: helping poor and middle class citizens. This time, in an attempt to help vulnerable Senate Democrats in Louisiana and Montana, Democrats will try to force Obamacare’s popular Medicaid Expansion onto the ballot in November. The expansion, which has been rejected by every state in the South except wavering Arkansas, would bring million of no-strings attached Federal dollars that would go strait to indigent citizens in those states.

“Turnout is the biggest challenge that Democrats face,” one Democratic operative told TPM. “There are a variety of ways that you can meet your turnout goals, and one of them is certainly ballot initiatives. Medicaid expansion really could be a powerful tool to turn voters out.” In Montana, activists only need to gather 24,000 signatures, which should be easy enough, even in sparse Montana. In Louisiana, though, Democrats in the legislature must convince majority Republicans to allow the ballot initiative to proceed.

– Kanasas seems to be getting heavily polled this year, possibly because the voters are showing so much disdain for the latest batch of Republican incumbents in the state. First, it was Senator Pat Roberts not living in the state, and paying constituents $300 a week to let him crash on their couch.

Now, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) seems to be in it just as deep as the Senator. PPP has the Governor trailing his Democratic challenger, state House Minority Leader Paul Davis 42-40. In KANSAS! At the same time, Brownback sports a dismal 33-51 approval rating, which is down from the 37-52 PPP got one year ago. As David Nir helpfully adds, though, “undecided voters in PPP’s survey lean heavily Republican—60 percent say they supported Mitt Romney versus just 27 percent who voted for Barack Obama,” but you can’t just assume all of those voters will be going strait to Brownback- even Republicans in Kansas are massively unhappy with the arch-conservative Governor.

– U.S. House Representative John Dingell, the longest current serving member in congress at 58 years, will announce today that he will not seek re-election. Dingell, who turns 88 later this year, told reporters, “I find serving in the House to be obnoxious. It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets”. If that’s not a ringing endorsement of our democracy from the nations’s longest serving Congressman, I don’t know what is! The Michigan congressman added that he was “not sure” if his health would hold up throughout a two-year term.

– The League of Conservative Voters of New Hampshire, which earlier aired adds aimed at “dissuading” former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown from running for Senate one state to the north, has released another PPP poll that has Brown trailing Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen 47-39. With one candidate currently serving in the United States Senate, and the other gaining national celebrity after being elected in liberal Massachusetts, both Shaheen and Brown are very well known at this point. To be trailing by eight points with almost universal name recognition for both candidates will be tough for Brown to overcome.

– The Hill leads this morning with a headline that must have conservatives’ panties in a bunch. “Obama’s Rush to Regulate” reminds us that, even though the President has vowed to do all that he can without this obstinate Congress, making rules and regulations is an exceedingly slow process. “Three years may look like a long time, but when it comes to the rulemaking process it’s a blink of the eye,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at the nonprofit group Public Citizen. “I think they’re realizing they’re up against tight deadlines”. First on the Administration’s list will be tougher emissions standards for power plants and vehicles. Last week, the Administration began working to implement new standards for big-rig and semi-trucks that it believes will help keep the country’s CO2 emissions down.

– I guess now we’re seeing why some Republicans freaked out and tried to torpedo the nomination of one of their own, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Secretary of Defense will propose to reduce the size of the United States Armed Forces to its smallest since prior to World War II, and will also look to eliminate two classes of fighter jets.

The Pentagon, which is notorious for hanging on to programs long after they have lost relevance or been proven to be ineffective, is pulling a serious about-face with this move. Of course, now we will all be lucky enough to witness the spectacle of Washington, where politicians of both parties, normally willing to speak of nothing but fiscal responsibility, throw their principles out the window in order to defend useless defense programs that just happen to provide good, middle class jobs in their district.

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