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October 4th, 2005:

Another piece of the puzzle

Well, if you took any joy at the generally negative reaction among conservative pundits and bloggers to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, this will serve as a little cold water to the face. Link via Avedon. Liberal Oasis has some thoughts on what to do about it.

Well, at least we’re starting to hear about some interesting topics for discussion when her confirmation hearings begin. There’s this, of course (via Atrios), and there’s the by now widely-blogged-about lawsuit against Locke, Lidell, and Sapp, which occurred on her watch as co-managing partner. These are some of the things that are left to talk about when a nominee has no paper trail, I guess. And I daresay there’ll be more of that to come.

Playoff time

Haven’t written much about baseball lately, have I? Well, as a Yankee fan, I spent much of this season holding my breath. Things looked pretty grim in May, and even as late as Labor Day, the Bombers didn’t quite have the look of a team that could win as many as 90 games. Their turnaround is as weird as it is exhilarating. You’d have gotten pretty good odds in Vegas with a bet on Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon, and Chien-Ming Wang going a combined 25-8 – as in, bet a quarter and win a pot the size of the national debt.

It’s quite an accomplishment for the Astros to have made it back to the playoffs as well. Never mind their historic rise from 15 games under .500, their offense stinks. Fortunately for them, the air freshener that is their starting pitching is more than enough to cover that up, and that’s even before we get to Brad Lidge and Dan Wheeler.

There should be some excellent series as well. The Battle of the Soxes presents two teams that couldn’t be more different, with the Yankees and the Greater Orange County Metropolitan Area Angels a close second. The Astros and Braves are a rematch from last year. Even the lowly Padres and the 100-win Cardinals offer some intrigue, with the schedule allowing San Diego’s Jake Peavy (the best National League starter not wearing an Astros uniform) the chance to do to the Cards what Kevin Brown did to the ‘Stros back in 1998. I suspect my TiVo’s gonna get a workout over the next couple of weeks. Play ball!

UPDATE: Oops. So much for Jake Peavy. Thanks, Patrick!

Poll time

Some interesting poll numbers from Zogby at the Wall Street Journal (link via Kos). Let’s start with the Texas Governor’s race, where a three-way battle shows Rick Perry at 40.1%, Chris Bell at 27.2%, and Kinky Friedman at 18%. A separate poll shows Carole Keeton Strayhorn topping Bell 34.6% to 26%. Any numbers for Friedman are not included in that matchup, though the accompanying blurb alludes to Kinky getting “at least 18%” in “various potential three-way matchups”.

Let’s start by saying, once again, that Rick Perry’s poll numbers suck. Forty percent? That number represents a drop from August, too, though whether it’s due to him, Bell, Friedman, or random noise is anyone’s guess. And while I believe Perry will get a bounce in approval ratings from his handling of Katrina, I don’t think that will necessarily translate into votes. If this isn’t rock bottom for him, I don’t know what would be.

As for Bell, I think Greg is correct to suggest that this is mostly a function of name ID. It’d be nice if there were a Perry/Sharp pairing for comparison purposes, but there isn’t. (A straight-up Perry/Bell poll would’ve been useful, too.) I note that Strayhorn does considerably worse against Bell than Perry does. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that Rick Perry is the most vulnerable Republican statewide candidate. That’s a view that I generally subscribe to, so seeing Perry do better against his likely Democratic opponent than Strayhorn makes me wonder. I suspect name ID is in play there as well, however, so I won’t read too much into it for now.

Bell certainly has room to grow, once he has the money to run some advertisements and get his name out there. If one believes that this number represents Rick Perry’s base of support, then what follows is that he ought to focus on the undecideds and the Kinky voters. That doesn’t mean he should let up on Perry – it means he needs to convince the 60% of voters who are apparently already open to voting for someone else that he’s the best alternative. I think for the most part his message is well tailored for that, but until more of the audience hears it we can’t know for sure.

As for Kinky, eighteen percent is perhaps a little higher than I’d have expected for now, but it’s in line with what I think he’d get if he does actually run. My reason for this is based on what I think the unshakeable support is for each party’s candidate. For Democrats, I think it’s in the vicinity of 35%, based on the results of the 2000 Senatorial race (Hutchison 65%, placeholder Dem 32%) and the 2002 Comptroller race (Rylander/Strayhorn 64%, placeholder Dem 33%; Lib and Green candidates combined for about 3% in each). For Republicans, I’ll go with the 40% that Perry is currently pulling – obviously, they’ve done considerably better than that in real elections of late, but they’ve never had anyone quite as battered as the 2006 version of Rick Perry on the ticket.

The bottom line here is that if I’m right, that puts Kinky’s ceiling at about 25%, which needless to say isn’t going to be enough to win. I’m guessing that he didn’t do significantly better than that 18% cited in any other “potential” (read: ain’t gonna happen) three-way race, or Zogby might have played it up a bit. I also don’t have a good feel for what his name ID actually is. Sure, he’s a celebrity, but he’s a niche celebrity, best known for raunchy music and mystery novels – in short, Schwarzeneggar, hell even Jesse Ventura, he ain’t. I think he has the potential to go up, especially if Perry’s baseline support isn’t as solid as I think and/or if Bell can’t get his name out there, and if he can steal some more disillusioned Perry voters away he could even make this a 30/30/30 kind of race, but I have serious doubts about that. I think he’ll be more like Ross Perot, superficially attractive but ultimately someone who peaks early and tails off as the race wears on. Of course, that means he could have an effect on the race, especially if he cracks 20% at the end.

Let’s move to the Senate race, where there’s good news and bad news for Democrats. The good news is that Senator Supposedly Popular gets a maximum of 51.6% in the matchups they polled. Forgive me if I seem underwhelmed by that, given her alleged status as an electoral juggernaut. I suppose Zogby could be undersampling Republicans, and given that KBH pulled 55%+ in August, maybe this too is just random chance, but still. Fifty-one percent?

The bad news is that Zogby, for reasons unclear to me, is polling Hutchison against three Democrats who are known to be not running against her: Ron Kirk, who announced his non-candidacy months ago; John Sharp, who is now apparently a non-candidate for Governor; and Kirk Watson, who is a candidate for Senate, just not that Senate. Why they chose to do this and not ask about the one person who absolutely is running against Hutchison is one of life’s little mysteries. I guess it’s possible that they did do such a poll, and the numbers were so awful for Radnofsky that they chose not to publish the results on the free WSJ link. Call me crazy, but if that’s true, then it sounds more like news to me than the equivalent of three fantasy football matchups for KBH. Given that, I’m sticking with the oversight explanation until I’m told otherwise.

Nationally, the news is pretty decent overall for Democrats, both in gubernatorial and senatorial races. Check it out, and check back next month so we’ll know if we have any honest-to-goodness trends on our hands.

UPDATE: The Jeffersonian and DC9 weigh in.

Reindicted and it feels so good

Here’s the fuller story on the new DeLay indictments.

A new Travis County grand jury hurriedly reindicted U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on a charge of conspiring to violate state election laws and added two charges related to money laundering Monday after DeLay’s lawyers challenged the validity of an indictment returned last week.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s office described the reindictment as procedural, but DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin portrayed it as an effort to correct what he described as an embarrassingly flawed indictment against the Sugar Land Republican.

“Apparently, no one cracked a book before they issued that first indictment,” DeGuerin said. “This is a mess. This looks like Keystone Kops.”

[…]

Earle offered little comment or explanation of the new indictments, and refused to take calls from the Houston Chronicle.

“This indictment consolidates previous charges against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis … and adds Congressman DeLay as a party defendant to money laundering,” said a statement issued by Earle’s office.

[…]

DeGuerin said the new indictment was returned after he filed a motion to dismiss the original indictment against DeLay. The original indictment alleged DeLay was involved in a conspiracy to violate state election laws in a scheme to convert corporate money into cash that was available for 2002 Republican state House candidates.

DeGuerin said the problem with that indictment was state law was not changed to make the conspiracy indictment apply to the state election laws until 2003 — a year after the supposed violation. He said the quick turnaround with a new grand jury showed Earle’s case against DeLay was improvised.

“It proves a district attorney can lead a grand jury around like a bull with a ring through its nose,” DeGuerin said.

[…]

Two criminal defense and election law experts interviewed by the Chronicle said Earle’s original indictment of DeLay is likely to be upheld by the courts.

University of Texas law Professor George Dix said he wasn’t sure why a new indictment was necessary because the Penal Code in 2002 made it a crime to conspire to commit any felony.

Dix said it was a felony in 2002 to use corporate money to try to influence the outcome of an election.

He said the fact the law was changed in 2003 to specifically include the election code under conspiracy should be irrelevant. “I don’t see the necessity for the 2003 law,” he said.

Austin attorney Buck Wood, who represents losing Democratic candidates in a civil suit against corporations that contributed to TRMPAC, called the new charges a “belt and suspenders indictment. It means you don’t take any chances.”

Wood agreed with Dix that the conspiracy charge already was covered by the penal code in 2002 but also noted that all nine members of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which would review any convictions, are Republicans.

“With the Court of Criminal Appeals, it is probably not a bad idea to go ahead and have all your bases covered,” Wood said.

So one way of putting this would be that Ronnie Earle secured these subsequent indictments to ensure that those judicial activists on the Court of Criminal Appeals don’t take matters into their own hands. I like a little irony to go with my morning Cheerios. Don’t you?

Other matters: Via TAPPED, DeLay’s troubles may be just beginning.

DeLay may not have seen the worst of it yet. Sources tell TIME that while Earle was closing in on DeLay from Austin, Texas, a federal investigation into the spreading scandal around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, accused with Michael Scanlon (a former press secretary of DeLay’s) of bilking their Indian-tribe clients out of $66 million, has begun lapping at the edges of the former majority leader’s operation. A former Abramoff associate who was questioned by the FBI in August says, “They had a lot of e-mails, a lot of traffic between our office and DeLay’s office.” Many of those exchanges involved lavish travel by DeLay arranged by the lobbyist but requested, the e-mails suggest, by aides in DeLay’s office. (House members are allowed to accept gifts under limited circumstances but not to solicit them.) Says the source: “There was nothing I saw that hit DeLay personally, but there was a lot of questionable stuff that was going on with his staff. ‘Tom wants this. Tom wants that.’ Was it really him or just the staff that was being aggressive?” DeLay’s office wouldn’t comment on the Justice Department investigation, and neither would the FBI.

It’s so bad that even Maggie Thatcher is feeling the pinch. This is beginning to approach high comedy.

Mark Kleiman looks at the possibilities for DeLay’s defense and suggests that beating the rap on what amounts to a technicality is likely his best bet. Via PGL.

Finally, as I suspected, DeLay’s frontal assault on the documentary The Big Buy has been a huge boon to the filmmakers. From an email I got from Jim Schermbeck:

It’s been a very busy five days. ABC, CBS and CNN have called and we’re negotiating appearances on morning shows and even maybe Nightline with Ted. We were the objects of scorn on FOX and Rush and countless blogs. Sundance has called and at least two companies with a track-record of theatrical releases for docs want to talk to us. In short, Tom DeLay has been “bery bery good” to us.

They have a website up here which has some clips from the movie, so check it out.

(My apologies for the title. It just came to me, and I couldn’t resist.)