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One of the hottest epithets to emerge this political season has a gender basis: “Man up.”

Sharron Angle. Courtesy of the Washington Post

“Man up, Harry Reid,” Nevada Republican senate candidate Sharron Angle said to her Democratic opponent. “You need to understand we have a problem with Social Security.”

“Hey, politicians who are in office today you, some of you, need to man up and spend some political capital to support the Tea Party candidates instead of doing this, waiting to see how everything is going to go,” Sarah Palin said in Reno, Nev.

“I think people should have access [to health care],” Missouri Democratic senate candidate Robin Carnahan said to Republican Roy Blunt. “They should have the same access you have as a member of Congress. So I think if you want to repeal health care reform and let insurance companies go back to their worst abuses, Congressman, then you ought to repeal your own first. And man up. And do what you’re asking other people to do.”

“You know, these are the kind of cheap, underhanded, un-manly tactics that we’ve come to expect from Obama’s favorite Republican, Mike Castle,” said Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell about her primary opponent. “You know, I released a statement today, saying Mike, this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.”

“He needs to man up and leader up and run his own race,” Florida Democratic senate candidate Kendrick Meek said of independent candidate Charlie Crist. “Don’t try to come over and eat off my plate, because I’m 6’3,” 250 pounds and a former state trooper.”

Ruth Marcus, writing in The Washington Post, wants to know what testicles have to do with toughness.

The breakthrough appeal of the Mama Grizzly is that she combines the ultimate feminine act — motherhood — with fierceness. Have we really come a long way if cojones equals good and lack thereof equals wimpy? …

Don’t equate typically female characteristics or activities (baking, wearing high heels) with weakness.

Don’t — even, or maybe especially, if you’re a woman — equate toughness with manliness. At least not unless you think it’s acceptable for your opponent to tell you to behave like a lady.

Don’t use terms with sexist or racist overtones. If you, or someone in your campaign does, groveling works better than quibbling.

Politicians of both genders don’t need to man up — they need to grow up. Judging by the campaign so far, that might be harder to pull off.

Over at Slate, John Dickerson laments that “man up” has turned into a cliché.

Imagine if someone spoke plainly about something that mattered! Original, unvarnished speech is such a danger, however, that politicians of both parties have joined together to make the expression ‘man up’ into a cliché, rendering it as harmless as the promise to ‘put America first.’ When a politician uses the expression now, it is rehearsed as dinner theater. It is dreary to watch, boring to listen to, and tells us nothing about the politician or the issue he or she is talking about.

Sociologist Geoffrey Greif, writing in Psychology Today, wonders why female candidates feel the need to ask if their candidates have the ganas.

I understand the history of the outdated notion that someone needs to “be a man” and act tough, take responsibility, and be a leader. But is that expression really still around today on the lips of women candidates? Is it okay to impugn their masculinity like this? “Take responsibility” could easily have been substituted for “man up” but in using “man up,” it calls into play the obvious retort. What if a candidate, male or female, told an opponent to “woman up?”

In a bygone era, telling someone to “woman up” would have meant she should act the way a traditional woman was expected to act. She should stay home and take care of children, perhaps while a man took care of family financially. In today’s world, woman up could mean the same as man up – take responsibility and act like a leader (think Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkle, and Margaret Thatcher – all women who take/took responsibility and act(ed) like leaders.

So I can’t quite figure out what these women were saying about their opponents’ masculinity or what they were saying about women in general. But it feels like a putdown of both and, ultimately, of themselves as women candidates.

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Last night Delaware Senate candidates Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell debated live on primetime CNN (before cutting away to cover the ongoing miner rescues in Chile).

The most widely talked-about moment came when moderator Nancy Karibjanian of Delaware First Media asked O’Donnell about which recent Supreme Court rulings with which she disagreed. O’Donnell fumbled the question. Video and transcript are below.

KARIBJANIAN: Well, we’ve talked about the Supreme Court, and obviously a United States senator has the opportunity to determine in a way the make-up of that court. So what opinions of late that have come from our high court do you most object to?

O’DONNELL: Oh, gosh. Give me a specific one, I’m sorry.

KARIBJANIAN: Actually, I can’t, because I need you to tell me which ones you object to.

O’DONNELL: I’m very sorry. Right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I’ll put it up on my Web site, I promise you.

BLITZER: Well, we know you disagree with Roe versus Wade.

O’DONNELL: Yes, but that was — she said a recent one.

BLITZER: Well, that’s relatively recent.

O’DONNELL: She said, of late.

Yes, well, Roe versus Wade would not put the power — sorry, it’s 30 (ph)…

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But since then, have there been any other…

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: … Supreme Court decisions?

O’DONNELL: Well, let me say, about Roe versus Wade, Roe versus Wade, if that were overturned, would not make abortion illegal in the United States, it would put the power back to the states.

BLITZER: But besides that decision, anything else you disagree with?

O’DONNELL: Oh, there are several, when it comes to pornography, when it comes to court decisions, not just Supreme Court, but federal court decisions to give terrorists Miranda-ized rights.

I mean, there are a lot of things that I believe that — this California decision to overturn Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I believe that there are a lot of federal judges who are legislating from the bench.

BLITZER: That wasn’t the Supreme Court, it’s a lower court.

O’DONNELL: That was a federal judge — that’s what I said, in California.

O’Donnell’s campaign later clarified that she opposes the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London, which in a 5-4 decision held that “the city’s taking of private property to sell for private development qualified as a ‘public use’ within the meaning of the takings clause.”

O’Donnell also defended herself against controversial comments she made on Bill Maher’s talk show “Politically Incorrect,” including a claim that she once dabbled in witchcraft and her belief that evolution is a myth.

“This election cycle should not be about comments I made on a comedy show over a decade and a half ago,” she said. In a similar vein, however, she attacked an article written by Coons in his college newspaper in which he described himself as a “bearded Marxist,” saying, “Forget the bearded Marxist comment, you writing an article saying that you learned your beliefs from an articulate, intelligent Marxist professor and that’s what made you become a Democrat, that should send chills up the spine of every Delaware voter.”

Coons defended the article as ironic.

It’s an article that I wrote as a senior the day of our commencement speech and the title and the content of that clearly makes it obvious that it was a joke. There was a group of folks who I had shared a room with, my roommates junior year, who are in the Young Republican Club and who thought when I returned from Kenya and registered as a Democrat that doing so was proof that I had gone all the way over to the far left end, and so they jokingly called me a bearded Marxist. If you take five minutes and read the article, it’s clear on the face of it, it was a joke. Despite that, my opponent and lots of folks in the right wing media have endlessly spun this. I am not now, nor have I ever been, anything but a clean-shaven capitalist.

So how did the candidates fare through the debate? Coverage has largely focused on O’Donnell, who worked to lower expectations on her performance. The debate would do little to change voters’ minds, Salon’s Steve Kornacki wrote, unless O’Donnell were “able to create some kind of breakthrough moment – or would Coons commit some kind of paralyzing gaffe?” Coons, Kornacki concludes, did not mess up in any meaningful way.

Coons was probably a bit too dismissive of O’Donnell at times, frequently prefacing his replies to her statements by shaking his head and marveling that “there’s just so much there” to respond to. Voters already see that O’Donnell as something of a lunatic; they don’t need Coons pointing it out to them over and over. But his stylistic sins were minor and he committed no major gaffes. Die-hard conservatives surely found plenty of ideological objections to Coons’ statements, but they’re already in O’Donnell’s camp.

Courtesy of the Washington Times

Slate’s Dave Weigel, a Delaware native, noted that he listened to the “over-played” debate and continues to be amazed that the national media is interested in a race where Coons has nearly a 20-point spread.

She’s a competent TV pundit who doesn’t really drill down into policy. Lo and behold, she tossed off a ton of TV lines without saying much about policy. Oh, yes, she spoke about it in soundbite terms, but at every moment where Coons or moderators asked her to take her stance to its logical conclusion, she wandered into Neverland. Really, 10 minutes after she was explaining that it was unfair to judge her on her financial record, she proposed more accountability from people who used emergency rooms because they didn’t have insurance. Or something.

I suppose that the Rise of the Tea Party candidate — and we could say the first one was Sarah Palin, really, as she was given national prominence by conservative bloggers and media — has led to debates with ultra-low expectations for those candidates. I imagine that Sharron Angle will fail to spontaneously combust, and thus be declared a surprise winner on points of her debate with Harry Reid.

The BBC said that O’Donnell’s sassiness could not overcome her shallow answers.

Ms O’Donnell’s sassy, everyday-girl appeal couldn’t obscure the lack of detail in her responses.

Nor could it compensate for her dumbfounded silence when asked to name a recent Supreme Court ruling she disagreed with.

But that might not matter in this election. She successfully touched on the talking points that have proved to resonate so powerfully with conservatives – repeatedly referring to the constitution, railing against “Obamacare” and accusing Mr Coons of being a Marxist.

Some call this “dog-whistle politics” – these kind of references hit a pitch, and speak a language that supporters hear differently, and respond to more strongly, than other constituencies. Ms O’Donnell appears to have mastered the technique.

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawick was confused by all the hype surrounding O’Donnell. “I tried to look past all the wild stuff said about her to see what it was about this candidate that led to her upset victory in the primary race, but I honestly couldn’t find any real takeaway. I wanted to see some honesty and new answers, but I saw nothing much to get excited about.” Nevertheless, Zurawick still liked her “better than the drab, smarmy guy she’s running against, Coons.”

Finally, the National Review’s Jim Geraghaty, despite not being a fan of O’Donnell, criticized Coons’ answers as unsurprising and banal and moderators Karibjanian and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as in the tank for the Democrat.

I’m not inclined to agree with the positions of Democrat Chris Coons, but he struck me as terrible. I wondered if he felt a bit like Al Gore taking on Dan Quayle in 1992 or Joe Biden taking on Sarah Palin in 2008; the opponent was supposed to be a blithering idiot and anything less than a TKO would be a disappointment. But Coons seemed intent to play it safe, to the point where the local moderator, Schoolmarm McFavoritism, had to invite him to jump in twice. Several times he said he didn’t have the required time to answer the questions, and so he punted. His answers were pat, predictable, almost rote recitation of standard-issue Democratic talking points. As I said on Twitter, the generic ballot numbers in Delaware may be strangely relevant, since it seems Chris Coons is the Generic Democratic Candidate.

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For months, an anonymous hold in the senate (likely, most reports note, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)) has blocked MIT economics professor Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

“Professor Diamond is a skilled economist and certainly an expert on tax policy and on the Social Security system,” Shelby said July 28. “However, I do not believe he’s ready to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board. I do not believe that the current environment of uncertainty would benefit from monetary policy decisions made by board members who are learning on the job.”

President Obama even had to re-nominate Diamond, who once taught Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. It was looked even less likely that Diamond, along with two other Fed Board nominees and a host of further blocked nominations, would receive quick floor action.

Then Diamond won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science yesterday.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobels, said that the prize, which Diamond shared with Dale Mortenson of Northwestern University and Christopher Pisarides of the London School of Economics, was for the researchers’ exploration of “why it takes so long for people to find jobs, even in good economic times, and why so many people can be unemployed even when many jobs are available.”

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn argued back in August that Diamond is eminently qualified for the Fed.

He’s among the top economists of his generation and, while he doesn’t specialize in monetary policy, he’s done groundbreaking work on the labor market and government pensions, two areas very much in the Fed’s purview. Besides, as Matthew Yglesias points out, three of the sitting governors aren’t even formal economists. Two of them are Republican appointees and none, as far as I know, aroused Shelby’s suspicions.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein writes that Shelby’s real objection to Diamond’s nomination is not entirely political in nature.

You can’t serve on the Federal Reserve Board before you serve on the Federal Reserve Board. Shelby’s argument against Diamond is cover for his actual objections against Diamond. One of those objections is simple partisan politics. But another, I’ve heard, is odder: Shelby hates behavioral economics.

This White House, as has been endlessly pointed out, is big on behavioral economics. See Peter Orszag, Jeff Liebman and Cass Sunstein for more on that. But the administration’s embrace of the discipline has provoked a response that the White House never anticipated. Republicans have grown suspicious of behavioral economics. And Diamond, it turns out, has done a fair amount of work in the field (for instance, here). Insofar as Shelby’s got an actual objection to Diamond, that’s it, and one of the things he wants is another hearing focusing on Diamond’s behavioral work.

Democrats are hoping Diamond’s Nobel win will help propel him through the confirmation process, but Shelby maintains his objection. “While the Nobel Prize for Economics is a significant recognition, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not determine who is qualified to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” he told Reuters.

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Yesterday Senate Democrats failed to garner enough votes to invoke cloture and prevent Republicans from filibustering a defense bill with several liberal riders, including a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Dream Act, which would pave the way for illegal immigrants with college degrees or military service to gain citizenship.

Courtesy of the Boston Globe

The bill was the last real chance Dems had of repealing DADT before the lame duck session or, even worse, the next congress, which could be controlled by the GOP and would therefore likely be hostile toward the measure.

Republicans noted yesterday that their opposition was generally not toward repealing the ban itself, but rather Democrats achieving a repeal by tacking it on to a defense spending bill. John McCain criticized the “blatant and cynical attempt to galvanize the Hispanic vote in regards to the DREAM Act, and also energize the gay and lesbian vote in the case of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  Obviously we need a defense authorization bill. We need one very badly, and I hope that at some point we’ll address it.”

Gay rights groups, however, have placed plenty of blame on Barack Obama, Politico notes.

“We haven’t noticed any activism on this issue out of the White House at all,” said Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United. “It just goes to show what we’ve suspected all along: the White House never supported moving forward on this issue…..and was backed into a corner and jumped on the train as it was leaving the station.”

The New York Times is particularly damning of the 43 senators who voted to filibuster.

The two parties clashed on the number of amendments that Republicans could offer. Republicans wanted to add dozens of amendments, an obvious delaying tactic, while Democrats tried to block all but their own amendments. In an earlier time, the two sides might have reached an agreement on a limited number of amendments, but not in this Senate, and certainly not right before this election, when everyone’s blood is up even more than usual. …

History will hold to account every member of Congress who refused to end this blatant injustice.

The Washington Post declares “fairness will have to wait.”

In the end, both sides may have gotten what they wanted. Democrats can argue in campaign ads and rallies over the next several weeks that Republicans blocked funding for the troops in a spiteful move to prevent fairness in the military. Republicans can just as easily blame Democrats for sabotaging the defense bill by clinging tightly to an extreme liberal agenda. The only losers? Common sense, fairness for gay and lesbian service members and the rational policy of making the best use of all Americans who want to help defend the country.

Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis tears apart both sides of the aisle.

There’s election year politics going on over this issue on both sides of the aisle, of course. After all, the Democrats could, and should, have kept the immigration bill separate from a bill dealing with the budget for the Department of Defense. Republicans, on the other hand, are resting their opposition to proceeding forward on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the phony issue of a Joint Chiefs of Staff study that is concerned not with whether to repeal the rule, but how that repeal will be implemented once it becomes law. Considering that the language of the repeal specifically says it doesn’t go into effect until after the study is completed, the objections of Senators like John McCain on that ground are entirely without merit.

The Human Rights Campaign, however, remains positive and forward-thinking.

“We are in fact quite bullish that it can get done in the lame duck. It has to get done,” said HRC spokesman Fred Sainz. “Today’s loss was because of a lack of time on the amendments process. Senator Reid has no way to get the bill off the floor if he didn’t limit the number of amendments. We are very hopeful that both parties can find a way to introduce amendments and get repeal passed.”

Ed O’Keefe over at The Washington Post agreed with the HRC’s optimistic outlook.

Gay rights advocates vowed to keep pressure on the Senate, with some believing they will have enough votes to end the ban if senators votes on the compromise in December. Several moderate Republicans have said they would vote to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” only after they review a Pentagon study of how repealing the ban might impact troop readiness and morale. The study is due to President Obama and senior military leaders on Dec. 1.

As usual, the Pentagon is being tight-lipped: “We have no comment on the legislative process. This was an internal procedural matter for the Senate.”

It’s still not clear how much time DADT has left on the judicial side. Earlier this month a federal judge in California declared the 1993 policy unconstitutional. The suit’s plaintiffs, the Log Cabin Republicans, asked the judge to issue an injunction banning DADT-based discharges; the Department of Justice must respond to that request this week. In the wake of the Senate defeat, the HRC is asking the DOJ not to appeal the ruling.

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FiveThirtyEight has changed its forecast for this fall’s Senate elections — the chance of a Republican takeover dropped from 26 to 15 percent, thanks to Christine O’Donnell’s primary win earlier this week.

Although Ms. O’Donnell and Mr. Coons remain relatively unknown to some Delaware voters, and a comeback by Ms. O’Donnell is not impossible, the forecasting model gives it only a 6 percent likelihood of happening — and has established Mr. Coons, therefore, as a 94 percent favorite. Had Republican voters selected Mr. Castle instead, the numbers would be exactly the opposite: Mr. Castle would be the 94 percent favorite to win the seat, leaving Mr. Coons with just a 6 percent chance of an upset.

How could the GOP obtain a majority? Either they have to win every Democratic seat in contention while holding all of their own, or put new states into play, Nate Silver wrote in his FiveThirtyEight analysis. His analysis, linked to above, is worth reading in its entirety, as he addresses races in states that Republicans would have to focus on in order to win.

Republicans’ hopes for a Senate takeover dimmed significantly after O’Donnell’s victory Tuesday; had Castle won, the seat almost certainly would have gone to him in November, but as Silver notes in his post O’Donnell’s outlook for winning in left-of-center Delaware is weak.

A poll released yesterday by Politico, however, shows that outcome not nearly so certain in the minds of America’s voters. It found that, regardless of who they planned to vote for, voters were most likely to predict Republican takeovers in the House (which is, analysts agree, likely) and the Senate. For the Senate, 46 percent predicted a GOP takeover and 37 percent a Democratic majority. 17 percent were uncertain.

Some other results from the poll:

  • 63 percent believe the country is on the wrong track; 10 percent were unsure
  • 43 percent said they would vote Republican were the election today; 43 percent said they would vote Democratic were the election today; 10 percent were undecided
  • 46 percent specified the economy and jobs as Congress’s top priority; 13 percent said government spending; 8 percent said health care reform
  • 57 percent disapprove of the job Democrats have done in Congress
  • 59 percent disapprove of the job Republicans have done in Congress
  • 80 percent get news about the election from cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC; 76 percent from newspapers or newspaper websites; 52 percent from radio programming

(more…)

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A recent ad from Harry Reid's campaign attacks Sharron Angle's position on Social Security.

The economy is in rough shape, even by the most optimistic of interpretations. Many industries (coughnewspaperscough) are collapsing beneath us. But there’s one industry, albeit small and seasonal, that seems to be soaring: political attack ads.

According to the Associated Press, state and federal candidates have spent $395 million on attack ads already, far more than the $286 million spent at this point in 2006, the previous midterm election. “More than half” of that has been negative. Furthermore, parties and other groups have added another $150 million so far, ahead of the $109 million from 2006, of which some 80 percent has been negative.

Those figures came from Evan Tracey at the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Why has the mudslinging started so early and continued so strong? Part of the increased media frenzy is due to the current power setup in Washington. As the incumbent party in the White House and both houses of Congress, Democrats are facing intense pressure and scrutiny from the right. Faced with losing their strong majority in the Senate (not that that’s made for smooth legislative sailing) and almost certainly control of the House, Democrats are facing a referendum on their policies and achievements, which while historic and far-reaching have been anathema to much of the right. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s The Fix blog says:

 The approach reflects a stark reality of this election cycle: going negative is the only way to turn the election from a referendum on Democratic control of Washington to a choice between two candidates. So, go negative — early, often and hard.

Certainly a good deal of that increase is due to the newly established Tea Parties. The AP report singles out Americans for Prosperity, one of the Tea Party groups funded by conservative David Koch (one of the billionaire brothers “who are waging a war against Obama”).

Some Democrats (probably the smart ones) are truly taking to heart the mantra, “The best defense is a good offense.” Democratic strategists breathed easy when Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle won the Republican primary to face Harry Reid this November. She has a good deal of populist support, but has surprisingly alienated many independents with some of her extreme positions, including unapologetically stating there are “domestic enemies” in Congress, disavowing abortions even in the case of incest and rape, and rejecting money from companies that support gay rights. Oh, and hinting at “Second Amendment remedies” against liberal politicians.

It remains to be seen how the Tea Party candidates will do in races across the nation; however, those results will be crucial to media planning for 2012.

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Practically no one is expecting Democrats to keep the House after this fall’s election. The senate is up for debate; most reports right now indicate Republicans will take back several seats, cutting down the Dems’ majority. The New York Times just ran an editorial bemoaning the lack of enthusiasm on the left, while the right has managed to tap into a powerfully active base.

So why is Reid Wilson of the Hotline arguing the Dems will keep the House? Really, it’s a long con; Wilson doesn’t lose much from writing this now because the election is still far off, speculation is running wild and in a week no one will remember he ever predicted this. If Wilson is wrong, which he almost certainly is, this article gets lost to time, irrelevant. However, on the incredibly off-chance he is correct, and some catastrophe stops the Republicans dead in their tracks, Wilson can point to this piece and say, “Told you so.”

What reasons does Wilson provide?

  • Most Democratic candidates have more cash, and the DCCC has twice as much as the NRCC.
  • Money = advertising and turnout operations, which bring more people to the polls
  • Money also = opposition research. “Democrats have engaged in what they characterize as an unprecedented research campaign, digging up dirt on GOP candidates in hopes of driving their negative numbers through the roof.
  • Republican voters are enthusiastic but polling can be misleading about the percentage who will actually get out and vote. Wilson cites the special election in the Pennsylvania 12th earlier this year.

Blah blah blah blah. Each point contains a speckle of truth, but Wilson is blowing everything out of proportion. Some counterpoints:

  • More cash: Money isn’t everything these days. So much information is disseminated via internet and TV, official campaign spending is really only a fraction of the media blitz preceding an election. This is especially true on the right, where media outlets like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and BigGovernment.com provide practically free support to conservatives. And don’t forget the Tea Parties, although it is still very unclear how much influence they carry.
  • Better turnout: Turnout operations don’t really persuade people who weren’t going to vote anyway. This is even more overestimated because the turnout operations are funded by the official campaign dollars, which as was just stated are only a part of the spending going on.
  • Opposition research: It’s possible to take out one or two of the newly minted Republican candidates around the country this way, but tarnishing the GOP itself is increasingly difficult. Besides, many of these populist Republican candidates are like Teflon to dirt: Nikki Hailey’s (literally) unbelievable infidelities; Rand Paul’s wacky college kidnapping tale; Sharron Angle’s veiled threats of violence against Democrats, which seems to have only increased her support.
  • Polling: The Pennsylvania 12th is hardly a microcosm of America’s voting habits. Consider that the special election took place during the Specter-Sestak primary, drawing more Democrats to the polls than may normally have voted.

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