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Rove: Republicans Have Good Chance to Win Senate Control.


Image: Rove: Republicans Have Good Chance to Win Senate Control

 

By Cathy Burke

Seven Democratic senators are hobbled by diminished fundraising and their support for an increasingly unpopular President Barack Obama — giving Republicans a clear shot at regaining the Senate, political consultant and policy adviser Karl Rove says.

In an op-ed piece published in the online Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night,
President George W. Bush’s former deputy chief of staff says other nail-biters are shaping up in both traditionally GOP and swing states.

If Republicans can claim 10 Democratic seats, “the chances of regaining Senate control and providing an important institutional check on Mr. Obama’s agenda during his last two years go up dramatically,” Rove writes.

Rove argues that the dollar figures show it’s possible, citing Federal Election Commission filings, news reports on campaign fundraising for the fourth quarter of 2013, and cash-on-hand Dec. 31.

Rove says that in the seven states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 where Democratic senators are on the ballot, filings show the leading GOP contenders have raised $6.5 million, compared with the Democrats — including four incumbents — who have drummed up $6.7 million during the last quarter.

Five Republicans in the targeted states outraised their Democratic rivals, including in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, where the Democratic senators are leaving, Rove writes.

Similarly, GOP contenders have collected more money in two of the four targeted states — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Democratic incumbents are in tough re-election bids.

Obama’s dismal job-approval rating also spells trouble for Democrats, he writes. It was stuck at an overall 42 percent for the week ending last Sunday, and is averaging about 36 percent in the seven Senate states up for grabs.

“If that’s the case on Election Day, he will likely sink his party’s candidates, who probably cannot run more than 5 points ahead of Mr. Obama’s rating,” Rove predicts.

According to Rove, voting patterns of senators who were ardent supporters of Obama’s policies might work against them as well.

Four “red state” Democratic senators running for re-election gave the president nearly absolute support, including Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and Alaska’s Mark Begich at 97 percent, followed by North Carolina’s Kay Hagan at 96 percent and Arkansas’s Mike Pryor at 90 percent.

“They are now trying to distance themselves from the president,” Rove says.

“These problems . . . could cause problems for Democratic senators in purple states as well,” Rove writes, noting that in 2010 Republicans picked up six Senate seats, five of which were won by Obama in 2008: Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Rove says four purple states “appear promising.”

In Michigan, Republican Terri Lynn Land has out-raised Democratic opponent Rep. Gary Peters in the last two quarters. In New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has backed Obama policies 99 percent of the time in 2013, has raised $3.4 million.

“What happens if former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown . . . runs?” Rove asks. “”He raised $28.2 million for his last campaign.”

In Minnesota, Democratic Sen. Al Franken rolled up a perfect record of backing Obama last year; in Virginia, Sen. Mark Warner was behind the president’s policies 97 percent of the time.

“Both could face Republican challengers — businessman Mike McFadden in Minnesota and former GOP National Chairman Ed Gillespie in Virginia — who can raise money and could take advantage of Mr. Obama’s unpopularity,” he said.

Other “purple possibilities” could include Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado and Iowa, Rove writes.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Seniors Group Leader Vows to Kill ‘Death Tax’.


Jim Martin, founder and chairman of the 60 Plus Senior Association, vows that his 7.1 million-member group’s efforts to repeal the estate tax will play a huge role in the 2014 elections.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, the man who put the phrase “death tax” on the political map to describe the estate tax predicted a big Republican capture of the Senate because of what he called a “tsunami of senior power reaching gale force this November.”

Virtually every Republican competing for a Senate seat this year supports repealing the estate tax. In 2006, the repeal effort came within three votes of overcoming a Senate filibuster.

Martin also pointed out that there is a growing sentiment among Democrats in and out of Congress to repeal the tax.

“The repeal bill in 2006 passed the House by a vote of 272 to 162,” Martin said, adding that “42 Democrats were on the repeal side and [Georgia Democratic Rep.] Sanford Bishop became the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote to kill the death tax. I suspect his vote had a lot to do with the number of family farms in Georgia that were hit hard by the tax that forced family members to scramble and borrow to pay it.”

Currently, the “death tax” is a 40 percent levy applied to estates over $5.34 million and is indexed for inflation.

Martin cited Frank Blethen, publisher and chief executive officer of the venerable Seattle Times, as one prominent Democrat in the “kill-the-death-tax” camp. Hailed by the left-wing Daily Kos as “the new Citizen Kane,” fourth-generation newsman Blethen runs a newspaper that has been in his family since his great-grandfather Alden bought it in 1896.

“Frank is a liberal Democrat who backed Bill Bradley for president [in the 2000 Democratic primaries] over Al Gore because Gore wasn’t liberal enough,” Martin said with a chuckle.

“I’m a conservative Republican, so we don’t get into talking politics. But the only thing we have in common is something critical: Frank is a vigorous supporter of death tax repeal,” Martin said. “I think practical experience has something to do with it. He’s just seen too many family-owned newspapers like his go under because the families couldn’t pay the tax on the estate of a deceased owner.”

Other major repeal players hailed by Martin include Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform — “who never met a tax he doesn’t want to drown in his bathtub,” Martin mused — and Alabama tax attorney Harold Apolinsky, who Martin affectionately calls “the Godfather of repeal.”

“Harold and I have testified before Congress on the harmful effects of this anti-family, anti-small business tax,” Martin said.

The next repeal measure — which is sponsored by South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, both Republicans — will have more Democratic support than ever, Martin predicted. But he also noted that nearly all the Democrats running for Senate seats this year oppose repeal.

“That will give Republicans — nearly all of whom are on the repeal side — control of the Senate,” said Martin, who in August of 2009 became one of the first conservatives to forecast the wave in 2010 that gave the GOP its largest majority in the House since 1938.

Martin, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spelled out the “battlefields” where he and 60 Plus national spokesman and legendary singer Pat Boone plan to energize their members into action.

Three states where Democratic senators are retiring are what Martin called “lead-pipe cinches” for pickup by Republicans candidates. He also said Republican challengers are better than even money to defeat Democratic senators and repeal opponents in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

“Mark my words: [Louisiana Sen.] Mary Landrieu is finished,” Martin vowed. “She has won three terms by very tight margins. This year, we’re going all-out to show Louisiana’s senior citizens how she has consistently opposed death tax repeal — and that will make the difference for her opponent.”

The 60 Plus chief went even further than many Republican-leaning pundits and forecast a Republican pickup of the seat of retiring Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and defeats for Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Al Franken of Minnesota.

“The senior vote went heavily Republican in 2010 and went for Mitt Romney by 20 percentage points nationwide in 2012,” said Martin. “If other voters who favored Romney turned out for him in the numbers seniors did, we’d be discussing ‘President Romney’ and how he was eager to sign death tax repeal.”

Since he picked up what he calls “my megaphone” and started building 60 Plus nearly two decades ago, Martin has been credited with popularizing the phrase “death tax” to describe the estate tax. In his book “Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes,” Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft’s co-founder, cites Martin for reviving the phrase.

“Truth be told, President Reagan coined the term many years ago,” Martin told Newsmax. “But I take pride in having hammered it home. A tax ought to have a socially redeeming value. The estate tax has none. Instead it tears away at family businesses and stymies wealth creation and jobs. If Bill Gates Sr., George Soros, and Warren Buffet want to keep the death tax, fine. Make it voluntary and let them pay. But don’t preach to others about how they should be happy to pay. The estate tax needs to die.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By John Gizzi

WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take Senate.


Image: WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take SenateScott Brown, left, and Ed Gillespie

By Melissa Clyne

In its bid to gain the Senate majority in the midterm elections later this year, the GOP is crafting its strategy straight from the 2012 Democratic playbook, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans are casting a wide net to pick up the six seats needed to secure a majority, putting up viable candidates in a plethora of states where they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s dismal job performance ratings as well as the national furor over Obamacare.

“The key to the Republican strategy is making the next tier of seats [and recruits] as large as possible since a few candidates will flame out, some incumbents will prove tougher to beat than they appear, and the national political environment could shift several times between now and November,” the Post notes.

Republicans need to win six new seats to flip the current Democratic majority of 55-to-45. In the current political climate, they are expected to gain between four and seven seats, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. 

States where the GOP can prevail include Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. Five of the vulnerabilities stem from retirement announcements by Democratic senators Max Baucus of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson.

Midterm elections are historically unkind to the sitting president’s party. Add to that the hysteria over a botched healthcare law rollout and millions of Americans receiving notices of canceled insurance plans and it’s a recipe for an ouster.

According to the Wall Street Journal, five states Obama won in 2012 — Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, and New Hampshire — are now considered vulnerabilities.

In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie should be “a very credible contender who can raise considerable money,” according to the Rothenberg Report, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown trails New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by just three points and he hasn’t even announced whether he intends to run.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” Rothenberg Report editor Stuart Rothenberg told the Journal. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

By offering voters strong GOP alternatives in a variety of states, even those historically blue, Republicans hope that hijacking the Democrats 2012 strategy proves to be a winner.

“One thing’s for sure,” political columnist Chris Cillizza writes in the Post. “If they make it over the top this November, Senate Republicans should send their Democratic counterparts a nice thank you gift for showing them the way.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Scott Brown Takes Heat in NH on Assault Weapon Ban.


Image: Scott Brown Takes Heat in NH on Assault Weapon Ban

By Melissa Clyne

Though he hasn’t announced any plans to run for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, Scott Brown is causing a stir in in the Granite State.

The moderate Republican and former senator from Massachusetts headlined a state GOP holiday party in Nashua that drew supporters and protesters, many of them gun-rights activists who take issue with Brown’s position favoring a federal ban on assault weapons,The Boston Globe reports.

“His coming here is calculated disrespect, just as if he went to Saudi Arabia with pork chops in his suitcase,” protester Jay Simkin told Politico. “If he wants gun control, he should stay in Massachusetts.”

Brown, who also is pro-choice, changed course on the gun control debate after last year’ deadly shootings in Newtown, Conn. His move angered Second Amendment purists.

“If it’s Brown, flush it down,” one protester’s sign read. Others featured scrawled slogans such as “Keep New Hampshire Scott Free” and “Brownbagger go home to Mass.”

Brown has a vacation home in the Granite State, where he is relocating full-time,  sparking speculation that he plans to run for office from his new state.

Republicans there are looking for someone to challenge incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Brown has been coy about his intentions, but polling data collected before the launch of troubled Obamacare showed him trailing Shaheen by four percentage points, according to USA Today. His chances are thought to have risen since national outrage over policy cancellations and skyrocketing premiums.

“I didn’t think she was all that vulnerable,” Cook Political Report Senior Editor Jennifer Duffy told USA Today. “I feel a little bit differently about that now. But having said that, Republicans need a candidate and they don’t have one right now.”

In Massachusetts, Sen. Elizabeth Warren unseated Brown in 2012. He won the seat in 2010 in a special election.

A popular governor, Shaheen supported the Affordable Care Act, a decision that is coming back to haunt her in the form of a vicious TV spot skewering her and the president for the failed initiative.

“Obamacare, as you know, is a mess, and it’s really dramatically affecting people’s everyday lives,” Brown said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Insurers Dubious About New Obamacare Fix for January Health Plans.


Image: Insurers Dubious About New Obamacare Fix for January Health PlansKen Statz, a health insurance broker, at his office in Brecksville, Ohio on Dec. 3. Statz said he had been stymied in his efforts to enroll clients through HealthCare.gov.

Insurance companies are struggling with a new request by the Obama administration to make sure people receive medical benefits under healthcare reform come Jan. 1, even if they miss a sign-up deadline set for next Monday.The government has sought to reassure consumers, already frustrated by technical problems that stalled access to its HealthCare.gov enrollment website in October and November, that those who need coverage starting on New Year’s Day will be able to sign up.

Last week, the administration appealed to the insurance industry to accept people who sought benefits past the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for Jan. 1, and to consider approving retroactive coverage for consumers who signed up during the month of January.

So far, the answer has amounted to a big “maybe.”

Insurers are worried that some consumers will sign up for retroactive January plans only if they have incurred a hefty medical bill. It is unclear what the costs of that would be or how many shoppers might take advantage of the policy.

“It creates a situation where someone might be able to apply for insurance when they have already had services” such as in the emergency room, said Mary Beth Chambers, spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. “It’s like calling for homeowners insurance when your house is already on fire.”

Chambers said that such cases would probably be “few and far between.”

BCBS of Kansas, the largest insurer in a state where about 14 percent of the population is uninsured, has decided to give people until Jan. 10 to pay their premiums and receive retroactive coverage beginning Jan. 1. They are still hewing to the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline while they study the feasibility of allowing retroactive sign-ups as late as Jan. 31.

Some of these changes and the technical problems associated with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, could lead to people facing a gap in coverage next month. It could also create new political problems for President Barack Obama over his signature domestic policy, which opposition Republicans have tried to derail for years.

Aetna Inc, one of the biggest players on the exchange, is going to extend the payment date until Jan. 8, make service workflow changes to support the deadline shift to Dec. 23 from Dec. 15 and already planned to ensure customers will not miss important appointments, such as cancer treatments. But it said some of the administration’s suggestions would require systems changes and more service support people, which was not viable.

“We are concerned that changing the rules at this late date and allowing for this degree of variability will lead to significant consumer confusion about the marketplace,” Aetna spokeswoman Cynthia Michener said.

Cigna Chief Executive David Cordani said the company will decide this week which measures to pursue. The company, which has only a small business catering to individuals, said that its employer-based plans already offer similar programs to ensure continuity of coverage.

Other insurers, including Molina Healthcare Inc which is selling Obamacare plans in 9 states, have said they will be extending the payment deadline but are stopping there.

The request has raised concerns among some Wall Street analysts over a steady stream of changing regulations. Moody’s, which reviews credit ratings of companies, said the additional conditions are a negative influence on insurers’ business, requiring administrative changes to track new customers, and will be confusing for doctors and consumers.

Enrollment in Obamacare plans has picked up in December, due to fixes for HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, and as consumers nationwide anticipate the Dec. 23 deadline for Jan. 1 benefits. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 7 million people will sign up for coverage by the time enrollment for all of 2014 ends on March 31.But the pace of enrollments so far – 365,000 people by the end of November – has cast doubt on the government’s ability to reach that many people in the program’s first year.

Wall Street analysts have lowered their estimates for enrollment to almost half the CBO estimate, or less. Insurers have tempered their expectations as well. For the larger players like Aetna, WellPoint and Humana, the exchange market is just a fraction of their total membership, which range from more than 10 million people to 40 million at UnitedHealth Group Inc.

More than 150 million people receive insurance through their employers and 100 million others have health coverage through government programs – Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.

Brian Hale, a senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service in Nashville, Tennessee, said that he believes the number of people trying to sign up for Jan. 1 Obamacare coverage is a fraction of the 10 to 20 million people in the market for individual insurance this year.

Out of that, the number who may be truly displaced is “a much smaller number of people then it’s been made out to be,” Hale said.

Ron Williams, the former CEO of Aetna who now advises private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, said he believed insurers could allow for retroactive coverage for a few more days in January and still mitigate the risk of high costs.

“There is some risk there; it is a limited risk,” Williams said.

Funding under the healthcare law may help cover some of that risk, or the costs that come when very sick people sign up at a disproportionate rate versus healthy people.

Vantage Health Plan in Louisiana is planning to extend the deadline for people to enroll for Jan. 1 coverage, but has not decided how long to do so, according to Billy Justice, Vantage’s marketing and sales director.

Justice said that the law prohibits insurers from denying coverage to someone with a prior illness “and there should be risk adjustments at the end of the year for insurance companies that get the highest risk.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Scott Brown Moving to New Hampshire, New Talk of Senate Bid.


Image: Scott Brown Moving to New Hampshire, New Talk of Senate Bid

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is selling his home and plans to move to New Hampshire, the latest sign that he’s considering a U.S. Senate bid from that state.Brown, 54, has found a buyer for his Wrentham home and is set to close on that deal this week, Andrew I. Glincher, managing partner and chief executive officer at Brown’s employer Nixon Peabody LLP, said in an interview. Brown will continue to work out of the law firm’s Boston office because he isn’t licensed to practice law in New Hampshire, Glincher said.

Brown didn’t respond to an e-mail inquiry.

The move will fuel speculation that Brown intends to challenge New Hampshire’s Democratic U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is seeking re-election next year. Brown lost his Massachusetts Senate seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats in the 2014 midterms to take control of the Senate. The party already has a majority in the U.S. House.

A former New Hampshire governor, Shaheen, 66, was elected in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race, according to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office data. Two Republicans, former state Senator Jim Rubens and activist Karen Testerman, already have announced intentions to challenge Shaheen.

A WMUR Granite State Poll showed Shaheen with a 57 percent favorability rating. The poll was conducted from Oct. 7 to Oct. 16.

Vacation Home

Brown owns a vacation home in New Hampshire and made a number of public appearances in the state this fall. He is scheduled to headline the New Hampshire Republican State Committee’s annual holiday party on Dec. 19 in Nashua.

Earlier this year, Brown won clearance to spend money from his federal political action committee in the state.

Glincher said Brown hasn’t made up his mind about running for the Senate, although he thinks the former senator has ambitions beyond the law firm.

“Some people, when they start, you are already writing the press release for when they leave,” Glincher said.

Brown, in a 2010 special election, won the Massachusetts Senate seat held for almost half a century by Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who died in 2009.

After losing to Warren in November 2012, Brown considered running again in a special election to replace Senator John Kerry, who was appointed Secretary of State in February by President Barack Obama. Instead, Brown began working as a counsel at Nixon Peabody in March.

In recent days the New Hampshire Democratic Party has pressed Brown to release his client list at the law firm. Glincher said the information won’t be made public.

“The bottom line is that is unobtainable,” Glincher said. “Simply, it is not going to happen.”
© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

GOP Launches Major Push to Capture Blue State Senate Seats.


Republicans are targeting blue states with competitive races in an effort to win back a majority in the SenatePolitico reports

The GOP currently holds 45 seats in the Senate to the Democrats‘ 55, so it needs to win only six of those elections. Seven states currently represented by Democrats were carried by Mitt Romney in 2012, but Republicans want to increase their chances, so they are also targeting other close elections in purple states, and even some blue ones.

Republicans hope to capitalize on anti-Obamacare sentiment as the program has suffered glitches in its website and in trust in a White House that promised people they could keep their insurance and that premiums would not rise.

Even if a GOP hoped-for backlash against Obamacare doesn’t pan out, Politico notes that Democrats could be forced to pull money from bigger races to spend money on less-consequential contests.

Republicans already hold a majority in the House of Representatives.

New York Times statistician Nate Silver has been predicting a possible GOP turnover of the Senate since early this year. Silver’s predictions were made months before the disastrous rollout of Obamacare.

Among the states Politico sees as most likely GOP prospects are Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon and Hawaii.

With Sen. Carl Levin retiring in Michigan, Republicans there have rallied behind state Sen. Terri Lynn Land. In Iowa, Sen. Tom Harkin also announced his retirement. No clear leader has emerged there.

In New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen won in 2008 with only 52 percent. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has now moved his primary residence to the Granite State and has been toying with challenging Shaheen.

In Minnesota, Democrat Al Franken won after a heated recount, which Republicans called a stolen election. Finance executive Mike McFadden appears to be the most likely GOP contender.

Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado has low approval numbers, with only 47 percent saying he should be re-elected. His strongest GOP opponent is Ken Buck.

In Oregon, Sen. Jeff Merkley could face Republican Monica Wehby, a neurosurgeon making her first run at public office.

Hawaii is considered a GOP longshot, but Republicans hope former Rep. Charles Djou could beat the winner of a tough Democratic primary between incumbent Brian Schatz, appointed by the governor to fill the seat of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, and Rep. Colleeen Hanabusa, who is backed by Inouye’s widow.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

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