The cooling-off period

At one time I planned on writing a rebuttal to all the Trump items I put up this week yesterday, but after all the events of the convention I decided it was better to hold off for a week or so and let emotions simmer down a little bit. It also gives me a chance to attend two of my meetings and gauge the mood of the electorate, so to speak – so perhaps after all that I will pick up that baton and share my thoughts on both Marita Noon’s commentary regarding Trump’s energy policy and the entire Art of the Deal series. Right now, emotions are too high and points will be missed.

It’s no secret I didn’t support Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, nor will I be backing the Clinton/Kaine ticket. (Hell, the guy doesn’t even know our part of Maryland exists because he thought Virginia shared a border with Delaware.) Yet I still have an interest in the downticket races, and this year I will be following the advice of Ted Cruz and voting my conscience. (Or, if you prefer, Ivanka Trump, who said, “I vote based on what I believe is right for my family and for my country.” So will I.) But the combination of the Democratic convention taking over the news cycle and my general fatigue with the Presidential race means I may look at some other stuff for a little bit.

One thing I was asked to look at by my friends at the Patriot Post for this week was the prospects for Republicans in the downticket federal races. (If you get their “Weekend Snapshot,” the article is prominently featured there as well.) But I find a little bit of fault with my editor because my original concluding sentence was, “The next four years could be the most interesting and unpredictable times our nation has ever known.” My thought in that sentence was to invoke the old adage “may you live in interesting times” as we seem to be cursed into a choice leading us toward them. To me, this may be the election where more people vote against someone that affirmatively vote for a candidate.

(To that end, can we install the “none of these candidates” option like Nevada has? I could see factions in all four parties on the ballot in Maryland who would love a do-over: Republicans who are anti-Trump, Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders, Libertarians who would like a more doctrinaire candidate than former Republican Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein of the Green Party who would happily move aside for Sanders, too.)

Just think about Congress for a moment. In poll after poll it’s shown to be one of the least popular institutions in the country, but voters send all but a small handful back term after term until they decide to retire. Maryland is a good example of this, with the longest-tenured Congressman being Steny Hoyer (17 terms), followed by Elijah Cummings with 10, Chris Van Hollen and Dutch Ruppersberger with seven apiece, John Sarbanes with five, Donna Edwards with four (plus a few months), Andy Harris with three, and John Delaney with two. Since Edwards and Van Hollen both sought the Senate seat, those districts will open up – but thanks to blatant gerrymandering, they are likely to be gravy trains and “lifetime appointments” for Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin, respectively.

Aside from the one term of Frank Kratovil here in the First District as a “blue dog” Democrat carried on the Obama wave in an otherwise GOP-dominated area, you have to go back almost forty years to find a handful of one-term wonders that Maryland sent to Congress. Both our current Senators came to the job after serving multiple terms in the House, as would Chris Van Hollen if he wins the Senate seat. Kathy Szeliga, on the other hand, has served just a term and a half in the Maryland House of Delegates – although compared to other GOP Senate candidates in recent years that almost qualifies as “career politician,” too.

Yet while our GOP candidate supports Trump and has an uphill battle to win, she was criticized for skipping the convention as well:

Some (GOP convention) delegates who wished to remain anonymous to avoid antagonizing another party member privately expressed discontent and disappointment with Szeliga’s and Hogan’s absences in Cleveland at a time when unity is a key goal of their party after a fractious primary season.

Of course, Andy Harris was there in Cleveland, but he’s in an R+13 or so district with far less to worry about. It was better for Szeliga to be in Crisfield meeting voters with her opponent there.

So while I will talk about the convention in at least one piece I’m considering – and my invited guests may decide on their own to look at the Presidential race – I’m going to step back from it for a little bit. It’s the pause that will refresh me.

A race for 2018?

Bloggers love it when they can tie multiple points together in one cohesive post, and here I have the opportunity to do so thanks to a press release from Delegate David Vogt, who is moonlighting as a candidate for Congress from the Sixth Congressional District. Here’s what Vogt had to say about likely opponent John Delaney and his insistence that Larry Hogan should denounce GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump:

John Delaney should just go ahead and declare his candidacy for Governor so he can stop pretending to represent the 6th District.  Congressman Delaney would rather support an avowed socialist or a career criminal over an accomplished businessman who is tackling the issues that matter.

The Congressman’s time in office has been spent as a rubber-stamp for the failed Obama/Pelosi liberal agenda, and it is no surprise that he is calling on one popular, successful Republican to denounce another.

The people of the 6th District need a Congressman, not a political pundit, and Delaney’s incompetent handling of the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian refugee crisis, and Obamacare shows that he isn’t qualified to be either.

It’s intriguing to me that Vogt feels that way because I have those same suspicions about Delaney’s plans for 2018. In a lot of respects, Delaney is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan with a business background and, aside from the two terms in Congress, a similar political record. (Had Hogan had a specially-gerrymandered district created for him, perhaps he would have gone in another direction after winning his 1992 Congressional campaign. It was a trajectory his old boss, Bob Ehrlich, employed in 2002.)

Obviously Democrats are trying to throw the kitchen sink at Hogan legislatively but try as they might Hogan’s approval numbers continue to rise, reaching a stratospheric 70 percent in the most recent Maryland Poll released today. (H/T: Maryland Reporter.) Yes, that is 7 out of 10. I have no doubt they may chip away at the approval rating as a strategy but Maryland Democrats also have to find a candidate willing to take on a popular Republican governor running for re-election. Will anyone have the same ambitious streak as Martin O’Malley?

There’s one thing missing from the Maryland Poll that would serve as a counterpoint to Hogan’s numbers, and that is an approval rating for the General Assembly. We know Congress is unpopular (although the “throw the bastards out” mentality stops with their own representative) but no one polls regarding our body politic either during or after the “90 days of terror.” With the number of veto overrides and the blockage of some of Hogan’s legislation, it would be intriguing to see how popular the Maryland legislature is.

But returning to 2018: the Democrats have a relatively short bench of willing candidates with name recognition, and it’s unclear just how well Delaney is known outside the Capital region. The only other statewide candidate being mentioned is Peter Franchot, and right now he has a rather sweet gig as Comptroller – maybe not quite to the extent of Louis Goldstein, but if he wants another term or two it’s doubtful Maryland voters would object. At the age of 70 by the time the 2018 election comes around, Franchot would be the oldest governor to win election in at least a century. (AG Brian Frosh is reputedly not interested in being Governor.)

As for Hogan and Trump, that’s a matchup which seems like oil and water. While I’m sure Hogan respects the business acumen of Trump, the bombast The Donald brings is a polarizing feature among both parties that Hogan is likely to avoid. Hogan was indebted to Chris Christie for campaigning on his behalf, but if I were to pick a remaining hopeful Hogan would back he probably lines up best with fellow Governor John Kasich. But Hogan may just steer clear of an endorsement until mid-April, seeing who is still in the race.

Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.

(snip)

Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

(snip)

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.

(snip)

Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

Maryland’s loss

He was mentioned for political posts ranging from Congress to head of the state police to perhaps even governor, but like many Maryland families Dan Bongino’s is heading for the sunny climes of Florida. As he noted on social media:

My family and I will be relocating to Martin County, Florida within the next few months. The reasons are beyond the scope of this platform and, for that reason, I explain a bit more in this week’s podcast show. I will speak more about it over the coming weeks as I see many of you individually and during the radio fill-ins, but I felt that you deserved to know as soon as I did. You have allowed me into your lives in this small way and I feel like you are a part of my extended family.

(In case you are wondering, Martin County is along the Atlantic coast, north of Miami and Palm Beach. Its western border is Lake Okeechobee.)

Whatever the reason, Dan will be missed in Maryland politics as an effective, articulate spokesman for conservative values. His departure from the scene leaves a void which, quite frankly, is begging to be filled by someone – but there’s no one on the state’s political scene who can bring that combination of conservatism and charisma.

Naturally, naysayers will say that he never won a general election in either of his two tries, and this is true. Yet he was successful at one thing: nationalizing races that otherwise would have escaped the attention of political observers. I think that it can be argued that his success in that regard in 2012 helped a little in getting Larry Hogan elected two years later, as he made people believe races could be won here by a Republican.

The withdrawal of Dan Bongino may have effects on the Democratic side as well. I think it cements John Delaney as the contender to beat for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 because now he has an easier path to re-election in 2016. (If Bongino were to have entered a 2016 contest, my thought is that he would have made a second try at a Congressional seat rather than another statewide race.)

I have a couple reasons for this line of thought. If you look at the U.S. Senate race for next year, you have two sitting Congressmen already eyeing the seat: Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if another one or two get in, particularly John Sarbanes as his family name is still associated with the United States Senate. While Delaney is not hurting for money and could compete on the level required for such a high-powered field, I’m sure the state Democratic leadership is having a collective heart attack as more Senatorial aspirants come from the ranks of relatively safe Congressional seats. So his staying put may be rewarded down the road as far as the party goes.

On the other hand, Delaney is trying to make a name for himself as being a bipartisan player, and Democrats in the know realize that part of Larry Hogan’s appeal was the promise to work on both sides of the aisle. Those Democrats who crossed over to back Hogan probably don’t budge for a Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or one of the also-rans in the 2016 Senate race, but they just night for Delaney as he is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan as a business owner. The biggest difference is that Delaney won his bid for Congress while Hogan lost his.

Now I don’t think Dan is going to fall off the face of the earth, as I’m sure he will maintain his thriving broadcast career. I’m sure he’s looking at this as a different door opening rather than one being closed.

But for someone who, four years ago, was known to hardly anyone as he commenced what I’m sure most people thought was the crazy notion that he could be a U.S. Senator, Dan’s done well for himself. Yet don’t forget that his career is rooted in that of another upstart who also made a political splash for a short while before returning to private business – Brian Murphy. It was the onetime gubernatorial candidate who chaired Dan’s campaign at the start.

I guess that’s the problem with conservatives. They’re too busy being productive to play politics, and Dan Bongino is a pretty productive guy. I hope he finds success and happiness for his family in Florida, but as a force in Maryland politics he will be missed.

Creating his own outlet

February 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

To be perfectly honest and up front about it, I have not listened to the subject of this post, as my life and items are still in some disarray after our recent move. (This includes my headphones, which are in some box somewhere.)

But last week Dan Bongino released the second of what is now a weekly series of podcasts. And given the fact he’s used the political world and running for office twice in the last two federal cycles to make a name for himself in the media world, I wanted to use this post to ponder whether if we would see Bongino go three-for-three with the 2016 U.S. Senate race or a rematch with John Delaney in Maryland’s Sixth District.

Let’s look at a little history first. At this time four years ago, no one outside of the world of the Secret Service and law enforcement knew who Dan Bongino was. But in the spring of 2011 he made the decision to begin his political career with a run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, and with an engaging personality and conservative stands on many issues, Bongino made enough of a name for himself to win a crowded primary and the right to face incumbent Ben Cardin.  While Bongino had some good fortune in the fact no former candidate like Eric Wargotz or Michael Steele, regionally known officeholder like Pat McDonough, or former governor Bob Ehrlich decided to jump into the race, it’s likely he weighed all these possibilities and had an idea they would skip the race before he got in.

Something Bongino succeeded in doing with his 2012 Senate race, though, was nationalizing his effort. In most northeastern states, a Republican running for a statewide office against long odds would attract little notice outside the state, but Bongino made waves with his race once he received a Sarah Palin endorsement. His 2014 Congressional effort continued on the same path.

But something else we learned about Bongino was that he was a natural at broadcasting. Over the last few years he’s graduated from occasional guest to guest host, taking over for both Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on occasion. If he ever lands a spot sitting in for Rush Limbaugh we’ll know he’s in the big leagues.

So it brings up the question for a multimedia player like Bongino: what’s in it for him to make a 2016 run?

Bongino is in a spot in Maryland similar to the one which Sarah Palin occupies nationally. Dan’s support for a candidate is looked upon with approval from a large number of conservative voters in Maryland, just like a Palin endorsement appeals to a particular subset of voters nationwide. Both, however, are becoming more well-known in media circles than for accomplishments in office (which is a shame on Palin’s part, since she has been elected several times.)

If Bongino runs again and loses again, will that tarnish his standing among conservatives who can’t point to electoral success on his part? On the other hand, will he feel that the media exposure he’s gaining is going to put him over the top? With just a few hundred plays on his Soundcloud (I cannot discern how his iTunes podcasts are doing) it’s a nice outlet but not one which gets him a lot of exposure like a guest-hosting slot would give.

Over the next few months, the 2016 races will begin to take shape. I would expect at least a couple members of the Maryland General Assembly to run from cover for federal positions but not to announce their intentions until later this summer. Those who have less name recognition will probably start in the next month or so since the primary is less than 14 months away – depending on how the Presidential race shakes out, we may see more attention paid to the downticket races like U.S. Senate.

If I were to take my educated guess, I think Dan is going to pass on 2016 unless the Senate seat becomes open through the retirement of Barb Mikulski. With 2016 being a Presidential year, turnout will be more like the 2012 turnout and that tends to favor Democrats in this state.

On the other hand, 2018 creates a host of possibilities on both a state and federal level, giving Dan more options should he decide to jump in a race.

Once I get my stuff together I will take about 45 minutes and listen to what Dan has to say – chances are I will enjoy it. But my thoughts always work to the next cycle and all the possibilities within. If the question is whether Dan Bongino will be in the mix, I think the answer is yes. I’m just not sure where one of the many young guns the Maryland GOP has will fit in.

Predicting the spin cycle

September 23, 2014 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2014, Mainstream media, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I’m back in the swing of news, and this gem from DaTechGuy hit home because it’s so, so predictable. The stories he cites are the ones which can be used to prop up Barack Obama’s approval numbers or distract from what’s really going on – in the grand scheme of things, is the NFL scandal really that important or newsworthy? It’s pretty sad when actions on the field take a distant back seat to actions which happened months ago far off the gridiron.

But how long have we known the mainstream media is in the tank for liberals? I mean, Dan Bongino’s supporters have stated chapter and verse that at least one major newspaper in his district ignores him, and it plays right into the outsider image Dan is trying to cultivate in this election. Chances are that same paper will endorse opponent John Delaney, as most local newspapers tend to endorse incumbents over challengers unless the incumbent is a Republican and even less likely when the Republican is a TEA Party adherent.

I’ve seen this over and over again over the last twenty to thirty years I’ve studied the media. And notice how that cadre of news dinosaurs tut-tuts at any challenger to its dominance, whether it was conservative talk radio a generation ago or the rise of the internet media in the opening years of this century? I may not have the circulation of a Baltimore Sun or even a Salisbury Daily Times, but the potential is always there for something I say to be cast before a huge state, national, or even global audience. Their lack of a monopoly on news is what frightens the other side.

So it’s quite predictable that their coverage dictates what is considered news to the masses, but at the same time people aren’t being informed as well about important issues of the day. In my youth I would read the local paper cover-to-cover, and it would be maybe 32 pages – a 12-page section of national and state news with the last 2 pages being editorial content, a 16-page second section with local news, 4 pages or so of sports, a few pages of classified ads, and the comics, and a 4-page “Peach Section” with the features, a smidgen of entertainment news, and the TV listings. It seems now the lines between all of this have been blurred, with entertainment and sports news hitting the front pages and editorials being placed willy-nilly as part of the news.

In short, the avalanche and overload of information we’re fed on a 24/7/365 basis may be allowing the most important stuff to slip by unnoticed, and that’s a shame.

That Rand Paul, he sure gets around

It’s become obvious that the junior Senator from Kentucky has become quite the item in Maryland, since he will be engaged in Free State-related causes supporting state political action committees twice in the space of slightly over a month. In this case, though, the support will be more indirect.

Instead of a relatively affordable event, though, it seems like Dan Bongino and the Conservative Victory PAC are going for more of the high-dollar donors. Perhaps that’s a function of holding the event in Washington, D.C. but the event doesn’t seem to be aiming for the attendance figures the Maryland Liberty PAC will be seeking a month later – of course, Bongino needs the money in a more immediate fashion as he prepares to presumably take on the deep pockets of incumbent Congressman John Delaney.

Rand Paul, by the way, is no stranger to the Conservative Victory PAC. He also was a featured speaker at a rally last October for Ken Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial election there and was being mentioned as a candidate for U.S. Senator himself before quashing the rumors in December. For its part, the Maryland-based CVPAC took criticism from some quarters for supporting a candidate in Virginia. (I didn’t have as much of a problem with it.) The October event even featured Bongino as a “special speaker” so he knows the group too.

Once again, it’s worth pointing out the event is for Dan Bongino’s benefit because checks are made payable to Bongino’s Congressional campaign. But the CVPAC has plans for local Maryland campaigns as well:

We are launching this year in high gear with a fundraiser in February to support Dan Bongino as the next US Congressman from Maryland’s sixth district.  In March, we will roll out a multi-tiered plan to conduct fundraisers as well as grassroots outreach as part of our victory campaign for high caliber Constitutional Conservatives seeking elected office.

That statement was the introduction to the CVPAC January newsletter, available on their website. Presumably they are working on a list of candidates to support in local and perhaps statewide races. (I can think of a couple local candidates who can use the help as they face off against entrenched Democrats and their high-dollar consultants from across the Bay.) So I look forward to seeing if our humble little side of the state is included in that victory campaign.

And if Rand Paul wants to help us out, he’s more than welcome to.

Who will vote for Vogt now?

January 28, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

The uphill battle is over.

This morning I received the following release in my e-mail:

David Vogt, a Marine combat veteran and former Military Times’ Marine of the Year, announced on Tuesday morning that he will not continue to seek the Republican nomination for United States Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Democrat John Delaney. Vogt has been very critical of Congressman Delaney’s continued support for the Affordable Care Act and his partisan voting record. “His voting record and lack of presence within our district are exactly why he needs to be replaced during the 2014 election cycle,” Vogt said.

Vogt launched his campaign for Congress in June of last year and was the first Republican to officially file with the Maryland State Board of Elections.

“After spending much time discussing with friends, family, and supporters, I have decided to withdraw from the Republican primary in the Sixth District,” Vogt announced. “I have traveled all over this district in the past several months, and I have spoken with countless Marylanders who have been adversely affected by a failed Big Government agenda. I will continue to offer my fervent support of returning statesmanship to our district, state and country regardless of candidacy. In direct regard to our 6th Congressional District, I wish Dan Bongino the best of luck in his fight to restore conservative principles to Western Maryland.”

“Although I am withdrawing from this race, I remain committed to our community, our state, and our nation. I will continue my work in assisting our military veterans and their families as I have with the Major General Boyd Cook Memorial Foundation, Toys-for-Tots and Operation Second Chance and I look forward to continue being involved in our futures together as neighbors and friends. The fight for liberty and the advancement of the American Dream is never finished, and it must be fought for on every level: municipal, county, state and national. If we forfeit the fight on any battlefield, then we have forfeited the rights given by God alone,” Vogt exclaimed.

Vogt is considering entering a more local race during the 2014 cycle.

So Vogt just ceded ground to Dan Bongino in the Sixth District Congressional race, although there was little doubt Bongino had the campaign funding and name recognition to prevail in the primary anyway. What interested me, though, was the last line.

In looking up the district where Vogt’s hometown of Brunswick lies, it appears Vogt now resides in District 4. In the former configuration, however, Brunswick was in District 3B, represented by Delegate Michael Hough. If Vogt were to run for a state seat, he’s now in the same district as Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley, along with Hough and fellow Delegates Kathy Afzali and Kelly Schulz, who represent the current District 4A. All of them are Republicans, but at this point, Schulz is the only one who has filed for a House seat. Interestingly enough, though, today the lone person who had filed for State Senate, Jason Miller, withdrew from the race – seems to be coincidental timing there, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, if Vogt were to aspire to a County Council position, he would be in the newly-created Frederick County Council District 1, where no Republican has filed.

Of course, I don’t believe in “turns” nor do I think anyone is entitled to a legislative seat. But the chances are pretty good that Vogt may step out of the frying pan into the fire. We’ll see how his political moxie is built in a local race, should he choose to go that route.

A look ahead: 2014 on the national front

December 31, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

This will be, by far, the trickiest of these columns I’ve taken the last three days to write. There are so many unknowns that even the “known unknowns” pale in comparison. But as the conservative, pro-liberty movement stands currently there are a number of items for which we can reasonably be certain 2014 will bring some kind of resolution.

First and foremost among them is that the goalposts will continue to be moved for Obamacare. As originally envisioned, we would all begin feeling its full effects tomorrow, but self-imposed – and I mean self-imposed, because few of these changes went through the legislative branch – changes have pushed back the deadline for many later into 2014 or even 2015. At this point, the strategy seems to be that everything bad about Obamacare gets blamed on Republicans who were really pretty powerless to stop its enactment in the first place – remember, Democrats had a clear majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate from January 2009 to February 2010 when Scott Brown was sworn in – and those few popular items are all due to the Affordable Care Act. That seems to be the preferred, focus group-tested name now because Obamacare has a bad connotation.

Meanwhile, we are supposed to be beyond the prospect of a government shutdown (really a slowdown) which Republicans were deathly afraid of for some reason. I don’t recall any hardships in October, do you? My life seemed to be unaffected. Nevertheless, the GOP seems to be afraid of its own shadow so when Democrats threaten to shut down the government the GOP snaps to. It’s sickening.

By that same token, the ball is supposedly being teed up for immigration reform (read: amnesty) over the summer, once GOP Senate incumbents know their filing deadline has passed. There’s no question a schism over immigration is developing in the Republican Party just as Obamacare is splintering off those Senate Democrats who face re-election in states Mitt Romney carried in 2012. I say primary ‘em all with conservatives so that maybe the incumbents will be scared straight.

Those are some of the key domestic issues we’ll be facing. I can guess two or three which won’t come up as well.

We will see absolutely zero effort to reform entitlements, whether Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. This will be another year they hurtle toward insolvency, probably going splat just in time for Generation X to reach retirement age in about 15 years. (That would be me – I’m on the cusp between Gen X and Boomer.)

Nor do I care how many articles of impeachment are drawn up: the House leadership doesn’t have the courage to pursue it, nor would they ever get the votes in the Senate to convict. They could find Barack Obama in bed with a dead girl, live boy, a bloody knife in his right hand and a signed confession in his left and the Democrats would swear the boy set him up and the girl stabbed herself thirteen times – in the back – and not convict him.

It doesn’t matter how poor the economy is, either. The government won’t dare stop priming the pump to the tune of a trillion dollars a year in debt, parceling out $80 billion or so of “quantitative easing” monthly. When the Dow and its record highs are the one factor of success apologists for Obama can point to, anything which maintains that facade will be continued despite the possibility of long-term inflationary catastrophe – again, probably in time for Generation X to retire.

Just as ineffective is our foreign policy, which has been a muddled mess as old friends are ignored and longtime enemies coddled. We may have an idea of what the hotspots may be, but events have a way of occurring at the most inopportune times and places for American interests.

All this points toward the midterm elections this coming November. While Democrats are talking up their chances of regaining the House, the odds are better that Republicans will instead take the Senate. The sixth year election in a President’s term is traditionally a bloodbath for his party, although the one exception over the last century was during the term of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton in 1998. At that time, though, the economy was in pretty good shape and the modest gains by the Democrats in the House weren’t enough to swing control back to them. (The Senate stayed in GOP hands, with no change in the 55-45 GOP majority.)

Looking briefly at the Maryland delegation, all indications are that all of our eight-person Congressional delegation will seek another term, although only Fifth District representative Steny Hoyer and Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings have filed so far. The most spirited race may be the Sixth District, where 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino is expected to take on freshman Democrat John Delaney.

But there’s still time left for the 113th Congress, which will have to deal with the mercurial Barack Obama for another year before we enter the home stretch of what seems like a couple decades of the Obama regime. There’s little doubt that conventional wisdom will be set on its head again and again over the next year, a real-life version of trying to predict the upsets we all know will occur during March Madness. It’s all about who comes out on top, but my bet is that it won’t be the American people.

One extra seat

I received an amusing pictorial e-mail today from the Democratic National Committee. I guess when you’re targeting low-information voters you need plenty of pictures.

But it shows just what’s at stake in 2014.

Never mind that the poll the Democrats cite (from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling) pits these Republicans against a “generic” Democrat – once an actual candidate is selected the numbers generally go down. It’s also a simple registered voter poll, and may not accurately reflect the electorate in the region. (No one’s ever oversampled Democrats to get a desired result before. </sarc>)

The PPP survey is sort of like the generic ballot polling an outfit like Rasmussen does, where they pit the broad base of Republicans vs. the broad base of Democrats. At this time the numbers are even, which suggests not much will change. (This is particularly surprising given the negative coverage House Republicans have endured throughout the Obama temper tantrum shutdown slowdown.) Bear in mind as well the PPP survey was conducted in the first few days of the Obama/Reid shutdown, before many major developments in the story.

So it’s important to cede no ground to the Democrats. And history isn’t on their side – with the exception of 1998, where Democrats picked up 5 seats, the opposition party to the President has added seats in Congress in every second-term midterm election since 1952. The range was from 5 seats in 1986 (Reagan) to 49 seats in 1958 (Eisenhower) and 1974, the post-Watergate Ford election. 1966 was another watershed year, with incumbent Democrats under Lyndon Johnson losing 47 seats. So Barack Obama would have to buck a historical trend to gain seats, let alone recapture the majority.

Nor has it been considered that the Republicans might pick up some vulnerable Democrat seats as well. Certainly the opponents of Sixth District Congressman John Delaney aren’t taking this lying down. They’re either playing up the trustworthiness angle, like Dan Bongino does in this video:

(By the way, if you look closely you’ll see my cohort Jackie Wellfonder in the video in a couple spots.)

Or they’re hammering the incumbent for turning his back on veterans, like Marine David Vogt:

A conversation about the Affordable Care Act and the harmful effects it is having on the American people is one we need to have. But we can’t have that conversation while our leaders are engaged in a partisan, political playground feud. Each side is guilty, and neither side is leading. Leadership means getting in the conference room and hammering out a solution, not holding a press conference just to call the opposition a new name and to repeat the same talking points that have obviously gotten us nowhere.

Our leaders have forgotten who they are in Washington to represent. Last week, I watched in amazement and disgust as my opponent voted to block funding for veterans’ benefits because he decided politics and standing by his party’s leadership came before service to his constituents and the American people. This is inexcusable.

Washington is supposed to work for us, not against us. These days it often seems that our elected officials do more to work against the American people than they do to help us. We don’t have time for political bickering. We have more pressing issues than each side’s attempt to save face. We need leadership, but it doesn’t appear we are going to get it anytime soon.

Obviously we won’t get new leadership until after the 2014 elections. And while I wouldn’t mind replacing John Boehner as Speaker, I’m hoping we do so with a much more conservative bulldog with TEA Party roots, not the shrill uber-liberal shill Nancy Pelosi. She had her time and set the stage for Barack Obama ruining the country, so let’s send a message to the Democrats and seize the narrative.

Some Syria reaction

September 10, 2013 · Posted in National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Among those who have weighed in on the Syrian issue are our Congressman and two would-be Congressmen from the Sixth District.

First District representative Andy Harris, who has a vote in the matter, put out this statement today:

After much consideration, including attending a classified intelligence briefing, I do not believe using military force against Syria is in the national security interest of the United States. At this point, I won’t be supporting any authorization to use military force if it is brought to a vote in Congress. The use of chemical weapons is a very serious matter for the international community that should not be tolerated, but this Administration has failed to lay out a coherent strategy for why using American military force in this situation is in the best interest of the country.

Fairly straightforward and boilerplate; I could probably find similar statements coming from six dozen other Republicans in Congress.

On the other hand, those who are running in District 6 had more of a rhetorical flourish. Since he was first to the post, let me present what candidate David Vogt had to say:

The Congressional vote on Syrian military intervention will most likely occur this week. While there is heated debate from many sides arguing for various actions, I am calling on Congressman John Delaney to consider the overwhelming opinion of the American people and to side with reason, not emotion, in this debate.

I suffer no illusions about Bashar al-Assad or the vile act of a leader murdering his own people. The suffering and death of the Syrian people are very real. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

However, the difficulty, as an outside nation, is in determining not only if we should intervene, but how? What is our objective, and what is our exit strategy? Are we accomplishing a goal, fighting for a stalemate, or further destabilizing the conflict? Would we be removing chemical weapons from the hands of a tyrant, yet creating the risk that they fall under the control of an unknown opposition force with their own agenda? After all, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Faced with more questions than answers and such little international support, we must balance our desire to police the world with our obligation to act rationally. This particular situation is one with no defined goal, and American interests are not threatened by a lack of action. Diplomatic options have not been exhausted, and it is not even clear that they have been fully explored.

The world should take a stand against the use of chemical weapons in any country, but the time to have made a direct impact on Syria has passed. This situation has devolved from a humanitarian mission to a political game in which the American people want no part.

In a case of the people versus the establishment, the people’s voice must always be heard. This Marine is saying no to the establishment and no to military intervention.

I would vote “No” on this resolution, and I am calling on Congressman Delaney to do the same. The Congressman should not vote to authorize military conflict, but should instead push the President and his peers to pursue a solution that places the chemical weapons under secure, international control.

This was actually quite perceptive because I think this is the solution currently being favored as the answer to avoid direct American military involvement. Vogt makes the great point that if action were to occur, it should have already commenced.

Meanwhile, fellow Republican candidate Dan Bongino had his own thoughts:

Last week during a Senate hearing on the use of force in Syria, Sen. Bob Corker asked what the United States is “seeking” in Syria. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no answer. “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking,” he said.

This is indicative of the Obama administration’s lack of a discernible foreign policy strategy towards Syria. A limited strike in Syria is nothing more than a face-saving measure for President Obama which could potentially draw America into yet another full-scale war in the Middle East.

After a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan where billions of dollars were spent and thousands of lives were lost, a military intervention in a Syrian civil war that is not connected to the national security interest of the United States is the wrong course of action for our nation.

Dan makes the case, by tying this situation into that in Iraq and Afghanistan, that Americans are tired of war – and he’s right. I’m not as sure this situation is equal because we have no al-Qaeda or Taliban to use as an enemy; in fact, the solution advocated assumes that only the Syrian government has chemical weapons, not the rebel groups. If the rebels have secured their own supply we just barked up the wrong tree.

For his part, District 6 Congressman John Delaney was coy on his Syria stance in a September 1 interview with WTTG-TV in Washington. He hasn’t made a public declaration on Syria since that point.

If there will be a vote of Syria – after President Obama’s remarks this evening, it’s anyone’s guess whether one will occur – it’s plain that Andy Harris will be a “no” vote, siding with the American people unconvinced our national interest would be at stake from events there and having no desire to lob a few cruise missiles into the beleaguered nation. I suspect that will meet with the approval of his district.

Finally, as an aside: shouldn’t we be hearing from Republican candidates from the other six districts on this?

The Bartlett influence

July 29, 2013 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Vogt and Otis

The photo on the left would seem to be a fairly normal stock shot of two people standing in front of a political logo. But its significance is that of tying one generation of Republican office holder with a new generation of GOP office seeker.

Perhaps the name Bud Otis has no meaning to most of you reading this, but those in the know out in the Sixth Congressional District are aware that Bud was a longtime Chief of Staff for former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, splitting with the former Congressman late in his tenure over, among other things, the idea of Bud running to replace Roscoe.

But as the electoral cycle turns to 2014, it’s interesting to note that Otis is already behind a candidate, and it’s not the apparent odds-on favorite in Dan Bongino. Instead, this photo and an accompanying release I’ll quote below came from the campaign of fellow Republican hopeful David Vogt, who’s trying to recover from one of the political missteps to be expected from a neophyte candidate. Those remarks don’t seem to have an effect on the former Bartlett staffer.

David Vogt, Republican candidate for Congress in the 6th District, is happy to announce that Bud Otis, who served as Chief of Staff to former 6th District Representative Roscoe Bartlett, has joined his campaign. Otis served the citizens of the 6th District in Bartlett’s Congressional office from 2001 until 2011. Otis fully endorses Vogt and will serve as Senior Campaign Advisor to Vogt.

In some respects, this will play into the hand of Bongino as his typical modus operandi is to portray himself as a political outsider, so having one of his primary opponents endorsed by the chief of staff of a former officeholder would just be the work of yet another Washington insider. While David tries to portray himself as an outsider, too, perhaps Otis’s influence will convince Vogt to junk his plea for a $500,000 spending limit on the 2014 campaign. That’s the sign of a weak candidate who is afraid he won’t get his message out, particularly against a fairly proven fundraiser in Dan Bongino and a multimillionaire incumbent in John Delaney.

Yet there is something to be said for political experience, and Vogt indeed lives in the Sixth District, unlike his two major opponents. It also means that any influence from the former incumbent will be behind the scenes, as Otis was thought to be a viable candidate leading into 2012 before Roscoe axed him. Still, Bud sat out that race, and remember: Bartlett was respected in western Maryland, which is the home base for a significant portion of Sixth District Republicans, so having Bud as a political adviser shouldn’t hurt.

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