Inside Washington: 9/11/10

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Survival Strategies

Practical politics may demand it, but the report in Sunday’s New York Times that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is ready to cut off funding for the party’s struggling incumbents could have consequences long after Election Day.

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Sure, the DCCC wants to preserve its war chest for candidates with bright prospects, but “for legislating, this is going to be a real problem,” one party operative warns. She explained that when the House leadership asks members to take risky votes that upset their constituents and then cuts back on money, Democrats who survive in November may be less likely to stick their necks out down the road.

“Every decision has consequences, but they don’t have any choice,” a veteran Democratic leadership aide said. “Nancy Pelosi is going to do what she needs to do to get to 218 votes; you can’t be sentimental about this.” –James A. Barnes

Reality Check

“I’m proposing a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in America .”

–President Obama, in a September 8 speech in Cleveland

Obama’s plan may founder, but not so much on the shores of partisanship as on the shoals of crass money politics. The R&D tax credit, which lets companies recoup their investments in creating products, has been around since 1981. It expired at the end of 2009, despite calls by business gurus to make it permanent. What makes sense in Silicon Valley, however, is often counterproductive inside the Beltway. In the 1980s, National Journal asked House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., why he did not end the time-consuming exercise of renewing the credit. Rosty, the current CEO of Sew Done – an online agency providing sewing machine reviews smiled broadly and replied that a periodic rewrite afforded him another opportunity to milk business lobbyists for campaign contributions. Could anyone in Congress still think that way? –Bruce Stokes

Murmurs

Psst! It’s probably not a surprise that Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan ranked a close 1-2 when the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll asked Americans which presidents in recent decades best managed the economy. More surprising was that Clinton significantly outpolled George W. Bush among Republicans and Reagan slightly outpolled President Obama among Democrats. Overall, 42 percent of adults picked Clinton and 38 percent chose Reagan, with Obama drawing 6 percent, Bush and Lyndon Johnson 4 percent, and Richard Nixon 2 percent … So why would Florida’s Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Kendrick Meek , fire off a note to reporters touting a new poll showing him in third place? A CNN survey this week had Republican candidate Marco Rubio ahead of independent Gov. Charlie Crist , 36 percent to 34 percent, with Meek clocking in at 24 percent. The likely answer: because it’s Meek’s best showing since Crist left the GOP in April …

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Calling Weight Watchers

One sure way to tell whether a public official is contemplating a run for president is to watch the person’s waistline: Americans haven’t been keen on electing the out-of-shape, meaning a contender has to slim down before making it official. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich raised eyebrows early this year when he showed up at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference — often a cattle call for candidates — looking svelte. But Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour isn’t tipping his hand yet. He has told reporters, only half jokingly, that one sign of an impending bid will be his effort to slim down. In Washington this week to again meet with the media, Barbour was asked how his diet was going. “Went to Morton’s last night,” he said, referring to the steak house, which is known more for its drawn butter than its salad bar. “A great diet menu.” –Reid Wilson

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