Topics
Administration
Congress
Democrats
Elections
Ethics
Governor -- Alabama
Governor -- Alaska
Governor -- Arizona
Governor -- California
Governor -- Colorado
Governor -- Connecticut
Governor -- Delaware
Governor -- Florida
Governor -- Georgia
Governor -- Hawaii
Governor -- Illinois
Governor -- Indiana
Governor -- Iowa
Governor -- Kentucky
Governor -- Louisiana
Governor -- Maryland
Governor -- Massachusetts
Governor -- Michigan
Governor -- Minnesota
Governor -- Missouri
Governor -- Montana
Governor -- Nevada
Governor -- New Hampshire
Governor -- New Jersey
Governor -- New Mexico
Governor -- New York
Governor -- North Carolina
Governor -- North Dakota
Governor -- Ohio
Governor -- Oregon
Governor -- Pennsylvania
Governor -- Rhode Island
Governor -- South Carolina
Governor -- Texas
Governor -- Utah
Governor -- Vermont
Governor -- Virginia
Governor -- Washington
Governor -- Wyoming
Governors
Health Care
House
House -- Alabama -- 02
House -- Alabama -- 03
House -- Alabama -- 05
House -- Alaska
House -- Arizona -- 01
House -- Arizona -- 03
House -- Arizona -- 05
House -- Arizona -- 08
House -- Arkansas -- 01
House -- Arkansas -- 02
House -- California -- 04
House -- California -- 12
House -- California -- 26
House -- California -- 32
House -- California -- 50
House -- Colorado -- 02
House -- Colorado -- 04
House -- Connecticut -- 04
House -- Connecticut -- 05
House -- Florida -- 06
House -- Florida -- 08
House -- Florida -- 13
House -- Florida -- 15
House -- Florida -- 16
House -- Florida -- 18
House -- Florida -- 19
House -- Florida -- 21
House -- Florida -- 24
House -- Florida -- 25
House -- Georgia -- 05
House -- Georgia -- 10
House -- Georgia -- 12
House -- Hawaii -- 01
House -- Idaho -- 01
House -- Illinois -- 01
House -- Illinois -- 03
House -- Illinois -- 05
House -- Illinois -- 06
House -- Illinois -- 10
House -- Illinois -- 11
House -- Illinois -- 14
House -- Illinois -- 18
House -- Indiana -- 03
House -- Indiana -- 07
House -- Indiana -- 09
House -- Iowa -- 03
House -- Iowa -- 04
House -- Kansas -- 02
House -- Kentucky -- 02
House -- Kentucky -- 03
House -- Louisiana -- 01
House -- Louisiana -- 02
House -- Louisiana -- 04
House -- Louisiana -- 06
House -- Maine -- 01
House -- Maryland -- 01
House -- Maryland -- 04
House -- Massachusetts -- 05
House -- Michigan -- 01
House -- Michigan -- 07
House -- Michigan -- 09
House -- Michigan -- 13
House -- Minnesota -- 01
House -- Minnesota -- 03
House -- Minnesota -- 06
House -- Mississippi -- 01
House -- Mississippi -- 03
House -- Missouri -- 09
House -- Nevada -- 02
House -- Nevada -- 03
House -- New Hampshire -- 01
House -- New Hampshire -- 02
House -- New Jersey -- 03
House -- New Jersey -- 05
House -- New Jersey -- 07
House -- New Mexico -- 01
House -- New Mexico -- 02
House -- New York -- 13
House -- New York -- 15
House -- New York -- 20
House -- New York -- 21
House -- New York -- 23
House -- New York -- 24
House -- New York -- 25
House -- New York -- 26
House -- New York -- 29
House -- North Carolina -- 03
House -- North Carolina -- 08
House -- North Carolina -- 10
House -- North Dakota
House -- Ohio -- 01
House -- Ohio -- 02
House -- Ohio -- 05
House -- Ohio -- 07
House -- Ohio -- 10
House -- Ohio -- 15
House -- Ohio -- 16
House -- Oklahoma -- 05
House -- Oregon -- 05
House -- Pennsylvania -- 03
House -- Pennsylvania -- 04
House -- Pennsylvania -- 06
House -- Pennsylvania -- 10
House -- Pennsylvania -- 11
House -- Pennsylvania -- 12
House -- Pennsylvania -- 15
House -- South Carolina -- 01
House -- South Carolina -- 02
House -- South Carolina -- 05
House -- South Dakota
House -- Tennessee -- 07
House -- Tennessee -- 08
House -- Tennessee -- 09
House -- Texas -- 07
House -- Texas -- 10
House -- Texas -- 14
House -- Texas -- 22
House -- Utah -- 03
House -- Virginia -- 01
House -- Virginia -- 05
House -- Virginia -- 09
House -- Virginia -- 11
House -- Washington -- 08
House -- West Virginia -- 01
House -- West Virginia -- 02
House -- Wisconsin -- 07
House -- Wisconsin -- 08
House -- Wyoming
Inauguration 2009
International
Issues
Judiciary
Local Elections
Media
Miscellaneous
Morning Thoughts
Politics Weekly
Polls
Rankings
Republicans
Senate
Senate -- Alaska
Senate -- Arizona
Senate -- Arkansas
Senate -- California
Senate -- Colorado
Senate -- Connecticut
Senate -- Delaware
Senate -- Florida
Senate -- Georgia
Senate -- Idaho
Senate -- Illinois
Senate -- Indiana
Senate -- Iowa
Senate -- Kansas
Senate -- Kentucky
Senate -- Louisiana
Senate -- Maine
Senate -- Massachusetts
Senate -- Minnesota
Senate -- Mississippi
Senate -- Missouri
Senate -- Montana
Senate -- Nebraska
Senate -- Nevada
Senate -- New Hampshire
Senate -- New Jersey
Senate -- New Mexico
Senate -- New York
Senate -- North Carolina
Senate -- North Dakota
Senate -- Ohio
Senate -- Oklahoma
Senate -- Oregon
Senate -- Pennsylvania
Senate -- South Carolina
Senate -- South Dakota
Senate -- Tennessee
Senate -- Texas
Senate -- Utah
Senate -- Virginia
Senate -- Wisconsin
Senate -- Wyoming
Sports
Supreme Court
WH 08
WH 08 -- Democrats
WH 08 -- Republicans
WH 12
WH 12 -- Republicans
White House

 

« Gulf Disaster Response Competed For President's Attention | Blog Home Page | 10 Things To Watch On Super Tuesday »

White House Political Operation In The Crosshairs

With a record that includes losses in gubernatorial contests in Virginia and New Jersey and the Massachusetts Senate seat, the White House already faced doubts about whether the Obama political machine could still deliver. But the controversy over political horsetrading with primary challengers in Pennsylvania and Colorado have created new headaches for an administration that promised to change the way Washington does business.

Early this morning, press secretary Robert Gibbs responded to Colorado Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff's disclosure that he was presented with three potential administration posts should he decide to abandon his challenge to appointed Sen. Michael Bennet. Gibbs said White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina simply was contacting Romanoff because he had applied for a job during the transition, and that he "wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters."

Last week White House counsel Bob Bauer released a memo after an internal investigation of offers made to another candidate, Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, in return for dropping out of the race against Sen. Arlen Specter. Bauer ultimately found that "allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law," adding that there "have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations" acted in a similar manner.

At today's briefing, Gibbs said President Obama himself was never personally involved in any discussions involving primary politics dealmaking. But, he added: "The president as the leader of the party has an interest in supporters not running against each other in contested primaries."

"We went through a contested primary. They're not altogether fun things," Gibbs said. "Does the leader in the party have an interest in ensuring that primaries that tend to be costly aren't had so you're ready for the general election? Of course."

Sara Taylor, a former director of political affairs under President George W. Bush, told RCP that this administration appears to "take a very heavy hand" in primaries, something that was not the case in her time. In 2004, Bush similarly backed Specter when he faced a strong challenge in the Republican primary. But there was very strict criteria that they followed before making an endorsement in contested primaries. Taylor attributed the change to the man at the top of the flow chart -- chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

"You have a former political director as the chief of staff. So that to me is a big difference in terms of the management of the political operation," she said. "He for much of his career has run a political operation."

Emanuel ran the DCCC in 2006, helping the party retake control of the House. He also was heavily involved in the political operation of Bill Clinton. Indeed, the Bauer memo showed it was Emanuel, and not officials in the Office of Political Affairs, who called Clinton and asked him to reach out to Sestak.

The White House also has a mixed record on other fronts, with some spectacular failures. In New York, officials as high as Vice President Biden were recruited to help clear the field for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. But efforts to push Gov. David Paterson out of the race, though ultimately successful, were a public embarrassment the left many with bruised egos. The White House's recruiting efforts in states like North Carolina, Illinois and Delaware failed to produce top challengers in key Senate contests.

Taylor said it is hard for any winning presidential candidate to transfer its successes into the White House, and that the Office of Political Affairs is often overburdened and understaffed. But Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser, said the successes of this administration should not be overlooked, particularly on the legislative front. As for the current controversy over the Romanoff and Sestak offers, Begala said it is partially a product of Obama's own promise to avoid such horsetrading.

"I'm glad they set the bar high. They should set the bar high," he said. "They do deserve some criticism for [playing] politics as usual. But that's all that this is."

But it also could have been avoided, he said, if the White House had responded sooner when questions about Sestak in particular were first raised.

"Very often, when these things happen, they take a long time responding because people want to be careful. They want to make sure they're recollection is right," he said.

As for whether anything improper occurred, Begala quoted Ron Kaufman, a former adviser to President George H.W. Bush. "If this is a crime, then every president going back to George Washington was a criminal."