Thursday, January 22, 2009

Burr Looking Very Vulnerable In 2010 North Carolina Re-Election Bid But Dems Could Hand Him The Seat By Nominating Heath Shuler


Shuler: mediocre quarterback/worse congressman

I'm not going to say Heath Shuler is the worst member of the Democratic House caucus; but I will say that there isn't anyone worse than this reactionary Know Nothing from western North Carolina. When Rahm Emanuel invented him Shuler wasn't especially a Democrat or a Republican-- just a self-serving Know Nothing being courted by Tennessee Republicans and North Carolina Democrats. He claims he likes North Carolina more than Tennessee... so he wound up a Democrat-- and one of the two worst of Rahm Emanuel's pro-war/pro-corporate/anti-choice recruits from 2006, the other being registration-switcher/serial adulterer, now defeated Tim Mahoney from Florida, like Shuler, a Democrat in name only who delighted in crossing the aisle on core issues and voting with the GOP.

Shuler represents North Carolina's mountainous, Republican-leaning 11th CD (PVI is R+7), where McCain beat Obama 52-47% but where Shuler was re-elected with 62% of the vote (after winning his first race against blatantly corrupt bankster Charlie Taylor in 2006 with 54%). Shuler isn't the kind of Democrat who will help bring his constituents over to the Democratic Party. We've been watching Eric Massa, the newly elected Democrat from a Republican district in upstate New York, explaining his every vote to constituents and helping them to understand why Democratic Party positions on equality in the workplace for women, healthcare for needy children, strict regulations of how banks can spend TARP money will all help make America-- and their own lives-- better. That isn't the kind of legislator Heath Shuler is. Instead he rails against immigrants, incites hatred and fear and pushes his own egocentric, basically apartisan, political career. Progressives in North Carolina now fear that Shuler will wind up as the Democrats' candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by a weak and unliked incumbent, Richard Burr, in 2010.

Last week Shuler, who is among the half dozen Democrats most likely to vote with Republicans on core substantive issues before Congress, was elected whip of the Big Business-oriented/working family unfriendly Blue Dogs. He is the Democrats version of the bigoted, anti-immigrant loon Tom Tancredo and, in fact, they worked on a xenophobic bill together. Last week I met with one of the candidates running for chair of North Carolina's Democratic Party. He told me that Shuler is pushing himself forward for Burr's seat. Yesterday Public Policy Polling released a new survey accessing Shuler's chances to unseat Burr.

Burr's approval rating is miserable and is indicative of a senator likely to become an ex-senator ("languishing in the 30s"). Only 33% of North Carolinians approve of the job he's been doing; compared to 44% who approved at the just-defeated Elizabeth Dole in January, 2008. Still, in a hypothetical match-up against Shuler, Burr comes out on top-- 39-28%. "Shuler is not very well known across the state, with 21% of voters holding a favorable opinion and 21% viewing him unfavorably." Shuler is well-liked where he is better known (basically, in his own congressional district) and he is banking on winning over lowland North Carolinians by fearmongering and demagoguing on right-wing/talk radio "issues." His anti-immigrant SAVE Act, made him a favorite of CNN's resident bigot Lou Dobbs. Last week he was apologetic in an interview with his hometown paper about a fundraiser Bill Clinton is doing for him to help finance his Senate aspirations.
U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler says he and former President Bill Clinton became friends during the 2008 election, and the public should not read anything into a fundraiser Clinton is holding for him Jan. 26.

“We went to church together,” Shuler said. “You get to know someone throughout a campaign. He wanted to help me... I wouldn’t read anything into it.”

Shuler is intent on stirring up hatred of Hispanics to ride into the Senate and it's repulsive that Bill Clinton is supporting him on this. He plans to try to re-introduce his anti-immigrant legislation as soon as he can, although he knows it isn't likely to go anywhere-- other than to build up his own name recognition. He acknowledges that most of the country and all of the responsible elected officials are more concerned with fixing the nation's economy than in stirring up hatred against Hispanics, his own specialty. I don’t think it would have mattered who won the election, McCain or Obama," Shuler told the interviewer. "They both have different views on immigration than the people of our district.”

Shuler's DC roommates don't. He lives with a bunch of radical right, lunatic fringe, neo-Confederate obstructionists-- Jim DeMint (R-SC), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Zach Wamp (R-TN).

Keep in mind that Democrats won big in North Carolina in November-- but not that big. Obama took the state, but only by 1% in a 50-49% squeaker. Kay Hagan did beat Dole pretty well (53%) and Bev Perdue wound up winning the governor's seat, again with 50% of the vote. Every Democratic incumbent congressman was re-elected with over 60% of the vote-- something that can't be said of Republican incumbents, In fact one entrenched Republican incumbent, Robin Hayes, only managed to win 45% of the vote and was ousted by progressive social studies teacher Larry Kissell. Can they take out Burr? He seems very vulnerable, especially if he joins up with the Senate obstructionists who would rather see America fail than Obama succeed. North Carolina voters will not put up with that-- something that makes them very different from South Carolina voters.

The Democrat who won the most votes statewide in 2008 was Attorney General Roy Cooper and polling shows that he would be a far stronger candidate against Burr than Shuler would be, beating him 39-34%. State Rep. Grier Martin (Raleigh) is a rising star and is generally thought of as someone who would give Burr a real run for his money.

But what if Shuler is the candidate? Will progressives and moderate Democrats vote for a Know Nothing reactionary extremist? It will be interesting watching Shuler try to appeal to the Republican base this year by moving further and further right, while Burr moves towards the center in the hope of winning over moderates and independents. Burr has a lot of room for improvement; he's been in the dozen most radical right members of the Senate.


Kentucky lunatic fringe wingnut, Jim Bunning, who has been suffering from an advanced state of dementia for at least 5 years-- and was unable to campaign in 2004 and was for a time rumored to be dead-- is being urged by Kentucky and national Republicans to retire at the end of this term and let someone from the party run who has a chance to win, the implication being that Bunning has no chance to win.

Terrible polling numbers, trouble raising money, the old rumors that he's already actually dead, and his inability to debate or even campaign have combined with his obstructionist posture to make it highly unlikely that he could be returned to the Senate. He's one of a small group of reactionary extremists who have been clear that they would rather see America fail than Obama succeed and, like North Carolina voters, Kentucky voters are unlikely to buy into that way of thinking.

And as long as we're on the topic of knee-jerk obstructionists, when the Senate Finance Committee approved Timothy Geithner's confirmation as Treasury Secretary 18-5 this morning Bunning was one of the 5 voting "no," the other 4 being rightists John Ensign (R-NV), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Pat Roberts (R-KS).

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