Chicago Sun-Times
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gopfake-CST-051013.jpgSome of the possible candidates for the Illinois GOP chairman job include (top row) Joe Walsh, Lori Yokoyama, Ron Sandack, (bottom row) Don Tracy, Tim Schneider, Mark Shaw.

**(Updated with Ron Gidwitz and Jim Oberweis)**

A livid Ron Gidwitz called out the conservative faction of the party's central committee on Thursday, telling the Sun-Times its ousting of Illinois Republican Party Chairman and lack of preparation to deal with the fallout has put a poor face on the party, "destroying" the embattled GOP's chances in next year's election.

"The state central committee -- a faction of the state central committee -- is destroying any chance that the Republican party has in 2014," an angered Gidwitz told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday. "I mean, how stupid is this! The lack of thoughtful, leadership ... The state central committee is responsible for the leadership of our party. To push out the party chairman with no plan for a replacement -- it is absurd. And with no thought to the consequences of their behavior.
They all know how I feel because I told them."

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Nickelback, more popular than Congress

The United States Congress has had a rough go of it lately. Adding to the historic amount of bickering and gridlock that has paralyzed the legislative body, Congress took a huge PR hit with the near-disastrous handling of the fiscal cliff debacle (and will revisit it in a few weeks when they have to take up the debt ceiling). And just moments after finally approving a lackluster fiscal cliff deal, House Republicans refused to take up a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief funds (though they later took it up after being bullied into it by people with common sense). Not that Republicans have been alone in facing the ire of angry constituents; Dems are still smarting from the recent scandal-ridden resignation of Illinois' Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Given all of the above, it's no surprise to find that Congress's approval rating is very, very low.

So low that responders to poll questions by (the admittedly Democratic-leaning) Public Policy Polling preferred cockroaches, lice, colonoscopies, and Canadian meh-rock band Nickelback to Congress.

It's gross to have lice but at least they can be removed in a way that given the recent reelection rates members of Congress evidently can't: Lice 67 percent, Congress 19 percent

Colonoscopies are not a terribly pleasant experience but at least they have some redeeming value that most voters aren't seeing in Congress: Colonoscopies 58 percent, Congress 31 percent

It may be true that everyone hates Nickelback, but apparently everyone hates Congress even more: Nickelback 39 percent, Congress 32 percent.


Other items more popular than Congress, according to PPP: Carnies (39 percent to 31 percent), root canals (56 percent to 32 percent) and those much-maligned enemies of freedom circa the Second Iraq War, the French, had a higher rating as well (46 percent to 37 percent).

But it wasn't all bad news for Congress:

By relatively close margins it beats out Lindsey Lohan (45/41), playground bullies (43/38), and telemarketers (45/35). And it posts wider margins over the Kardashians (49/36), John Edwards (45/29), lobbyists (48/30), Fidel Castro (54/32), Gonorrhea (53/28), Ebola (53/25), Communism (57/23), North Korea (61/26), and meth labs (60/21)


While this may seem like the nadir for Congress, they just swore in a new class last week, meaning they may be able to turn their image around. But given the need to revisit more debt talks in the coming weeks, there's still a possibility this new class could dig the hole even deeper.

[h/t The Hill]

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Beware the "fiscal cliff."

That's the warning that's been sounded by politicians, the media, and taxpayers since summer, gaining full force the moment President Barack Obama won re-election. While the term has only recently become part of the national vernacular, the build-up to this pivotal economic decision has been building for many years. The Democrats have refused to cut spending entitlements and Obama wants to raise taxes on the top income brackets. The Republicans, led by conservative super-lobbyist Grover Norquist, refuse to raise taxes and are opposed to losing currently implemented tax breaks. Also at stake is the defense budget that Dems want to scale back with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ending while Republicans are pushing back on any additional defense cuts.

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Poor Mitt Romney. You'd think losing last week's election would have been enough of a kick in the teeth. But as the GOP tries to collectively sort out its troubles and figure out where it all went wrong, Mitt is suffering a new injustice: losing Facebook friends by the boatload. As in, several every minute. While he started out with so many, it looks like those who supported Romney in the election are choosing to "unlike" the candidate rather than to, say, just forget they ever liked him, kind of like all those stupid likes you make of businesses just so you can get a coupon. That is to say: people are actively clicking the "unlike" button on Romney's page.

One site has taken up the task to tracking this trend and God bless you, Disappearing Romney, for keeping the candidates honest.

Christine_Radogno.jpegIL Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

A downstate Republican who got into a physical tussle last year with a Democratic senator over utility legislation touted himself Friday as a potential replacement for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno following Tuesday's big GOP losses in the Legislature.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) confirmed his interest in ousting Radogno from her leadership post after she failed to stave off a whopping five-seat loss for Republicans in the state Senate.

"If we were a competitive college sports team with a record like this, somebody would have been fired already," McCarter told the Chicago Sun-Times.

McCarter's criticism came the same day that a conservative political action committee, Family PAC, circulated a letter to each Republican state senator, urging Radogno's ouster.

m-mccarter.jpeg"Frankly, I think nearly anyone in that caucus could do a far better job than Christine Radogno," said Paul Caprio, director of Family PAC, who praised both McCarter (pictured right) and state Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington).

Caprio faulted Radogno for not appropriating proper financial "support" to anti-abortion candidates who lost and said her support of civil unions and abortion rights is "out of the mainstream of the Senate caucus."

Radogno, whose caucus will drop in size from 24 to 19 members in January, defended her backing of all Republican Senate campaigns and dismissed Caprio as an "outlier" in a party that she said must be recalibrated after Tuesday's outcome. She also took direct aim at McCarter.

"I'm not sure what we need now is an in-your-face, confrontational, white, downstate male. I love our downstate guys. I have a great relationship with them, and I'm not playing a gender card," she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"What I'm saying, as a practical matter, is that we need to change our image. Fairly or not, we're perceived -- and these aren't my words, I've read it reported this way -- as being the party of angry white men, and that's not true by the way. The fact of the matter is perception is reality, and we need to deal with it," she said.

Caprio took issue with Radogno's implication that the party needs to rebrand itself so it again can carry appeal with moderate suburban women like herself.

"That's an insult to every woman voter who votes in this state. I'd like to find a woman who said the reason I voted for a Republican candidate is Christine Radogno," he said. "I wonder how many voters even know who the minority leadership is in Springfield, to tell you the truth. Playing this gender game is an excuse when you've lost every targeted Senate seat the Republicans had."

Radogno said it is unfair to hold her singularly accountable for what one top GOP strategist called a "bloodbath" that enabled Democrats to claim veto-proof majorities in the Legislature and win all of the contested congressional races in the suburbs.

"If everyone had done phenomenally well and this was just our result, that would be one thing. But our result was consistent with what happened across the state," she said.

McCarter, who took issue with Radogno's comments against "confrontational" downstate men, got into a shoving match on the Senate floor in 2011 with state Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline), who came at McCarter after he questioned Jacobs' sponsorship of Commonwealth Edison-backed smart-grid legislation. Jacobs' father, former state Sen. Denny Jacobs (D-East Moline), is a utility industry lobbyist.

"Did I stand up when I saw something that wasn't ethical with regards to the smart-grid bill with Mike Jacobs? Of course, I did. But I wasn't the one who came across the aisle to take a swing at a legislator. I sat in my seat where I was supposed to be," McCarter said.

He also took issue with Radogno's implication that the GOP would be best suited with a suburban woman, since Republicans across the board didn't badly with women voters, particularly in the suburbs.

"If it's all about doing better with women, having a woman in charge didn't fix things Tuesday," he said.

Radogno, who has been legislative leader since 2009, said she is confident she has lined up the 10 votes necessary to hold onto her job.

McCarter, a small business owner who has been in the Senate for four years, said he doesn't know yet how many votes he might have.

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The Electoral College breakdown map, courtesy of C-SPAN.
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By Neil Steinberg

If you thought Tuesday you were voting for the presidential candidate of your choice, think again. Due to a historic quirk in the creation of the United States -- some old operating code, as it were -- American voters do not chose the president directly, but rather select electors to the Electoral College who do the actual selecting of the president.

It's a cumbersome system. Each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress --the House of Representatives and Senate combined. Illinois, for example, has 20 - down one after the last census. They can't be the elected officials themselves, however. In 48 of the states, whoever wins the popular vote also wins all the electors -- only Nebraska and Maine have a proportional system where electoral votes are divided up between the winner and loser.

The system is a relic of an age when travel was difficult and counting ballots even more problematic than it is today. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that numerous regional contenders didn't divide the nation.

Thus whoever wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2013. But every four years there is talk of scrapping the Electoral College system, though it does have its defenders. Here are the main arguments, pro and con.

Reasons to get rid of it

  1. 1. A discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of electoral votes creates the possibility of losing the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Three presidents have been elected on electoral votes while failing to win a majority of voters -- Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 -- an outcome that undermines the faith Americans have in the legitimacy of the executive branch of government.
  2. 2. The Electoral College is inherently undemocratic, skewing significance toward smaller, more sparsely populated states. Delaware, with 900,000 residents, has three electoral votes, while Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has 34, which means from an electoral point of view, a vote in Delaware is more than twice as significant -- representing 1/300,000th of an electoral vote -- than a vote in Texas, representing 1/750,000 of an electoral vote.
  3. 3. By focusing on assembling 270 electoral votes, candidates ignore "safe" states such as Illinois, where there is no point in fighting for more votes once a majority is reached, since all the electoral votes are already assured. Thus the majority of states, nearly certain to fall one way or another, tend to get ignored in favor of a handful of "swing" states.
  4. 4. Even if the Electoral College works perfectly, it still introduces unnecessary delay into the system. Give the likelihood of immediate electronic voting in the foreseeable future, having to wait for some mysterious conclave to put its seal of approval on the will of the American people is unnecessary, not only wasting time, but wasting the money required to run the system.
  5. 5. There is the remote but real possibility of fraudulent electors -- members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote the way the results require that they vote. This has happened, and while it has never affected the outcome of a race, it could, and there is no reason to allow the possibility that one individual could perversely negate the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Reasons to keep it

  1. 1. America is change averse and would rather cling to an arcane system than switch to a new one, which might have flaws of its own. If we can't get rid of the penny, we can't scrap the Electoral College so why try? To do so, would involve a change in the constitution -- Article II, Section I lays out the details of the Electoral College -- and whatever benefit isn't worth the trouble of doing that.
  2. 2. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be encouraged to treat the country as a whole, and campaign through the national media, or in urban centers where the most people are concentrated. They would never spend time in a place like Ohio, where an evenly divided population means its electoral votes are up for grabs.
  3. 3. The Electoral College can soften the sting of tight races, which we often see. Thus a candidate who only wins by a tiny percentage of the popular vote can still have a considerable victory in the Electoral College, leading to a greater impression of consensus, which is good for subsequent governing.
  4. 4. The Electoral College helps direct power toward the states -- without it, authority would be even more centralized than it already is.
  5. 5. If the Electoral College wasn't scrapped after the debacle of the 2000 elections -- which saw one of those fraudulent electors -- it's never going to be.

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AP Photo

We've still yet to elect a President in this election cycle, but last week's superstorm seems to have shone a spotlight on two potential candidates for 2016.

No sooner had the winds from the Hurricane Sandy Superstorm died than New Jersey residents experienced another round of gale-force gusts: the bluster from the state's pugnacious governor Chris Christie. An outspoken conservative, Christie has had no shortage of previous barbs targeted at President Obama. Yet those jabs turned to praise as Christie lauded Obama's swift action in the wake of the storm's landfall along the Jersey coast.

For Christie, it's a shrewd move that sets himself up for a run in 2016 as a moderate, someone willing to work with both sides of the aisle. Or to at least be nice to someone from the other side of the aisle when disaster relief is at stake. In a way, it's the kind of move to the middle that Romney pulled during the first presidential debate which helped reverse the momentum of the campaign. At this summer's Republican National Convention, Christie's keynote speech was largely self-referential, focusing more on himself than Romney, and certainly felt like a speech from someone working his ways up the party ranks. His time in the spotlight during the Hurricane Sandy disaster struck a more positive public figure than his RNC appearance: a man determined to protect his constituents and willing to put politics aside for the betterment of those constituents.

Of course, the candidacy is far from Christie's to have if Romney loses. VP candidate Paul Ryan is a younger, more charismatic man whose libertarian stances appeal far more to the further right/Tea Party electorate. And there is, of course, a Bush: Jeb Bush, to be exact. But Christie's leadership during the post-Sandy crisis will stick in a lot of peoples' minds, especially coming in the final days of the 2012 campaign. If Christie hopes to run in 2016, he'll have a sturdy example to fall back on that will be a bit more difficult for Democrats to assail.

bookerap.jpegMeanwhile, a rising star of the Democratic party was building on an already sterling reputation with his own hyperlocal disaster response. Newark mayor Cory Booker, a renowned Obama acolyte, was hyper- active on Twitter, responding to questions and requests for help from citizens and doling out piles of informaiton. Booker's response was far from the typical politician or community leader. Instead of simply repeating generic information, Booker directly responded to residents, giving the correct phone numbers, passing along personal requests, and even invited residents without power over to his house and feeding them.

While Booker hasn't been as prominent a candidate to take over his party's leadership in the near-future, he is considered a rising star of the Democratic party. And one that's not afraid to occasionally butt up against party leadership: while his brief disagreement with Obama earlier this year seemed testy for Dems, it certainly made Booker more attractive to moderates who are seeking a bipartisan leader. In a way, Booker seems to be appealing as Obama was to voters in 2004 when he delivered his famous DNC keynote.

Regardless of who wins this election, the Democrats will be in need of a new candidate in 2016 and attempting to hold on to the presidency for more than two terms, the first time they would have done that since FDR/Truman.* For starters, VP Joe Biden isn't ruling out a run in 2016, having run for the highest office twice before. One big strike against him, though, will be his age. Experienced Democrats less likely to face the same scrutiny include Maryland Gov. Mike O'Malley, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Booker is a realistic wild card as a younger candidate as is San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

Of course, this is all assuming we won't see a run from Hillary Clinton who, serving as secretary of state, has evolved into something of a beloved stateswoman, experiencing a complete image rebound from the aftermath of the bruising 2008 Democratic primary race she lost to Obama. While it's not a smooth path for Clinton, if she decides to enter the race in 2016, she would seem to have a leg up on the competition.

But, in 2006, no one might have guessed the younger candidate, a first-term senator from Illinois, would be *this close* to re-election to the presidency now. Booker's energy and openness - his Twitter binging is hardly unique to just Sandy response - have helped raise his profile nationally. If there's one thing holding him back, it's a need for more experience in a higher-level office: a run for Senator in 2014 can't be ruled out.

And this leads to the most interesting aspect of all of this. Yes, there's a chance the 2016 presidential could be the Battle of Jersey. But there's also just a good a chance that Christie and Booker could be squaring off much sooner: New Jersey's gubernatorial election is a year away and this seems to be on Booker's mind just as much as any presidential run.

Regardless of what position they're in three years from now, when the next round of presidential politicking will be going in earnest, their unique responses to Sandy have placed Christie and Booker in a bigger spotlight in the national consciousness and has provided a springboard for both a bigger future.

Verbal gaffes are something that hurt both sides of political contests. See: President Obama's "You didn't build that" comment or any number of things Vice President Joe Biden has said over the years. But lately it's been conservatives that have really stuck their foots in their mouths. And I'm not even including the latest buffoonery from Donald Trump. This week alone has shown three high profile examples:

  • Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock whose comment invoking religion in pregnancies from rape has netted him enough bad press that Todd Akin is probably sending him a thank you card.
  • Ann Coulter, the Nickleback of punditry (because millions read her but no one will admit to it), delivered another misstep when, after this week's debate, she called President Obama a "retard."
  • And, last but not least, former Alaska governor, VP candidate, and reality TV star Sarah Palin garnered scorn for using the racially insensitive phrase "shuck and jive" when referring to President Obama.

(No word on how Palin, whose son Trig has Down syndrome and has rallied against the use of the word "retard," feels about Coulter's comment.)

It was all a little much for our own Mary Mitchell, who weighed in with her most recent column and in the video above. Says Mitchell today:

African-Americans have heard so many white pundits use racially insensitive language to criticize the nation's first African-American President, and they have sucked it up.

After all, what first black anything didn't have to endure racist taunts.

But Palin used language that is not only linked to slavery and Jim Crow, but is associated with the kind of "clowning" educated black people frown upon.

Palin doesn't know anything about that.

Be sure to read all of Mitchell's column on the issue here.

On Tuesday night in a debate among contenders for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, a Republican candidate made a controversial comment on rape. Richard Mourdock said that he does not support abortion rights for women in the case of rape because those babies are something "God intended to happen."

The Democrats wasted no time responding, releasing the ad shown here which features Mitt Romney endorsing Mourdock - a spot that just hit the airwaves Monday.

The Romney campaign quickly worked to distance itself from the Mourdock statement.

"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in the statement.

It's hard to believe but someone just topped Todd Akin in the "ridiculous rape and abortion remarks" department. During a debate tonight, Richard Mourdock, Indiana's GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, dropped the latest in a line of controversial sound bites by Republican candidates during this election cycle about abortion. During the debate, after saying the only exception for abortion he'd allow is if the mother's life is in danger, Mourdock then explained why he doesn't support abortions in the case of rape: "I've struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from god. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin raised hackles earlier this year when he claimed women who were victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant. Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, locked in a tense battle with Tammy Duckworth for his Congressional seat, claimed abortions were never necessary to save a mother's life.

In Indiana, the latest polls show U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) as holding a slim lead over Mourdock who is currently Indiana's state treasurer. Mourdock's website proudly displays an endorsement from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Update: After the debate, Mourdock backed off his comment, saying, "Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No, I don't think that anyone could suggest that. That's a sick, twisted - no, that's not even close to what I said."

Our sister publication in Merrillville, Ind., the Post-Tribune, has details on the debate.