Analysts: Rapidly Changing Senate Landscape Favors GOP in 2012

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The 112th Congress isn't even three weeks old yet, but already the focus is turning to the 2012 elections as a slew of key senators announce their plans.

A source told ABC News Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with the Democrats, will announce Wednesday afternoon that he will retire.  On Tuesday, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said he will retire, the first Senate Democrat to decide not to run for re-election, but surely not the last.  Meanwhile, on the Republican side Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said last week that she will leave, but Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana has said he will seek re-election.

It all makes for a rapidly changing 2012 landscape with control of the Senate up for grabs.

In the aftermath of Conrad's announcement, Republicans sounded even more confident that they can wrestle the Senate from Democratic hands 22 months from now.  Just last fall, Republican John Hoeven easily won North Dakota's other Senate seat which had been held by Democrat Byron Dorgan, who also chose to retire.

"With yet a second member of the Senate Democrat caucus preparing for retirement within a 24 hour period, all of us are left to wonder how many more Democrats may follow in their footsteps," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.

In all, a whopping 23 Senate seats currently held by Democrats will be decided by voters in two years.  By contrast, only 10 Republican seats are in play.  After the midterm "shellacking" that saw the GOP win control of the House of Representatives, Senate Democrats appear to have cause for concern.

The Democrats' majority in the upper chamber of Congress has already shrunk from 59 seats to 53, including two independents: Lieberman and Vermont's Bernie Sanders.  That means the GOP only needs to win four seats to wrest control of the Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


China a Friend or Foe? Question Better Answered in Future, Clinton Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A new ABC News/Washington Post poll out Wednesday morning shows that 69 percent of Americans consider China an economic threat, and they’re divided on the question of whether China is a friend or foe.

When asked whether China is on the United States' side, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News, “We think that we'll be able better to answer such a question as we move forward.”

"My hope is that we have a normal relationship, a very positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship where in some areas we are going to compete, there's no doubt about that,” she added.  “But in many areas we're going to cooperate.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer accused China of seeking an unfair economic advantage by manipulating their currency and has proposed legislation that would sanction the country unless they stop.

Clinton agreed that the friendly yet competitive relationship should not include China having “their thumb or their fist on the scale.”

“That's why we continue to raise issues of currency…of the failure to protect intellectual property...I think it's important to realize that we're going to stand up for our values and our interest and our security; they're going to stand up for theirs as they see it,” she said.

Clinton called it an “ongoing discussion” and, despite the high profile state visit, said the U.S. will not “be able to change [China’s] behavior overnight.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Speaker Boehner Skips State Dinner for Chinese President

Photo Courtesy - The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- China's President Hu Jintao didn't even have time to take off his coat upon arriving in the U.S. Tuesday before there was controversy brewing.

The meetings scheduled this week between President Obama and his Chinese counterpart are considered crucial by administration officials, given that Beijing seems to have had the upper hand in relations between the two countries since Obama took office.

While Obama and Hu are expected to broker business deals to assist each other's economies, it's unlikely Hu will abide by U.S. demands that China raise its artificially low currency, which has kept Chinese goods cheap at the expense of American exports.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner threw the first curveball of Hu's four-day visit by skipping Tuesday night's state dinner in Hu's honor.

A spokesman for Boehner said the House speaker would make up for his no-show by holding "a substantive meeting with President Hu later this week."

Still, the snub was bound to irk the White House, which has been criticized by Republicans for hosting a dinner while China continues to act slowly on allowing basic human rights.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Criticisms of Health Law Resonate, but Repeal Is Another Matter

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the eve of a repeal vote in the House, more Americans continue to oppose than support the health care reform law, with broad suspicions it'll hurt the economy, boost the deficit and -- by a narrower margin -- cut jobs. But repealing it is another matter.

Forty-six percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll think the law is likely to cut jobs, eight points more than those who think it'll create them. More, 54 percent, think it's more apt to hurt than help the economy. And 62 percent see it as increasing rather than decreasing the federal deficit.

For all that, fewer than four in 10 -- 37 percent -- favor repealing all or parts of the law; the rest either support it, or want to wait and see. And just 18 percent favor repealing it entirely, as the Republican leadership in Congress seeks to do.

The results underscore the public's love-hate relationship with the law, which contains popular elements (e.g., extending coverage) with unpopular ones (e.g., paying for it). It appeals to worries about future coverage and costs -- but also raises concerns about its effects, wrapped in skepticism about government involvement in the health care system.

On balance this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that 50 percent of Americans oppose the health care reform law overall, while 45 percent support it -- similar to the record 52-43 percent negative verdict last month. That was its only foray into outright majority opposition; it's never received outright majority support.

Opposition comes mostly, but not entirely, from people who say the law does too much. Critics include 35 percent of Americans who say the law goes too far in changing the health care system -- but also 13 percent who say it doesn't go far enough. Among the law's supporters, moreover, more than half say it "should have done more," although they'll take it anyway.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Lieberman, Conrad Retiring. Who's Next?

Photo Courtesy - Lieberman dot Senate dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- Senator Joe Lieberman called Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday to tell him he is not running for re-election in 2012. That's actually good news for Democrats. Although the independent Lieberman is a member of the Democratic caucus, his decision to retire makes it easier for Democrats to hang on to his Connecticut Senate seat.

If Lieberman had run, he would have almost certainly run as an independent. That would have meant a three-way race, giving Republicans their best -- and perhaps only -- shot at winning the seat in a state President Obama won in a 22-point landslide in 2008. Now Connecticut Democrats will have a chance to unite behind a single candidate.

The day's other retirement, however, is terrible news for Democrats. Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would have faced a tough re-election campaign, but he would have been, by far, the best chance for Democrats to hang on to the seat. North Dakota is a solidly Republican state that went for John McCain in 2008 and last year elected Republican John Hoeven to the Senate with 76 percent of the vote.

A Lieberman aide says that the Senator will formally announce his decision on Wednesday by quoting the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rep. McCarthy Intros Bill to Ban High-Capacity Ammo Clips

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the aftermath of the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords earlier this month, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have proposed a cluster of gun control measures ranging from a ban to knowingly carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of certain high-profile government officials to a proposal to allow members of Congress to carry firearms in the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., formally introduced her own bill on the House floor Tuesday that would ban high-capacity ammunition clips like the one Jared Loughner used to gun down 19 individuals in the Tucson shooting Jan. 8.

McCarthy, who is regarded as one of the toughest gun-control proponents on Capitol Hill, has dedicated her congressional service to reducing gun violence after a tragic incident in 1993 in which gunman Colin Ferguson unleashed a hail of bullets aboard a packed Long Island Railroad commuter train and used 15-round magazines to kill six people, including McCarthy’s husband, and injure 19 more, including her son.

“I know what it’s like to have tragedy brought to your life in a split second by a madman with high-capacity ammunition magazines,” McCarthy said. “I’m working to stop it from happening again.  We need comprehensive reform to reduce the number of people hurt or killed by gunfire in America, but one simple way we can do that is by keeping the worst tools of mass murder away from the general public.  This nation has come together before to support this simple, commonsense measure, and it is the law in several states right now.  It is a small sacrifice that law-abiding gun owners can make once again in order to increase everyone’s safety.”

Like Loughner’s rampage in Tucson earlier this month, the gunman that killed McCarthy’s husband was not stopped until bystanders tackled him as he stopped shooting in order to reload -- strengthening the case for smaller magazines with fewer bullets, according to McCarthy.

McCarthy says her bill would set a 10-round-maximum standard that’s already in place in four other states, and was a nationwide standard for a decade before the previous federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

Loughner’s Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun was outfitted with an extended clip that carried 31 rounds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Dems Highlight Hazards of Health Care Repeal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day before House Republicans try to repeal the new health care law, Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday tried to highlight how the move could negatively affect Americans.

“Why we are doing this -- other than playing to the vanity of the extremely conservative right wing of the Republican party -- is beyond me,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., at a House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

A panel of witnesses described how health care repeal could hurt them in the future. Stacie Ritter of Lancaster, Pa., the mother of twin daughters who have been diagnosed with leukemia, described how she and her husband ended up bankrupt even though they have full insurance coverage. Ritter urged lawmakers to fight against repeal, emphasizing how much the new law meant to her and others.

“You have no idea how much it meant to a lot of people,” she told the panel. “I know you only got to hear the bad because that’s all that the news will play, but believe me it was greatly, greatly appreciated.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Department of Health & Human Services released a new administration analysis that estimated the law will, when it fully kicks in three years from now, prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to as many as 129 million Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition.

It is all part of an effort by Democrats to win public support for the reforms.

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, President Obama and Republicans are tied for the first time in trust to handle health care, with trust in Obama dropping nine points since last month to a new low, and trust in the GOP gaining four points.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Activist Vows Graphic Anti-Abortion Ads During Super Bowl 

File Photo. Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Veteran anti-abortion activist Randall Terry says he's mounting a Democratic primary challenge to President Obama in 2012, in part to be able to run graphic TV ads showing aborted fetuses during next year's Super Bowl.

Terry, who founded Operation Rescue, unveiled a campaign website this week, including three prototype 30-second videos he wants to air during the 2012 NFL championship game and throughout the Democratic primary next year. The videos, narrated by Terry, show bloody and dismembered fetuses following abortions.

He plans to formally announce his candidacy Thursday in front of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

"I want to pummel Obama. I despise this presidency. He is the arch child killer of the Western Hemisphere, so I'm going to go head to head with him," Terry said in a phone interview.

"My ultimate goal is to make child-killing illegal again. And for child-killing to be made illegal, there has to be a crisis of conscience; we have to show the victims like we show the Holocaust victims and say never again."

While TV networks occasionally reject ads based on controversial or graphic content, the Federal Communications Act requires broadcasters to provide legally qualified political candidates fair access to ad time and forbids them from censoring ads "in any way, or for any reason." Terry said he's confident he can raise the $2.5 million for a Super Bowl spot and that CBS would broadcast it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The 'O' Ad Campaign: Selling an Anonymous Novel about the President

(WASHINGTON) -- Photo Courtesy - Simon & Schuster With the 2012 elections quickly approaching and President Barack Obama up for re-election, many are guessing at Obama's plan of action.

A new novel, O, attempts to give an answer, albeit fictionalized and from an anonymous source.

O claims to give a glance into the mind of the president. The book's publisher, Simon & Schuster, has made a promotional website for the novel on which they raise the question, "What's really going on between those ears?" Also available on the website is an Obama impersonator with a so-called "personal" address.

The anonymity of its author leaves the credibility of the novel up for much debate.

“The author is someone who has been in the room with Barack Obama and knows his world intimately," according to Jonathan Karp, Simon and Schuster’s executive vice president, on the promotional website.

He compares the choice to remain anonymous to authors such as Jane Austen or Lemony Snicket, who wish to avoid being ridiculed on the "basis for associations, views, or background."

"We want you to approach O without attaching a partisan bias to it. We hope you will finish this book with a wide range of opinions about the characters and ideas in it,” he says

The book's website also adds that the author wants to help people understand what is really inside our leaders' minds. We may never know who wrote the novel, but, as the website claims, "it proves in dramatic terms that, sometimes, only fiction can reveal the truth."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bill Clinton Campaigns for Rahm Emanuel

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Former President Bill Clinton is in Chicago to campaign for his former White House aide, Rahm Emanuel, who is now running for mayor of Chicago. 

This is not the first time he's helped Emanuel with a campaign. Clinton stumped for Emanuel when he ran for Congress.  But already, Emanuel's opponents are trying to put the most negative spin they can on this event featuring the former president. 

The last time that Bill Clinton appeared for a candidate in Chicago was last fall, when he appeared for the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Alexi Giannoulias. Giannoulias lost, but no one at Emanuel's rally Tuesday morning would blame Clinton for that.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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