Quoting Simon on Jeb Bush and Meg Whitman

What will the Republicans have to do in order to win in 2012? Simon has pointed out a few times that with the right presidential ticket, the Republicans could be unexpectedly competitive in the Latino Belt. Demographics are on the Democrats' side, but two leaders who shouldn't be underestimated are Jeb Bush...


...And, if she prevails in her race in California, Meg Whitman.


Bush is part of a Republican dynasty that has long been known for its skill at courting Latino voters; Bush himself is married to a Mexican woman and speaks fluent Spanish. Whitman has come out against Arizona's SB1070 law. The media is picking up on both these points and recently, Simon has been getting mentioned as one thinker who is urging Democrats to take these candidates seriously. Yesterday, Sam Stein's lead piece in the Huffington Post looked at how the Bush brand shouldn't be counted out just yet:

Simon Rosenberg is the most bullish of Democratic strategists. The former Clinton administration official and head of the young non-profit group NDN has been the chief proponent of the belief that Barack Obama's election produced the opportunity for a "30-to-40-year era of Democratic dominance." A specialist in the political habits of different demographic groups (specifically Hispanics), he insists that, absent a drastic makeover, the GOP risks cementing itself "as irrelevant to the 21st century."

Sagging poll numbers and policy setbacks have done little to dissuade these rosy prognostications. There's only one thing that makes Rosenberg nervous: another Bush.

"Jeb [Bush] is married to a Latina, is fluent in Spanish, speaks on Univision as a commentator, his Spanish is that good," Rosenberg said of the former Florida governor and brother to the 43rd president during a lunch at NDN headquarters last week. "And if you look at the electoral map in 2012, you have to assume that Obama is going to have a very hard time in holding North Carolina and Virginia. The industrial Midwest, where the auto decline has been huge, has weakened Obama's numbers... a great deal. So Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin become a bit more wobbly. So if you're Barack Obama, the firewall is the Latin belt from Florida to southwestern California. And there is only one Republican who can break through that firewall. And it is Jeb."

Such a sentiment, Rosenberg admits, carries a slight hint of hysteria. After all, there is a good chunk of the country that recoils at the idea of another pol with the Bush surname. But that chunk has begun narrowing. And even within Democratic circles, there is an emerging belief that in a Republican Party filled with base-pleasing dramatizers or bland conservatives, Jeb stands out.

And Simon's insights were also mentioned today on Fox News:

Anticipating the Coming Debate Over Foreign and Security Policy

When Washington returns in 2010 we will have a new issue to challenge the effective management of an already incredibly crowded agenda - a review of our intelligence, homeland security and counter-terrorism strategies and performance in the aftermath of the Nigerian-who-got-through. 

The coming debate could radically impact Washington's agenda in 2010. Given that these issues touch on a wide range of Congressional committees and areas of the Administration, and that there is a wide-held belief in DC that the reforms made during the Bush era were not completely effective or well done, it is going to be hard to control and contain the debate once it begins.   That there are so many different Congressional committees involved in this debate is itself a sign of the lack of coherence of the new counter-terrorism regime ushered in during the Bush era, from the DNI to DHS itself. 

The truth is that it may be time for the country to have a more systematic, thoughtful discussion about how to best deal with the global threat of terrorism, the nature of terrorism itself and how the two wars we are already fighting fit into our overall global national security strategy.  Over the last few days you could feel the American people saying - Nigeria? Yemen? Is there no end to this? How does all this relate to what is happening in Iran, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan? It has been almost a decade now, with trillions spent, ten of thousands of American causalties, vast new bureaucracies built, a new significant escalation in Afghanistan, extraordinary opportunity costs - and what have we accomplished? Are we safer? What can we do better?  These are reasonable questions for the American people to ask.

If this debate lasts for months - which it could - it may very well knock other important priorities off the legislative calendar this year, a calendar that was already in danger of being incredibly overloaded.  Could we end up spending the coming year finishing health care, and having long and significant debates our economic and security policies, pushing a whole array of other important - but less important issues - off the agenda?

Does all this seem like an overreaction to a lone man who got through Fortress America? Perhaps, but that the vast new intelligence appartus built over the past decade didn't put some now clearly reasonable pieces together to stop a threat, and the attack demonstrated how the global jihadi network has spread beyond the places we are already significantly engaged abroad, has raised some critical issues which now seem inevitably headed towards a big, sustained and perhaps overdue conversation. 

Rather than fighting the consolidation of the 2010 agenda it may be in the interest of the governing party to embrace it, and not look defensive, as if they have other things they would rather be talking about.   Peace and prosperity drive most elections in the US, and 2010 may end up being no different.  The Republicans are already jumping on the Christmas Day attempt, and will no doubt spend the year ahead trying to reorient the national discussion to an area - national security - they feel will advantageous for them.  But given their actual record in the decade just past, and the extraordinary mess they left for others to clean up, the Republicans may rue the day the debate became about national security, for there is no way to have this debate without talking about the epic foreign policy and security failures of the Bush era, something they simply cannot disown.

So rather than wishing this new issue environment away, the President and the Democrats might decide rather to make it their own, and spend their political year making their case for how they hope to bring peace and prosperity to a country desperately seeking it.   They can take on the anarchronistic and disproven arguments of the conservatives head on, defining their vision and plans, and making very clear, where, on the two most important issues facing the nation, it is exactly they want to take us.  Not at all an unreasonable thing for the American people to ask of the governing party in a time of great transition and national challenge.

Happy New Year all. 

And a new year it will be.

Mon PM Update: On his Mother Jones blog David Corn chews over this essay a bit, and provides some thoughts of his own.

Setting Priorities

Up for possible consideration and Congressional debate next year: a jobs bill and the budget; climate change and energy legislation; education and transportation bills;  Wall Street and banking reform; important discussions about Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and our new detainee policy; immigration reform; The Doha trade round and other international agreements; things we haven't considered yet; the contentious and difficult end game on health care reform, and at some point ways the federal government can better align our income and expenditures.  And of course there is much more than just this list.

Due to a hotly contested election year Congress will likely have half or fewer of the legislative days they had in 2009.  So, after watching what happened this year, do we really believe the President and Congress can tackle all of these in 2010, and do them well, allot the amount of time each issue deserves?  If not, what goes then?

Increasingly, it appears that the effective management of the Congressional calendar will be one of the most important issues challenging Washington next year.  Can the two chambers and the White House do a better job at bringing their party together to avoid the any one of these issues becoming the health care of 2010, eating up the calendar for months on end, preventing attention and action on other vital matters?  Or do our leaders have to admit to us that despite all that needs to be done - given the enormity of the challenges facing us - that only a few things can be done and done well in 2010?

Am fascinated by this dynamic, and interested to see how the President, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi approach this early next year.   Replicating what happened on health care this year on even a single issue next year could be a disaster for the governing party.   Will the three leaders try a different approach?

Energizing Millennials: Key to 2010 Democratic Victory

The latest unemployment numbers and poll results have led most observers to predict a major setback for Democrats in the 2010 Congressional elections. But a year is a lifetime in politics and much can change between now and then to influence next year's vote.  As Ron Brownstein recently pointed out, the demographic makeup of the electorate is likely to be a key factor in whether or not the Democrats can maintain their current majority margins in 2010. While traditionally Democrats have focused on turning out African-American and Hispanic voters to offset Republican strength among white male voters that equation is no longer the only calculation Democratic strategists need to make. 

Today the level and intensity of interest among Millennials young voters 18-28, is equally important in ensuring Democratic victories. But for that group of voters to turn out in large numbers, Congressional Democrats will have to make a much more concerted effort than they have to date to deliver on a series of policy issues of major concern to Millennials, the generation that provided Barack Obama 80% of his popular vote margin over John McCain in 2008.

As with most other Americans, the number one concern among Millennials is the state of the economy and the need for jobs. But Millennials have a unique perspective on this issue, one that Congress must understand and address.  Millennials believe there is a clear link between education and employment and are increasingly concerned that the pathway through the educational system into the world of work is becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to navigate. Two-thirds of Millennials who graduate from a four-year college do so with over $20,000 in debt.   A job market with Depression-level youth unemployment (18.5%) and a wrenching transformation of the types of jobs America needs and produces makes the implicit bargain of education in return for future economic success harder for Millennials to believe in every day.

Recently Matt Segal, Executive Director of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) and Founder and National Co-Chair of the "80 Million Strong for Young Americans Job Coalition" presented some ideas to the House Education and Labor Committee on what Congress could do to address this challenge.  He advocated increased entrepreneurial resources be made available to youth; Senate action on the student debt reform bill recently passed by the House; more access to public service careers through   internships and loan forgiveness programs; and the creation of "mission critical" jobs in such fields as health care, cyber-security and the environment that would tap the unique talents of this generation. Coupled with the recent passage of the Kennedy Serve America Act, enacting these initiatives would demonstrate that Democrats are serious about improving the economic situation of Millennials and, at the same time, provide organizing ammunition in the 2010 campaign.

Of course no economic program can ignore the impact of health care on this generation's-and America's-economic well being. Many of the entry-level jobs young people seek and obtain come from employers who simply can't afford to provide health care coverage under today's system. Young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 represent nearly a third of all uninsured Americans, and two-thirds of those uninsured young people reported going without necessary medical care in 2007 because they could not afford to pay for it. 

As a result, polling has consistently indicated that a majority of young people support President Obama's health care proposal, especially if it contains a public option to control costs.  One of the more compelling components of the president's plan for Millennials is that it would allow parents to cover their children through the family's health insurance up to the age of 26 instead of the current limit of 19.  And Millennials expect Congress to act. Only a third of Millennials, as compared with half of older generations, are concerned that the government will become too involved in health care.

Yet many pundits continue to perceive health care reform as an "old people's issue," likely to increase the turnout of seniors, but not Millennials, in the 2010 elections. Some have even suggested that Millennials will object to a health care system that limits the differential in premiums insurance companies can charge relatively healthy young people vs. older, less well adults. But this theoretical inter-generational transfer of wealth is not likely to stir up much opposition among Millennials.   Unlike the Baby Boomers of four decades ago, Millennials do not speak to their elders across a generation gap, but have actually formed strong and enduring bonds with their parents and come to the public arena determined to find solutions that work for people of all ages.  Already, Young Americans for Health Care Reform has accumulated 1200 fans on Facebook since the group was formed less than a month ago.   If Congressional Democrats can successfully negotiate passage of a health care reform bill that provides cost-effective coverage for the 30% of Millennials who currently are not insured, Democrats will have another major arrow in their quiver going into the 2010 election.

Millennials, like their GI Generation great grandparents in the 1930s, are facing economic challenges that caught them by surprise and for which no one prepared them.  But Millennials aren't looking for a handout or sympathy. Instead, in the "can do" spirit of their generation, they are organizing to overcome the challenges created for them by their elders.  It's time for Democrats in Congress to recognize these concerns and the loyalty of a generation that identifies as Democrats over Republicans by a 2:1 margin.   One way to accomplish this is by passing meaningful health care reform while helping to create new pathways to economic opportunity, especially for young people who are just entering the work force. Doing so now, as the battle for 2010 shapes up, will help energize the newest and most loyal element of the Democratic Party's 21st Century coalition, the Millennial Generation.  

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