We begin by saying we certainly hope we can live up to such an exuberant headline. You will have to judge for yourself whether all those exclamation points were justified or not.
The real reason for such titular excitement is the convergence of two contests here at Friday Talking Points headquarters. See? I had to restrain myself from typing yet another exclamation point, there.
One contest is over, and we are able to (finally!) crown a winner. And one contest is just beginning, so haul out your crystal ball and peer into the future with us, in the comments.
Last December, we ran a column entitled "Call The Newtsplosion Contest." In it, we used explosive terminology (such as "Newtroglycerine" -- although we have to admit that "Newtonium" and "Newtron Bomb" didn't occur to us until later...) to describe what was likely going to end Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.
Now, you'll have to harken back to an earlier time -- a time when Newt was seen (by himself, at the very least) as "the inevitable Republican nominee." That was the setting for this contest, which was announced on December 12. In it, we invited folks to guess when Newt would say something so outrageous that he, in essence, disqualified himself from the race and went down in flames.
We have to report, sadly, that Newt Gingrich exits the race this week with more of a whimper (desperately seeking Delaware?) than any sort of bang. My own entry in the contest was "right after Super Tuesday" which would have been around March 7, just to show how far off I was. There were even farther-out guesses, such as "December 27, during the Trump debate" and "Newt will win the White House in a landslide," to show how wide the field of prognostication was.
But our winning entry was, quite simply, stunningly accurate this time around. Over at the Huffington Post comments section, we got an entry for "April 17, 2012." This guess was only eight days off -- which we feel is pretty impressive, considering how long ago the contest ran.
What is even more impressive is that this is the first time ever -- since I've begun running these amusing contests, I believe -- that we have a certified two-time winner! If that doesn't deserve an exclamation point, I don't know what does....
TakeSake of the Huffington Post comments section is our winner in the "Call The Newtsplosion Contest." Earlier, way back in FTP, we awarded TakeSake the 500 Quatloos he earned by guessing -- within a single day -- when Rahm Emanuel would exit the White House. That contest began even further back, in FTP ("When Will Rahm Go?"), and although TakeSake did hedge his bet a bit, he also won stylistic points for his pithy comment on the entire "Quatloos as a betting medium" thing:
Kirk was dealing with an alien world of perverse, socialpathic [sic] gamblers. Obama is dealing with something much more sinister: Washington politics.
In any case, our hat is off to our two-time winner, and a whopping 10,000 Quatloos is hereby awarded to TakeSake for so accurately predicting the exits from the stage of both Rahm Emanuel and Newt Gingrich. Well done! Well done, indeed!
When one contest ends, another must begin. Well, not always, but today at any rate.
Since all the excitement is over in the Republican primaries (boredom, thy name is Romney... ahem), we reluctantly turn to opening the field for entries as to who will be Mitt's running mate. We say "reluctantly" because we really despise the saccharine cuteness of the term "Veepstakes," but since that's what we'll be holding, we are forced to use it. Sigh.
The question "Who will Mitt pick?" is already on the lips of cocktail-sippers inside the Beltway, and this question will be batted around many a Sunday morning punditfest until the Republican National Convention (or until we're all sick of it, which will come much sooner than that). The field of possibilities is either open to everyone sporting a Republican bumpersticker on their car, or will hinge solely on the question of whether Mitt will have to get down on one knee or two to beg Marco Rubio to accept -- depending on who is giving odds, at this point.
We're going to open the contest with our own wacky guess, which we limited to selecting from "people whose names we haven't heard mentioned yet" -- which turned out to be limiting indeed. So we're picking a sort of worst-case scenario that seems to (so far) have occurred to nobody else out there: Scott Walker. Yep, the guy in Wisconsin. If Walker beats his recall vote, than he will become a rallying figure for Republicans in 2012, with his conservative credentials flawlessly displayed. He's a Midwesterner who could turn a few states (so the Romney thinking will go), but he's not so charismatic that he'll continually upstage Mitt on the campaign trail.
We certainly hope this doesn't come to pass, we should mention. Again, we had only those whom nobody else had considered to choose from (so as to not pre-empt choices others may make in the comments), as a self-imposed rule, and this was the best we could come up with given such strict limitations.
Think we're wrong? Got your own ideas? Well, toss them out there in the comments! Prove your own prowess of prediction!
[Because there will likely be a tie, a valid entry must name the exact date and time (East Coast time) when the veep choice will be announced by Mitt's campaign. To aid you in this task, the Republican National Convention begins on August 27. Winner will be the person who selects the correct running mate, and who also gets closest to the actual date and time of the announcement.]
Moving on to our weekly awards, we have to at least give a nod towards Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who just got the Violence Against Women Act renewal through his chamber with a very impressive 68-31 vote. That's a lot of Republicans for a Democratic bill, it bears mentioning. Republican senators (well, some of them, at any rate) have apparently woken up to the damage the War on Women is doing to their party among the electorate. In any case, for such a strong bipartisan victory, Reid deserves at least an Honorable Mention this week.
But the really impressive Democrat this week was none other than Barack Obama. While the mainstream media's "journalists" were competing with each other over how many times they could say the word "prostitute" on the airwaves, Obama was out in the countryside changing the Washington debate.
While we do realize that many would have awarded Obama the coveted MIDOTW award merely for his most-excellent "slow-jamming the news" segment on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show, we like to think we have higher standards here. I mean, the video is indeed priceless, but not impressive enough for the award.
Instead, Obama is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week because he got the Republicans to concede a major issue -- keeping student loan rates low. Before this week, Republicans were against the very concept. This week, after Obama's strong showing on a few swing-state college campuses, Republicans have reconsidered and are now setting the battle up over "how to pay for it" -- exactly what they did when they caved on the payroll tax holiday. In other words -- Obama is going to get a legislative victory, and it is going to happen before the June deadline. Bank on it.
That's a pretty impressive week, for an incumbent president. For utterly changing the debate from "should we do this?" to "how will we pay for this?" our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, due to sheer leadership qualities (and not slow-jam qualities), is none other than President Obama.
[Congratulate President Barack Obama on the White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
Joe Biden has been... um, saying some interesting things this week. Sigh.
We were -- right up until today -- convinced that the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week was going to go to Joe Lieberman, for several reasons: (1.) Just because. (2.) We're tired of seeing him pop up on our television screens for no reason (3.) We won't have ol' Joe to kick around much longer.
Seriously, the best thing about the 2012 election -- better even than Obama winning a 50-state landslide, should such a thing happen -- will be the fact that Joe Lieberman will not be back in the Senate next year. Following this logic, there are only a limited number of weeks we can possibly hand out more MDDOTW awards to him, and we want to make sure he gets all he's worth.
But then we checked the news this morning, and learned that the House has already voted on their version of the student loan rate extension, which conveniently also doubles as part of the Republican War on Women, because they're going to pay for the whole thing by raiding a fund set up to provide preventative care -- like breast exams, for instance.
The really disappointing news, however, was that John Boehner could not have passed this without Democratic votes. The Tea Partiers were apparently off in their perpetual snit, and the bill only passed by the grace of 13 Democratic votes -- by a total of 215 to 195. Without these votes, it would have failed.
Now, normally, when a bill passes and a few Democrats cross party lines, it winds up making no difference to the outcome. They are not the key votes, in other words. This time, they were.
Because the vote is so recent, at this time we are unable to provide a list of those 13 Democrats who voted for H.R. 4628 today. We must therefore award, in absentia, the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to every House Democrat who voted for the bill.
[In a day or so, you should be able to search the Library of Congress' site for "HR4628" and see which Democrats voted for this bill. We apologize for the lack of contact information at this time.]
Volume 208 (4/27/12)
Welcome once again to our ceaseless efforts at convincing Democrats to get better at staying on message. Obama did a pretty masterful job this week on the student loan issue, so Democrats don't have much heavy lifting to do on that front.
But every little bit helps. We provide these talking points, as always, for everyone to use freely -- from prominent Democrats interviewed on Sunday morning political shows, down to rank-and-file Democrats standing around the water cooler on Monday morning.
Enjoy.... and don't forget to cast your veepstakes vote in the comments!
Voting for violence against women
Republicans are already on the run on the student loan issue. Democrats should turn this into a full rout with their advantage on the Violence Against Women Act.
"I see that the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act passed the Senate this week, but I was shocked that something like thirty Republicans voted against it. This wasn't a close vote -- the measure passed with 68 votes -- but still, it was eye-opening. Up until this year, this law was renewed with overwhelming support, but this year over half the Republicans in the Senate voted against it. Republicans say that there simply isn't any kind of 'War on Women' being waged by their party, but I think women voters are smart enough to judge them on what they do as well as what they say. Two-thirds of the Republicans in the Senate just essentially voted in favor of violence against women. That is shameful, to be bluntly honest. I have a message for Republicans in the House: women are watching you, on this bill."
War on Women
This is really starting to get under Republicans' skins, which is excellent. They are on defense, and because they are they feed right into the Democratic "framing" on the issue every time they bring it up. So use the phrase whenever you get the chance, because they're obviously getting scared of it.
"Republicans in the House just passed their version of keeping student loan rates down, but they just couldn't resist opening another battlefield in their ongoing War on Women to do so. In order to pay for the student loan program, Republicans raided money set aside for preventative health care like breast exams and checkups for women across America. Even more insultingly, they call this a "slush fund." That's exactly how high women rate with the Republican Party: slush. Women are merely dirty snow to be scraped off Republicans' bootheels. No wonder women voters are fleeing the Republican Party and waking up to the fact that Democrats are the ones fighting for women's health, and not against it."
Obama convinced Republicans
Give Obama a victory pat on the back, while the dust is still settling.
"President Obama showed real leadership this week on the student loan issue. Before Obama brought it up, Republicans were actually against keeping student loan rates affordable for millions of Americans. One even called it the 'stage three cancer of socialism,' whatever that means. By refusing to give up this fight, Barack Obama actually convinced the Republicans that his way of thinking was the right way, and they dropped their opposition to the idea like a hot potato. One wonders how many public opinion polls the Republicans had to conduct before the president brought them over to his position."
Etch A Sketching
OK, this one is a blatant plug for a frivolous column I wrote yesterday. But still...
"I see Mitt Romney quickly Etch A Sketched on his position on keeping student loans affordable for middle-class American students. I look forward to watching Mitt Etch A Sketching on many other issues, in the next few weeks. I just wonder if the Republican base will let him get away with it -- especially if he comes out for any version of what conservatives sneeringly call 'amnesty,' after earlier being against such a concept. As I said, the Etch A Sketching has barely begun, folks."
What was that about Europe, Mitt?
Salon pointed this one out, to give credit where it is due.
"I notice Mitt Romney's not saying much about Europe, after the news that the severe austerity measures Britain took -- all that budget-cutting that Republicans love -- has driven their country into a double-dip recession. Mitt used to love using Europe as an example in his speeches, but after -- yet again -- it has been proven that too much austerity in a weak economy is a bad thing, Mitt's been strangely silent on the issue. Still in favor of austerity, Mitt? The U.S. isn't going to become Greece if Mitt wins the election, instead we'll get Britain's double-dip recession."
Bishops and politics
Let's just see how that political fracas with the Catholic Church is going, shall we?
"I see that Paul Ryan now sees the Catholic bishops in a new light, now that they've strongly come out against his budget plans. The bishops quite accurately noted that Ryan is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and helpless, while continuing to shower tax cuts on the wealthy -- which I don't remember Jesus being in favor of, actually. I find it interesting that when the Catholic bishops say something the Republicans like, Republicans talk about how the church should be heeded, but when the bishops point out inconvenient truths, then it seems to be up to each individual Catholic to make up his or her own mind. Funny how that works, isn't it?"
Let's just have a sing-off
Barack Obama -- while not technically singing -- caused apparent apoplexy in the Republican Party this week, on Jimmy Fallon's show. Going on the theory that whatever makes Republican heads explode the most must be a good thing, why not double-down? Heh.
"The White House has announced today that instead of three debates with Mitt Romney this fall, they will instead only participate in two formal debates. For the third event, President Obama will be challenging Mitt Romney to a singing contest, to be moderated by Simon Cowell. We'll let Americans vote with their phones and texts, and any money raised will be used to provide singing lessons for the loser. We feel this will provide American with a much more entertaining evening than another dry old political debate, and we invite all of America to participate in the voting afterwards."
-- Chris Weigant