House Democrats missed opportunities to improve the House-passed health care bill when they rejected Republican ideas to limit lawsuits and give states more flexibility to enact innovative changes, a GOP lawmaker said Saturday.
Delivering the Republicans' weekly radio and Internet address, Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois said health care costs could be lowered by "reining in lawsuits" and allowing consumers to buy coverage from across state lines. Kirk promoted several provisions in the House GOP health care bill, which was rejected a week ago when the House passed the Democratic plan.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Nervous Democrats are on defense and emboldened Republicans sense opportunity heading into 2010 and the midterm elections. It was just three years ago that the GOP lost the House and Senate as well as governors' races in a cross-country Democratic wave.
Now, with most states under their control and comfortable majorities in Congress, Democrats must protect far more seats than Republicans: 19 governors' mansions, 17 Senate seats and as many as 60 House districts in moderate-to-conservative regions and swing-voting areas.
At this point, Democrats must do it in a more difficult political environment than in 2006 and 2008.
A Republican who promised to create jobs won the Virginia governor's office just a year after state voters helped a Democrat who promised change — and jobs — win the White House.
Bob McDonnell, a former state attorney general, won with nearly 59 percent of the vote Tuesday, claiming a mandate for his conservative agenda with help from independent voters.
They preferred him by nearly a 2-1 ratio over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, exit polls showed, a shift from 2008, when independents in the state split between the parties.
An ebullient Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele asserted Wednesday that GOP victories in governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia demonstrate "a transcendent party" on the move again. Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine said that nothing about the election returns amounted to a repudiation of President Barack Obama.
"We're not crowing, we're just smiling," Steele said in a nationally broadcast interview. "I think it's a bellwether for the party ... You look at where we were nine months ago."
Steele said he believes Chris Christie's victory in New Jersey and Robert McDonnell's win in Virginia show that the GOP has "really found its voice again" after sustaining damaging losses last year.
Independents who swept Barack Obama to a historic 2008 victory broke big for Republicans on Tuesday as the GOP wrested political control from Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey, a troubling sign for the president and his party heading into an important midterm election year.
Conservative Republican Bob McDonnell's victory in the Virginia governor's race over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and moderate Republican Chris Christie's ouster of unpopular New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine was a double-barreled triumph for a party looking to rebuild after being booted from power in national elections in 2006 and 2008.
For Republicans, an election win of any size Tuesday would be a blessing. But victories in Virginia, New Jersey or elsewhere won't erase enormous obstacles the party faces heading into a 2010 midterm election year when control of Congress and statehouses from coast to coast will be up for grabs.
It's been a tough few years for the GOP. The party lost control of Congress in 2006 and then lost the White House in 2008 with three traditional Republican states — Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia — abandoning the party.
Fighting plunging support, Republican Dierdre Scozzafava has abruptly suspended her campaign in a special election for a U.S. House seat that has exposed a rift among national factions of the party.
Campaign spokesman Matt Burns said Scozzafava is essentially withdrawing from the race, although her name will remain on Tuesday's ballot. She thinks stepping aside is best for the party, he said.
"It is increasingly clear that pressure is mounting on many of my supporters to shift their support," Scozzafava said in a written statement Saturday. "Consequently, I hereby release those individuals who have endorsed and supported my campaign to transfer their support as they see fit."
House Republican leader John Boehner says the GOP wants moderates in the party and calls the special election for a New York congressional seat an unusual situation.
The Republican nominee in an upstate New York district dropped out of the race Saturday, just days ahead of the Tuesday election. Moderate GOP candidate Dierdre Scozzafava (skoh-zuh-FAH'-vuh) had been losing support to the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, a former Republican.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent more of his own money in pursuit of public office than any other individual in U.S. history, spending $85 million as of Friday on his latest reelection campaign, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Citing newly released campaign records, the Times said Bloomberg was on pace to spend between $110 and $140 million before the November 3 mayoral election. That means the self-made billionaire will have spent more than $250 million in his three bids for mayor of America's most fabled city.
In contrast, New Jersey Governor and former Goldman Sachs chairman Jon Corzine spent about $130 million in two races for governor and one for the U.S. Senate, the Times reported.
Just a year after this one-time Confederate state helped elect a black man president, Democrats are desperately trying to hang onto the governorship.
A lot has changed: Loyal Democrats are more subdued than last fall. Republicans are energized. Independents are proving to be ... independent. Voters of all kinds seem disenchanted.
Just like Americans nationwide.