Rep Steve Vaillancourt


Which Magnificent Catastrophe Was It Anyway?

Here's a confession.

Two or three times this week, I've used the great oxymoronic term "magnificent catastrophe", always in connection with Ovide LaMontagne's ill-fated gubernatorial campaign from 1996.

Here's the confession.  While I love that phrase, I didn't invent it.  In fact, it's from a book which I read several years ago.  "Magnificent Catastrophe" has been floating around in the back of my mind for years, and while I was fairly sure what it referred to, I thought I'd google it just to be certain.

Magnificent Catastrophe is a book about one of our country's most controversial elections, but rather than just give it to you, let's play another round of trivia.

As written by Edward J. Larson, Magnificent Catastrophe refers to which election?

A.  1800--Jefferson (Burr) v. John Adams

B.  1824--John Quincy Adams v. Andrew Jackson

C.  1876--Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden

D.  1912--Woodrow Wilson v. Howard Taft v. Theodore Roosevelt

E.  2000--George W. Bush v. Albert Gore


The book is in fact subtitled, "The Tumultuous Election of _____, America's First Presidential Campaign."

Fill in the blank with 1800 and you've got your non-Ovidian Magnificent Catastrophe.  Remember it was the election Jefferson had clearly won against Adams, but Aaron Burr (Jefferson’s vice presidential candidate) received the same number of electoral votes, thus throwing the election into the House of Representatives where some Federalists tried to make Burr rather than Jefferson President, a magnificent catastrophe as related by Larson.


Senate Strives Mightily To Repair O'Brien's Damage

It's almost as if Senate President Peter Bragdon can't find enough raw steaks to put over the black eyes House Speaker Bill O'Brien has given the Republican Party this legislative session.  As soon as the House passes bills which we become convinced will never stand up with gubernatorial vetoes, along comes the Senate and prevents the bills from even getting to the governor.

Yes, it's true; the Senate is blocking the O'Brien agenda, almost as if the Senate is ashamed of what the House has done, almost as if the Senate is trying to signal to the electorate, "Don't blame us for what the O'Brienites are forcing through the House."

Unfortunately for incumbent Republican senators, it may not be quite that simple.

Even as Republican senators strive mightily to distance themselves from O'Brien's silliness, one cannot be sure the voters won't turn Republican senators out just as quickly as they do Republican House members.

Thus, a new dynamic in play at the State House.

It's called--how far can we get away from Bill O'Brien.

With that in mind and soas not to waste either my or your time any more, I am putting my series "Veto Watch" on hold.  This week, I spent a good deal of time and effort pointing out how two abortion bills (HB 1659 requiring a 24 hour wait and HB1660 prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks) would most likely not receive the two-thirds in the House to become law.

Today, I pick up the paper and find that a Senate committee has effectively killed both bills.  By a 3-2 vote, HB 1659 was recommended inexpedient to legislate, and by a similar 3-2 vote HB 1660 was recommended for interim study (another way of killing a bill for the current year, sort of like death with dignity).

True, committee recommendations could be overturned on the Senate floor next week, but that's not likely to happen.  Unlike House Speaker Bill O'Brien who has lost all control of what happens on the House floor, Peter Bragdon appears to have firm control of his senators.

For that reason, this blog's Veto Watch feature will not appear again until bills get out of the Senate and on to the governor's desk.  Apparently, there won't be nearly as many of them as we all had thought because the Senate appears destined to kill (or study) any bill which would lack enough votes for a gubernatorial over-ride (16--in other words, if more than three Republicans join the five Democrats, a veto would be sustained).  Even more than that, indications are that President Bragdon's Republicans are running scared that O'Brien will not only cause Republicans to lose control (or at least working control of the House), but also of the Senate.

Democrats would have to capture seven seats to pull even at 12-12 in the Senate.  My current projection is a gain of six.

Democrats would have to capture 98 seats to pull even at 200-200 in the House.  My current projection is something in the range of 80-100 which will mean either firm control or working control (Democrats plus anti-O'Brien Republicans) in the House.

O'Brien continues to act like a school bully and to inflict black eyes on the Grand Old Party.  O'Brien seems intent on picking a fight when discretion would dictate otherwise.  Just this week, he reacted to criticism of ALEC (American Legislative Council) by deciding to join the group.  Whether or not ALEC deserves the scorn heaped upon it (I tend to think it does not), only a totally tone deaf politico would rush to join it at a time it's under attack.

A black jack analogy seems appropriate.  Strategy dictates you should always split aces or eights, but never split face cards.  If you have two face cards, you should always stand at 20.  Only the most fool-hardy black jack player would split the hand--thus throwing away a 20 for two questionable hands. 

O'Brien these days most resembles the black jack player splitting his face cards while Bragdon plays the role of dealer saying, "Are you sure you really want to do that?"

A reckless O'Brien will hurt Republicans not merely in the House but in the Senate, and he has at least eight more weeks to display unabated recklessness.  While Ray Buckley and Kathy Sullivan can hardly wait to see what O'Brien does next, Bragdon shudders to think about it.


The Answer Is Oregon

Yes, indeed the answer is Oregon.

But what was the question.

Beneath one of the comments on my Ovide's Magnificent Catastrophe postings, I made reference to Harold Stassen.  It was in response to someone who had written that the past is not necessarily an indication of future performance.

Try telling that to Harold Stassen, I wrote, regarding the Republican Governor of Minnesota whose earlier performances indeed were indicators that he was not going to become President of the United States.

Remember that Harold Stassen ran for President so many times that he became the butt of jokes.

In fact, probably his best chance at winning was in his first run in 1948 when he was making a race of it against Thomas Dewey, the New York State Governor who had lost to FDR in 1944.

Stassen was doing so well that Dewey was forced to accept a debate challenge from Stassen--this is from the great new book 1948 by David Pietrusza, highly recommended here.

As it turns out, Dewey whopped Stassen in the debate, not in our first in the nation state of New Hampshire but in a debate broadcast nationwide from--yes the answer is--


Ain't trivia fun?

Try this one.  What is the only ward in all the city wards which Repulblican gubernatorial candidate Ovide LaMontagne carried against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 1996?

No answer is coming here.  If you don't get it, go back and read my Ovide's Magnificent Catastrophy, Part I blog.

Oh all right, I give in.  It was Ward 12 Manchester.  You could still go back and read it, however.

Some day, I'll relate to you my long history of writing trivia questions.



Veto Watch--HB1660--20 Week Abortion Ban

            Mark House Bill 1660, titled “relative to abortions after 20 weeks”, as another bill which isn’t going to become law even if it passes the Senate and gets to the governor’s desk.
Analysis of the House vote on this bill reveals that a Lynch veto will probably be sustained.
Since 96 (out of 397) House members were absent at the time of the vote, including a whopping 15 of 35 Manchester members absent, we can’t be 100 percent sure of these numbers.
The final vote was 190-109 in favor of the bill.  That would be 63.5 percent, short of the 66.7 percent needed for an override.
However, even if attendance picks up, this bill appears doomed.  Remember that we’ve proved in the past that as long as Democrats stick together, only 23-30 Republicans will be needed to prevent a veto override.
With this anti-abortion bill, five Democrats actually voted with Republicans (Bill Butynski, Gladys Johnson, Peter Sullivan, Steve DeStefano, and—no surprise--
Roger Berube).
  However, even with 70 Republicans absent, the number to vote against the bill was 36, meaning it most likely will never get to two-thirds.
Oh, by the way, this is one bill that Speaker O’Brien felt so strongly about that he actually voted from the chair, most unusual although not totally out of bounds with this Speaker (and certainly not illegal).
The amazing thing about this vote was that while a full 24.2 percent of House members were absent, not less than 42.9 percent of the Manchester delegation was absent (I look at these things for my Manchester TV show).  The 15 absent can't make the excuse that they had to get home early--the vote came at 11:14 a.m. on March 29!  Manchester Republican were 10-4 for the bill with seven absent while Democrats were 5-1 against it.
Republicans overall were 185-36 (83.7 percent) for the bill while Democrats were 73-5 against it (93.6 percent).
Since 36 is not an unruly number, let’s go through all 36 Republicans here alphabetically by county.  (Hopefully, I won’t miss any).  Keep in mind that the usual suspects (some dare call them RINOs) are not enough to get us to 36, so you’ll find many other names here (including mine of course—I’m in the middle on abortion; I vote for a woman’s right to choose with reasonable exceptions such as parental notification; this bill’s restrictions went a bit too far for me; plus it is arguably unconstitutional).
Belknap—Millham, Swinford.
Carroll—Babson, Patten, former Speaker Chandler!
Cheshire—Hunt, Moore, Sterling.
Grafton—Ladd, Simard.
Hillsborough—Gail Barry, Belvin, Chris Christensen, Cusson-Cail, Drisko, Erickson, Fredette, Graham, Kurk, Messier, Lynn and Russ Ober, Robbins, Vaillancourt.
Merrimack—Cohn, Hess, Hill, Kidder, Kreis, Keane, Lockwood, Winter.
Rockingham—Ron Belanger, Copeland, Saparetto.
Strafford—Julie Brown.
Even if a dozen of these Republicans were to flip and the five Democrats remain with Republicans, you would most likely pick up enough Republicans from among those who were absent last time.
If HB1660 gets back to the House, look for another loss for the Speaker’s forces.  Hey, this isn’t redistricting where usually sane Republicans knuckle under.

The Week In Polls--April 19--Dartmouth Has Romney Up 1.5 In NH

            It’s not UNH or Suffolk as we expected it might be, but the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center out of Dartmouth College has weighed in with a poll which shows Mitt Romney 1.5 points ahead of Barack Obama in New Hampshire.
            We’ve been waiting for new data, and this is about what we’ve expected.
            Dartmouth does not poll often, so it’s tough to read too much into the numbers, but a year ago, Romney led Obama by eight points, so today’s margin of 43.9-42.4 (with 13.7 percent undecided) could be viewed as good news for the president. 
            Certainly this poll affirms what most pundits have believed all along, that New Hampshire (with our powerful and perhaps decisive four electoral votes) will be very much in play.
            Real Clear Politics headlines the Romney lead from Dartmouth as two points. It took a bit of googling, but I located the news release from the Rockefeller Center.  “The gap between Romney and Obama has narrowed as voters are becoming less pessimistic about the economy,” the center reports.  “Last year only 38.6 percent rated the economy as excellent or good while today, 53.9 percent hold favorable views of the country’s economic situation.”
            Last year Obama’s job performance was 10.4 percent negative (36.4-46.8); today it’s minus 8.9 percent (39.2-48.1)
            Perhaps counter intuitively, the Dartmouth poll shows Obama slightly ahead among voters with an income greater than $100,000.  There also does not appear to be a gender gap.  Dig this crazy wording, “Almost half the men surveyed said they would vote for Mitt Romney while nearly half of the women respondents indicated they would vote for Barack Obama.”
            There must be a better way to phrase that, like it’s nearly 50-50 with both men and women.  Now that I can’t be the press secretary for Governor Ted Gatsas, maybe I can get a job with the Rockefeller folks writing press releases (only kidding).
            According the Dartmouth numbers, Obama has a slight advantage among undeclared voters and those who self-identify as moderates.
            Bottom line here appears to be that it’s a toss-up in New Hampshire.
            That seems to be the case nationwide as well.
            Both Rasmussen and Gallup are releasing daily updates of the Obama-Romney race, and rater surprisingly; Romney has led in both for the past week, by as much as four or five points with each.  However, other polls are all over the map, and even averaging produces mixed results.  The Real Clear Politics average has Obama up 2.3 points (47.2-44.9) while the Pollster average (from the more liberal Huffington folks) has Obama up only 1.5 points (48.3-46.8).  CBS News/New York Times, no liberal outfit they, has a 46-46 tie at the same time the poll shows Obama’s favorability up six (48-42).  Go figure.
            Gallup had Romney up five points (48-43) yesterday, and it appears the edge comes from independent voters since Gallup reports that both Romney and Obama are winning among their own party members 90-6.  With Rasmussen, it’s down to plus one (46-45) today.
            RCP, which had Obama -0.9 points in popularity yesterday, has him up 0.3 (47.4-47.1) today, but Pollster still has him in negative territory, by 1.5 points (48.3-46.8)
            It’s close any way you look at it.  Gallup has Obama up one in popularity 47-46 while Rasmussen has him down one 49-50.  Quinnipiac has Obama down one in popularity 47-48, but still up four points over Romney (46-42).     
            Quinnipiac also has Democrats up one (39-40) in the generic Congressional ballot, but most other pollsters show Republicans widening their lead in that all-important indicator.  Rasmussen had it up to ten points (46-36) for Republicans Monday, the highest it’s been since just after the 2010 election.  The overall RCP average is now plus 2.8 points (43.8-41.0) for Republicans, and remember, you can usually add two or three points to that for the GOP come election day.
            News continues to be bad for Democrats out of pivotal Missouri.  Rasmussen has incumbent Senator Clair McCaskill losing to Steelman, her most likely challenger, by seven points (49-42), and Romney beats Obama by three (48-45) in the Show Me State.
            CBS finds Obamacare opposed by only eight percent (39-47) while Rasmussen has it down 19 points (37-56).  The fact that the truth lies somewhere in between (14 points or so) should not come as good news to the Anointed One.
            Last week, I was seeking results out of Florida, and PPP (which I do not trust—to heavily Democratic) weighed in with Obama up five (50-45).  I translate as meaning it’s about even there.  It also has incumbent Senator Nelson up ten (47-37) over Connie Mack; other polls show it much tighter, but I’ve had Nelson in the probable win column all along. 
            As expected, Democratic Senator Menendez is ahead in New Jersey, but it’s only nine points (44-35) over Kyrillos according to Quinnipiac.  That one wasn’t even supposed to be on the to-watch list.
            It’s obviously been a bad week for Obama with the triple play of Rosen/GSA/Secret Service; Rasmussen has him leading Gingrich by only seven points (47-40).  Hey Scott, it’s time to stop polling that one!
            Here’s one I’ve (we’ve gone from we to I) been saving for a while.  It’s a great closer.
            In his retrospective of the Ron Paul campaign, Nate Silver of wrote, “In September 2009, 47 percent of adults said the United States was doing the right thing in Afghanistan compared to 42 percent who said the U.S. should not be involved.” (NYT/CBS).  The most recent poll found 69 percent against American involvement with just 23 percent saying the country was doing the right thing.  That’s a 50 point turnaround!
            “Mr. Paul’s call for the United States to leave Afghanistan, once anathema in a Republican primary, has actually caught on among the other Republican candidates.”
            Long Live Lady Liberty!
            Ron Paul for President!
            (Oops—we’re supposed to be on the ABO page by now…that would be Anybody but Obama as opposed to ABOB…anybody but O’Brien).