US Mid-Term Election Campaign Reader


Insiders on Track in Florida
A new poll from Quinnipiac University poll of likely Florida voters finds Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has seized a 9 percentage-point lead over former healthcare executive Rick Scott in the Republican governor's race, while U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek holds a 7 percentage-point lead in the Democratic race for the US Senate over billionaire investor Jeff Greene. In the last Quinnipiac poll back in late July, both McCollum and Meek trailed by double digits in their races. More from the Miami Herald.

The Florida Conundrum
Chris Cillizza has more on the conundrum facing Florida Democrats should Kendrick Meek pull out a win in the primary.

The worst kept secret in Florida Democratic politics: most party strategists don't believe Meek can win a general election but they do think he can siphon enough traditionally Democratic votes away from Crist to hand the race to former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Democrats have semi-openly admitted that with Greene as the party's nominee, they would feel little remorse in casting a vote for Crist -- believing that the billionaire businessman is not fit to serve in the Senate. The same cannot be said of Meek.

One Democratic aide who has worked extensively in the state summed up the conventional wisdom thusly: "[We] clearly cannot publicly support Crist but if Meek is the nominee [we] know he not only has no shot at winning statewide."

The Mason-Dixon poll released earlier this week suggests those fears may be well founded. With Greene as the Democratic nominee, Crist takes 39 percent to Rubio's 38 percent. (Greene clocks in at just 12 percent.) With Meek as the party standard-bearer, Rubio takes 38 percent to 33 percent for Crist and 18 percent for the Miami Congressman.

Combine Crist's clear signals that he would caucus on the Democratic with the widely-held belief among Florida strategists that Meek can't win a general election and you begin to understand the political cross-pressures going around the Sunshine State these days.

Whether Meek is electable or not, I cannot say at this time but defeating Marco Rubio is of the utmost importance. At any rate, the presence of Charlie Crist in the race makes the Florida Senate race this fall the nation's most intriguing one.

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Wyoming Forced to Suspend Tax Collections at Gun Shows

In early July, the Department of Revenue in Wyoming suspended sales tax collections at gun shows because of increasing animosity toward the state's field tax agents that jeopardized their safety. The story in the Casper Star Tribune:

Dan Noble, director of the department's excise tax division, said Friday that an incident at a gun show triggered the decision. He added, however, that resistance from gun show sponsors and participants has been a recurring problem statewide. "I have 10 field reps throughout the state, and every one of them has experienced some animosity," he said. "Folks are nervous anyway because there are guns there. I don't want to put my people at risk."

Guns shows, like craft shows, are required to set up temporary sales tax licenses but do not have to pay the $60 fee for a permanent sales tax license. The department's field tax representatives attend the shows and ask the sponsors to distribute tax forms to the sellers who, in turn, are required to collect and remit sales tax to the Department of Revenue.

Noble said the tax agents have never had a problem with compliance from the craft shows, for example. "We tend to have more trouble at gun shows than any place," Noble said Friday in an interview. "This last incident was something I felt kind of crossed the line and, because of it I have suspended our activity in trying to collect this until we can get a better way of approaching it." He said the "climate" has changed and some of the gun show people are "fairly extreme."

Noble said he didn't want to identify the show where the incident took place because the problem has been statewide. Anthony Bouchard, executive director of the Wyoming Gun Owners' Association, said the only confrontation he knew of was at a gun show in Pine Bluffs. The gun show participant involved was an "in your face" type, he said, adding that he did not believe there was any threat made. "I think they're trying to create a political climate, to make it sound like a bigger thing than it is," he said.

The position of his group, Bouchard said, is that the state shouldn't charge sales tax on gun and ammunition sales because of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. "Everybody's on edge," said John Wise, director of the Pine Bluffs Shooting Association and of the gun show.

Identifying himself as a "tea partier and damned proud of it," Wise said Friday that people are angry at the federal government over health care reform and other actions. Wise said he was sitting at the front desk during the April gun show at Pine Bluffs when a participant got into a confrontation with a state sales tax representative. The tax agent called for backup from the Pine Bluffs Police Department.

Wise said the police officer intervened, the tax agent left and no charges were filed. He said he thought both men had "short fuses." Wise said that individual gun owners who pay $30 to rent a table at a gun show so they can sell a couple of guns should not have to collect sales tax for the state. Bouchard said he will personally work on legislation to exempt gun show sales from the state's sales tax.

Check any of the far-right blogs and you will find regular calls for "patriot uprisings" or comments that in effect call for "patriotic citizens" to get ready for the coming war. On Free Republic, the comments on this story ranged from "our tea-partying Bostonian ancestors would be proud" to "the government...any government...absolutely needs to fear the people."

These comments can perhaps be dismissed the insane rantings of anonymous conservative malcontents but the fact remains that we are witnessing a break down in order coupled with the re-emergence from the shadows of fringe right wing anarchism that rejects the established prerogatives of government in part or even the wholesale denial that any law applies to them. This is more than Grove Norquist's forty year anti-tax crusade though it can be argued that such behaviour is the culmination of decades of anti-government rhetoric by the more 'mainstream' right even if such currents run deep in the American psyche. 

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Selling Grand Teton National Park

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, is floating a rather noxious idea. He is threatening to sell off two square miles state-owned land within the 485 square mile majestic Grand Teton National Park to private developers so as pressure the Federal government into coming up "with a good deal for the land."

The Wyoming state constitution requires the Governor and other state officials to manage state lands, a legacy of the statehood charter, for maximum profit, and right now, the Teton tract generates just $3,000 a year from cattle grazing. The Governor believes he can extract $125 million by selling the state's lands within the Park to developers though he admits it's mostly a negotiating tactic.

The story in The Guardian:

Some might call it blackmail. The governor of Wyoming calls it desperation.

Governor Dave Freudenthal is threatening to sell off a chunk of one of America's most beautiful national parks unless the Obama administration comes up with more money to pay for education in the financially beleaguered state.

He says he will auction land valued at $125m (£80m) in the Grand Teton national park, one of the country's most stunning wildernesses. Part of the park was donated by John Rockefeller Jr.

Other parts belong to the state government including two parcels of land of about 550 hectares (1,360 acres) designated as school trust lands to be "managed for maximum profit" to generate funds for education in Wyoming.

At present Wyoming raises only about $3,000 a year from the land by leasing it to a cattle rancher. Officials have menacingly suggested that the property might make a nice site for a ski lodge.

Freudenthal recently wrote to the Interior Department asking the Federal government to trade the park land for mineral royalties. "If the federal government won't dance with us, we will go look for another partner," said Freudenthal. "The purpose is to force the federal government to come to the table."

Washington says it is negotiating, but Freudenthal says the issue has dragged on for a decade. "The way the federal government has treated us to date is that we are like the people who own the land, but they figure there isn't anything else they can do with it," he said.

Previous negotiations led Washington to offer 800,000 acres of federal land in a swap but state officials rejected it as "trash land" not worth nearly as much as their "prime, in-park real estate".

"I admit we aren't as bright as those boys on the Potomac," said Freudenthal. "But this ain't our first county fair."

I don't really follow Wyoming politics closely so I was surprised to learn that Wyoming has a Democrat as Governor and even more surprised to learn that he's quite popular (he owes his popularity to taking on the Federal government). My knowledge of Wyoming's politics is limited to knowing the names of the state's two Senators, Dr. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, two rather non-entities in the Senate. Alan Simpson or Malcom Wallop, they are not, at least, not yet. Barrasso, I suppose, made some noise during the healthcare debate but I can't recall the last time I heard Mike Enzi's name mentioned in the national press.

Naturally the suggestion of selling off a sliver of Grand Teton National Park - if you haven't been, you really should - is going to catch my attention. But I was even more stunned that apart from The Guardian, which I read daily, the story received very little coverage in the national press. MSNBC, ABC News, USA Today and the Denver Post all ran stories, none more than a blurb, when this news first broke over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. That timing perhaps explains why the story didn't make garner more attention and thus scrutiny.

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