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Jun 232013
 

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images(DARTMOUTH, Mass.) — Ed Markey got some help from the vice president on Saturday.

Markey, who has represented Massachusetts in the House for 36 years, will face off Tuesday against Republican Gabriel Gomez in the state’s Senate special election. Vice President Joe Biden campaigned with him at two events in the Bay State, tying his opponent to notable tea partiers in D.C. and urging Democrats not to take the election for granted.

“This is going to be the most informed freshman senator in the history of the United States of America,” Biden said of Markey, before a crowd at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Markey is expected to win — last weekend, a Boston Globe poll found him leading 54 percent to 41 percent — but Biden cautioned against surprises in a low-turnout election.

“Look folks, don’t put yourself in a position where you get up Tuesday morning, and it’s an incredibly low turnout, and you say, ‘Good God, if I’d only gone down one more block, if I’d only made 20 more calls, if I’d only spent a little more energy this wouldn’t be the case,” Biden said. “This is the first time, in my understanding, that you’ve ever had a vote for a major office in this state in the middle of June.”

The last time Massachusetts held a special Senate election, Democrats missed their chance. Republican Scott Brown flew under the radar for much of his race against Martha Coakley, and a once-bankable Senate seat fell out of the Democratic Party’s hands.

Gomez has called himself a “new kind of Republican,” but Biden spent much of the day likening him to tea party Republicans who have exerted influence over their party.

“This guy looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck,” Biden said earlier in the day, in a similar speech at the Ironworkers Local 7 union hall in South Boston. “That is a new Republican. That’s a new Paul Ryan Republican. That’s a new Ted Cruz Republican.”

Biden challenged Gomez’s opposition to the Democratic health care law and suggested he backs the same policies as Republicans in Washington.

“Why does Mitch McConnell want him so badly? Why does Newt Gingrich talk about him like he’s the second coming?” Biden asked. “Why does Marco Rubio want him so much? Look at how they vote. Look, I know Mitch McConnell pretty well, and if he wants Gabriel Gomez in his caucus, it’s not because he thinks he may ever disagree with him, it’s because he wants a Republican majority and because he knows he can count on the guy to vote on everything that he needs.”

Markey introduced the vice president at both events.

Between the two appearances, Markey and Biden made a brief stop at Sullivan’s Castle Island, a beachfront food stand in South Boston. Upon exiting his limo, Biden asked, “Are there any hot dogs here?”

After working the crowd, he ordered one with mustard and relish.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 132013
 

John Gurzinski/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Slightly more Americans trust Barack Obama than congressional Republicans to handle immigration, but neither side garnered a majority between whites and nonwhites in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Americans overall divide by 45-39 percent between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the issue; the rest are undecided or trust neither side.  Whites favor the GOP over Obama on immigration by 47-36 percent, while nonwhites (blacks, Hispanics and others) prefer Obama by a broad 71-16 percent.

See a PDF with full results here.

There also are sharp partisan and ideological differences in trust on immigration in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  Democrats and Republicans each prefer their side’s approach by an identical 66 percentage points; independents divide closely between Obama and the GOP, 41-36 percent.

Very conservative Americans favor the Republicans on immigration by 65 points and those who say they’re somewhat conservative do so by 33 points.  Moderates take Obama’s side by a 21-point margin, liberals by 61 points.

Obama has made immigration reform a second-term priority, having beaten Mitt Romney in last year’s election by 61 percentage points among the growing proportion of nonwhites overall and by 44 points among Hispanics, while losing whites by 20 points.

In step with the president’s policy direction, majorities in recent ABC/Post polls have supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  His approval rating on the issue in February, while just 49 percent, was the highest of his presidency and up 11 points since the summer.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 082013
 

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration’s decision to try Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law in federal court in New York City instead of a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay has reignited a debate over how to deal with suspected terrorists.

It also recalls one of the largest failures of President Obama’s presidency: His unfulfilled promise as a candidate in 2008 to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

As Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill Americans in New York Federal Court Friday, Republicans in Congress were criticizing the Obama administration for prosecuting a suspected al Qaeda terrorist in a civilian court just about a mile from the 9/11 memorial built over Ground Zero.

“Abu Ghaith has sworn to kill Americans and he likely possesses information that could prevent harm to America and its allies,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote in a statement. “He is an enemy combatant and should be held in military custody.”

The White House claimed there was a “broad consensus” across the federal government, from the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, to prosecute OBL’s son-in-law in civilian court.

“The intelligence community agrees that the best way to protect our national security interests is to prosecute Abu Ghaith in an Article III court,” Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday.

“We’re able to question him as a part of the regular process in detaining individuals like this, but we’re also able to put him through Article III courts to ensure that he’s held accountable for his crimes,” Earnest added. “This is somebody who’s going to be held accountable for his crimes and … that will be done in accordance with the laws and values of this country, and it will be done so in a pretty efficient way.”

Still, McConnell said that the administration’s justification “makes little sense” and the intelligence community “deserve[s] the same access to intelligence and methods of defeating the enemy available to the team that found Bin Laden.”

“At Guantanamo, [Abu Ghaith] could be held as a detainee and fulsomely and continuously interrogated without having to overcome the objections of his civilian lawyers,” McConnell said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said civilian court “is not the appropriate venue” and the administration “should treat enemy combatants like the enemy.”

“Al Qaeda leaders captured on the battlefield should not be brought to the United States to stand trial,” Rogers said. “The president needs to send any captured al Qaeda members to Guantanamo.”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes closing Guantanamo and previously fought against efforts by the Obama administration to prosecute 9/11 suspects in New York City, said the speaker “agrees” with Rogers.

New York Republican Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said he preferred that Abu Ghaith face trial in a military tribunal rather than civilian court, and he questioned what type of standard Friday’s hearing could set.

“While a federal court trial of Abu Ghaith in lower Manhattan would not present the same security issues as a trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I strongly believe as a matter of policy that military tribunals are the proper venue for enemy combatants,” said King, a member of the House committees on Intelligence and Homeland Security. “If the Abu Ghaith trial does go forward in federal court, it must not be used as a precedent for future enemy combatants who should be tried at Guantanamo.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not respond to requests for comment Friday, nor did New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler or Nydia Velazquez, the lawmakers representing downtown Manhattan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Feb 282013
 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A growing split in the Republican Party deepened Thursday when Clint Eastwood, the movie star who rocked the GOP convention by interviewing an invisible President Obama, joined the ranks of Republicans who are in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

The support for gay marriage by Eastwood and about 100 prominent Republicans, along with budding support within the party for immigration reform, is creating an obvious divide in the party. It pits moderate Republicans and party operatives on one side against conservative activists who drive turnout in the primary elections.

One of the four former Republican governors who signed the legal brief in favor of same-sex marriage is ex-New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, who says there are days she “absolutely” doesn’t feel like part of the party because she says the GOP is being “defined by the talking heads and they don’t for the most part represent me.”

Whitman said she signed the gay marriage brief because it’s important to be heard and it’s “an opportunity to get this issue behind us.”

“We are talking about family values, we are talking about commitment that so many people hold in such high regard it shouldn’t make a difference if it’s between a man and a woman or two men or two women,” Whitman said. “We are the party of family values and limited government. Getting out of the bedroom is a good first step.”

Whitman, who is also the former administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the purist conservatives are statistically a smaller number of people in the party, but are the loudest because of their role in the party’s primaries where voter turnout can be very low.

“It allows the most partisan people the first say in who your choices…and because they are the most partisan they are going to choose the most partisan people,” Whitman said. “They have influence beyond their numbers.”

Margaret Hoover, a GOP strategist and former George W. Bush staffer who signed the brief, agrees with Whitman, but said she always feels like a member of the party because she is “totally committed to changing it.”

“You can leave or you can change it and frankly we are having a lot of success changing it,” Hoover said. “We are making it truer to our principals and we are calling out the people who claim to be for individual freedom.”

Hoover said she thinks the people “gearing up for civil war” are the “social conservatives who insist on purity tests,” but there are “other elements of the party that are quickly trying to tamp that down and pivoting to, ‘No we are going to be the party of the big tent.’ We are going to get back to being a big tent party on social issues. We will be strict on fiscal issues.”

“It’s fair to say that increasingly behind the scenes Republicans are saying we have to be a big tent on social issues. Social conservative activists are going to hate that, [American Conservative Union president] Al Cardenas is going to hate that and his people are going to hate that, but that’s not the reality,” Hoover said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 262013
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The issue of same sex-marriage is dividing the Republican Party, as a group of more than 80 prominent members of the GOP, ranging from Dick Cheney’s daughter to four former governors, have signed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court advocating for the legalization of gay marriage.

One of the signers confirmed for ABC News the existence of the brief signed by the Republicans and said it would be submitted to the United States Supreme Court this week. The deadline to submit briefs is Thursday.

The document, known as an amicus or “friend of the court” brief, is being submitted in support of a lawsuit aiming to strike down Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage. The existence of the brief was first reported by The New York Times.

Republican-elected leadership, like House Speaker John Boehner, as well as the platform, are staunchly against same-sex marriage.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group who brought the California lawsuit challenging Prop 8, released a list of the signers Tuesday, including Cheney’s daughter Mary Cheney.

Signers included former congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of California, former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, and Meg Whitman, who supported Prop 8 when she ran for governor of California in 2010. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Richard Hanna of New York and former GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman also signed. In addition, three former Massachusetts governors — William Weld, Jane Swift, and Paul Cellucci — along with former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman are signers. The list also includes Republican attorney and Romney senior adviser Ben Ginsberg and other high-profile GOP leaders, strategists, consultants, and staffers.

Some big-name supporters of same-sex marriage who have not signed the brief include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former first lady Laura Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The fight against Prop 8 already had a big-name conservative supporter in Theodore Olson, former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, who is one of the suit’s two lead attorneys along with David Boies.

The court will hear arguments next month in that case and another important gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Another one of the signers is Nicolle Wallace, Republican strategist and former George W. Bush aide and John McCain campaign adviser. Wallace said the beginning of the group took place in 2010 when Republicans supportive of same-sex marriage came together to fundraise for the legal effort.

She said the “power of the legal argument had a lot more to do with persuading the majority of Republicans on the brief than any political pressure.”

Wallace stressed that she believes this issue, unlike others, will not “ignite a civil war in the party” because so many people have gay friends, co-workers, and family members; even those who don’t agree with their stance have a lot of “respect” for the disagreement.

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll on the topic from November a slim majority of Americans support gay marriage, 51-47 percent, but amongst Republicans it is only 31-67 percent.

Brian Donahue, a Republican strategist who did not sign the brief, believes that because the list includes so many prominent Republicans it represents a “significant step” for the party.

“It’s a sign that there is a growing interest in the party to take steps to broaden its reach in defining what’s acceptable to be part of this party,” Donahue said. “It’s healthy for members of the party to express their beliefs and opinions even when they may not be favorable by party leadership. It’s healthy for the party to examine how it affects the lives of all Americans and it’s a healthy discussion that’s taking place within the party to say, ‘What do we stand for?’”

Some Republicans fear the amicus brief could badly split the Republican Party. Hogan Gidley, a GOP strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, says the Republican tent should be “very broad,” but this move by the group of Republicans will widen the schism in the party.

“I don’t want Republicans to be lazy and say, well Latinos are flocking to Democrats in droves so we should do amnesty,” Gidley said. “The homosexual community is flocking to Democrats in droves so we should legalize gay marriage. The marijuana advocates are flocking to Democrats in droves, we should legalize drugs. To me that is a little bit reactionary, but also a little bit lazy.”

Gidley said that he would “hate for anybody to sell their convictions in the hopes they get more votes.”

Constitutional law experts say that while amicus briefs do not traditionally decide cases, they can be very influential.

Stanford constitutional law professor Jane Schacter says in this case she believes it could be an “influential brief” because it “telegraphs to the court that there is an increasing number of people who support same sex-marriage and that it is no longer a partisan issue to the extent that it was.”

“When this number of Republicans are saying it’s an issue where there should be equality it changes the way it looks to the justices,” Schacter said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio