While Barack Obama won a resounding electoral vote victory in the presidential race, Democrats did not score the impressive gains nationwide that might have been expected.
Democrats gained five state legislative chambers the New York Senate, Nevada Senate, Delaware House, Ohio House, and Wisconsin Assembly.
But they lost four others to the GOP the Tennessee House and Senate, Montana Senate, and Oklahoma Senate, National Journal magazine reported.
According to Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Democrats picked up about 100 state legislative seats, “about half the normal turnover.”
Democrats will gain at least 17 seats in the U.S. House and at least five in the Senate, fewer than party insiders had hoped for in recent weeks.
Charlie Cook of National Journal offered several possible reasons for the Democrats’ performance on Election Day: Since Democrats had gained so many seats in 2006, they were defending many seats in districts previously held by Republicans.
In any case, Cook concludes, “What happened down-ballot was not proportional to what happened at the top.”
2. Meg Whitman May Run for Calif. Governor
Former eBay chief Meg Whitman is mulling a run to replace California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he leaves office in two years.
Whitman supported Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign until he dropped out of the race, then joined John McCain’s campaign as a national co-chair. She spoke at this year’s GOP convention, and was mentioned by McCain as a possible Treasury secretary.
The 52-year-old Republican was eBay’s chief executive officer when she stepped down from the post after 10 years at the online shopping company. She remains an eBay director.
New York-born Whitman, who now lives in Atherton, Calif., has hired a Sacramento public relations firm and retained Steve Schmidt, the GOP strategist who ran McCain’s campaign and managed Schwarzenegger’s re-election bid in 2006, the Los Angeles Times reports.
She has never held elected office, but with a net worth of at least $1.4 billion, she could finance her own campaign.
Whitman is not alone in eyeing the governor’s mansion, however. Other would-be candidates are preparing, either openly or behind the scenes, to run in 2010, according to the Times.
They include Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, former Republican congressman Tom Campbell, and Steve Poizner, the state’s insurance commissioner. All four have formed exploratory committees to raise money for a possible campaign.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown, the state’s current attorney general, is also said to be considering a run.
The “wild card” is Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is contemplating a run as well, the Times disclosed, observing, “She would vault to the head of the field, analysts say, but may be reluctant to leave the Senate with her party newly dominant in favor of a campaign to run a deficit-plagued state and deal with a polarized legislature.”
Asked which potential candidate had the best odds of replacing him, Gov. Schwarzenegger last month named Democrat Brown, speculating that Feinstein would decide not to run.
He said Brown “can reach the Republicans and Democrats and bring different people together.”
3. Al-Qaida Seeks New Bases in Africa
Although hobbled by the killings or arrests of its senior leaders, al-Qaida is actively seeking to establish new bases in Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, and Somalia.
Germany’s head of intelligence, Ernst Uhrlau, said the group has entered a new, decentralized phase, with a strategy of exploiting regional conflicts.
He warned that al-Qaida posed a particular threat in North Africa, due in part to its geographic proximity to Europe.
In September, al-Qaida operatives kidnapped and beheaded 11 soldiers and a civilian in Mauritania. Last December, it claimed responsibility for bombings at the U.N. headquarters and a court in Algeria, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Transnational Threats Update.
As Newsmax reported earlier, al-Qaida, which gets its money from the drug trade in Afghanistan and supporters in the oil-rich Gulf states, is likely to escape the effects of the global financial crisis, largely because the organization has been forced to avoid using banks.
The Update also disclosed that the American embassy in London will be relocated due to security concerns. Ambassador to Britain Robert Tuttle said the embassy’s central location in Grosvenor Square cannot reasonably accommodate required security upgrades.
Since 2000, more than 60 new embassies and other facilities overseas have been constructed to meet more stringent security requirements.
4. Obama Pokes Fun at Foul-Mouthed Rahm Emanuel
Three-year-old footage has emerged showing Barack Obama poking fun at Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman the president-elect has now chosen as his chief of staff.
The footage of a 2005 celebrity roast of Emanuel a fundraiser hosted by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy was recently rebroadcast by C-SPAN.
At the podium, Obama told the gathering, “It’s great that we can all come together and do something that makes everybody feel better, which is to insult Rahm Emanuel.”
He went on to say, “Some of you may know that Rahm’s brother Ari is the model for the lead character on the big hit on HBO, ‘Entourage.’ What you may not know is that Rahm himself in the inspiration for that other HBO character, Tony Soprano.”
When it was Hillary Clinton’s turn to speak, she said, “When was the last time Rahm spoke for more than five minutes without using a curse word?”
And she declared, “Rahm scares us all.”
Obama also alluded to Emanuel’s penchant for foul language: “He was working at a deli. There was an accident with a meat-slicing machine. He lost part of his middle finger. As a result, this rendered him practically mute.”
5. Israel Owes Bush ‘Enormous Debt’ for Iraq
The American invasion of Iraq has been condemned by many at home and abroad, but one political observer says Israel owes President George W. Bush an “enormous debt” of gratitude for toppling Saddam Hussein.
Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, writes in the Jerusalem Post, “Bush went to war for reasons almost entirely unrelated to Israel, but in doing so, may have saved us from an apocalypse . . .
“We in Israel owe him an enormous debt.”
Freilich presents two alternative scenarios. In the first, it is summer 2011. A vastly strengthened Hezbollah begins firing rockets at Israel, which counterattacks heavily. Iran announces it has “the bomb,” hinting at Israel’s destruction. Syria concentrates its forces near Israel. The U.S. goes on nuclear alert.
The second, “even worse” scenario, Freilich writes in the Post: “All of the above, but the U.S. never invaded Iraq and it is still presumed to retain a residual WMD capability. Libya never chose, largely in response to Iraq, to dismantle its nuclear program. They too now join the fray.”
And for Israel, that could lead to the “apocalypse” Freilich mentioned.
He added: “Iraq will never be a Jeffersonian democracy, but an Arab one the only one. The security situation is immeasurably better.”
6. Obama ‘Network’ Developing a Rift
A vast electronically linked network of volunteers, community organizers, and activists raised record amounts of money for the Barack Obama campaign and helped him win the White House.
Now a rift is showing up in that network, with some members believing it should be linked closely with the Democratic Party apparatus and others insisting it remain more independent.
“The Obama machinery relied heavily on idealistic political outsiders committed to breaking free from old ways of doing politics. The worry is that these enthusiastic activists might drift away if they are turned over to the Democratic National Committee,” the Los Angeles Times observed.
The Obama network includes an estimated 10 million e-mail addresses for activists and supporters, and the campaign raised more than $650 million from some 3 million donors.
In California alone, the campaign’s list contains over 790,000 names, including 40,000 volunteers who made more than 10 million telephone calls during the campaign.
Campaign manager David Plouffe indicated which side of the developing rift he was on when he recently used Obama’s e-mail list to ask for donations to help the DNC repay its debt.
But Steve Hildebrand, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, cautioned that Obama got elected with a significant number of independent voters and a fair number of Republicans.
“And the agenda that he ran on is not just a Democratic agenda, it’s a broad agenda,” he told the Times.
“If all the communication comes from the DNC, it may not engage as many people as we’re going to need to engage at the grass-roots level.”
Hildebrand also said an independent network could be used to challenge Democratic legislators who don’t follow Obama’s agenda.
7. We Heard . . .
THAT Republican Sen. Arlen Specter has a double-digit lead over cable TV host Chris Matthews in a potential 2010 matchup for Specter’s seat in Pennsylvania.
Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” has not announced his candidacy. But he is originally from the Philadelphia area, served as a top aide to then Speaker Tip O’Neill, and has stated that he has always wanted to be a senator, Roll Call reported.
In a survey of more than 1,500 likely voters by Public Policy Polling, Specter got 40 percent of the votes and Matthews garnered 27 percent, with 33 percent undecided.
Matthews’ network contract expires next year.
THAT “Fahrenheit 9/11” filmmaker Michael Moore’s next documentary will focus on the global financial crisis and the U.S. economy.
The yet-untitled movie will have an “end-of-the-empire” tone, insiders told The Hollywood Reporter.
Moore is shooting now and the film is expected to be released as early as this spring.
Moore’s breakthrough documentary, “Roger & Me,” centered on the U.S. economy and the auto industry.