Morning Must Reads -- The Senate at stake, Democrats try to get meaner 

Washington Post -- Democratic Sen. Bayh of Indiana won't run for reelection

Democrats have 57 senators and the caucus allegiances of two independents. As of today, Democrats are at a substantial risk of losing eight seats (Nevada, Colorado, North Dakota, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Delaware) and face potential upsets in several more states where the party would not care to deploy resources this year (California, New York, Washington, Wisconsin) Of the seats currently held by Republicans, only Ohio and Missouri seem to be in any danger of a switch and both of those races have been trending toward the GOP candidates.

Whatever Evan Bayh’s personal motivations, talking points or later ambitions may be, his decision to bow out of a run for a third term means that Democrats can not dismiss the idea of losing their majority. The electoral, fundraising and psychological impact of that realization will deplete the already low Democratic reserves of optimism.

Bayh has punched his fellow Democrats hard with his choice and his timing.

Writer Shailagh Murray looks at how some of the bad blood may have developed:

“His decision to retire comes 18 months after he was shortlisted to be Obama's vice presidential nominee. It was the second time he was considered, but not selected, for the No. 2 spot on the national ticket. Bayh's own presidential ambitions were never realized: He took an exploratory look at the 2008 contest but ended the effort just weeks later.”

 

Wall Street Journal -- Democrats Target Stimulus Critics Who Sought Funds

Democrats and their boosters (like Rachel Maddow) are trying to tag Republicans with their support for stimulus projects.

This is likely to be of limited value when it comes to the fall elections except for in one or two races.

But consider what Democrats are really doing – trying to stick Republicans with the stimulus. Once, Democrats promised to thrash Republicans for resisting the spending package. Now, Democrats are trying to demonstrate Republican complicity in the debacle.

Writer Louise Radnofsky tells us about one of the central lines of attack in the administration’s new attack strategy of highlighting Republican requests for funding from a stimulus they opposed.

“The entire congressional delegation of Alabama, including its two Republican senators, wrote to then-Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell asking for $15 million for cogongrass eradication and control programs in the state. The state ended up getting a $6.3 million grant.

Republican Richard Shelby, the state's senior senator, called the stimulus package ‘the socialist way’ while it was being debated. A spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.”

 

New York Times -- Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander

The capture of Mullah Omar’s right-hand man is a coup for U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agents, and the timing of the release tells us something about the state of affairs in central Asia.

Writers Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins sat on the story for five days in deference to Pentagon requests for time to put intelligence gained from Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar into use.

But the administration was also apparently waiting until the assault on Marja in the Hellmand province, slowed by both new restrictions on the use of air power and an elusive enemy, was near a point that could be declared victory.

“In recent months, a growing number of Taliban leaders are believed to have fled to Karachi, a sprawling, chaotic city in southern Pakistan hundreds of miles from the turbulence of the Afghan frontier. A diplomat based in Kabul, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview last month that Mullah Omar had moved to Karachi, and that several of his colleagues were there, too.”

 

Los Angeles Times -- Iran moving toward military dictatorship, Clinton says

The Iranian propaganda ministers are not as kooky as the Jongsters in North Korea, but they are now giving the old Baath regime in Iraq and classic Quaddaffi a run for their money for top despotic communications effort.

Secretary of State Clinton is trying to explain why the initial Obama approach to Iran of engagement and dialogue (an approach she ridiculed as a candidate) was shifting, and suggested that it was Iran that was changing, not Obama.

Her point was that the assumptions Obama had made in trying to bring Iran into the brotherhood of nations was based on dealing with an old-fashioned theocracy but that recent events had shifted the nation into a military dictatorship worthy of isolation and punishment.

I note, as an aside, that one of Obama’s biggest problems is that he takes too damned long to admit mistakes and change direction. He moves ponderously, even when it’s clear that the status quo is a bust.

The Iranian response, though, to Clinton’s tougher talk came from Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki who said the U.S. had been a military dictatorship since the Vietnam War and encouraged China to resist our calls for more sanctions because it was part of a push to get the upper hand in a battle for world dominance.

Writer Borzou Daragahi explains:

“Iran has so far counted on Russia and China, which have U.N. Security Council veto power as well as strong economic and political ties to Tehran, to prevent the harshest sanctions advocated by the West from gaining the clout of international law.

U.S. government officials have imposed their own sanctions on individuals and organizations connected to the Guard, and are trying to enlist U.N. allies to add more levels of punishments. Clinton's comments signal a move by the Obama administration to mobilize its allies as well as the Iranian opposition.”

 

USA Today -- Surveys show an America that's bruised, but still optimistic

Examiner colleague Michael Barone has talked about the analogies between the 1974 election and the 2010 election, and while the latest USA Today/Gallup survey reveals more of the same anger at Washington, dissatisfaction with the status quo that is driving Democrats from office.

But what’s really of interest here, as highlighted by writer Susan Page, is how Americans believe their country stacks up. They may believe that deliverance may be a mere five years away, the mood is remarkably gloomy.

“Over the past half-century, the Gallup Poll has asked Americans 16 times what step of a ladder the United States was on, with 10 the best possible situation for the nation and zero the worst. The average response has ranged from a high of 6.7 in 1959, at the end of the Eisenhower era, to a low of 4.8 in 1974, during the Watergate crisis.

Now it's a relatively low 5.0.”

 

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About The Author

Chris Stirewalt

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Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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