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Missouri once again being courted for its valuable votes

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The polls must be tightening again. The Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns are focusing on the Kansas City area on Wednesday … with Republican John McCain attending an event at the Truman Library in Independence … and Michelle Obama – the wife of Democrat Barack Obama – attending a rally in the 18th and Vine district of Kansas City. Lo and behold … Michelle will be joined by Congressman Steny Hoyer … the Majority Leader in the U.S. House.

The purpose of the Obama rally is to encourage people to register to vote. By the way, time is running out for anyone – living or dead – to register. The deadline is October 8th. Okay … just kidding about dead people registering to vote. I mean … we have all been assured that doesn’t happen.

And, on a related note, we have been told that Senator Kit Bond’s favorite Springer Spaniel – Ritzy Meckler – who once registered to vote in the City of St. Louis, will not be casting a ballot this year. That’s good news.

Anyway … what is important for all of us to think about is that we are being courted again by the campaigns … and it’s all because the McCain and Obama people really don’t know which way we’re going to vote. Message to the campaigns: Unlike Maryland or Massachusetts or Idaho – essentially one party states in which the outcome is rarely in doubt – we’re up for grabs. Thank you for spending your dollars in Missouri … it’s great for our economy.

– Steve Walsh

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Written by learfield

September 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Congressman Kenny in D.C. to vote on bailout package

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We entered this day knowing the U.S. House of Representatives would vote on the $700-Billion financial bailout approved by the White House … and we figured most of Missouri’s congressional delegation would be there to vote yay or nay. But we didn’t know about Kenny Hulshof, who is in the midst of a tough race for the Governor’s Office against Democrat Jay Nixon.

Congressman Kenny had scheduled several events on Monday … starting with a news conference in St. Louis … moving to Columbia for a fundraiser attended by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal … followed by a Hulshof-Jindal news conference in Kansas City … and capped off by a fundraiser in Kansas City.

A busy campaign schedule, coupled with the vote on Capitol Hill, prompted the Missouri Democratic Party to send out a Monday morning press release which read: "Congress is expected to vote today on the long-awaited bailout package on which the nation’s economy may hinge. Given Hulshof’s record of only showing up for roughly half of his Congressional votes since he announced for Governor, one has to wonder: where will Congressman Kenny Hulshof be today?"

It turns out he was on Capitol Hill … voting AGAINST the bailout package … contributing to its defeat in the House. An official in the Hulshof Congressional Office informed me Congressman Kenny had arrived in Washington around mid-week, last week, and spent the weekend in D.C. in anticipation of the Monday vote.

Scott Baker with the Hulshof campaign for Governor later informed me that the St. Louis and Kansas City press conferences had been postponed … but that the fundraisers were a "go" … with some modifications. Governor Jindal was joined by Renee Hulshof, who filled in for Kenny at the Columbia event. Kenny then hopped on a plane at Dulles Airport for a flight to Kansas City and the evening fundraiser.

Kenny is scheduled to come to our Learfield studios for an interview later in the week. I’m guessing he might have to blow off my interview to head back to Washington to vote on what, it is hoped, will be a better bill that will garner the needed votes to pass the House. Putting a national crisis ahead of a political interview – Just who do these Congressman think they are?

– Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

September 29, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … maybe

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I was working my way through the produce section of a Jefferson City grocery store on Saturday … about to squeeze the Roma tomatoes to test for freshness … when I received a phone call from one of my favorite people in the McCain campaign. I could tell, from the caller ID, it was Wendy Reimann and I answered her call with the cheeriest "Hello" I could come up with … as I continued to squeeze the Roma tomatoes.

This phone call set the wheels in motion for yours truly spending a lot of time on the phone Saturday afternoon … instead of enjoying an adult beverage (or two) while watching dozens of college football games. Wendy told me about a conference call that had just started … a call with Republican National Committee Deputy Chair Frank Donatelli on the subject of the Obama Truth Squad.

The announcement of the creation of this Truth Squad was something that seems to have slipped under the radar over the last week. In essence, the Obama campaign has put together a team of people whose task will be to monitor TV and radio ads and appearances … and to take note of the claims made during those ads and/or appearances … then to determine whether lies might have been told.

The Obama campaign creates a Truth Squad … You might be thinking … So what? Well … let me tell you. The McCain campaign is expressing concerns about the individuals listed on this team. They include such people as: U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill … aka "Our Claire," State Auditor Susan Montee, and former U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan. Then we have a long list of prosecutors including St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Sokoloff, Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Lamb, and several others. Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer is also part of the team.

The McCain folks are concerned … as are Missouri Republicans. Missouri GOP Communications Director Tina Hervey sent out a press release saying this team of "Missouri law enforcement officials (and) taxpayer paid county sheriffs and prosecutors" could "threaten to censor the speech of Missouri citizens." I later spoke to Tina and she told me there is concern all these individuals might be politicking on the taxpayers’ dime. Says Tina: "Law enforcement officials should not be acting with an expressed, partisan, political purpose."

She informed me this Truth Squad … made up of all this legal talent … could conceivably go after a candidate who utters any comment the Truth Squad believes to be less than truthful. Furthermore, there is the suggestion that a reporter who relays comments deemed by the Truth Squad to be untruthful could face legal action … and any broadcasting operation that runs ads deemed by the Truth Squad to be untrue could be targeted by this team of lawyers.

Well … as a good American who believes the First Amendment should not be trampled on by a team of lawyers … I contacted the Obama campaign to get some reaction to the claims. I spoke with Justin Hamilton, the Obama team’s Press Secretary in Missouri, and he assured me the McCain folks and the Missouri GOP were totally wrong on this … and are trying to spin the media. I pressed him, though, on the First Amendment issues that should be at the top of any reporter’s list of concerns. Justin assured me there is no validity to this claim, going so far as to say, "That is the height of absurdity!" He insists the task of the Obama Truth squad is and will be to make itself aware of any untruths that are being spread.

Okay … one last thing before we put this issue to bed and I get back to some college football. The Governor’s Office issued a statement regarding what it calls the "Obama campaign’s abusive use of Missouri law enforcement." The statement takes aim at several members of the Obama Truth Squad, suggesting they "have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign." The statement adds the Obama campaign is "abusing the justice system."

This prompted me to call Jack Cardetti, the Communications Director with the Missouri Democratic Party. Jack had a response at the ready: "Matt Blunt invented the politicization of law enforcement in the state." To back this up, Jack points to a July, 2006, story that ran on the Missourinet and elsewhere. He adds Blunt’s comments, in light of the Administration’s actions, are "the height of hypocrisy."

There you have it … a story that began with what I thought would be a pleasant conversation takes up a lot of time, energy, much use of the phone, and a good portion of my Saturday afternoon. And to make matters worse … I walked out of the store … forgetting to buy my @$%! tomatoes!!!

– Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

September 27, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to appear at Columbia fundraiser for Kenny Hulshof

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof gets fundraising help this coming week from someone leaving the political scene … and from an up and comer in GOP politics.

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We already know about President Bush’s appearance, next Friday, at Hunter Farms in St. Louis County. Now, we learn Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will be the guest speaker at a fundraiser in Columbia early in the week – Monday, to be precise. Jindal will help Kenny raise dollars at a luncheon scheduled for the Holiday Inn Executive Center. It’s a private affair.

But the Governor and the Congressman will hold a public event later in the day in Kansas City. Kenny is unveiling a plan to address the problems that plague urban schools. Jindal will join Kenny for that event at 3:30 at the Kansas City Public Library. Jindal has dealt with education problems in his own state, having implemented major reforms in the troubled New Orleans school district.

Jindal knows Kenny, having served with him in Congress. Earlier this year there were rumors that the young Bayou State Governor might be on the short list to be the Republican VP nominee because of his support among the party’s conservative base. Many political observers see Jindal going far in GOP politics.

– Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

September 27, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Pizza, sodas, and a presidential debate

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Presidential debate number one – the showdown at Ole Miss – is history. And, instead of watching it from the comfort of my living room, I journeyed from the Metropolis of Jefferson to Columbia for one of those fabulous debate watch parties that are so much a part of the campaign season in this country. This event was organized by the Mizzou College Republicans.

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Why Columbia? And, why the Republicans? Simple. The GOP had sent a tease press release Thursday promising pizza, sodas, and "a very exciting surprise appearance." Well, I found out it would be Republican National Committee Deputy Chairman Frank Donatelli … and I decided I could get an interview for a story I am working on for the coming week. So, my plans were set.

There might have been about 30 people in the Victory 2008 office to cheer on Republican John McCain … considerably less than the 70,000 who crowded into Faurot Field to cheer on Democrat Barack Obama. Just kidding! They did not rent out Faurot Field for the Dems. But, from what I was told by another reporter who had attended an Obama watch party in downtown Columbia … there were quite a few more folks at the Obama event than there were at the McCain gathering. Of course, this was Columbia … a college town … and it would have seemed a little odd had the number of young Republicans outnumbered the young Democrats.

Be that as it may … the folks at the Republican watch party were well behaved. The evening began with a few thoughts from Frank Donatelli … which took us up to the debate, itself. Those in attendance applauded some of the comments made by McCain … and shook their heads at some of the views expressed by Obama. My guess … and it’s only a guess … is that the folks at the Democratic watch parties applauded some of the comments made by Obama … and shook their heads at some of the views expressed by McCain. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

It might sound a little corny … maybe quite a bit corny … but I got the feeling as I sat and watched the debate with this group of interested citizens that I was sitting in on something special – Americans interested in the future of their country watching the two major candidates for President, with each candidate offering his vision for how the country should be run. Very cool!

Okay … enough with Steve’s flag waving. After the debate I chatted with some of the young people with whom I had watched the debate. One of them told me he breathed a sigh of relief about five minutes into the debate … because John McCain seemed to be in control of the situation and did not get tongue-tied or lost in thought. He added, "This was so unlike 2000 and 2004 when I had white knuckles waiting for George Bush to make a mistake … It didn’t happen tonight."

As an observer … It seemed both McCain and Obama had the opportunity to express their thoughts … and had plenty of time in which to do so. I confess I really liked the way Jim Lehrer moderated the debate … and the free-wheeling format gave the candidates the chance to get in a lot of points and counter-points. As a political junkie I will watch just about any debate – presidential, gubernatorial, or anything else – regardless of the format. But I think the viewer who wanted to get something out of this debate might have learned more than had the format been tight and restricted.

I’m already looking forward to the next debate – Thursday night from Washington University in St. Louis. My plans are to attend that one with media members from around the country and to get bombarded by the Republican and Democratic spinmeisters who will undoubtedly be willing to share their thoughts on any and all comments uttered by vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Just a thought … but while the whole concept of citizens sitting down to watch presidential debates is one of the great things about American politics … one of the worst just might be the spinmeisters feeling the need to elaborate on the comments you just heard.

– Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

September 27, 2008 at 5:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Governor Blunt hints at future political run

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You could be voting for or against Matt Blunt for Governor again sometime in the future … or maybe vote for or against him as he runs for some other office. That’s the word from the Governor at a Thursday news conference at his Capitol office.

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The Guv called the news conference to talk about how his directives on state vehicles are saving buckets of money for taxpayers … and when he finished with that he left things open for just about any question members of the media wanted to ask. In fact, he stayed until nobody had any questions left to ask. It was great – we stayed in his office for six hours! (Just kidding … it was about a half hour.)

Well … one of the questions I took the opportunity to ask is one I have brought up with him several times in recent weeks. With Election Day drawing closer and closer … and GOP flag-bearer Kenny Hulshof trailing Jay Nixon in the Governor’s race … will the Guv turn over a boatload of that money (estimated to be about one-million dollars or more) to Congressman Kenny? "Our Matt" – as I began calling him at the Republican Convention in the Twin Cities – responded as he usually does … saying he would contribute money to candidates who share his political views and values. He then added, "Some of it could be used in future election cycles. That’s certainly not off the table."

AP’s David Lieb then chimed in, asking the Guv if we might see Matt Blunt running in some future election cycle. "That’s obviously a possibility," said the Guv. He then offered a little more in the way of a tease: "Every citizen has the opportunity to run for office and I would definitely count myself in that group of citizens."

Federal law prohibits transferring state campaign dollars to a campaign for a federal election race … so the money could NOT be used should Kit Bond’s U.S. Senate seat become open in 2010 … and it could not be used for a Matt Blunt-Claire McCaskill match-up in 2012 … and the money could not be spent should "Our Matt" hope to replace his dad in the U.S. House of Representatives sometime in the future. So, what’s left? It would be tough to run for a lesser office after occupying the most important position in state government … so it might mean another run for the Governor’s Office … after leaving the Governor’s Office. Let’s see … Kit Bond did it.

– Steve Walsh

Update: 2:47 p.m.

A check with the State Ethics Commission shows the Blunt campaign committee – Missourians for Matt Blunt – filed an Amended Statement of Committee Organization report on August 8th … to allow "Our Matt" to run for statewide office in the August 7th, 2012 primary elections. It does not specify which office he would seek, just that he is considering running for a statewide office in 2012. And, he could raise money for that campaign run … starting now. Hmmm … Maybe this is why Kenny hasn’t received much of the Blunt campaign money.

– Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

September 25, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Postponing Friday’s debate? What about the watch parties?

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Wednesday afternoon we got word that Republican presidential candidate John McCain is suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to deal with the situation. That means the campaign is suspending its advertising and fundraising. And, Johnny Mac is suggesting Friday’s debate with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama be postponed.

But wait … events are planned and watch debate parties are scheduled – by both Republicans and Democrats. So, what happens to Friday’s debate parties if the debate is canceled or postponed?

The Republicans’ big party is put on by the Mizzou College Republicans. It’s scheduled for Victory 2008 headquarters in Columbia, with Frank Donatelli – Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee – attending. Donatelli plans on touring the state on Friday with stops in Cape Girardeau, St. Louis, and finally Columbia … He’ll move onto Kansas City on Saturday.

But the big party with Donatelli is the Columbia event … with what the Republicans promise will be pizza, sodas, and "cool prizes." Caring about the important details of these events, I took it upon myself to ask Missouri Republican Party Communications Director Tina Hervey what happens to the pizza and sodas and "cool prizes" if there is no debate. Tina assures me the party will go on … and that the pizza and sodas will be made available to members of the media who show up. No word on what happens to the "cool prizes."

On another topic … you might have read (or heard on the Missourinet) that a man suspected of robbing the Bank of Crocker and a Holiday Inn in southwest Missouri has been arrested in the Branson area. Distraught over the thought of Friday’s debate being postponed … Missourinet’s Brent Martin offered the newsroom’s groaner of the week when he suggested authorities asked the suspect whether he thought of himself as a master criminal … and the guy responded … "No, but I did rob a Holiday Inn Express last week." Those of us in the newsroom took it upon ourselves to beat Brent senseless. Because, as we all know … every suspect arrested is innocent until proven guilty.

– Steve Walsh

Written by learfield

September 24, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized