Frank James

Senate Democrats haven't exactly been moving as one to embrace President Obama's $447 billion jobs bill.

The disagreement in their ranks arises partly from how the president proposes to pay for his plan, an approach seen by some senators as potentially making their already difficult path to re-election even more so.

The president envisions increasing taxes on couples who, after deductions, have at least $250,000 in taxable income.

Democrats are surely relieved to have held onto the W. Virginia governorship, with Tuesday's special election victory by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin over Republican Bill Maloney.

But it was a narrow 50 percent to 47 percent win that could portend trouble when Tomblin once again stands for election in 14 months.

Democrats have dominated W. Virginia politics for decades, controlling local and state offices though in presidential elections President Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win the state in 1996.

South Carolina will hold its Republican presidential primary Jan. 21, moving the date forward to stay ahead of Florida.

Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada are all expected to now move their caucuses and primaries up as well to maintain their traditional early spots in the presidential-nominee selection process calendar.

If there's been a worse week and a half for a presidential candidate, it's hard to remember when.

The decision by Florida's Republican officials to move the state's presidential primary into January from March will have a range of effects, some foreseeable, some not.

By advancing its primary date to Jan. 31, Florida makes it virtually certain the four traditional early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — will now move their caucuses and primaries to earlier in January to maintain their status as the earliest contests.

Mitt Romney may be back on track to the Republican presidential nomination.

It's still early and nothing is certain, of course. But the signs are that Romney has resumed what seemed, until a few weeks ago, his steady march towards becoming his party's standard bearer against President Obama in the 2012 presidential race.

If that Obama-Romney race should happen, by the way, Harvard Law School couldn't lose since it would be the first time two of its graduates faced each other as major-party nominees for the White House.

Many Americans view Congress as a disaster, albeit one whose shifting tectonic plates are caused by humans not geology.

So it was probably fitting that FEMA, whose mission is partly to mitigate calamities, stepped in to do just that Monday and rescue the nation's lawmakers from the dire circumstances the policymakers had created.

Herman Cain, who won the Florida Republican presidential straw poll over the weekend, is no newbie when it comes to showing up career politicians. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was just the latest one to be Hermanized by the former Godfather's pizza company executive.

President Obama may have fired up some of the most loyal voters in his political base, African Americans, through a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, though not in the way he intended.

After running down a list of his administration's accomplishments on behalf of middle and lower income Americans and calling for passage of his jobs bill, Obama concluded his speech by saying:

Speaker John Boehner didn't provide much reason Friday to hope that efforts to avert a federal government shutdown next week wouldn't go to the 11th hour like all congressional spending negotiations since last November's election.

Asked at a brief availability with journalists in the House Press Gallery if he had talked with Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who sets the Senate's agenda, Boehner said:

"I had a conversation with the Senate majority leader before I came down. There wasn't much progress made."

Accepting the premise that the race for the Republican presidential nomination has come down to a two-man contest between the frontrunner Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, the question is which of those two candidates helped himself the most in Thursday evening's debate in Orlando, Fla.?

When Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, announced earlier this week that he was stepping down from the number three position in the Senate GOP leadership, his move got the rumor mill going.

Was it because the 71-year old senior senator from the Volunteer State sensed that he wasn't perceived as hardline enough in the Tea Party-era to advance to the the number two position?

President Obama's re-election may all come down to whether voters mainly view the 2012 race seen as a referendum on his presidency or a choice between competing Democratic and Republican prescriptions for how to best address the nation's economic and fiscal challenges.

If it's a referendum, it could well be curtains for his hopes of a second term because the economy is clearly making too many voters unhappy and scared.

The latest rhetorical artillery shell to be launched in the trench warfare between Washington Keynesians and supply-siders landed Thursday in the form of House Speaker John Boehner's speech to the Economic Club of Washington.

Something of a rebuttal to President Obama announcement of his jobs plan last week, a John Maynard Keynes-inspired stimulus in everything but name, Boehner didn't have nearly as catchy a hook as the president's "pass this bill."

While there are still many open questions, some things are more certain in the sorry tale of Solyndra, the now bankrupt solar-cell manufacturer President Obama once praised as a model for the nation's renewable energy future.

One, U.S. taxpayers will take a loss on their $535 million federal loan guarantee that was part of the stimulus program.

Two, 1,100 workers have been laid off.

Three, the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week raided Solyndra's offices.

Republicans had reasons to cheer and Democrats to despair Wednesday with the upset special election victory in New York City of a Republican retired businessman who will complete the congressional term of Anthony Weiner, the Democrat who exited the U.S. House because of a sexting scandal.

Bob Turner, a 70-year-old former cable television executive, beat David Weprin, a 55-year-old, state assemblyman, in a district which had, until Tuesday, been reliably Democratic for nearly 100 years.

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