Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up — and It’s Only January

Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a real news story and something from The Onion.

Earlier reports that entertainer Clay Aiken was considering a run for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina’s 2nd District have been overtaken by new stories about the singer “putting together a team” and preparing to run — one post in Roll Call, plus stories in several dozen other news outlets that don’t typically cover the tick-tock of recruitment in third-tier House races.

How exciting. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the announcement.

After all, why wouldn’t it be a big deal that a gay Democrat whose major claim to fame is being runner-up on the second season of “American Idol” (back when some people actually cared about the program) is inching toward a run for Congress in a conservative North Carolina district that John McCain carried by about 13 points and Mitt Romney won by 15 points?

I can’t think of anything more newsworthy.

Of course, the better question is why anyone other than a member of the Clay Aiken Fan Club would care about his candidacy. Unless some sort of personal scandal envelopes GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers between now and Election Day, no Democrat is going to beat her in 2014. (Carrie Underwood — is she even a Democrat? — might have had a chance, I suppose, until everyone saw her “acting” in the televised live performance of “The Sound of Music.”)

Then there is former California GOP Rep. Frank Riggs, who is now running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in … wait for it … Arizona.

Why not? Former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown apparently is mulling a Senate run in New Hampshire, and former New Hampshire GOP Sen. Bob Smith, who is now running for his old job in the Granite State, briefly ran for Senate in Florida a few years ago.

Add to them a handful of top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruits who don’t live in the districts in which they are running, and it’s clear that ambition and ego drive many would-be office holders to run for something — anything — if an opportunity surfaces.

All the way across the country from Arizona, two high-level New Jersey elected officials, Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Robert Menendez, are both under federal investigation. Two from the same state? Unbelievable, right?

Well, yes, but it is New Jersey. That would be the same New Jersey that gave America Harrison “Pete” Williams, a sitting United States senator who was caught in the Abscam sting, Newark Mayor Sharpe James (convicted of fraud), Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas (mail fraud, misappropriating city funds, accepting illegal campaign contributions), Hudson County Executive Robert C. Janiszewski (bribery and tax evasion), Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini (bribery), Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo (mail fraud and cash-for-contracts) and Hudson County Freeholders William Braker and Nidia Davila-Colon (extortion and bribery).

No, that’s not an exhaustive list, but I’m not devoting an entire column (or more) to Garden State officials who have been convicted of breaking the law.

And no, things like that don’t only happen in New Jersey. They happen everywhere, even in Virginia, which is a state for both lovers and expensive dresses for the governor’s wife.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch …

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is talking about women’s libidos, a sure winning strategy for the GOP and conservatives everywhere. If there is anything that history has proved, it is that current and former Republican elected officials need to talk more about rape (real or unreal, I suppose), libidos and the various parts of the female body, a list of which I will not include in this column.

The big speech this week, of course, is President Barack Obama’s, and his main goal may be to try to get people to forget about the Affordable Care Act and his first five years in office.

A recent Battleground Poll, conducted jointly by The Tarrance Group, a GOP firm, and Lake Research Partners, a Democratic firm, shows the president’s job approval at 41 percent, while 54 percent disapprove of his performance. Even more worrisome for any Democrat, 46 percent of respondents said that they disapproved strongly of Obama’s performance, while only 27 percent approved strongly. (The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted by Langer Research Associates, found the president’s job performance at a better 46 percent approve/50 percent disapprove.)

Well, the president can always talk about his victory over al-Qaida. Oh wait, that’s not going to work anymore is it? Not after all of the talk about Fallujah, Iraq, falling to al-Qaida. Well, at least things are going great in Syria and Afghanistan ….

I suppose that means Mr. Obama will talk about growing income inequality in this country and government policies to address that problem. I’m betting he won’t propose anything that requires the launch of an elaborate website.

  • Norman Bates

    Dear Mr. Stuart Rothenberg your ignorance of the facts is astonishing. Well maybe not.

    • mabramso

      I don’t know. He does manage to predict almost all of the races quite accurately.

  • unStunned

    It may not rank up there with “location” in the real estate realm, but name recognition has always had enormous value in politics. Clay Aiken for Congress? Why not?

  • Carole Owens

    I find it exciting! I think you’re a bit ignorant. Why not Clay Aiken? No different then Ronald Reagan.

    • Sierra Arion

      Clay Aiken…no different than Ronald Reagan? Excuse me?

  • Ocean Sprayz

    If we are to develop new and innovative ways of doing things, we must have maximum liberty to make use of as much knowledge as possible.

  • southerndemnut

    You would probably have a more engaging, elegant, and intellectual conversation with Clay Aiken than you would with Renee Elmers.

    • mabramso

      Not particularly relevant in her district …

  • Cool Ranch, Texas

    Since we can see many of the efforts going on around us in a free market, we can use that information to decide upon which skills to obtain, what knowledge to learn, and where best to focus our energies.

  • mabramso

    I like the last paragraph. The President appears to be campaigning against himself. I mean if we have growing income inequality, and he has been in office for 5 years, he can’t blame it on Bush any more. His policies have contributed to the problem, not the solution.

  • JayfromBrooklyn

    Wait, you just spent 800 words complaining that the media is talking about something…

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