Democrats on 'Cruz-control' to keep Senate in 2014

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President Obama’s victory over Republicans in the government shutdown fight has boosted the popularity and fundraising of Senate Democratic candidates, easing concerns that an anti-Obamacare wave would give control of the chamber to the GOP in the 2014 elections.

Voter anger at the GOP, and especially the Republican-run House, has hurt the party’s chances of winning an additional six Senate seats to take the majority and handed the Democrats a new line of attack: GOP candidates can't be trusted.

“Poll after poll shows that Republicans across the map are suffering because of the reckless and irresponsible government shutdown that nearly every GOP Senate candidate supported,” said Justin Barasky of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Democrats give credit for their improving chances to Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose effort to defund Obamacare led to the 16-day government shutdown. They said the GOP debacle helped to overshadow the website disaster in the first days of Obamacare, which several Democrats feared.

“It took the focus off Obamacare and helped us dodge a bullet,” said a Senate Democratic aide. “The Obamacare launch could have been hung around our neck.”

But Brad Dayspring, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Democrats are “living in D.C.-bubble fantasyland and they should visit Louisiana, Michigan, Arkansas, Alaska or North Carolina to hear what voters are actually talking about.”

He countered that Democrats created and own Washington’s “dysfunctional disaster,” and will pay a heavy price for Obamacare’s stumbling start.

Obama aides boozing hit by ex-agent

A former Secret Service agent who spent three years at President Obama’s side is claiming in a new book that White House staff regularly got drunk at “wheels-up” parties overseas, acting just as badly as agents fired for their involvement in a foreign alcohol and prostitution scandal last year.

Dan Bongino, who quit the service in 2011 to run for Senate as a Republican in Maryland, said he witnessed Obama staffers boozing at parties in foreign nations after Air Force One was in the air and the president was headed for home.

“The only bad behavior I ever witnessed at these events was by intoxicated White House staff,” wrote Bongino in the upcoming “Life Inside the Bubble,” provided in advance to Secrets. He added, “I assure you, if the same level of investigative scrutiny was applied to the White House staff members conducting advance work as was applied to the Secret Service, the results would not be flattering.”

Clinton-McAuliffe ticket gets buzz

Whispering has already begun about a potential presidential or vice-presidential bid by surging Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

Political analysts said the former Democratic Party chairman would automatically be included on the 2016 list of candidates if he beats Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli on Nov. 5 because of the importance of the state in the election.

“The field would be wide open, and McAuliffe can really raise money like few others,” said Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

“I think if McAuliffe pulls off a win then his name has to be on that long short list,” added Quentin Kidd, the director of Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy.

One hurdle is front-runner Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe’s mentor. One longtime Democratic strategist and McAuliffe fan said if Clinton bows out, he could run for the top spot — or be considered for her vice-presidential nominee if she runs.

Support growing for 10-cent gas tax

There’s a problem with the improvements in fuel economy pushed by President Obama. According to Ray LaHood, his former secretary of transportation, it means shrinking gas taxes — a shortfall that’s killing hopes to fix the nation’s roads and bridges.

Shushed by the president when he first called for new taxes, the recently retired LaHood is renewing his call for a 10-cent tax hike indexed to inflation.

And he’s getting some help. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, typically a foe of taxes, said LaHood is right. Chamber President Thomas Donohue noted that the 18-cent federal gas tax hasn’t been increased in 20 years. “What kind of car were you around the table driving 20 years ago?" he asked.

Donohue said roads need to be fixed, even in Washington. “We drive on the streets of this town. This is the world’s capital. And any day now, we’re going to fall into a sinkhole.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.
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