Nothing represents change in a tough election year* like a woman.
Since Hillary Clinton's historic presidential run for office, the 18 million cracks have created a political opening. Sarah Palin was the first through and she used her clout to make room for others. It's just too bad the Republican women rising are against women's individual freedoms. But make no mistake about it, the collapse of the Republican brand has allowed the ultimate outsiders, women, to find a way in. As for the new comeback kid, after the Halter scare that caused the runoff, she changed and won.
"Organized labor just flushed $10 million down the toilet." - White House Official
The biggest winner last night was Blanche Lincoln, who was bracing for a loss, which showed in her face during her speech. William Jefferson Clinton wins too, which I know will drive some people crazy. It's a heartbreaking loss for movement progressives who came so close, but their challenge made Blanche Lincoln a better candidate. It was a serious confrontation to elite power that had every establishment Dem quaking, which, from Ben Smith's quote above, reveals they didn't like it much. You can see Lincoln's response in the ad after Halter forced a runoff. This battle is the stuff that makes for eventual victories. That said, Arkansas is a right-to-work state and there is little to no union support inside the state. So, what was missed was pretty obvious, with outside labor unions coming in and pumping money into Halter's campaign, the image was pretty easy to exploit. But not even that reality should take away from the importance of what movement progressives accomplished. Some are writing Lincoln off, and she'll have to raise a lot of money. November won't be easy, because the energy will come from the right, with no help coming from the left.
As for Labor's response to the White House pettiness, it's a classic:
"If that's their take on this, then they severely misread how the electorate feels and how we're running our political program. When we say we're only going to support elected officials who support our issues," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale. "When they say we should have targeted our money among some key house races among Blue Dog Democrats -- that ain't happening."
"Labor isn't an arm of the Democratic Party," Vale said. "It exists to support working families. And that's what we said tonight, and that's what we're gong to keep saying."
I joined my first union, AFTRA, when I was still a teenager, with others coming later. Unions are struggling, but the disrespect paid to them through anonymous White House flacks is beyond insulting. If you want a middle class in this country, see unions. My husband, who is a blue collar man, has enjoyed good wages and benefits, because the threat of unions coming into the gas company kept them honest.
The hottest commodity from ladies' night is Nikki Haley, who will face a runoff on June 22. The good old boys just couldn't take her down. Even after the slime thrown her way, she still came in first and her brand image is through the roof. Dave Wiegel made a good prediction last night on Twitter: Prediction: Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) will gave the SOTU response in 2011. She's also got a presidential glimmer and being governor of a Southern state doesn't hurt.
Carly Fiorina will be up against Barbara Boxer for the U.S. Senate. Two tough women fighting it out, this race will be one to watch.
If you're keeping score, both Haley and Fiorina were endorsed by Sarah Palin. She can help raise money and rev up the troops, which has made for a very good 2010 for Palin. Her clout continues to matter as she uses her power to help other women rise.
Meg Whitman spent over $81M to get it done, but she'll run against Jerry Brown for the California crown. She's gone to the right to win the primary, so it will be interesting to see how her prior policy stance on things like immigration will be used against her.
...and what can you say about Sharon Angle, Nevada Tea Party spoiler and gift to Harry Reid? Seriously, I've got nothin' on this one and my husband spent his life in Nevada. I also spent time there, so I can say that Nevadans don't like politics as usual. I did a story during 2008 about my husband's kids, all of whom backed Ron Paul. They've got a very independent western streak in the state, with Harry Reid not particularly beloved. No matter how wacky Ms. Angle sounds, I guarantee you Sen. Reid will not take anything for granted.
It's taken a very long time but after the failures of Republican men, including Bush's presidency, which was a big spending Administration, plus the disastrous campaign of John McCain, including his collapse on the economy, women are taking their place on the right. They're coming from all ends of the Republican spectrum, with some of the display sure to offer awkward moments, but they are definitely energized. Republicans are seeing the rise of the female candidate, even if their politics stand in the face of women's freedoms that we've fought to win. That's something they'll have to explain, especially with the rise of ultrasound bills across the country that demand a woman be challenged before taking care of her own body as she sees fit.
Republicans did dodge a bullet, because Orly Taitz went down. Thinking about Ms. Taitz playing the Katherine Harris role in 2012 should give everyone nightmares.
As for former Pres. Bill Clinton, he's had a very good 2010. He helped keep the Pennsylvania seat once held by John Murtha; has been an inside dealer for Pres. Obama, even if the White House's machinations backfired; but likely made the difference in Arkansas, though to what end is not clear, as Mr. Halter was very likely a much stronger candidate for November. Clinton also worked behind the scenes for Maine Senate President Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell. In 2010, Clinton Democrats continue to show their prowess.
Something, however, is definitely missing. Where are the Democratic women rising? Since Hillary Clinton, well, as I've been writing for months, the new action has been on the right.
* TM NOTE: The first line has been edited, due to proper chastising by Rachel Maddow. It is indeed not an "anti-incumbent" year, but is a tough election year amidst a political paradigm shift with no clear landing place in sight.
Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.