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The GOP's 2016 tech deficit

Reporters use laptop computers, iPads and ink and paper. | Getty

The GOP's 2016 tech deficit

By DARREN SAMUELSOHN

Here’s an early reality check for Republican White House hopefuls: The party doesn’t have enough tech experts to staff up a wide-open primary campaign.

What the aspiring GOP candidates will need to mount a modern-day tech race are campaign veterans with a wide range of seasoned digital skill sets — for fighting TV admen over budgets, writing fundraising email copy that doesn’t go straight to the trash bin and in using data the right way to find potential donors and voters.

But that kind of tech savvy doesn’t just get made in a Harvard dorm room. It comes from live-fire experience in the latest election cycles.

So while Democrats contemplate a small field where much of President Barack Obama’s vaunted campaign tech capacity transfers to Hillary Clinton, the GOP is facing a different dilemma. The tech experts it does have are likely to be scattered into a dozen or more campaigns.

 
Last of the Newspaper Giants

By Tom Shales

The Washington Post editor’s Pulitzer Prize-winning television critic says his boss, who died Tuesday at 93, justified the description ‘legendary’ a hundred times over.

Even his alliterative name had mythic qualities: Ben Bradlee. That sounds like the name of a dynamic, fearless, big-city newspaper editor as it might have been invented by a Hollywood screenwriter. But even though he was portrayed in one movie and appeared briefly in another with his glamorous writer-wife, Sally Quinn, there was nothing fake about Ben. Nothing had to be invented. The real story was fantastic enough.

When Ben Bradlee died Tuesday, at 93, of complications from Alzheimer’s, the most inescapable adjective in the obituaries was “legendary,” as anyone could have predicted. When I first met him in the early ’70s, having been hired as a cub reporter in the Style section of The Washington Post, both of which he turned into national showpieces, I expected him to be physically legendary—like maybe 7 feet tall. He was, in fact, of average height, but he had an aura like a pope or a head of state. Maybe he was the last giant of the business he loved so much.

That stature came so naturally to him that he never seemed conscious of it and in fact appeared a bit embarrassed when it was mentioned to him. But he had everything necessary—and more—to star in the last great act of American journalism, a finale that included the courageous publication of the Pentagon Papers despite threats from Congress and, of course, also included the tragicomic collapse of a presidency. Ben may have expressed doubts along the way, but he pursued the story of Watergate even as other papers, and the TV networks, cowered. Who in his line of work ever walked taller?

Everyone knows the stories about Ben Bradlee that justify the word “legendary” a hundred times over. Even though I was a very minor player at the Post during its most turbulent and triumphant era, eventually becoming TV critic with his support, I got to spend little moments with him that anyone would treasure. As they’d happen, one would think, “I want to remember every second, every detail of this,” even if it was a casual chat in the hallway. Now that he’s gone, one struggles to retrieve every speck and glimmer from a most inadequate memory bank.

Everyone’s heard how Bradlee told Katharine Graham, another revered mythic figure, that he’d give his “left one” to be executive editor of the Post; probably only people who worked in the building in downtown D.C. knew about such less historic but endearing details as the standing order for a “cake alert” should anybody be celebrating a birthday on the fifth floor, where most of the editorial staff were then located. “Ben,” who was hardly ever called “Mr. Bradlee,” always had to be notified when a cake was imminent. He was suddenly the kid you didn’t dare fail to invite to a birthday party, and he’d show up once he got the word.

He was tough and crusty and blunt, just as Jason Robards (who became a good friend of Ben and Sally’s) played him in All the Presidents Men, but he was also known to cry at sad movies, and his threshold was very low. One of the other staff critics in Style was known for not being a favorite of Bradlee or other Post executives; I’ll never forget the anguish in Ben’s voice when he complained to me, once the critic had left the paper, that the guy had never stopped by his office to say hello or to chew, as it used to be called, “the fat.” It was, amazingly to me, Ben’s feelings who were hurt in that relationship. He was the one who felt snubbed.

His feelings were hurt, too, he told me, when Howard Simons, the rough-edged managing editor, grew angry and embittered as the publicity surrounding All the Presidents Men grew deafening and Bradlee became a nationally known figure. Ben couldn’t understand why Howard would feel jealous of Ben—and express it. I remember a wise man saying, “Those giants can suck all the oxygen out of a room,” but Ben wasn’t that way. He seemed anxious to share the luster. He really didn’t want to hoard it, even if he was the most charismatic character any of us knew, or ever would know.

He was also, other than my father, the only great man I ever knew.

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Little girls drop F-bombs in profane feminist ad

A T-shirt company has issued a controversial feminist ad featuring several little girls as young as 6 dressed up in princess costumes and delivering an expletive-filled rant on the woes of the modern woman. (YouTube/FCKH8)

Little girls drop F-bombs in profane feminist ad

By Jessica Chasmar - The Washington Times

A T-shirt company has issued a controversial feminist ad featuring several little girls as young as 6 dressed up in princess costumes and delivering an expletive-filled rant on the woes of the modern woman.

In the “F-Bombs for Feminism” video, little girls drop the F-word over and over again while “educating adults on sexism,” the company FCKH8 says in the description.

 
Obama and the End of Greatness

Obama and the End of Greatness

By Jeff Shesol

In March of 1977, several weeks into the Carter Administration, “Saturday Night Live” featured a skit called “Ask President Carter.” The premise was a radio program, hosted by Walter Cronkite (Bill Murray), on which callers brought their problems to President Carter (Dan Aykroyd). After walking a postal worker through a highly technical repair to her letter-sorting machine (“There’s a three-digit setting there, where the post and the armature meet”), the President expertly talks a man down from an acid trip. “You did some orange sunshine, Peter,” Carter tells him. “Just remember you’re a living organism on this planet, and you’re very safe.… Relax, stay inside, and listen to some music, O.K.? Do you have any Allman Brothers?”

The real Carter, it turned out, wasn’t much like this—letter-sorting machines, maybe, but never the Allman Brothers. What the skit captures is the suspension of disbelief at the start of most Presidencies—that moment when a good number of Americans are able to convince themselves that we might be in the presence of a great man, and that his greatness will be manifest. That this is the man who has the answers. When it becomes clear that he doesn’t, we never quite forgive him for it.

This is where we stand right now with President Obama.

There are two years left in his tenure, but we are already in the process of writing him off. The Atlantic is calling him “our passé President”; at a rally in Maryland on Sunday, while Obama delivered a campaign speech, dozens of people drifted out of the auditorium. Yet he is still, of course, our President, and we still, on some level, expect heroics. Deep down, we don’t want Obama to appoint an “Ebola czar.” We want him to march into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, set some new protocols, and put this unpleasant business behind us. Instead, to quell our Ebola freak-out, Obama “hugged and kissed … a couple of the nurses” at a hospital in Atlanta, which, really, is an assignment Joe Biden could have taken.

We are a long way from the ideal Presidency—the kind on display for fourteen hours in “The Roosevelts,” Ken Burns’s new documentary, which aired last month on PBS. Granted, any President—Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore—given the Burns treatment would emerge a monument, but the greatness of Franklin Roosevelt (and, to a lesser extent, his cousin Theodore) is beyond serious question. “Who else among his twelve successors can compete?” asks Aaron David Miller in “The End of Greatness,” a thoughtful new book on Presidential performance. “In almost every category—including longevity, impact, wartime leadership, media mastery, durability of coalition, ensuring party control—F.D.R. seems to have cornered the market.”

By Miller’s reckoning—and he is hardly alone here—F.D.R. is the last “undeniably great president” this country has seen. “Our challenges today,” he argues, “are varied and diffused, our politics too broken and dysfunctional and unforgiving to be resolved by a single or a series of heroic presidential actions.” Though Miller thinks “acts of greatness in the presidency are still possible,” he insists that “we cannot have another giant”—and “seldom need one” at this stage in our national development. It is time, he concludes, for America to “get over the greatness thing” and “come to terms with the limits of a president’s capacity to fix things.”

The current President would most likely agree. Despite the grand hopes and hype of the 2008 campaign, this tempering of ambitions, this recognition—and acceptance—of the constraints on Presidential power has been a leitmotif of the Obama Presidency.

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Evidence of a Struggle With Michael Brown

Evidence of a Struggle With Michael Brown

 Dashiell Bennett

A leaked autopsy report supports claims of a fight inside officer Darren Wilson's car.

A new report on Michael Brown's official autopsy results appears to support Officer Darren Wilson's version of the events on August 9, according to two medical experts.

The new analysis of the autopsy results was released on Wednesday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which asked two independent experts who were not involved in the investigation—one of them, the St. Louis County Medical examiner—to review the available evidence.

Their report says that Brown was shot in the hand at very close range and his blood and other tissue were found both inside and outside the car. Wilson has reportedly told investigators that he fought with Brown inside his police SUV and that Brown attempted to take his gun.

St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham told the paper that the autopsy "does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.” The other expert, forensic pathologist Judy Melinek, went even further, saying that the wound on Brown's hand "supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun" and adding that another shot, which went through Brown's forearm, means Brown could not have facing Wilson with his hands up when he was shot, an apparent contradiction of the now iconic "hands up, don't shoot" posture adopted by protesters in Ferguson.

The official county autopsy and the private autopsies conducted on behalf of the families do not disagree on the number or wounds or their location. For example, both reports say that a shot to the top of Brown's head was likely fatal, but witnesses do not agree on whether he charging toward Wilson or was already on his way to the ground when he was hit. (A second story published in the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday says Wilson claims Brown kept charging him.)

This interpretation of the report seems to coincide with other reports about Wilson's statements to investigators and his testimony before the grand jury, which was recounted in The New York Times last Friday. The feeling among many observers of the case, including The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, and The Root's Eric Guster, is that these recent leaks are meant to prime the public for an inevitable result: a grand jury investigation that ends with no charges being filed against Wilson.

Police officers are generally given the right to respond with lethal force once they feel their life is in danger, and the Times added the federal officials think a civil rights charge against Wilson is also unlikely, given the high standards needed to file one. No matter the reason, the leaks are bound to raise tension in Ferguson once again, which continues to see protests more than 70 days since Brown's shooting.

 
David Carr: Ben Bradlee’s Charmed, Charming Life

Ben Bradlee’s Charmed, Charming Life

Civilians, normal people who don’t think the toppling of a sitting American president with newspaper articles is one of humankind’s lasting achievements, will read encomiums to Ben Bradlee like this one and wonder: What’s the big deal?

After all, he didn’t report the Watergate story for his Washington Post, he picked the reporters. He didn’t write the articles, he edited them. But journalists are people who will go where they are pointed, and Mr. Bradlee generally pointed to important, consequential things. People who worked for him would go through walls to bring back those stories, some of which revealed the true course of American history and some of which actually altered it.

The newspaper business can be a grand endeavor, but most of the people who commit journalism would never be mistaken for larger than life. Journalists are bystanders who chronicle the exploits of people who actually do things.

But Ben Bradlee did things. He went to war, loved early and often, befriended and took on presidents, swore like a sailor, and partied like a movie star. Now that he is gone — he died Tuesday at the age of 93 at his home in Georgetown — it is tough to imagine a newspaperman ever playing the kind of outsize role that he once did in Washington. Newspapers, and people’s regard for them, have shrunk since he ran The Post.

He took over an also-ran newspaper and turned it into a battleship like the one on which he served in World War II. Once the newspaper he ran gained steam, there was only the relentless effort to beat the competition, to find and woo talent, to afflict those that The Post deemed worthy.

In the more than quarter-century he helped lead the newsroom, from 1965 to 1991, he doubled its staff and circulation, and multiplied its ambitions. He would have been a terrible newspaperman in the current context — buyouts, reduced print schedules, timidity about offending advertisers — but he was a perfect one for his time.

“I had a good seat,” he said to Alicia C. Shepard in a 1995 interview with The American Journalism Review. “I came along at the right time with the right job and I didn’t screw it up.”

Mr. Bradlee had the attention span of a gnat — stories of him walking away from a conversation he ceased to find interesting were common — but he was completely hypnotized by the chase of a good story.

............................

By some estimations, including his own, his most enduring accomplishment had nothing to do with the Pentagon Papers or Watergate. After he became editor of the Post, he watched with envy as The New York Herald Tribune and magazines like Esquire and Playboy were using a different vocabulary, a so-called New Journalism, to expand the ways in which stories were told.

In 1969, he conjured Style, a hip, cheeky section of the newspaper that reflected the tumult of the times in a city where fashion and discourse were rived with a maddening sameness. The effect on the business was profound, as if Chuck Berry had walked into a Glenn Miller show and started playing guitar. He expanded the vernacular of newspapering, enabling real, actual writers to shake off the shackles of the hack and generate daily discourse that made people laugh, spill their coffee or throw The Post down in disgust.

He had nothing of the commoner about him, hosting and grilling much of the world’s elite at the Georgetown home he shared with Sally Quinn, a Post party reporter who became his third wife. But although he grew up in Boston, not even knowing anyone who was black, he managed to make a credible newspaper in a majority-black city. His efforts to cover the black community in deeper ways led to the returned Pulitzer Prize in the Janet Cooke affair, a big dent in a very shiny run.

Mr. Bradlee could be almost cartoonishly ambitious. Asked by Katharine Graham, the Post’s publisher, about his interest in the top job at the paper, he immediately replied that he would “give his left one” for the opportunity. He probably would have gotten along fine on the remaining testosterone.

A player of favorites and an admirer of bravado, he famously vetoed the hiring of a reporter who had already been vetted and all but hired, because “nothing clanks when he walks.”

Ben Bradlee clanked when he walked.

 
Hot new liberal strategy: just download the GOP hive mind!

senate race 2014 cartoon

This year's hot new liberal strategy: just download the GOP hive mind!

jeb lund

Jeb Lund

If Democratic candidates refuse to stand up for their own party's ideas, maybe these people don't deserve to win

The Republican party has, reliably, been going more crazy for nearly a quarter century. So it’s been fairly easy for Democrats to guarantee a chunk of votes simply by standing still or inching rightward, while pointing at the loons and saying, “That’s not me.” Which is fine as a principle, but the only person Not Me will be dragging to the polls on a boring midterm election, is Billy from the Family Circus.

However, the closer Democrats get toward said crazy at which they’re pointing, the less saying “That’s not me” means to anyone – because it clearly doesn’t mean much to the candidates either.

Nothing brought home the depressing similarities quite like the final Florida gubernatorial debate between sitting Republican governor Rick Scott and Democratic candidate (and former governor) Charlie Crist on Tuesday night. Scott lied in his first statement, mischaracterizing something Crist had said – not on the trail, but literally seconds before, on the stage, in front of the audience. Both men made accusations and counter-promises like a couple of student body presidential candidates saying, “My opponent promised to take seniors to Big Kahuna’s Water Park for graduation and failed. I’ll take us to Six Flags.” The whole slapfight had less dignity than the Batley Townswomen’s Guild’s reenactment of Pearl Harbor.

pat roberts kansas illustration

It’s tempting to depict Florida as some crazy otherworldly place – mostly because lazy journalists do this all the time – but Kansas isn’t doing any better. The Democrats completely tanked their chance to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Republican Pat Roberts, and instead are throwing in with a wealthy independent investor candidate with ties to Wall Street, despite no guarantee he would even caucus with them if he won. Part of their reasoning was certainly that their actual candidate already shared so many views with the Wall Street guy. The Democrats have struggled in Kansas for years, but rather than encouraging voters to the polls with a strong alternative candidate, they took a “moderate Kansas Democrat” – which should set off alarm bells from the get-go – and then ditched him in the hopes that they could recruit by some rich guy if he gets elected. Only the Democratic party could solve the problem of not offering much of an alternative by getting not much of an alternative.

 
NYTIMES EDITORIAL BOARD: The Democratic Panic

The Democratic Panic

Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kay Hagan and Other Candidates Avoid Obama

After a few days of trying to ignore the question, Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in Georgia, acknowledged on Friday that she had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. By this year’s standards, that’s pretty forthright, especially compared with Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat running for the Senate in Kentucky, who refuses to discuss her presidential vote.

Only one Democratic Senate candidate this cycle has been willing to appear with the president on the stump: Gary Peters in Michigan. The others have spent months keeping their distance from Mr. Obama and some of his best policies. Even Ms. Nunn just started running a television ad complaining that an attack ad by her Republican opponent, David Perdue, featured a misleading photo of her and Mr. Obama. The photo was actually taken at an event honoring President George H.W. Bush, she said.

The panicky Democratic flight away from President Obama — and from some of the party’s most important positions — is not a surprise. Mr. Obama remains highly unpopular among white voters, particularly in Southern states where candidates like Ms. Nunn, Ms. Grimes and several others are struggling to establish leads. But one of the reasons for his unpopularity is that nervous members of his own party have done a poor job of defending his policies over the nearly six years of his presidency, allowing a Republican narrative of failure to take hold.

Few voters know that the 2009 stimulus bill contributed heavily to the nation’s economic recovery, saving and creating 2.5 million jobs. Not a word of it is spoken on the campaign trail, where little credit is also given to the White House for months of promising economic news.

Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, one of the most far-reaching and beneficial laws to have been passed by Congress in years, gets little respect even among the Democratic candidates who voted for it. Though none support the Republican position of repeal, most talk about the need to “fix” the health law, as if it were a wreck alongside the road rather than a vehicle providing millions of people with health coverage.

“When I think about the health care law, frustrated, disappointed, you can put a lot of words toward it, but every day I work to try to fix it,” said Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, in a radio ad. (Mr. Begich voted for the law.) In a recent debate, Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat of North Carolina, talked mostly about the “common-sense fixes” she wants to make to the law.

Several Democratic candidates, including Ms. Hagan, Ms. Nunn, and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, quickly adopted the right-wing talking point that President Obama needs to impose a travel ban on all residents of African countries with Ebola cases, even though most public-health experts say such a ban would be ineffective and could make the situation worse.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has fought loudly against the president’s energy policies, has scurried so far to the right that she even opposes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, though her leading Republican opponent supports it.

Many of these candidates are running in difficult political environments and are being careful about what they say or don’t say in hopes of preserving Democratic control of the Senate. They run the risk, though, of alienating important constituencies who prefer a party with a spine, especially black voters, who remain very supportive of Mr. Obama. By not standing firmly for their own policies, Democrats send a message to voters that the unending Republican criticism of the president is legitimate. There is much that is going right in this country, and there is still time for Democrats to say so.

 
Jeb Bush’s tax problem

Jeb Bush is pictured. | AP Photo

Jeb Bush’s tax problem

By BRIAN FALER

Jeb Bush has a tax problem.

The former Florida governor has said he could accept tax increases in a hypothetical deficit-cutting deal. Never mind that he added that would come only in exchange for major federal spending cuts, or that he repeatedly cut taxes as governor.

Tax hikes are still apostasy in Republican circles, and the stance could be a big problem for Bush if he decides to seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

Bush’s views are already pitting him against one of his party’s most influential activists, Grover Norquist, the high priest of anti-tax orthodoxy who’s convinced nearly every elected Republican to sign a pledge not to raise taxes.

“Mind-boggling,” Norquist said of Bush.

It’s the very issue that helped bring down Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, who lost his bid for a second term after famously reneging on a “no new taxes” pledge.

“If my father had thrown away a perfectly good presidency by raising taxes, I think one of the things in life that I would learn is, ‘Don’t do that,’” Norquist said. “But here you have Jeb Bush going, ‘I learned nothing from my father’s self-immolation.”

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Scott Brown gains on Shaheen in N.H.

Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen are pictured in this composite. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

Scott Brown gains on Shaheen in N.H.

By MAGGIE HABERMAN

Can Scott Brown get lucky again?

The former Massachusetts Republican senator captured the late Ted Kennedy’s seat thanks to a combination of good timing, a weak rival, a nationally sour mood for Democrats and a perception that he was truly authentic.

Had he stayed in Massachusetts, he would have had a good shot at becoming the next governor, given the performance of his one-time rival, Attorney General Martha Coakley, in a gubernatorial race that Republican candidate Charlie Baker has made competitive. But the office didn’t appeal to Brown, according to friends.

So he relocated to New Hampshire to challenge Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a well-liked and well-defined former governor serving in a quirky state with more of the white, independent swing voters whom both sides are making a play for. Though Shaheen is the favorite, the race has become close enough that Republicans insist there’s a chance for an upset in a national climate that has soured on the Democratic president.

“If this were being held in a presidential year turnout, Shaheen would win [handily],” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who is advising a number of Senate campaigns. “But the prevailing political environment and the electoral arithmetic gives Brown a chance to make it close.”

Shaheen and Brown will face off Tuesday night in their second debate, an event that both sides sought to spin hours ahead of time.

“Voters Question Scott Brown’s Motives,” read a pre-debate memo that Shaheen’s campaign sent to reporters. “Tonight, New Hampshire voters will be rightfully questioning why Scott Brown is even at the debate. Brown’s flirting with running for office in Massachusetts — for both Governor and Senator — and later testing the Presidential waters in Iowa showed voters that he’s solely interested in getting back into office. That’s why polls consistently show New Hampshire voters don’t trust him.”

Brown, in a radio interview hours before the debate, referenced Obama’s quote a day earlier that Democratic senators who have avoided campaigning with him have all voted for his agenda — a remark that made White House supporters cringe.

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How Monica Lewinsky Could Complicate Hillary Clinton’s Likely 2016 Bid

How Monica Lewinsky Could Complicate Hillary Clinton’s Likely 2016 Bid

By Peter Nicholas

The ex-White House intern whose affair with Bill Clinton nearly sank his presidency has emerged from seclusion and is tweeting, writing and delivering speeches. On Monday, she joined Twitter (@MonicaLewinsky) and put out her first 140-character message: “#HereWeGo.” A day later she had nearly 64,000 followers.

So, there’s an audience for what Ms. Lewinsky has to say.

Is this trouble for the Clintons? Could it complicate Hillary Clinton‘s likely presidential bid?

Yes — though not for reasons you might think.

It’s doubtful Ms. Lewinsky has salacious new stories to share about her dalliance with the ex-president in the mid-1990s. The Starr report covered that ground in unsparing detail.

But there’s another consideration. Ms. Lewinsky’s reappearance is a reminder of a deeply polarizing period in American politics. And that does Mrs. Clinton no favors as she girds for a possible campaign.

Polls already suggest Mrs. Clinton isn’t a unifying figure who can bridge the partisan divide that has bedeviled President Barack Obama.

Since stepping down as secretary of state last year, her approval ratings have fallen steadily. The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that only 43% had a positive view of Mrs. Clinton, down 15 points from the end of her tenure at State. As of last month, only 14% of Republicans viewed her favorably compared with 72% of Democrats.

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Kansas and Georgia Change the Equation on Senate-Majority Math

Kansas and Georgia Change the Equation on Senate-Majority Math

 By Charlie Cook

The prospects remain very tough for Democrats to hold onto their majority in the Senate, but there is a new scenario emerging—albeit still unlikely—that is turning the majority math a bit on its head.

As I have said previously, Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take the majority. The question has generally been whether Republicans just need to knock off six Democratic seats to get to 51, or if they will need to gross seven seats in order to net six. Now there appears to be a real question as to whether Republicans may need to gross eight seats in order to net six, covering for the potential loss of not just Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas but an open seat in Georgia as well.

Though things don't look quite as hopeless for Roberts as they did a few weeks ago, the incumbent's poll numbers are said to be awful. Kansas voters face a dilemma: They can either throw out a senator whom they see as having all but completely lost touch with the state, or they can risk electing an independent who may very well choose to side with Democrats and President Obama in a state where neither is popular.

Republicans are also getting heartburn from the race for the open Senate seat in Georgia. Though the computer models have long given the GOP a huge advantage in the state—one was giving Republicans over a 99 percent chance just a week or two ago—this was always likely to be a very, very competitive race, which is why The Cook Political Report has rated it as a 'Toss Up' since March.

Early on, it appeared quite possible, if not likely, that Republicans would nominate an "exotic" candidate for the race, such as Rep. Paul Broun or Rep. Phil Gingrey—either of whom could easily have lost the seat for the GOP. Meanwhile, Democrats were clearly headed toward nominating the very electable Michelle Nunn, CEO of a nonprofit and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn. Even after former Reebok and Dollar General CEO David Perdue won a hard-fought GOP runoff against Rep. Jack Kingston, his name recognition remained surprisingly low. Perdue had not yet consolidated the Republican vote by mid-September, and thus Nunn still had a lead, albeit a small one at that point. Gradually, Perdue began to pull things together and eased ahead of Nunn with a lead that was admittedly not large, but seemed to be durable. One Perdue advantage is that Georgia still votes more like a Southern state, having not yet transitioned into a purple, competitive state, as other states like Virginia have.

The hammer has since come down on the Perdue campaign. Democrats have attacked Perdue's business record and his affinity for outsourcing jobs—something that is often necessary in today's business world, but remains very unpopular during a fragile recovery, where the median real family income hasn't improved since 2000. Now, Nunn is in a very close race with Perdue, whose campaign is in something of a tailspin.

Against this backdrop, Republicans still have open Democratic seats in Montana and West Virginia in the bag. While Gov. Mike Rounds in South Dakota is giving the GOP a case of acid reflux on a number of levels, in the end the party appears likely to pick up that seat as well. Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) are all locked in uphill contests. While none should be considered politically dead in the water, each faces ugly headwinds. Landrieu's last stand is likely to be in a December 6 runoff election with Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican who is most certain to emerge from the state's novel "jungle" primary.

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Dark Money and Our Looming Oligarchy

Dark Money and Our Looming Oligarchy

By Michael Tomasky

Hundreds of millions of untraceable donations are flowing to candidates, and at some point soon untraceable ‘dark money’ will likely overtake the system.

There is something obscene in looking at the raw numbers, is there not? More than $500 million being spent on House races, and north of $300 million on Senate contests. A half-billion dollars! In the House! Where, as of yesterday, the Cook Political Report was counting a mere 17 contests as toss-ups, with 19 others as vaguely competitive. [This paragraph originally said $300 billion, which was incorrect.]

But the gross (double entendre intended) amounts aren’t the money story of this campaign. The money story of this campaign is that undisclosed money is starting to overtake the system and overtake our politics, and that at the heart of this corruption sits a lie peddled to us by the Supreme Court when it handed down the Citizens United decision. Whether it did so naively or cynically, I honestly do not know. But let’s just say that if it was naïve, it was almost too naïve to believe, Steve.

Here’s the situation. Outside spending—that is, the spending not by candidates’ own committees—may possibly surpass total candidate spending, at least in the competitive races, for the first time. And of that outside spending, an increasing amount is the category they call “dark” money, which is money whose sources and donors don’t have to be disclosed. I mean, don’t have to be disclosed. At all. That’s because these aren’t SuperPACs, which at least do have to disclose their donor lists, but are 501c4 “social welfare” (!) groups that don’t have to file anything with the Federal Elections Commission.

You’ve heard a lot about how bad SuperPACs are, and they are, but they’re not even the main problem these days. Most SuperPAC money has to be disclosed. But social welfare money does not. This recent study by the Brennan Center tells the tale. It totaled up the outside money being spent in the nine most competitive Senate races and found that 33 percent of these outside dollars weren’t subject to disclosure requirements. This includes the aforementioned social welfare organizations along with trade associations, the 501c6’s, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is one of 2014’s biggest spenders, possibly spending more this cycle than it did even in the presidential year of 2012.

A further 23 percent is subject only to partial disclosure. So more than half of this outside money is now spread around behind either partial or total secrecy. That percentage is assuredly going to grow. Almost all of the Koch Brothers’ money—they earlier announced a goal of spending $300 million on these elections, just $100 million less than they spent in the presidential year of 2012—is dark, and if they succeed, others will surely follow their example.

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Why Voters Are So Totally Checked Out

Why Voters Are So Totally Checked Out

So much for polls: “Walmart moms” in two states with hard-fought Senate elections say they’ll make up their minds the night before Election Day.

Senate races remain stubbornly tight in key states with a number of voters unable to make up their minds at least in ways that pollsters can measure. But two all-female focus groups in North Carolina and Louisiana offered clues about what voters are thinking far away from the D.C. bubble.

The women gathered around a table Monday night in Charlotte and in New Orleans are registered voters, but this election they’ve pretty much tuned out politics. It’s just too depressing when all the candidates do is bash each other. And world affairs are no comfort either, with Ebola surfacing as the latest scary thing.  

Better to put on blinders, they say, and focus on home and family.

The fact that Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana are women doesn’t much impress these voters, dubbed Walmart Moms for their shopping habits and having at least one child under 18 at home. When asked whether they would vote for Hagan or her challenger, Republican Thom Tillis, they resisted siding with either candidate. Asked if Hagan deserves reelection, not a single hand went up -- which is the same thing that happened when asked if she didn’t deserve reelection.

“All those ads and you don’t know one way or another?” the moderator pressed. Many millions have been spent on television ads in North Carolina, as groups on the right and left try to sway the electorate. 

When would they decide? “When it gets closer to the time,” one woman said. How would they decide? “Google it,” said another. When? “Probably the night before.”

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Operation Moonlight: “no legal or procedural justification”

Watchdog: 'No justification' for Operation Moonlight

By Susan Crabtree

An internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that the Secret Service erred in diverting members of a special White House unit to protect the assistant of the agency’s director at her home in La Plata, Md.

DHS Inspector General John Roth led an investigation into the agents' diversion, an assignment known within the Secret Service as Operation Moonlight, and found “no legal or procedural justification” for it and said the diversion amounted to a “serious lapse in judgment” on the part of top agency officials who ordered it.

An unnamed top official at the Secret Service ordered the members of the Secret Service’s Prowler unit, which is responsible for patrolling the White House perimeter, to leave their posts and travel to the southern Maryland town, a 50-minute drive from Washington.

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In the new Senate, will independents rule?

From left: Greg Orman, Angus King, Bernie Sanders and Larry Pressler are shown in this composite. | AP Photos

In the new Senate, will independents rule?

By DAVID ROGERS

If three’s a crowd, could three, even four independents be a force in the Senate after November’s elections?

The chances are slim so long as the two dominant parties control the patronage of committee assignments. But the options still are intriguing given the historic rise of Greg Orman in Kansas and Larry Pressler’s long-shot revival in South Dakota.

If either wins, it adds punch and a Great Plains flavor to the small Northeast bloc of independents today: Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. King already enjoys a good working relationship with Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of the last Republican moderates: “As Maine goes, so goes the Senate?” Or maybe there will just be enough independents to host their own “party” lunch on Tuesdays — and invite in the disaffected from both corners to churn from the middle.

“We have a movement,” King laughs.

 
Nation’s Confidence Ebbs at a Steady Drip

Nation’s Confidence Ebbs at a Steady Drip

In taking office during two overseas wars and the Great Recession, President Obama set out to restore society’s frayed faith in its public institutions, saying that the question was not whether government was too big or small, “but whether it works.” Six years later, Americans seem more dubious than ever that it really does.

With every passing week or month, it seems, some government agency or another has had a misstep or has been caught up in scandals that have deeply eroded public confidence. The Internal Revenue Service targets political groups, the Border Patrol is overwhelmed by children illegally crossing the Rio Grande, the Department of Veterans Affairs covers up poor service, and the Secret Service fails to guard the president and his White House.

Now public esteem for the long-respected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has plummeted with the arrival of Ebola on American shores. A new CBS News poll found that only 37 percent of Americans thought the centers were doing a good job, down from 60 percent last year. In fact, of nine agencies tested, seven that were judged highly by a majority of Americans last year have now fallen below 50 percent. Only one, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was rated well by a majority, and that by just 51 percent.

The disenchantment stretches beyond individual agencies to the nation’s leadership. Heading into the last election that will directly influence his presidency, Mr. Obama remains at or near his lowest approval ratings, with his handling of various matters called into question by many voters. The only solace for him is that Congress, gripped by gridlock, is held in even lower regard, with its approval rating in single digits.

“As Bill Clinton used to say, most Americans start out thinking the federal government couldn’t run a two-car funeral,” said Bruce Reed, who was a top White House official under Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama. “Now they worry that one of the two cars should have been recalled and the other can’t go anywhere because Congress is still fighting over whether to fix the road.”

To be sure, it remains debatable whether government really is more dysfunctional than in the past. During war and depression, during the civil rights movement or the Watergate scandal or Hurricane Katrina, institutions struggled to meet public needs. But today’s disillusionment has been turbocharged by the relentless pace of the modern news media, the unforgiving glare of social media and the calculating efforts of partisans.

And it has come to shape the national debate leading to the midterm congressional elections to be held in less than two weeks. Republicans are trying to capitalize on the sour mood to argue that Mr. Obama and his party have proved that they cannot be trusted to govern, a case bolstered by continuing foreign policy crises in places like Syria and Ukraine. Democrats accuse the opposition of mindless obstructionism, deliberately sabotaging government, or at least tearing down belief in it, out of ideological fervor and political ambition.

“There’s a sense that things simply don’t work in Washington, and Congress, in particular, seems to be completely gridlocked,” Mr. Obama told donors in Chicago on Monday night. “And so all of this adds together to a sense on the part of folks that the institutions they rely on to apply common-sense decisions and to look out for working families across the country, that those institutions aren’t working the way they’re supposed to.”

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George W. Bush's Revenge

George W. Bush's Revenge: A Federal Appeals Court Goes on the Rampage

By Stephanie Mencimer

A court dominated by Bush appointees issues extreme opinions on abortion, voter ID, and the death penalty.

When George W. Bush departed the White House, he left behind a giant deficit and expanded government spending for Medicare drug benefits that caused conservatives to grumble. But he did make a mark that right-wingers can cheer—by shaping the federal courts for years, perhaps decades.

As Bush has retreated to painting, federal judges he placed on the bench have been implementing a conservative vision in some of the most contentious areas of federal law. The best example of this is a string of recent decisions on hot-button issues from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which the ABA Journal has dubbed "the nation's most divisive, controversial and conservative appeals court."

The 5th Circuit handles appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and it has become increasingly powerful as the Supreme Court has been hearing fewer and fewer cases. This month, the court—which has six George W. Bush appointees out of 15 judges—infuriated civil rights and pro-choice groups with two decisions overturning lower court rulings in Texas.

In one case, the 5th Circuit cleared the way for a new Texas voter ID law to take effect just days before early voting begins, even though a lower court judge had found, after a long trial, that the law amounted to a poll tax and unconstitutional suppression of voting, particularly by minorities. (The Supreme Court upheld the circuit court's ruling on Saturday.) In the other case, the court ruled that Texas could implement a new restrictive abortion law that would effectively shutter many of the state's remaining abortion clinics. (The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked this abortion law.)

The 5th Circuit has been consistently hostile toward abortion rights. Prior to this recent decision, it had already okayed most of Texas' new restrictive law that has led to the closing of 28 clinics. The law requires abortion providers to seek admitting privileges to nearby hospitals and forces clinics to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to meet the standards of an outpatient surgical center.

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Ebola Fears Could Make People More Likely to Vote Conservative

Ebola Fears Could Make People More Likely to Vote Conservative

By Alice Robb

Nearly half of Americans admitted to pollsters that they believe they are “at risk” of contracting Ebola. The effects of the virus go beyond our collective psyche. According to The New Republic’s Brian Beutler, Republicans are gearing up to capitalize on voters’ fear of a massive Ebola outbreak in upcoming elections. And Republicans might benefit from the Ebola panic for another, more existential reason: A growing body of literature in psychology suggests that feelings of fear make people’s political outlook more conservative. 

Over the past few years, a number of experiments have begun to shed light on the relationship between emotion and political inclinations. “There’s empirical research that suggests that when people are primed with images of mortality — graveyards, hospitals, the elderly — this can move them to the right,” said John Hibbing, who directs the political physiology lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Some studies suggest that people who are already conservative may be extra-sensitive to these images.

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Does Fear Keep Us Safe?

Does Fear Keep Us Safe?

By Captain Tom Bunn, L.C.S.W.

Xenophobia is not just a phobia. It has grown to become a religion subscribed to by about half of us. To determine what makes us safe, we need to separate what makes sense from what is sheer phobia.

In the U.S. xenophobia is not just a phobia. It has grown to become a religion subscribed to by about half of us. Its anxiety-ridden adherents believe more - not less - fear is needed to ensure our safety. The more afraid people become, the more likely we are to make ourselves safe by closing our borders, arming ourselves, restricting voting, shrinking the government, and sending someone else's kid abroad to kill those we are afraid of.

 
The GOP’s Really Big Problem in Georgia

By Patricia Murphy

Republican Senate candidate David Perdue should be winning big in Georgia. So why does Democrat Michelle Nunn look like she might have him on the ropes?

The Republican candidate with a Republican name (his cousin, Sonny Perdue, was the governor) in a Republican state is locked in a dead heat against Democrat Michelle Nunn. It was a race that most thought would be an easy win for the GOP, which is looking to keep retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss seat in Republican control. 

Other Republicans like Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner have started to pull away from Democrats in contested races across the country. But Perdue has become ensnared in a raging debate over outsourcing, the global economy, and whether he, as a former CEO of multinational corporations, is part of the solution to Georgia’s economic struggles—or part of the reason it has tumbled to 51st place in unemployment.

Perdue’s resume, which includes time as CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, was supposed to be a major advantage going into the election. He slugged out a GOP primary win over the summer by painting himself as savvy businessman who could fire up an economic turnaround of the state and the country.

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What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

Credit Photo illustrations by Zachary Scott for The New York Times.

What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

By BRUCE GRIERSON

Ellen Langer’s experiments have shown that mental attitudes might reverse some ravages of old age. Now she wants to test that same radical principle on cancer.

One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer.

The subjects were in good health, but aging had left its mark. “This was before 75 was the new 55,” says Langer, who is 67 and the longest-serving professor of psychology at Harvard. Before arriving, the men were assessed on such measures as dexterity, grip strength, flexibility, hearing and vision, memory and cognition — probably the closest things the gerontologists of the time could come to the testable biomarkers of age. Langer predicted the numbers would be quite different after five days, when the subjects emerged from what was to be a fairly intense psychological intervention.

Langer had already undertaken a couple of studies involving elderly patients. In one, she found that nursing-home residents who had exhibited early stages of memory loss were able to do better on memory tests when they were given incentives to remember — showing that in many cases, indifference was being mistaken for brain deterioration. In another, now considered a classic of social psychology, Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules during the day. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group.

To Langer, this was evidence that the biomedical model of the day — that the mind and the body are on separate tracks — was wrongheaded. The belief was that “the only way to get sick is through the introduction of a pathogen, and the only way to get well is to get rid of it,” she said, when we met at her office in Cambridge in December. She came to think that what people needed to heal themselves was a psychological “prime” — something that triggered the body to take curative measures all by itself. Gathering the older men together in New Hampshire, for what she would later refer to as a counterclockwise study, would be a way to test this premise.

The men in the experimental group were told not merely to reminisce about this earlier era, but to inhabit it — to “make a psychological attempt to be the person they were 22 years ago,” she told me. “We have good reason to believe that if you are successful at this,” Langer told the men, “you will feel as you did in 1959.” From the time they walked through the doors, they were treated as if they were younger. The men were told that they would have to take their belongings upstairs themselves, even if they had to do it one shirt at a time.

Each day, as they discussed sports (Johnny Unitas and Wilt Chamberlain) or “current” events (the first U.S. satellite launch) or dissected the movie they just watched (“Anatomy of a Murder,” with Jimmy Stewart), they spoke about these late-'50s artifacts and events in the present tense — one of Langer’s chief priming strategies. Nothing — no mirrors, no modern-day clothing, no photos except portraits of their much younger selves — spoiled the illusion that they had shaken off 22 years.

At the end of their stay, the men were tested again. On several measures, they outperformed a control group that came earlier to the monastery but didn’t imagine themselves back into the skin of their younger selves, though they were encouraged to reminisce. They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller — just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.

The results were almost too good. They beggared belief. “It sounded like Lourdes,” Langer said. Though she and her students would write up the experiment for a chapter in a book for Oxford University Press called “Higher Stages of Human Development,” they left out a lot of the tantalizing color — like the spontaneous touch-football game that erupted between heretofore creaky seniors as they waited for the bus back to Cambridge. And Langer never sent it out to the journals. She suspected it would be rejected.

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George P. Bush looks to his future — and his dad's

George P. Bush is pictured. | AP Photo

George P. Bush looks to his future — and his dad's

The younger Bush is running for Texas land commissioner — his first run for office and probably not his last — but on the trail he’s just as likely to be asked about Jeb Bush’s potential presidential ambitions as his own political goals.

It’s an only-in-the-Bush-family dilemma that George P. handles with grace. In a series of interviews on a swing through Gulf Coast towns, he told POLITICO that his father will decide whether to run in 2016 “very shortly,” and that among the sacrifices he’s weighing is putting aside his lucrative business dealings, which reportedly range from chairing a private equity and consulting firm to giving well-paid speeches. Also key will be how others in the Bush clan, including Jeb Bush’s publicity-shy wife, Columba, ultimately come down, and whether Jeb Bush really wants to make such a serious time commitment, his son said.

“I think he’s assessing in his heart of hearts whether or not he can offer something to the Republican ticket,” George P. Bush said. “He’s got a great business, and he’d have to give that up as well. So there’s all kinds of considerations there, not to be taken lightly, and one that we’ll hear, I think a final conclusion on very — very shortly,” though after the Nov. 4 midterms.

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Benjamin C. Bradlee 1921-2014

Benjamin C. Bradlee  1921-2014

Ben Bradlee in his office in 1995. (Bill O'Leary/The Post)

Legendary editor transformed The Post

Ben Bradlee’s gift for leadership and zest for journalism — and life — made him the most celebrated editor of his era. He directed The Post’s coverage of Watergate, which resulted in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.

Robert G. Kaiser

Benjamin C. Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years and guided The Post’s transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers, died Oct. 21 at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 93.

From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.

The most compelling story of Mr. Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.

But Mr. Bradlee’s most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post’s publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to court to try to quash those stories, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the New York Times and The Post to publish them.

President Obama recalled Mr. Bradlee’s legacy on Tuesday night in a statement that said: “For Benjamin Bradlee, journalism was more than a profession — it was a public good vital to our democracy. A true newspaperman, he transformed the Washington Post into one of the country’s finest newspapers, and with him at the helm, a growing army of reporters published the Pentagon Papers, exposed Watergate, and told stories that needed to be told — stories that helped us understand our world and one another a little bit better. The standard he set — a standard for honest, objective, meticulous reporting — encouraged so many others to enter the profession. And that standard is why, last year, I was proud to honor Ben with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today, we offer our thoughts and prayers to Ben’s family, and all who were fortunate to share in what truly was a good life.”

The Post’s circulation nearly doubled while Mr. Bradlee was in charge of the newsroom — first as managing editor and then as executive editor — as did the size of its newsroom staff. And he gave the paper ambition.

Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created features and sections — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.

During his tenure, a paper that had previously won just four Pulitzer Prizes, only one of which was for reporting, won 17 more, including the Public Service award for the Watergate coverage.

“Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor,” said Donald E. Graham, who succeeded his mother as publisher of The Post and Mr. Brad­lee’s boss.

“So much of The Post is Ben,” Mrs. Graham said in 1994, three years after Mr. Bradlee retired as editor. “He created it as we know it today.”

Leonard Downie Jr., who succeeded Mr. Brad­lee as The Post’s executive editor in 1991, said, “Ben’s influence remained very much alive at The Washington Post long after he retired, distinguishing the newspaper and our newsroom as unique in journalism.” President Obama saluted Mr. Bradlee’s role at The Post when giving him the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2013: “He transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world.”

 

Mr. Bradlee’s friendship with Kennedy produced complex feelings that lasted for decades after the president’s 1963 assassination. Mr. Brad­lee knew reporters shouldn’t become close friends with politicians. At the same time, Mr. Bradlee loved bright, lively, charming people, and he had great confidence in his own ability to stay straight journalistically in all circumstances. “If I was had, so be it,” Mr. Bradlee wrote in his 1974 bestseller, “Conversations With Kennedy.”

Mr. Bradlee insisted that he never had an inkling that the president was carrying on with numerous other women, from Mafia molls to Mr. Bradlee’s sister-in-law, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Tony Bradlee’s sister. Mr. Bradlee acknowledged that this obliviousness seemed improbable, but no evidence ever emerged to challenge his protestations of ignorance.

This friendship was a journalistic boon to Mr. Bradlee, who received a stream of scoops from Kennedy and his entourage that made him a highly visible figure in the competitive world of Washington journalism. He became a certifiable member of the journalistic elite in a capital city where reporters were just starting to become more glamorous and prominent.

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Democrats' lead fades in Colorado Senate race.

Democrats' lead fades in Colorado Senate race. Is state not so blue after all?

By Amanda Paulson

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall appears to be distancing himself from an unpopular president but may have miscalculated by focusing so much of his campaign on women and reproductive rights. 

One of the most watched elections in the country right now wasn't originally supposed to be competitive.

The outcome of the race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, could end up determining which party controls the Senate. Senator Udall's early leads in the polls have dwindled until, in the past month, nearly every poll has showed Representative Gardner holding a slim lead.

A year ago, most political observers assumed that Udall would have a relatively easy reelection in a state that has been trending blue for some years. But a combination of antipathy toward President Obama (and Washington incumbents generally), a challenger who is more moderate than some recent Republican candidates, and a seemingly one-note campaign by Udall – focusing on women and reproductive rights – has changed the dynamics.

"It’s close, and could break either way," says Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. "There’s clearly a feeling at the moment that Cory Gardner has the momentum."

So what happened in Colorado, a state that Mr. Ciruli and others were starting to see as "light blue," rather than purple? Part of Udall's challenge has been facing a Republican in a midterm election with a hugely unpopular Democratic president. Udall has done what he can to distance himself from Mr. Obama – so much that when the president came to Colorado this summer to raise money for Udall, Udall found a reason to stay in Washington – but it's been an uphill challenge.

Add to that the fact that the Colorado legislature, with both houses controlled by Democrats, enacted progressive legislation in the past few years that angered some Independent and conservative Coloradans.

"Local [factors] joined with national helped produce what you’re watching today," says Ciruli, referring to the conservative backlash. "Moderates and people in the middle have decided that’s the side they’re going to be on this time, that it's time to rein it in."

But observers also say that Udall hasn't helped matters by running a campaign that seems to be designed as a replay of the campaign that helped Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet eke out a win in 2010, despite lagging in the polls until the end. Back then Senator Bennet won, in large part, by focusing on women voters as well as reproductive rights. His opponent, Ken Buck, was a cultural conservative who believed abortion should be banned in all instances, and he made tone-deaf statements, once telling an audience they should vote for him "because I don't wear high heels."

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