Monday, July 30, 2007

A little tidbit....

An interesting little tidbit I picked up over the weekend...for what it's worth.

In the 1976 presidential campaign, the candidates - Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, the main two - running for president raised a total of $171 million.

So far this year...the candidateshave raised $171 million - and we're more than a year away from the election.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Following up....

A couple of weeks ago I had a large package in the newspaper about Religion and Politicss, specifically looking at the issue of former Mass. Gov Mitt Romney's Mormon faith and how area members of the Church of Jesus Christs of Ladder-day Saints view the increased attention being focused on it.

In an interview with the Associated Press, it appears Romney now feels it necessary to address the issue, much the same way JFK was forced to deal with being a Catholic back in 1960. This is what the AP is reporting:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Thursday he’ll probably deliver a speech explaining the role his Mormon faith plays in his political life, but he argued he’s made strong gains among evangelicals despite questions about his religion. “I have thought about that,” Romney said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I haven’t made a final decision, but it’s probably more likely than not.” During a campaign appearance earlier in the day, Romney was asked about his views on appointing a “God-fearing Mormon” to the Supreme Court. Romney has been asked about such matters frequently in question-and-answer sessions he holds almost daily. “I’d go after people who will follow the law and I wouldn’t apply a religious test either,” Romney said. In the interview, Romney acknowledged the issue crops up often enough that he’s pondering dealing with it in a comprehensive manner.

No sense of unity or urgency...

The state, in the person of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, and the U.S. Navy, in the person of Deputy Secretary of Installations & Facilities Wayne Arny, held their first discussion about the Groton submarine base yesterday - a 45 minute video conference call.

The end result - no commitment from either side on this plan to have the state borrow money for infrastructure improvements - in terms of piers - with the Navy leasing them from the state. In fact, a new wrinkle popped up when the navy advised the state that currently such an arrangment isn't possible unless there is federal legislation enacted allowing for it to happen.

Maybe if someone had asked about that sooner we could have been already working on that. After all, this idea has been kicking around for more than a year now...but we are only now getting to a point where people are actually talking to each other.

What's missing is that sense of urgency that we witnessed back in the 2005 base closing process. And I don't get the sense that the same sense of unity is quite up to that level either.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

And the talks begin....

The governor is having her meeting with the Navy. The topic of the conversation is the Groton submarine base. No one is expecting anything to come out of this initial discussion - at least nothing in terms of a finite plan on how the state can funnel some money to the base to help with infrastructure improvements.

We'll see what does happen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wheels of gov't spinning slowly....

The legislature was due to return to Hartford today for the annual "Veto Override" session. It was suggested last week that since they'll all be there, lawmakers might also take up the 2007-09 Bonding package as well.

But that's not happening. There will be no veto session, and the vote on the bonding package has now been put off "for a few weeks." Not exactly known when a "few weeks" really is.

Word has it that lawmakers and legislative leaders still haven't ironed out the details of the state's borrowing plans. A lot of "promises" were made by the leadership to rank and file members to win over the support on the budget negotiations...and now the rubber needs to hit the road and those promises kept - and that apparently is easier said than done.

But there are some other big events coming up this week worth watching.

In Washington, on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on the 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill. In it is an extra $600 million to begin the advance procurement so a second submarine can begin being constructed as early as 2010.

It's a key vote, but far from the last one that will be needed to make this really happen. If the committee approves, then it goes to the full House for approval. The proposal will also have to clear the Senate, the upper chamber's Appropriations Committee hasn't even begun to take up the issue yet.

The biggest hurdle, however, could be the ongoing fued between the Democratically-controlled Congress and the White House over continued funding for the Iraq War. If Democrats attached more amendments to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would cut off funding for the troops...the president will most likely veto it...and those efforts to increase submarine construction from one- to two-per-year.

On another front, on Thursday in Hartford, the governor sits down for the first face-to-face meeting with top U.S. Department of Navy officials regarding the Groton submarine base. There's effort under way trying to forge a partnership between the state and the Navy whereby the state would put up the money for infrastructure improvements at the base, and the Navy "lease" the properties back - with an agreement that if for any reason the Navy abandons the base in future base closing rounds, the Navy will pay back the state whatever was spent there.

What's really surprising about all this is that this idea has been on the forefront of discussions for over a year now...and we're just now getting to a point where people are holding the "first" face-to-face discussion about it?

The wheels are moving slowly.....

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

US Senate and the Iraq Vote....

Senate Republicans scuttled a Democratic proposal ordering troop withdrawals from Iraq in a showdown Wednesday that capped an all-night debate on the war. The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate under Senate rules. It was a sound defeat for Democrats who say the U.S. military campaign, in its fifth year and requiring 158,000 troops, cannot tame the sectarian violence in Iraq.

Here is what CT Sen. Christopher J. Dodd had to say about it....

"Today, the Republicans were given yet another chance to listen to the American people's call for a change of course in Iraq. Sadly those entreaties fell on deaf ears. Instead, the Senate Minority has chosen to stubbornly protect the President against efforts to change a failed Iraq policy, and the result will be additional loss of life and a continuation of civil war in Iraq. And, as the latest National Intelligence Estimate clearly shows, our continued involvement in Iraq is leaving our nation vulnerable to attack while diverting resources from the fight against terror. As each passing day unfolds with more chaos in Iraq and new evidence that the Administration’s policy is threatening our national security, support for the President's course will continue its downward spiral. I will continue to fight for a firm redeployment deadline at every opportunity, and I am confident that the day will come when this Congress will have the courage to say enough is enough."

Candidate Web sites...

The two probable candidates in Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District - incumbent Congressman Joe Courtney and his likely GOP challenger Sean Sullivan - have campaign Web pages up. But neither is offering visitors very much at this stage of the game.

Courtney's campaign Web page ( never went away, but was very inactive following last year's election. There have been a few updates added recently.

Sullivan has just launched his Web page (www.sullivan2008) and provides only a bio on the former Groton Submarine Base commander, a copy of the printed flyer he distributes when he's campaigning and information on how you can contribute to his campaign.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Speaking of Dodd....

Just interesting information about his campaign...

State where most events have been held: Iowa, 46 events.
Followed by New Hampshire (41); South Carolina (11) and Nevada (9).

State where he's received the most money in 2nd Quarter fundraising: CT, $854,013
Followed by New York ($794,200) and California ($189,027)

Amount raised in 2nd Quarter: $3.2 million.

Cash on hand as of June 30: $6.3 million.

Latest NH poll has him at 3 percent.

Dodd on withdrawing troops...

Here's what Connecticut Sen. Chrsitopher J. Dodd has to say this morning during the debate in the U.S. Senate on an amendment to withdraw troops from Iraq....

Mr. President. I had hoped to offer an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill of 2007 regarding Iraq today. I understand that the leadership has decided to act on the Levin-Reed Iraq amendment before considering other Iraq amendments. Given the existing parliamentary situation, I am not confident that there will be an opportunity to get an up or down vote on my amendment, or frankly any amendment that meaningfully mandates a change in course with respect to the Administration’s policy in Iraq.

Mr. President, I believe those who refuse to allow this Senate to vote on this critical issue do a grave disservice to the American people by enabling this President to continue with his failed strategy in Iraq. Every additional day we “stay the course” in Iraq our nation is less safe and the people of Iraq get further away from coming together to fashion a political and diplomatic solution to their civil conflict. Our men and women in uniform have served this nation valiantly in Iraq and they will continue do so until our political leaders see the error of their ways and begin the process of drawing down the US troop presence.

It is imperative that we change course in Iraq now.

Sadly the President and his allies stand in the way of that goal. But support for the President’s policy erodes as each passing day unfolds with more violence and chaos in Iraq. And, I predict the day will come when this Congress will have the courage to say enough is enough – but sadly it won’t before more American lives are lost or more wanton destruction occurs throughout Iraq.

Mr. President, Let me speak briefly about the amendment that I have filed and would like to offer at the earliest opportunity.

My amendment seeks to accomplish two critical tasks: first, to bring the Iraq war to a close by ending the financing of combat operations, mandate a phased redeployment of combat forces from Iraq, and ensure that the administration actually carries out that redeployment. Second, it proposes to redirect any savings realized from a reduced military presence in Iraq, to restore the readiness of our war-battered National Guard and armed services. I strongly believe that we must not wait any longer to achieve either task.

Now is the time for us to make difficult choices. Now is the time to enact legislation that will hold this Administration accountable.

I want to say that I support the Levin-Reed amendment, and I thank our colleagues for demonstrating leadership in trying to move this body one step closer to bringing this disastrous war to a close. It is my hope that their amendment will do just that, but I remain concerned about aspects of the amendment -- the extended delay in commencing redeployment and absence of any funding linkage to redeployment.

Based on past experience with this administration – my fear is that the President would simply ignore the legislation proposed by the distinguished Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the Senior Senator from Rhode Island.

Mr. President, it has been quite difficult to track the ever-changing justifications for continuing our combat operations in Iraq, including the surge, and there appears to be no end in sight. First the administration simply refused to admit that we were not winning in Iraq, or that Iraq was in a state of civil war.

Then, instead of acting upon a unique chance to implement the bi-partisan Baker-Hamilton Commission, which Congress supported, Secretary Rice explained that the administration was implementing a surge tactic, but assured us that it was an Iraqi plan. “Most importantly,” she claimed, “the Iraqis have devised their own strategy, and our efforts will support theirs.”

We were told that despite the catastrophic policy failures of this administration up until that point, that the surge would take time to work and that we couldn’t judge its success until U.S. forces had “surged” to their maximum levels—and that would take up to six months.

Now that the surge is at full force, we are told yet again that the time isn’t right to make a judgment about the success or failure of the administration’s policy. Now we are told we must wait until September to determine the success of the surge. I suspect, Mr. President, as September draws near the Administration will concoct some additional arguments to delay the day of reckoning.

Mr. President, I don’t need any more time, or any more reports and briefings to confirm what many of us already know. The American people and the Iraqi people don’t need any more time to realize that the Administration’s Iraq policy, including the surge, is a failure.

The highly respected International Crisis Group recently released a report on Iraq which examined the complex reasons for the current political violence in Iraq, and concluded that any surge based on a purely military operation with a simplistic view of the bloodshed’s origins was destined for failure.

We mustn’t sacrifice any more lives, we shouldn’t countenance any more bloodshed, and we shouldn’t support the continuation of the failed escalation of a disastrous policy. The April-May American death toll is a new two-month record. The civilian casualty rate in Iraq is at an all-time high. Overall violence in Iraq is up and, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced Iraqis has quadrupled since January. In fact, the Iraqi Red Crescent warns that there is currently a “Human tragedy unprecedented in Iraq's history.”

As recent GAO reports have highlighted what we all intuitively have concluded – That there has been little progress on the key detailed provisions of Iraq’s hydrocarbon law, let alone on reforming the Iraqi constitution, on de-baathification, or on a host of other essential political components to a functioning Iraqi government, focused on reconciliation. In fact, Foreign Policy magazine recently released their “failed state index” and Iraq rose to Number 2 on that index, closely behind Sudan.

The President told the American people that the surge of troops into key cities in Iraq was being executed in order to provide the Iraqis with some political breathing space to start the reconciliation process. Secretary Rice explained that “the most urgent task now is to help the Iraqi government establish the confidence that it can and will protect all of its citizens, regardless of their sectarian identity, and that it will reinforce security with political reconciliation and economic support.”

But none of that has happened—and falsely claiming that it has, won’t make us safer, won’t secure Iraq, won’t secure our interests in the region, and won’t rebuild our military.

As my good friend Senator Lugar, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said recently, “In my judgment, the current surge strategy is not an effective means of protecting these interests. Its prospects for success are too dependent on the actions of others who do not share our agenda. It relies on military power to achieve goals that it cannot achieve. It distances allies that we will need for any regional diplomatic effort. Its failure, without a careful transition to a back-up policy would intensify our loss of credibility. It uses tremendous amounts of resources that cannot be employed in other ways to secure our objectives.” I fully agree with my friend and colleague.

That is why my amendment also calls on the administration to appoint a high-level special envoy to Iraq to engage in a new diplomatic offensive—exactly what the Baker Hamilton Commission called for over six months ago. It is imperative that we engage Iraqi leaders, regional leaders and international organizations such as the United Nations and the Arab League to promote reconciliation and stability in Iraq.

This administration has long neglected the key diplomatic and political aspects of the conflict in Iraq, despite the calls of many of us, including my good friend Senator Hagel, who recently outlined a plan to “internationalize” our efforts to help Iraqis reach political reconciliation, including appointing a UN Security Council backed international mediator.

The amendment offered by Senators Levin and Reed also calls for such a mediator, which I fully support.

But, despite the fact that there is no military solution to this conflict, this Administration and too many in the Congress are still wedded to only military solutions. In fact, these defenders of the Iraq war continue claim that we are in Iraq to fight al-Qaeda, just like they continue to falsely claim that al-Qaeda had links to Saddam Hussein.

But according to a recent article by Michael Gordon, the co-author of Cobra II, “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not exist before the Sept. 11 attacks.

This Sunni group has thrived as a magnet for recruiting and a force for violence largely because of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which brought an American occupying force of more than 100,000 troops to the heart of the Middle East, and led to a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.”

Moreover, according to recent media accounts, it is the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia led by the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, not al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, that poses the greatest risk to American troops in Baghdad. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Mahdi Army’s frequent and brazen attacks on U.S. soldiers also appear to challenge the idea that the Mahdi Army has been lying low to avoid confrontations with Americans.

Perhaps most frustrating of all, while feverishly attempting to find linkages between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi insurgents, the administration has taken its eye off the ball of the bigger threats posed by looming terrorists having little or nothing to do with Iraq.

The GAO recently slammed the administration’s anti-terrorism efforts in a report entitled “Law Enforcement Agencies Lack Directives to Assist Foreign Nations to Identify, Disrupt and Prosecute Terrorists.” The report found that there is a tremendous deficit of communication and coordination among key US agencies, which in turn severely hampers our efforts at fighting international terrorism and aiding foreign governments in doing so.

Six years after 9/11, this Administration has singularly focused on Iraq, while failing to effectively fight international terrorism. It may be true that for the Bush Administration that Iraq is the central front in their “war on terror”, but this misplaced focus has made America less secure as a result.

Mr. President, simply put, we must stop the downward spiral in Iraq, and refocus our efforts at effectively and robustly combating extremism and terrorism around the world -- and my amendment would begin to do just that.


Because it sets clear timelines for the phased redeployment of our troops out of Iraq, with three specific exceptions for activities that are critical to our national security interests and the interests of Iraq: First, conducting counter-terrorism operations in Iraq, targeted at al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Second, training and equipping Iraqi forces; and Third, force protection for US personnel and infrastructure.

My amendment also provides a specific timeline for all combat forces to redeploy out of Iraq, aside from the three exceptions I just mentioned, by April 30, 2008.

To ensure that this process gets underway without any stonewalling by the President or anyone in his Administration, my amendment sets an interim deadline of December 31, 2007, at which point at least 50,000 troops must have been redeployed out of Iraq.
Failure to meet this initial milestone will result in a funding penalty. My amendment would withhold twenty-five percent of the fiscal year 2008 military budget for Iraq-related activities until the President certifies that he can meet the overall April 30, 2008 deadline.

Ultimately, my amendment calls for the redeployment of approximately 90,000 combat troops within the next nine months, leaving about 70,000 to complete the three non-combat missions that I have already outlined. The redeployed forces would be comprised of a majority of the deployed Army Brigade Combat Teams and the Marine Expeditionary Force currently in theater.

Now, some may say that such redeployment is not logistically achievable within the timeframes laid out in the amendment. However, I want to remind my colleagues that in the ramp up to the first Gulf War, the Department of Defense coordinated the movement of over 500,000 troops and ten million tons of cargo and fuel in the same timeframe that this amendment grants to redeploy a force one-fifth the size.

In January, 1991, alone, the Transportation Command moved approximately 132,000 troops, one million tons of cargo, and over one million tons of fuel. If it is possible to coordinate the logistics to go to war, it is certainly possible to get our troops out of harms way and bring this war to a close.

Of course, there is always a concern about the cost of conducting a redeployment. Senator Conrad, now Chairman of the Budget Committee, asked this very question to the Congressional Budget Office in 2002, requesting an assessment of the costs of the Iraq war; including the eventual redeployment of our troops. The CBO concluded that the redeployment of our forces to their home bases would cost approximately $7 billion, less than the cost of one month of ongoing operations in Iraq.

Can we trust this figure? The very same report notes that monthly costs for the war would run between $6-9 billion per month; which is exactly what we saw until the incursion of additional surge related costs.

Mr. President, up until now, the cost of the war in Iraq has been mainly measured in the number of lives lost and U.S. treasury spent—and rightly so. 3,600 brave American service-members have been killed, tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives, and Congress has approved approximately $450 billion.

But there is yet another cost of war—our military’s readiness.

While long, arduous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are testing the morale of our troops in the field and their families, they are also taxing critical stocks of aircraft, vehicles and equipment that our military needs to prepare for other challenges in the 21st Century. According to recent military reports, two-thirds of the U.S. Army is unable to report for combat duty, and the Army’s top generals have said that if the Administration continues to fail to meet these needs, the situation could further deteriorate.

The situation for our National Guard is even worse. According to National Guard Bureau Chief, Lieutenant General Steven Blum, “88 percent of the force that are back here in the United States are very poorly equipped today in the Army National Guard.” Such a statistic is unconscionable to me—and it affects the National Guard units in every state of every last Senator in this chamber.

My amendment will take steps to remedy this dire situation and begin to rebuild our military. This debate is about priorities. Will we continue to fund a failed strategy in Iraq that is leaving us less secure and that is hollowing out our military?

Or will we meet our commitments to our service-members and our nation, by restoring the readiness of our forces which have been severely damaged by this Administration’s war policies?

In my view, the answer is simple. Our military’s top generals and admirals have submitted to Congress lists of critical military priorities that would not be funded under the President’s fiscal year 2008 budget proposal.

Billions of dollars a week are being squandered in Iraq, while our nation’s military is calling out for additional resources to repair the damage caused by the Bush Administration’s policies.

My amendment therefore re-prioritizes our defense budget to rebuild our military. It stops financing combat missions in Iraq and redirects funding to meeting priorities for the armed services.

Savings made available by downsizing our force in Iraq would be invested in items identified by each of our military’s Service Chiefs. Funding levels for these items would not exceed the amounts specified in their official fiscal year 2008 unfunded requirements lists submitted to Congress earlier this year.

The Army Chief of Staff has found over $10 billion in critical shortfalls, including funding for specially armored trucks known as “M-raps” or “Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles;” night vision goggles, and bomb disposal gear.

The Marine Corps’ “unfunded requirement list” submitted by the Commandant includes over $3 billion for similar priorities as well as new helicopters; communications gear and training equipment.

The Navy’s list totals over $5.6 billion, including helicopters, sailor housing, and aircraft maintenance.

The Air Force’s unfunded priorities, totaling over $16 billion, includes much needed resources to modernize radar systems and restore our fleet of cargo aircraft to help redeploy our troops and their equipment.

The National Guard Bureau Chief has identified over a billion dollars needed to begin rebuilding Guard forces across the U.S.—to replace and repair vehicles, aircraft, and personal gear, necessary for homeland security missions.

My amendment would allow for funding to restore National Guard equipment readiness. Due to this administration's mismanagement, the National Guard is facing a $38 billion equipment shortfall, according to General Blum.

A recent report by the U.S. Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, disclosed that the Administration's policies have actually endangered the Guard's abilities to perform both their overseas and homeland defense missions.

Under orders by the administration, National Guard troops have been forced to leave their State's equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan for other troops rotating into combat theaters. Many of their military vehicles and aircraft are being worn down and destroyed in battle. But any critical equipment that may have survived is simply being transferred to other units coming into Iraq or Afghanistan.

In my home state of Connecticut, the Adjutant General, Major General Thaddeus Martin, recently reported that equipment shortages exceed $200 million dollars. This includes more than 200 Hum-Vee’s, 21 large support vehicles such as tankers and heavy cargo vehicles, over 600 personal and crew-served weapon systems, over 1,500 night vision devices, and even one medium lift cargo helicopter.

What does this mean? It means we are short of equipment to respond to natural or man-made disasters here at home, short of equipment for training, short of equipment to maintain the standard maintenance rotation for equipment currently in the field, short of equipment for units deploying into harms way—short of equipment to protect the American people.

The GAO highlighted this very point in testimony released on October 20th, 2005. It stated, “The cumulative effect of these personnel and equipment transfers has been a decline in the readiness of Army National Guard forces for future missions, both overseas and at home.”

This data alone should demonstrate to everyone, unequivocally, that each of us has to fulfill our obligations to our war-fighters. Now is the time to begin the rebuilding process, and the sooner we redeploy out of Iraq, the sooner we can redirect these vital funds to rebuild our forces.

Mr. President, none of our choices are easy, but they are clear. And to govern is to choose the policy that is best for our nation – even in the face of extreme difficulty. So I call on my colleagues to make the choices that experience, common sense, and overwhelming data compel: Force the President to redeploy. Rebuild our Armed forces. End this disastrous war.

The last several months have been a story of squandered chances, and we have paid for them in American lives. Today, let us finally make the right and necessary choices.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


Noted political pundit Charlie Cook has an interesting perspective on the demise of the McCain presidential bid today. According to Cook...the campaign is over - done - finished - no longer an issue.

But...Cook contends....technically McCain will remain a candidate at least through the end of the year so that he can qualify for the federal matching funds - to pay off the debts the campaign has amassed.

That's it...according to Cook...the only strategy now coming from that camp is how to survive long enough to pay off the debts.

Dodd and the Iraq War....

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd will take to the Senate floor this morning (around 11:15 a.m.) to speak on the currently resolutions being debated in the Senate relating to the War in Iraq...and his own resolution.

If you're need might want to check it out. I'll have more on Dodd's speech later after he delivers it.

New AP poll is telling...

A new Associated Press poll of vorters sends a very clear message of just how unpredictable the Republican presidential sweepstakes is these days.

According to the poll, the largest group of voters - nearly 25 percednt - say they are unsure of who they will support. None of the top GOP candidates garnered that much.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Campaign fundraising...

Now that we've all had a chance to look over the Federal Elections Commissions campaign finance reports filed by the candidates this past weekend, we all know that GOP challenger Sean Sullivan in the 2nd Congressional District did not get off to a very good start - prompting some whispering down in Washington that maybe the NRCC might want to look around for someone else.

I was curious, so I went to the NRCC Web page today - only to discover the organization has made some changes to it since last I looked. What's gone is the listing of upcoming fundraisers. In the past, the NRCC use to list every fundraiser being held for its members or candidates either in Washington, back in the home district or anywhere for that matter. I was curious to see if there might be any thing being planned for Sullivan.

But appears the RNCC has decided not to list them anymore. That's too bad, I use to find them quite amusing to read. Some of the "events" were quite creative....not to mention the many baseball, basketball, concerts, etc that Republicans used to raise money.

And just to be fair...the D-Triple-C never listed their fundraisers, which I found equally disappointing as much as I enjoyed reading the GOP events. Now neither side is.

Override session...

It looks like the General Assembly will reconvene in special session next Monday, at which point it may - or may not - take a look at potentially voting to override some of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's vetos.

But of more local interest, it also looks like that will be the day both chambers will vote on the bond package. The final details of the state's borrowing plan for the next two years are still be worked on, but it does appear there is widespread support for inclusion of $40 million in infrastructure improvements at the Groton sub base. Both the House and Senate passed legislation in the closing days of the session to authorized $50 million at the base - a provision that was gutted from the budget during negotiations after the session ended.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Politics and Religion...

As noted earlier this week, I've spent much of these past few days looking at Politics and Religion for package that will run in Sunday's Norwich Bulletin.

I've known for sometime. because of a family association with a Mormon family, hat there was an active Mormon community in eastern Connecticut. I didn't realize how active - or large it really was until this week.

I've also known for sometime that Mitt Romney is not the only one in this year's presidential sweepstakes with a Mormon connection. Wanna guess who it is?

The answer is in Sunday's Norwich Bulletin along with the other stories.

Have a great weekend.

Rob Simmons....?

This will likely spark a new round of speculation.

Former Republican Congressman Rob Simmons, now working as the state's first-ever business advocate, filed his 2nd quarter campaign fundraising report with the Federal Election Commission today. Simmons, who said earlier this year that he will not be a candidate in 2008, reported raising $450 in the last three months, and has $2,387.36 cash on hand as of June 30.

It was expected that Simmons would have filed a termination report, ending his campaign completely. But he still has an oustanding debt that he's trying to pay off. Simmons, who lost his re-election bid to a fourth term by 83 votes last year, made a personal loan of $30,000 to his campaign in the closing days of the 2006 campaign. According to this latest filing, Simmons repaid another $3,000 to himself, leaving a $7,000 outstanding debt.

The speculation over Simmons' intentions will no doubt rise amid reports of disappointment on the part of the National Republican Congressional Committee's over what is preceived as "the lackluster" performance of Republican challenger Sean Sullivan during the fundraising period - and rumors that party leaders may be looking for another candidate to enter the race.

Sullivan, the former Groton submarine base commander, will be filing his first FEC report Saturday reporting just over $32,000 raised since entering the race in April.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who defeated Simmons, will also file his FEC report Saturday. In an interview with Courtney last week, he would only say the second quarter was another "solid" period. He set a new record for fundraising in the 2nd District during the first quarter of the year, collecting just over $300,000 for his re-election bid.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Religion and politics...

I've been a bit busy lately while working on a major package that is tentatively set to run in this Sunday's Norwich Bulletin, taking a closer look at religion and/in politics. More to come on that as the week progresses.

More troubles for McCain...

A major - and not very friendly - change in John McCain's presidential campaign today. According to Political Insider, three of McCain's top campaign officials are now gone...and not on very friendly terms.

Here's what Political Insider is reporting:

"Rick Davis, who managed Sen. John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign but had a more limited role in this contest, will take the helm of the Arizonan's troubled candidacy," The Politico reports.

"McCain fired his campaign manager this morning, prompting his longtime chief strategist to resign. Soon after, McCain's chief of staff of 18 years followed the two out the door."

"Terry Nelson, an Iowan who had been a top operative in the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, was forced out, reportedly at the urging of Davis. With Nelson gone, John Weaver, McCain's closest political adviser going back to the 2000 campaign and a sometimes Davis rival, tendered his resignation. Weaver's move then spurred Mark Salter, perhaps the closest personally of any staffer to McCain and the co-author of all his books, to also resign his post as campaign COO."

And the timing of this couldn't be better for another GOP hopeful by the name of Fred Thompson. The former senator and TV actor, who is expected to jump into the race any day now...will need to find some experienced national campaigners to build a national organization quickly.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Heading into the weekend...

In this Sunday's newspaper column I take a look at the municipal races, and in particular, the one shaping up in Norwich. The mayor is not up for re-election this year, so the focus will be on the City Council race. Six candidates will be elected. In past years, this hasn't been a very exciting race to watch, but this is a bit different - and maybe not for the best.

On another level, a few weeks ago I wrote a piece saying that I felt John McCain would likely be the first of the Republican frontrunners to drop out of the GOP race for president. He's got serious money problems, not to mention a steady decline in polling numbers.

I've been looking at the Democratic side of the fence, and it strikes me that former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 vice presdiential nominee, is most likely to be the first of the Democrat frontrunners to fall by the wayside - that despite him still holding the lead in Iowa polls, the first contest of 2008.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The other side of the holiday...

The jury is out on this work two days, take a day off and then work two more days work-week. Sounded good when I was approaching it, but today feels more like a Monday than a Thursday.

Spent some time with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, over at his Norwich office this morning talking about his first six months on the job. The story will run in Sunday's paper. (I did the story on his potential Republican challenger Sean Sullivan last Sunday.)

By next week we should have the FEC filings in that race. Sullivan told me last week he only expected to report raising between $25,000 and $30,000.

Courtney raised more than $370,000 in the first quarter, but wouldn't tell me today what the second quarter numbers will look like (they're not yet finished counting) , only to say "it was a solid period."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Fourth of July...

The revised weather forecast from earlier this week is now suggesting a nice day tomorrow.

I hope you all enjoy it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The money race...

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's second quarter fundraising effort - a whoppiing $32.5 million - has created a third tier of presidential hopefuls on the Democratic side of the ledger. In the top tier are Obama and NY Sen. Hillary Clinton, whose own effort of roughly $27 million isn't anything to sneeze at - but it's still less than Obama.

The second tier now consists of former NC Sen. John Edwards, who only raised a mere $9 million, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose $7 million has given him the momentum to move up.

All the other candidates, including our CT Sen. Chris Dodd, reporting about $3.25 million raised, are in the third tier.

No question that Obama - and to a degree Richardson - are the candidates on the move with Clinton seemed stalled and Edwards slipping. The others are still trying to find some traction.

Obama's success, however, does give the others - with the exception of Clinton - some reason for optimism. Although he's off to a very impressive start, the freshman senator still have doubts hanging over his campaign - and can he really win in November if he gets the Democratic nomination. The optimism from the others comes from the mere fact that he has proven that Clinton is no runaway candidate - and she can be slowed - if not stopped completely.

Look for the field to start to dwindle in the coming months as those in the bottom face the reality of the handwriting on the wall.