Political forecast

Friday, July 11, 2008

Something to think about: As reported elsewhere, congressional Republicans are bracing for huge losses in November. Democrats are projected to gain over a dozen House seats, lifting their edge to at least 50.

Dems are also expected to increase their Senate margin of 51 to 49 by four to seven seats, still shy of the 60 votes needed to be filibuster-proof.

A win by John McCain could give Republicans a presidential veto, checking Democrats' power or possibly leading to bipartisan compromises.

If Democrats win the White House, power will shift dramatically. They'd have the largest governing majority since Lyndon Johnson won in 1964, leaving Republicans with few ways to block Democratic policies, including the all-important nominations to the Supreme Court. I don't believe this scenario has to happen, but it might if McCain and the Republican candidates don't mount their best arguments for election, as I'm sure Barack Obama and the Democrats will.


Incidentally, I just finished a book about Lyndon Johnson's Senate years, "Masters of the Senate" by Robert Caro. It is an interesting documented accounting of Johnson's ability to achieve his goals by means one could call brilliant or deceptive, but it also is a study of the Senate leaders of the day.

I recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand that period of history, of which I found my understanding was quite naive.


Congratulations to Rush Limbaugh, who last week signed a $400 million radio deal through 2016. The following is from a July 3 column by Paul Farhi in The Washington Post:

Talk-radio pundit Rush Limbaugh agreed yesterday to stay on the air at least eight more years, signing a deal with his syndication company that Limbaugh said is worth more than $400 million, including a $100 million signing bonus.

The lucrative agreement between Limbaugh and Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Networks of Los Angeles is the second-largest ever for a radio personality, ranking behind only Howard Stern's five-year contact with Sirius Satellite Radio in 2004 that was valued at more than $500 million in stock and cash. Stern has to pay his production and staff costs from his deal, and Limbaugh doesn't.

After almost 20 years in national syndication, Limbaugh, 57, remains the most popular personality on talk radio, as well as an influential voice among conservatives. His program commands a weekly audience of nearly 20 million listeners on 600 stations, according to Premiere, which markets his program to stations and advertisers.

Terms of Limbaugh's renewal weren't disclosed in yesterday's announcement. But Limbaugh, in an upcoming article in The New York Times, said he would earn about $38 million annually under the deal, in addition to a "nine-figure" signing bonus.

The eye-popping figures demonstrate that Limbaugh's value has soared even as conventional radio's fortunes have declined and his own audience has remained flat. Traditional radio broadcasters have been losing listeners for years to competing technologies, such as Internet streaming, satellite radio and podcasting. Radio advertising began slumping before the general economic slowdown.

The general decline, however, has made a handful of nationally known stars such as Limbaugh relatively more valuable. In his previous contract renewal, signed in July 2001, Limbaugh reportedly earned $250 million over eight years, with a $35 million signing bonus.

In a statement yesterday, Limbaugh said, "I'm having more fun than a human being should be allowed to have." In the same statement, Clear Channel chief executive John Hogan said: "Broadcasters of Rush's quality come along once in a lifetime. We're privileged to continue our relationship which is unprecedented in the history of our industry."

The only elements of doubt in Limbaugh's re-signing were uncertainty about Limbaugh's desire to continue his program. Limbaugh began losing his hearing seven years ago — and underwent rehabilitation for an addiction to painkillers in 2003. But Limbaugh dispelled those concerns with the deal, which will keep him on the air through 2016.

The agreement covers his daily three-hour radio program; his daily 90-second commentaries, called "The Rush Limbaugh Morning Update"; a monthly newsletter called the Limbaugh Letter; and Limbaugh's Web site, RushLimbaugh.com.

In reaction to the announcement, Tom Taylor, news editor of Radio-Info.com said" "As Humphrey Bogart once said, this is the continuation of a lovely friendship. Both sides have made a lot of money for each other."


The combined Libertyfest and air show turned out to be one of Cape Girardeau's best events ever. And the questionable weather turned out to be a blessing. The 2,500-to-3,000-foot generally overcast ceiling kept the temperature low, and a slight breeze was pleasant and didn't cause any problems for the aviators and parachuters.

The Lima Lima team's formation flying was much more impressive at night as its lighted airplanes flew to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" music presenting a UFO experience.

It is always a delight to watch the Golden Knights parachute team perform with its precision landings.

The Spirit of America award to Jane Randol Jackson was capably presented by Mayor Jay Knudtson, a well-deserved tribute to the first woman recipient of the award sponsored by the Southeast Missourian.

A large crowd for the early air show grew to airport manager Bruce Loy's estimate of 12,000. Additional areas for parking were opened as viewers gathered for the fireworks. Counting the many viewers in cars parked along area roads, air show performers looking down from above the crowd estimated 15,000 spectators.

All in all, it was more fun and enjoyment than I expected.


Shooting ourselves in the foot: According to Ernst & Young, from 1992 to 2006 the U.S. oil industry spent $1.25 trillion on long-term investment vs. profits of $900 billion.

Truth is, oil industry profits are in line with the rest of American industry. In 2007, a record year, they earned 8.3 cents per dollar of sales. Beverage companies and cigarette makers, by contrast, earned 19.1 cents. Drugmakers, 18.4 cents.

Indeed, all manufacturers, 8.9 cents on average, made more than Big Oil.

Oil companies don't really pay windfall profit taxes. You do.

Some 50 million Americans today own oil company stock, either directly or through 401(k)s and mutual funds. Don't be suckered: Windfall profits taxes come right out of your retirement account, not out of the oil industry's business.

Oil prices aren't high because profits are up. They're high because we don't have enough oil. By clamping down on drilling, refusing to move forward on nuclear energy and hitting producers with punitive taxes, Congress is doing all it can to ensure we don't have enough in the future. — Investor's Business Daily

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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