Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mitt Romney to run for Kennedy's Senate seat?

I know nothing about Massachusetts politics, but I can't see any way that this would turn out good for Romney.

Peter Roff looks at the possibility Mitt Romney could seek the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in a special election.

"Such an announcement would likely be embraced immediately by the Republicans, who would like almost nothing more than to deny Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada his new, hard-won, 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority. As a self-funding candidate who has already been elected once statewide, Romney has nearly 100 percent name ID. And, in an environment where President Obama seems to be dragging the Democrats down, he would be a serious threat to the Democratic hegemony in Massachusetts's congressional delegation. Meaning Romney likely would win."

"If he did, Romney would then have a platform to actually introduce legislation modeled on the proposals he put forward as a presidential candidate in 2008 and planned to put forward in 2012. No guesswork. No empty rhetoric. Real ideas, on the Senate floor, that could be evaluated, debated, and perhaps even voted on.**"

A military solution for Afghanistan?

Amir Taheri has a good piece today in the NY Post answering the conventional wisdom that there is no military solution in Afghanistan.

IN Kabul these days, those wishing to sound knowledgeable fire one phrase at visiting reporters: "This has no military solution!" One hears it from President Hamid Karzai, UN "experts" and diplomats. Yet they appear stuck when asked: What precisely is the "this" that has no military solution?

While it is true that pacifying Afghanistan can't be done solely by military means, it cannot be done without first defeating the insurgents in order to safeguard the populace. Then you can focus on all of the quality of life issues that will seal the deal.

The Afghan experience could be divided into three phases. In the first phase, the US, backed by the Afghan Northern Alliance, managed to flush the Taliban out of Kabul, gain control of the country and establish a new regime.

The second phase, between 2004 and 2008, saw America and NATO focusing on such nonmilitary issues as creating a new administrative machine, raising a new Afghan army and police and inventing a new judiciary.

All that was done under the assumption that the UN-backed NATO presence was a peacekeeping, rather than a peace-enforcing, mission. The bulk of NATO forces behaved more like the Salvation Army than a fighting machine in a real war.

This flies in the face of the argument that W took his eye off the ball with his excursion into Iraq. But it has the advantage of being true. Bush was involved in that thing he is always accused of not doing, multi-lateralism. He worked with our NATO allies and divvied up responsibilities for building a functioning society. This proved a bigger challenge than hoped and progress was minimal.

Add to this Pakistan's abdication of control for the tribal areas and allowing the Talibs & AQ a place to call their own and you have a recipe for failure. Starting in 2006 a full scale resurgence of the insurgency began and we have been seeing an increase in violence ever since. We began to actively counter this and with an increase of our troop strength to 68,000 have begun to take the necessary steps to defeat it. But we need to add 5-8 more brigades if we are going to move the extremists out of all the places where they now are operating. All the civilian surge and other smart power activities are dependent on a security environment that will get the risk-averse State and other agency folks outside the wire.

Rev. Jesse Jackson asks BMW to explain how ‘No Urban Dictate’ was issued

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has sent a letter to BMW expressing concern over the actions of one of the auto-maker’s advertising agencies in issuing a ‘No Urban Dictate’ for an upcoming BMW/MINI Cooper ad campaign. The request to discuss the matter comes after disclosure that BMW’s media buying agency sent an email to stations requesting information on ad rates, but specifically stated “No combos or urban for-mats” should be included.

In a letter to BMW Chairman and CEO, Jim O’ Donnell, Jackson called the exclusion of urban radio stations ‘disturbing’. The letter also said, “This issue, along with many others, continues to boycott communities of color and excludes us from participating on a level economic playing field even when we fully embrace and purchase your vehicles.”

Jackson also questioned BMW’s commitment to diversity by saying that the automaker had ignored earlier Rainbow PUSH requests for information and participation in discussions. “Because diversity and inclusion are so important to the automotive industry, each year Rainbow PUSH Automotive Project hosts a symposium whose mission and programs include a multitude of topics on diversity,” wrote Jackson. “The symposium’s purpose is to facilitate substantive dialogue, open communication on diversity opportunities and to prevent this type of behavior recently demonstrated by BMW. However, you have repeatedly declined to participate in these dialogues.”“This speaks to your lack of transparency of your business practices as they relate to diversity,” added Jackson.

The letter from the civil rights leader comes on the heels of a letter to BMW’s O’ Donnell from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) requesting a meeting to discuss “a corporate culture that condones discriminatory practices.”

Both NABOB and Rainbow PUSH have questioned the role of BMW’s African-American ad agency of record, The Matlock Group, and whether it was using the expertise of the agency to avoid the exclusion of urban radio stations and other African-American media outlets in the placement of advertising.

Thus far, both organizations say they are still awaiting a response from BMW executives.

Hounded out of Fox News: If advertisers can force Fox News talkshow host Glenn Beck off the air and prevent his hateful lies from spreading, good for

Article By Dan Kennedy

More than half a century ago, the great media critic AJ Liebling memorably described the first amendment's outer boundaries. "Freedom of the press," he wrote, "is guaranteed only to those who own one."

It's an elemental truth you can be sure Glenn Beck is pondering these days. Beck's highly rated programme on Fox News, and indeed his career, hang in the balance because of his recent comments that Barack Obama is a racist with "a deep-seated hatred for white people".

Not that Beck's incendiary remarks hurt him with his audience – which, one imagines, comprises mostly unemployed white men with nothing better to do when his show comes on at 5pm than to sit in front of the TV set while polishing their guns.

The problem, rather, is that an increasing number of advertisers – 36 at last count – don't want to be associated with Beck's show. And that's got to have Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Beck's press, wondering whether his newest star is worth the hassle.

Beck's grotesque description of Obama is hardly out of character. We've all seen the YouTube video of Beck talking about the president against a backdrop of goose-stepping ***. Earlier this year, in a too-nice New York Times profile, those of us who are not regular viewers (that is, just about everyone who is reading this commentary) learned Beck was passing along rumours that Obama was building concentration camps. Then, too, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America has been documenting Beck's outrages for years, going back to his days of denying global warming on CNN Headline News.

What is different this time? A concerted effort by an African-American social-action organisation called to pressure advertisers into pulling out. By early this week, executives of such powerful corporations as Wal-Mart, Lowe's, AT&T and Verizon Wireless had announced they no longer wanted to be associated with Beck's dangerous rhetoric.

As much as many liberals detest Beck and other rightwing cranks (the closest analogue is CNN's Lou Dobbs, a giver of aid and comfort to the so-called birthers, who question Obama's national origin), they are reflexively squeamish over the notion of anyone trying to interfere with freedom of speech. Indeed, when Bob Garfield, co-host of National Public Radio's On the Media, interviewed executive director James Rucker a few days ago, Beck's right to speak was Garfield's principal line of inquiry.

But Beck's freedom to say what he wants would be threatened only if the government were trying to censor him. Beck's first amendment rights can hardly be violated simply because James Rucker is exercising his own first amendment rights. And if the measure of one's freedom of expression is being the highly paid host of a national cable news programme, well, damn it, I demand my rights, too.

In the American media system, commerce is a rough substitute for conscience. You may recall that, in 2007, Don Imus lost his nationally syndicated radio show when advertisers pulled out over Imus's description of black members of the women's basketball team at Rutgers University as "nappy-headed hos". (Not that it was much of a come-uppance. Within months another network came along and put him back on the air.)

We live in a moment when gun-toting extremists show up at anti-Obama rallies to denounce the president as a socialist Nazi who wants to set up death panels modelled after Hitler's campaign to eliminate disabled people. Emotions are running high – higher than they might were Beck not spreading his hateful lies. If Fox News were a responsible news operation, it would have taken Beck off the air months ago.

If Wal-Mart and Lowe's can do what Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes won't, then good for them. Let Glenn Beck exercise his first amendment rights like most of his ilk do – on a street corner somewhere, ranting to strangers, hoping a few passersby might toss a dollar or two into the empty coffee can at his feet.

New Book 'Warning to Ministers, Their Wives and Their Mistresses'

Dr. Betty Price, wife of well-known television minister Apostle Dr. Fred Price of the Ever Increasing Faith Ministry, gives voice and a unique perspective to the topic of adultery in the church--through the personal stories of some pastors' mistresses. Dr. Betty Price spoke candidly to on the taboo subject.

It was 20 years ago when I started receiving letters from women of various churches who were having illicit affairs with powerful married ministers. I was flabbergasted. Was this really happening in the church? I asked myself. Then my phone began ringing off the hook. I couldn't understand why these women were reaching out to me. I think it was because they saw my husband, Dr. Fred K. Price, and his televised preachings and were captivated by his message.

Most recently I received two anonymous letters within a week apart. Both women shared their involvement with very high-profile men of God. As I read their letters I sensed their deep regret. They expressed how they never intended on being involved with a minister and each woman was desperately seeking a way out.

The first letter was from an older, mature woman. She'd just bought a luxury condo but lost her government job after 25 years of service. Her self-esteem was very low. She didn't know what to do because she was financially strapped. And, she was older and didn't think she would be able to find another job in this economy. She reached out to her bishop for counseling. They began an affair. It's been going on for three years. The second woman was from a different church. She works on a committee in which she interacts with her pastor daily. They began spending long hours together. Then the affair began. Now, she is desperately trying to get out but doesn't know how.

Both of these women said they know what they are doing is wrong but expressed they don't have the strength to leave. Both ministers have threatened and coerced these women. They told them, "If they stop the affair then they would be dishonoring God." However, both women expressed they were benefitting financially in the relationships. They were stuck. Unsure of what to do. After reading those two letters my daughter said I had to write a book.

I wrote "Warning To Ministers, Their Wives and Mistresses" because I want to help young ministers. I don't want them to get caught up in the trappings their positions bring and make them go in a different direction than what God has planned for them. I also wrote this book for the many women who come to church specifically for the purpose of sleeping with the minister. In my book I share the many anonymous letters I receive from these women who are having affairs with their pastors.

I think it's time this behavior is exposed. There are so many families being destroyed because of these women and men of God. With the book my hope is to help other first ladies and women who live right for God and do not have affairs with married men. I really want to bring this issue to the forefront because this secret is very harmful to the church. I want people to know that the inappropriate actions of some ministers do not happen in every church. Moreover, it was time for me to share my story and my experience.

Years ago this woman came into mine and my husband's lives like a whirlwind. She called herself a prophet. Every day she told my husband she had a prophecy for him from God. At the time my husband was new to the ministry and he was very interested in hearing messages from God. This woman always needed to see him after church and preferred to talk with him alone. My woman's intuition kicked in. I recognized what she was up to because this woman always had a word of prophecy but nothing she ever said ever came to pass.

My husband, however, was caught up. I knew he wasn't doing anything with her physically because I was taking care of him at home. But this woman was very charismatic. She even enlisted some of her friends to give prophecies to my husband. That's how desperate she was working to get to my husband.

Repeatedly I would tell my husband she was not a prophet. I told him, "You're spending too much time with someone that is not your wife. It does not look good." But he couldn't see it. He would get upset with me whenever I would say something. I was very hurt by it because not only could he not see what she was doing, but I was his wife. He figured this woman was spiritual and of God. He said he did not have a lot of people to talk to. I told him to talk to God.

At the time this woman was really overweight but then she started to lose the weight trying to get his attention. Then she started dressing like me. Finally, I had enough. I told my husband that I was not going to church with him anymore. I stayed home that Sunday. In all my years of attending church that was the only Sunday service I missed. I had to get my husband to see how serious it was for me. Most women would go after the other woman. I never did. I would never run after a woman. I tell women to go after him. If he doesn't listen to you and see what it's doing to you, then you leave.

I was strong enough to go to him and express what it was doing to our marriage. Besides, I knew I was a good wife. If it would have kept up, I wouldn't have stayed in it. I would have left. When I didn't go to church he realized what he was doing and stopped talking with her. He cut it off and the woman finally left. They all leave when they can't get their way.

In my situation it didn't go as far as him sleeping with another woman. I recognized something was wrong and I spoke up. My husband listened. However, it was enough for me to know that something could go further.

It bothers me to know many ministers have mistresses sitting right up in the church. Their wives and children are subjected to public humiliation. Some ministers even have children with their mistresses and leave their wives. I've talked to a lot of women and they say that in all the churches they've attended the ministers have been unfaithful and run around. I personally know so many that it's scary. These women know what they are doing. Don't be fooled. I wrote my book because I want to expose these types of men, and women, who do this.

I challenge ministers and their mistresses to ask themselves, where is God in your life? What is your commitment to God? Where is your conscience? They don't think of the consequences and devastation it causes their families, their wives, their children and the church.

TLC to reunite in first U.S. show in 7 years for Justin Timberlake benefit concert

Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins (l.) and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of TLC at the 2008 BET Awards. They're reuniting for their first U.S. show in 7 years

TLC, one of the biggest girl groups of all time, will play their first show in America in seven years, for a good cause - and for Justin Timberlake.

The surviving members of the group will perform at the "Justin Timberlake and Friends" concert at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center on October 17th.

The concert benefits the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The long sidelined group will reunite Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas. Third member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez died in a car accident back in 2002.

Watkins recently resurfaced in a cameo appearance on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," a reality show based in the city she has long called home.

Besides TLC and Timberlake, the Las Vegas concert will also feature country teen star Taylor Swift, plus singers Alicia Keys and Ciara. Tickets go on sale Saturday.

The benefit concert highlights a week-long golf tournament hosted by Timberlake, to be held in Las Vegas October 11th through the 18th.

In their '90s heyday, TLC sold tens of millions of albums and won four Grammys.

Do black men prefer their women larger?

Model Carmell presents a black and red plunging-neckline satin dress during presentation of the French designer Edmond Boublil ready-to-wear fashion collection for large women (AP File Photo/Michel Euler)

I posed this question on a social networking site recently. The aftermath was like watching people running from a burning building as if their hair were on fire. Most of the responses were of the "good luck with that" variety, as if the next move was to wait for a last minute pardon from the governor before the firing squad commenced to carry out the sentence.

The reason for some of my own hesitation in weighing in on a subject like this is obvious. Just as the black women come in a variety of hues and hair types, they also are a mix of skinny and voluptuous - the thin and the thick - not so easily or quickly defined.

Nor can the dating or marrying preferences of African-American men be easily placed into a nice neat box. Poll a brother on the street and he might be just as likely to prefer a slim sister as one with, as they say, some junk in her trunk.

Still, there's no question that the average African-American woman is likely to adopt India.Arie's credo that she just "ain't built like a supermodel." And if the biggest part of sexiness is self-confidence, then the black woman's allure to the black man needs no explanation. The black woman exudes self-assuredness.

Since her arrival here from Africa centuries ago, the black woman has been comfortable in her skin, content to live her life large, usually more literally than figuratively. In many cases, because the African-American woman bore the responsibility - often alone - for keeping her family intact, she had little time to take care of herself.

Even if that lifestyle wasn't - or nowadays, isn't - a choice, we're nonetheless seeing the effects in higher reported incidents of obesity and related complications, including diabetes and heart disease, within the black community. This week's news that the American Heart Association added sugar, along with salt and cholesterol, to the list of things to watch out for will not go over well in many black kitchens.

While there are legitimate health reasons for wondering if bigger is really better over the long term, those concerns haven't kept many black women from straying from the ideal European-American body aesthetic that is widely portrayed in the media circles.

You need only look at the way two of the world's top female tennis players, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, are viewed to get a feel for the chasm of difference in how body beauty is perceived in the black and white communities. Sharapova, a Russian émigré and winner of three Grand Slam singles titles, is 6-foot-2, thin and blonde. Twice, she was the most searched for athlete in the world through Yahoo! and she is a favorite of the overwhelmingly white fanboy sports blogosphere.

Williams is likewise tall, at 5ft 10", but as author Marita Golden points out in her book, "Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex," "Serena is compact, muscular [and] built for the game she dominates."

"And," continues Golden, "any discussion of Serena Williams has to begin with her backside, her black, her African, derriere. That's my backside, that's the backside of so many black women, and Serena ain't trying to hide it, camouflage it or do anything but flaunt it."

Serena's not alone, nor should she be. You won't catch women like Tyra Banks or Oprah Winfrey or Queen Latifah squeezing into size 2 or 4 dresses. Yet their visibility and beauty are unquestioned.

Indeed, I appreciate the fact that my wife not only isn't built like a supermodel, but loves me, a man who not only has junk in the trunk, but groceries all over the car.

Appeals Court Rules Feds Illegally Seized Drug Tests of Major League Baseball Players

Things have not gone so well when it comes to the federal government’s probe into illegal use of steroids in major league baseball. The Barry Bonds case appears to be going nowhere. And this ruling could hurt other possible cases.

By Maura Dolan and Lance Pugmire
Los Angeles Times

The federal government illegally seized confidential drug test results of dozens of Major League Baseball players and must now return the records, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

“This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data” it was not entitled to have, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

During an investigation of illegal steroid sales by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a private lab in Northern California known as BALCO, the government sought the results of confidential drug tests of 10 players, including former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds.

Identity Theft Hits Chairman Bernanke in Secret Service-Postal Probe

Apparently while the chairman of the Federal Reserve was trying to watch our money, someone was trying to take his. As the story points out: no one is immune from these crimes.

Ben Bernanke/fed reserve photo
By Michael Isikoff
WASHINGTON – If ever there were living proof that identity theft can strike the mighty and powerful as well as hapless consumers, look no further than the nation’s chief banker: Ben Bernanke.

The Federal Reserve Board chairman was one of hundreds of victims of an elaborate identity-fraud ring, headed by a convicted scam artist known as “Big Head,” that stole more than $2.1 million from unsuspecting consumers and at least 10 financial institutions around the country, according to recently filed court records reviewed by NEWSWEEK

For Full Story

Detroit Muslim Woman Sues After Being Told To Remove Hijab in Court

Raneen Albaghdady, a Muslim in Detroit, is suing ayne Circuit Judge J. William Callahan who told her to remove her hijab or scarf in his courtroom (like the one shown to the left of a different woman). She alleges denial of her freedom of religion as well as denial of access to the courts. She is also suing Wayne County.

The demand by Judge Callahan, in my view, was manifestly wrong and unnecessary. However, there does appear to be a disconnect between the alleged injury in the complaint and the attitude of Albaghdady in the court videotape. In a press conference, Albaghdady protested that “I was hurt, the way he treated me. I was really, really scared and terrified.” She spoke of the humiliation and shame of that moment when she appeared before the court for a name-changing hearing.

Yet, while it is not audible on the video, Albaghdady does not raise religious objections or even strongly object in her exchange with the court:

Callahan: “The headpiece…
Albaghdady: “I’m sorry?”
Callahan: “No hats allowed in the courtroom.”
Man seated in the courtroom: “It’s not a hat. It’s a scarf.”
Callahan: “Excuse me, sir.”
Albaghdady: “This one?”
Callahan: “No hats allowed in the courtroom.”
Albaghdady: “This one?”
Callahan: “Yes.”
Albaghdady: “OK. It doesn’t matter.”

“OK, it doesn’t matter” is not the strongest basis for such damages. Moreover, while her lawyers insist that she was intimidated and (as an Iraqi immigrant) is a bit fearful of any judge, Albaghdady later strongly argues with Callahan over a question of her application. Callahan appears otherwise respectful and could claim that, absent a religious objection, scarves should be removed and some people have no objection.

The tape makes this case all the more interesting. Albaghdady seems correct on the religious-based claim, but does not come across as the best claimant.

This is not the first court to face such a challenge over the removal of a hijab, here. Indeed in Michigan there has been prior litigation over the requirement to remove a veil, here.

Assuming it is the same judge, “Bill” Callahan was given the “Judge of the Year” award in 1996, here.

NFL Preseason Week 3 Odds: Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles

Yep, Michael Vick's playing tonight. (AP Images)

The Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles tonight in what is going to be the most hyped preseason game of the year. Michael Vick makes his return to the NFL and the Jaguars get to be the opposing team for the big event.

The Eagles are listed as 7-point home favorites.

The third preseason game is the closest teams come to playing as if it were a regular game. Expect the starters to play well into the second half, with some starters staying into the final quarter.

Coach Andy Reid has kept his plans secret, but said he won't be reluctant to use Vick in a wildcat formation against the Jaguars.

Maurice Jones-Drew needs to let loose in this game. He has been missing in action thus far in the preseason, and if the Jags expect to win tonight that needs to change.


Chris Brown reportedly sat down with Larry King on Wednesday at CNN’s Hollywood headquarters for his first interview since his Feb 8th arrest after assaulting his ex-girlfriend Rihanna, E! News has learned exclusively. The chat is said to be “no-holds-barred” and the singer answered every question put to him.

It is also assumed that the interview involves a discussion pertaining to the belief that this is not the first time violence had occurred during the ex-couple’s stormy relationship. The interview will reportedly air sometime next week on Larry King Live. The path to damage control (as he tries to rebuild his career) begins. As for the “no-holds-barred”, I cannot see him getting a grilling on Larry King. A slap-across-the-wrist interviewing technique is what I imagine. That is why his people opted for King and NOT Oprah because Queen of Chat would have shred his ass to pieces tarnishing his career even more. As a PR move, they’re just doing what needs to be done right? As to whether he can redeem himself through the interview is yet to be seen but I cannot wait to see the outcome.

Toyota Makes It Official: NUMMI Is Shutting Down

Fremont’s worst fears have been realized.

Toyota (TM) today said it will end production at the Fremont, California NUMMI automobile assembly plant in March 2010.

Formerly a joint venture with General Motors - NUMMI is an acronym for New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. - the plant is the single largest private employer in Alamdea County, just across San Francisco Bay from Silicon Valley. GM walked away from the venture when it filed Chapter 11; the company’s stake is now part of Motors Liquidation Co., which is being liquidated under bankruptcy court supervisioin.

Toyota said its board today voted to end production at the plant.

Opened in 1984, the NUMMI plant has 4,600 employees; it builds the Corolla compact and Tacoma pickup, and until recently also built Pontiac Vice station wagons. The NUMMI site says the plant has 3,600 suppliers, including more than 1,000 in California; NUMMI asserts on the site that the total number of jobs supported by the NUMMI food chain is about 50,000.

Massachusetts Legislature May Expedite Bill on Senate Vacancies

Ever since 2004, Massachusetts law has provided that Governors may not fill a vacancy in a U.S. Senate seat. Instead, the seat must remain empty until a special election is held. That election must be approximately five months after the vacancy had been created.

In January 2009, Massachusetts State House member Robert Koczera introduced HB 656, to permit the Governor to fill the vacancy immediately, although the state would still hold a special election approximately five months later. The bill had been set for a legislative hearing in October 2009, but the legislature may expedite that hearing, given the recent vacancy created by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy.

It May Not be the Economy After All

By Richard A. Lee

More often than not, elections come down to economic matters – taxes, jobs and other pocketbook issues. Year after year, the famous James Carville mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid,” continues to ring true.

When New Jersey’s race for governor began taking shape in the spring, it did in fact look like the economy would be on the front burner. “It will be an early test of whether the Democratic response to the financial crisis was effective,” NBC’s David Gregory said in June.

For Republican challenger Chris Christie, this created an opportunity to capitalize on the national economic downturn and pin the blame on the incumbent Democrat, Jon Corzine. Meanwhile, Corzine had to adopt a more complex strategy: Convince voters that New Jersey is better positioned to weather the economic storm and emerge healthy because of the steps he has taken as governor. The problem with that strategy, however, as the late N.J. State Senator Jack Fay was fond of saying, is that it is an argument one can win at the Harvard Debate Society, but not at Joe’s Corner Bar -- and the candidate who wins over patrons at the corner bar often is the one who wins in November.

With double digit leads in the polls, Christie would have been wise to stick with his message that the economy is in dire shape and the incumbent governor is at fault. But after more than 40 elected officials and community leaders were arrested in July, he renewed his focus on ethics and the need to crack down on corruption. On the surface, this was completely logical. As a U.S. Attorney, Christie built his name prosecuting corrupt public officials. But logic and New Jersey voting trends do not always go hand-in-hand. Despite our reputation as a state in which political corruption runs rampant, corruption rarely has played a major role in the outcome of our elections.

To make matters worse, by returning ethics to the forefront, Christie opened the door for attacks on his own record. Over the past two weeks, he has been dogged with questions about mixing politics with the official functions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a personal loan he made to a subordinate and failed to report, and tickets he received for speeding and driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle. All of this has diverted attention away from the economy – and the result has been a benefit for Corzine since he has his work cut out for him trying to convince a skeptical citizenry that New Jersey is better off than the rest of nation.

So if it is not the economy, what will determine who wins the governorship in November?

At this point in time, I believe it will come down to which party does a better job in energizing its core. Ironically, both Christie and Corzine face a similar challenge. Neither rose up through the ranks of local politics, building their own strong bases of supporters over the years. Corzine went right from Wall Street to the U.S. Senate; Christie spent just one term as a county freeholder before President George W. Bush tapped him to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Both candidates have hired talented people for key campaign positions, but there is something intangible about a dedicated and longtime base of supporters who have invested their time and energy in an individual in whom they believe.

In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 700,000 voters, a good showing from the party faithful could be the key to a Corzine victory in November. Toward that end, he needs Democratic office-holders – the ones with strong loyal followings – to convince their supporters that it is in their best interest to turn out on Election Day and pull the lever for the incumbent Governor. This is especially critical in non-competitive Assembly Districts (and most of them are) where core supporters of popular incumbents may see little reason to get excited about their local races since the outcomes are not really in question. The Corzine camp has taken a step forward in this regard by bringing Democratic veterans Jamie Fox, Bill Maer and Patti McGuire into its campaign team. Their contacts and institutional knowledge will go a long way toward ensuring a strong showing from core Democratic voters.

Christie should have an easier time energizing the GOP base. Republicans tend to be more disciplined than Democrats. The greater challenge he faces will be tapping into the state’s unaffiliated and independent voters. There are over 2.4 million of them – and that’s more than the 1.7 million registered Democrats or the 1 million registered Republicans.

Although Christie has been thrown off message this summer, he still is ahead in most polls. As a Mets fan whose team endured disheartening collapses in 2007 and 2008, he surely is aware that even a comfortable, seemingly insurmountable lead can dissipate quickly. On the other hand, as Corzine works to narrow the advantage his opponent has built in the polls, he might be wise to seek inspiration from the Mets team that played 40 years ago and was 9 1/2 games out of first place in mid-August, but somehow managed to overcome the deficit and win the pennant and 1969 World Series.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Cops believe 1991 kidnap victim found alive

Sheriff's officials said Thursday they believe a woman who walked into a police station had been kidnapped as an 11-year-old in 1991 outside her South Lake Tahoe home.

The woman came into a San Francisco Bay area police station and said she was Jaycee Lee Dugard, a blond, ponytailed girl when she was abducted as she headed to a school bus stop 18 years ago, said sheriff's Lt. Les Lovell of the El Dorado Sheriff's Department.

"We're 99 percent sure it's her," Lovell said. He said DNA tests were being conducted. It was not immediately clear when she had surfaced at the station.

Lovell said Concord police did an investigation after the woman surfaced, and he received a call Wednesday from investigators who had tentatively identified her as Dugard.

Her family has been contacted and they are in the process of arranging a meeting, said Lovell, who was a detective assigned to help investigate the kidnapping in 1991. "We are very confident at this point in time that it is her."

Two people were in custody, but Lowell did not elaborate.

Dugard's stepfather, Carl Probyn, said the news was like winning the lottery.

"To have this happen where we get her back alive, and where she remembers things from the past, and to have people in custody is a triple win," he told The Sacramento Bee.

Witnesses reported that a vehicle with two people drove up to Dugard and abducted her while her stepfather was watching on June 10, 1991, the Sheriff's Department said in a news release Thursday.

In media reports at the time, the girl's stepfather said he heard Jaycee scream then jumped on a bicycle and frantically pedaled after the car in a failed effort to follow it up a hill. He then turned around and screamed at neighbors to call 911.

The case attracted national attention and was featured on TV's "America's Most Wanted," which broadcast a composite drawing of a suspect seen in the car.

Probyn said his wife, Terry, had spoken with Dugard by phone on Wednesday. He said the mother and their 19-year-old daughter were flying from their Southern California home to meet with Dugard in Northern California.

Investigators first visited with his wife about three weeks ago, he said.

Probyn said he endured years of suspicion from FBI agents who believed he may have been involved in the abduction. He eventually lost hope that he would ever see his stepdaughter alive.

"Then you pray that you get her body back so there is an ending," Probyn said.

Lovell said investigators have been working the case consistently since she was abducted and new leads had surfaced over time.

"You bet it's a surprise. This is not the normal resolution to a kidnapping," he said.

President Barack Obama and his family made their first excursion to Aquinnah this morning, where they took a leisurely bike ride.