Ken Rudin

Horace Greeley may have suggested at one point that going west might be a good idea, but he probably wouldn't be happy to see what's going on with Los Angeles as of late. The Dodgers are in last place in the National League West, the Angels are hovering near the bottom of the American League West, and the Lakers' appearance in the playoffs was brutally short. Even Jimmy Fallon and NBC are bringing The Tonight Show back to Manhattan, deserting some place called Burbank after 40 years.

Washington, D.C., has never been a "love thy neighbor" kind of place, certainly not in the past four years when Republicans worked to stymie President Barack Obama at all costs, or the eight preceding years when Democrats had similar feelings about President George W. Bush.

So how do you explain the love affair of the past few years between Republicans and Hillary Clinton?

As John Boehner finally got the votes to put him over the top, and his re-election as Speaker of the House became official, one had to wonder what was going on in his mind.

In political terms, 2012 was not the greatest of years. We witnessed an ugly, personal, petty, and often childish presidential election. Living in a "battleground" or "swing" state often meant being bombarded 24/7 by an incessant barrage of negative campaign commercials. And just as we were finally emerging from the campaign, we ended the year with an unfathomable tragedy, the gunning down of 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut.

We may be still catching our collective breath over the 2012 elections, but fear not, political junkies: The 2013 elections are already getting under way. Here is what's at stake:

Governor: New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie (R) has announced he will seek re-election, and Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) must step down after one term.

Mayor: The big attractions are New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit and Seattle.

The election was over. As President Obama faced the press in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, the anger and bitterness of his long battle with Mitt Romney seemed to have faded. Unlike President George W. Bush after his 2004 re-election — and his comments about having political capital and intending to spend it — Obama seemed a bit more humble victor, talking more about compromise and saying he was willing to hear other points of view to solve the nation's problems.

It was an election that, once upon a time, many thought was stacked in Mitt Romney's favor.

Tuesday, as those who follow politics probably know, is Election Day. The battle between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been contentious, expensive, personal, illuminating, ugly, frustrating, petty, enlightening and, above all, long. And it is expected to be close.

This week's Political Junkie column is an attempt to guide you to what's at stake on Tuesday, both in the contest for the White House as well as the 33 Senate and 435 House seats on the ballot.

The 2010 elections, in which Republicans had a net gain of 63 seats in the House, was one for the record books. It was the most impressive showing by the GOP since 1938, when their net House pick up was 80 seats, and the best showing by any party in the House since 1948, when the Democrats added 75 seats. The sweep of two years ago more than wiped out the gains made by the Democrats in the House of 2006 (31 seats) and 2008 (20 more).

The reviews are in and, agree with them or not, most people thought Mitt Romney bested Barack Obama in Wednesday's presidential debate. The two don't meet again until Oct. 16, but in the meantime, there will be the vice-presidential face-off this Thursday.

How much pressure is riding on Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan?

The candidates have gone through the primaries and caucuses, the delegate counts and the conventions. At this point, they're traveling the country, trying to make their case. Now comes the most widely anticipated event in the race for the White House: the presidential debates.

The election is not over, we are told time and time again, and it's not. There are still some 40-plus days to go, there are still debates to be had. It's true that Mitt Romney trails President Obama in most key battleground states, but the margins are in single digits. And, lest we forget, it's not that presidential candidates down in the polls haven't come from behind to win in the past.

Two years ago, I asked Texas Sen. John Cornyn, then (and still) the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), if the GOP was going to win enough seats to take back the majority it lost in 2006.

Perhaps, when they think back to the Republican convention of 2012, it will be Clint Eastwood and his friend, the chair, that people will remember most.

The Republicans hold their national convention in Tampa this week, Tropical Storm Isaac permitting, and it will culminate in the nominations of Mitt Romney for president and Paul Ryan for vice president.

Next week it will be the Democrats' turn, in Charlotte, N.C., and the renomination of President Obama and Vice President Biden.

It was almost as if everyone dared Mitt Romney to make a bold move.

He couldn't possibly pick Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his running mate, could he? Too boring, the critics said! Too white bread! Too uninspiring! The cover of Newsweek talked about Romney's "wimp factor." Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert — not that he played a leading role here — described a Romney-Portman ticket as "like the bland leading the bland."

It will be a while before we know if presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan to join the Republican ticket will be a plus or minus for his campaign.

In my view, not since Jack Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson has the choice of a running mate truly affected the outcome in November. LBJ did, after all, help bring Texas to the Democratic fold in 1960. But the record for subsequent No. 2s is a bit mixed. Here's my scorecard:


There have been a number of instances in recent history where the choice of a vice presidential running mate was an important stepping stone toward winning in the fall.

Of course, it's much too early to know how much of a difference GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will make. In the meantime, here is my subjective list of the top five instances in the past half-century or so where a selection of a running mate was crucial to victory:

1. 1960: John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson (D)

In 92 days, we will either re-elect President Obama or replace him with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. On paper, at least, voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will make that decision.

But if you look at the travel schedules and campaign budgets of Obama and Romney, it's clear that the 2012 election will be decided in only ten or fewer states.

One question heard over and over again this year: Is the Tea Party still relevant?

Pretty soon we'll be obsessing full time over Mitt Romney's running mate selection, but until then I thought I'd weigh in one on Veepstakes story that's been making the rounds in recent days.

Last week's Political Junkie column ("Still Waiting For That Declaration of Independents") talked about the lack of ballot alternatives to President Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R). If there is such dissatisfaction with the two major parties, I wondered, shouldn't there be greater support for a third party or independent presidential candidate?

The nation celebrates its 236th year of independence this week, a holiday that reminds us of the freedoms America's early patriots fought for and which we continue to enjoy to this day.

Back in 1970, the word on Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was that, after a quarter-century in the House, it was time for him to go.

At 61 years of age and enmeshed in ethics controversies, Powell was long known for his flamboyance. He was also known for his chronic absenteeism, and a young state assemblyman by the name of Charles Rangel promised if elected he would be a full-time congressman.

Rangel went on to defeat Powell in a five-candidate Democratic primary by just over 200 votes (32.6-31.8 percent).

It's ScuttleButton Time!

Jun 19, 2012

Remember last week's ScuttleButton, where I warned the button faithful that it may not have been the most challenging of puzzles? Well, I'm happier with this week's offering. Either way, it doesn't really matter; President Obama says he will no longer deport those who complain about my button puzzles.

The 40th anniversary of the June 17, 1972 break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in Washington — the beginning of a wide-ranging scandal known as Watergate — was widely observed (and, by some, celebrated) on Sunday in a slew of articles about what it really meant.

It's ScuttleButton Time!

Jun 12, 2012

There are two kinds of ScuttleButton puzzles.

There's the kind where you wrack your brain trying to figure it out, taking the buttons and looking at them every which way until you come up with the answer, happy with yourself that you solved it and appreciative that I came up with something so devilishly challenging.

Or, there's this week's.

If Republicans had their way, there would not have been a gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin. An unnecessary waste of time, many of them said.

Democrats, for the most part, disagree. Scott Walker's policies, they argued, mandated the recall election.

As for today's special election in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, both Democrats and Republicans agree that it shouldn't be taking place at all.

It's ScuttleButton Time!

Jun 5, 2012

Yes, today is the gubernatorial recall in Wisconsin.

But you may also recall that it's been two weeks since the last ScuttleButton puzzle. And that is far worse than simply limiting collective bargaining rights.

Lots at stake tomorrow, June 5, with primaries in five states, in addition to what would be only the third recall of a sitting governor in U.S. history. Here's the lineup: