The Spectacle Blog

Sen. Gregg Says Gas Prices Will Decide Election

By on 7.17.08 | 10:34AM

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), at a dinner in Washington hosted by The American Spectator last night, predicted that gas prices would be the dominant issue in this election, called Barack Obama a "transcendent figure" but a "blank page," ripped the tactics of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and branded earmarks a "fraudulent debate" that distracted attention from the entitlement crisis.

"This is not going to be a foreign policy election, and I think McCain is focusing to much on it," Gregg said. "This election will be about gas."

Gregg said the public is more passionate about gas prices than it has been about any issue in his political career, perhaps since HillaryCare.

If he were advising McCain, he said he would "start every day saying 'drill,' and end every day saying, 'drill.'"

He said Obama was not just another Jimmy Carter, but he was a "transcendent figure," and people generally like him because he represents something different at a time when the public wants something significantly different from Republicans.

Unless people are convinced he can't handle the gas prices situation, Gregg said, Obama will probably win.

Gregg endorsed Mitt Romney during the primaries.

When I asked him to describe his experiences with Obama as a Senate colleague, he said they were limited. He used to see him in the gym in the morning, and said Obama was in "great shape." But he didn't see him on the floor much, because Obama started running for president so soon into his freshman Senate term.

"I don't know who he is or what he stands for better than anybody else," Gregg said. "He's a blank page."

He did concede, however, that one has to respect Obama for what he's been able to accomplish having come out of nowhere.

Gregg also expressed concern about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, explaining that because so many banks hold their bonds, if they fail, it would reverberate throughout the financial system.

He had harsh words for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who he said was turning the Senate into the House of Representatives by using procedural mechanisms to stifle debate and the ability to add amendments in an effort to stymie Republicans and prevent Democrats from having to take tough votes.

By using a practice known as "filling the tree" Reid adds all sorts of amendments to a bill, blocking Republican efforts to add their own amendments. When Republicans filibuster, Reid will brand them as obstructionists, so he sees it as a win-win. Gregg said this was a troubling development for the Senate, and no other Majority Leader -- Republican or Democrat -- has behaved similarly.

Gregg was more optimistic about Republican prospects in the Senate than most, insisting that all of the Republican incumbents considered the most in danger would get elected including Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and John Sununu in his home state of New Hampshire.

The two reasons he gave were that they were all "exceptional candidates" and that McCain would do well in all of those states. He also said there is an undercurrent of opposition to Obama, when people get into the voting booth, they may ask themselves, "Do I really want somebody three years removed from the state senate to be president?" Gregg suggested that that's what happened when Hillary Clinton upset Obama in New Hampshire.

Gregg acknowledged that Republicans are in danger in open seats in Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado and he also said a few incumbents not normally seen as vulnerable, may prove to be, but he wouldn't name names. In the end, he said he thought that Republicans would end the year two or three seats down.

Asked about John McCain's views on earmarks, he said that it was a "fraudulent debate" and a "straw dog" argument. Though they make for good one-liners, in reality, they represent a small amount of money compared to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which nobody has the courage to do anything about. He said a lot of lawmakers can get away with voting for all sorts of spending by opposing a small earmark here or there. But he's all for forcing their disclosure, and for making the lawmaker who asked for the earmark defend him or herself on the floor.

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