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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Campaign Finance in the Interregnum

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technology.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Primaries in Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

The Democrats' Akin ploy failed in Kansas.  James Arkin and Ally Mutnick report at Politico:
Rep. Roger Marshall won the GOP primary for an open Senate seat in Kansas on Tuesday, turning aside the controversial Kris Kobach — to the relief of Republicans concerned that Kobach could put not just the state but the party's Senate majority at risk this fall.
With nearly all the votes tallied, Marshall had 40 percent of the vote, to only 26 percent for Kobach. The result was a more decisive victory for Marshall than expected by many Republicans, who had predicted with deep concern that the race was a tossup going into Tuesday.
 Republicans got another piece of good news in Kansas on Tuesday, when Rep. Steve Watkins was ousted in his primary by state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who has seized on Watkins’ litany of ethical and legal transgressions, including felony charges of voter fraud in the closing weeks of the primary. Some Republicans feared Watkins' renomination could have jeopardized the party's hold on an otherwise GOP-leaning House seat.
Clare Foran at CNN:
Freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has prevailed against a Democratic primary challenge from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, CNN projected Wednesday morning.
In Michigan's 13th Congressional District, Tlaib faced a rematch in Tuesday night's Democratic primary against Jones, who beat her once before to serve out the remainder of former Rep. John Conyers' term, but lost to Tlaib in the full-term election for the seat in the heavily Democratic district.
As a member of the so-called progressive "Squad," Tlaib, who made history in 2018 along with Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar as the first two Muslim women ever to serve in Congress, has a number of built-in advantages as she runs for reelection, including high name recognition, the ability to raise significant amounts of money and a devoted national following. At the same time, however, Tlaib has faced controversy over some outside-the-mainstream political positions and at times she has faced criticism, including from Democrats, over statements related to Israel.
Nicholas Fando at NYT:
Cori Bush, a progressive activist and a leader of the swelling protest movement for racial justice, toppled Representative William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri in a Democratic primary on Tuesday, notching the latest in a stunning string of upsets against the party establishment.
Ms. Bush, 44, had captured nearly 49 percent of the vote by late Tuesday evening compared with 45.5 percent for Mr. Clay, according to The Associated Press. She had tried and failed to unseat Mr. Clay in 2018, but this year rode a surge in support for more liberal, confrontational politics within the Democratic Party amid the coronavirus pandemic and the national outcry over festering racial inequities.
James Hohmann at WP:
The vibe inside the House Democratic Caucus has changed dramatically since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled Joe Crowley, then the No. 4 in party leadership, two summers ago in a primary. AOC, as everyone calls her, is a member of the self-described “Squad” of four far-left liberals who won their seats in 2018. Another member of that quartet, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, easily fended off a primary challenge on Tuesday in Michigan from the president of the Detroit city council, who is more aligned with the Democratic establishment and only lost by 900 votes last time.

Clay is the third Democratic incumbent to lose a primary this year. Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, lost to former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman last month in New York. Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.), who chairs a railroads and pipelines subcommittee, lost in March to activist Marie Newman in Chicago largely because of his opposition to abortion rights.

Speaking to supporters in a purple mask, Bush thanked a list of far-left groups for supporting her bid, including the Democratic Socialists of America. “I will never take for granted the movement that got me here,” she said. “An incremental approach isn’t going to work any longer. We’ve decided that we’re not going to wait any longer for change.”
 Rachel Roubein at Politico:
Missouri voters on Tuesday approved Medicaid expansion to many of the state’s poorest adults, making their conservative state the second to join the Obamacare program through the ballot during the pandemic.
The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.
A winning streak: Missouri becomes the sixth Republican-led state where voters have defied GOP leaders to expand Medicaid, just weeks after Oklahoma voters narrowly backed the program. No state has ever voted down such a ballot initiative in recent years, underscoring the popularity of Medicaid expansion even in parts of the country hostile to Obamacare.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pandemic Politics, Early August

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair: "Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. `The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,' said the expert."

Ipsos:  "Two-thirds of Americans believe our country is handling the pandemic worse than other countries (65%) and favor a single, national strategy for combatting the virus’ spread (67%)."

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Battle for the Hill, Early August

James Arkin at Politico:
On Thursday, the top operative for Senate Republicans' campaign arm appeared on a private Zoom call organized by GOP operatives to discuss the party's efforts to stave off a Democratic takeover.
During the presentation, National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Kevin McLaughlin warned that if hardline conservative Kris Kobach wins next Tuesday's Kansas Senate primary, it could doom the GOP Senate majority — and perhaps even hurt President Donald Trump in a state that hasn't voted Democratic since 1964.
“The Senate majority runs through Kansas,” McLaughlin warned, according to people familiar with the call.

The new warning came after a flurry of Democratic meddling has scrambled the closing weeks of a primary race that had otherwise gotten back on track. Senate Republicans have opposed Kobach for a year, fretting that he can’t win a Senate contest after losing the 2018 gubernatorial race, and have warned about him consistently in public and in private.
 Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson at NYT:
Suburban districts like these have long been critical bases of Republican support, packed with affluent white voters who reliably chose Republicans to represent them in Congress. Democrats seized control of the House in 2018 by making inroads in communities like these, and Republicans have tied their hopes of reclaiming power to preserving their remaining footholds there. But as Mr. Trump continues to stumble in his response to the pandemic and seeks to stir up racist fears with pledges to preserve the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream,” such districts are slipping further from the party’s grasp, and threatening to drag down congressional Republicans in November’s elections.
Interviews with more than two dozen party officials, strategists and voters in areas like these help explain what recent polls have found: that Mr. Trump’s strategy is alienating independent and even some conservative voters — particularly women and better-educated Americans — who are turned off by his partisan appeals and disappointed in his leadership. From the suburbs of St. Louis to Omaha to Houston, they expressed deep concern about Mr. Trump’s approach to twin national crises, lamenting his confident declarations that the coronavirus was under control and his move to stoke racial divides after nationwide protests over police brutality against Black Americans.
One result is that House Republicans, who began the election cycle hoping to win an uphill battle to recapture their majority — or at the very least, claw back some of the competitive districts they lost to Democrats in 2018 — are instead scrambling to shore up seats that once would have required little effort to hold. Analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently forecast that November could bring “a Democratic tsunami,” and placed once safe Republican incumbents on an “anti-Trump wave watch list.”
Amy Walter at Cook Political Report:
But this is 2020. We are constantly battling 2016 political PTSD ("what if the polls are wrong?"). Trump also has an uncanny ability to survive political challenges that would sink traditional politicians.

We also live in a time of deep and sustained partisanship. In 2018, despite losing the national vote by almost eight points, Republicans were able to (narrowly) hold onto statewide races in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Ohio. And, of course, this partisanship and division is nurtured and exploited by technology like social media. As such, we don't just live in different bubbles; we live in different realities. It's not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how well Trump is handling this crisis; they disagree on whether we are currently in a crisis. For example, according to a July Pew Opinion Research poll, just under half (46 percent) of Republicans view coronavirus as a major threat to the health of the public, compared to 67 percent of independents and 85 percent of Democrats.

The once rock-solid grip that the president had on his party seems to be slipping. Talking with pollsters and strategists from both sides this week, it's clear that Trump is suffering not just with Democrats and independents but also with GOP voters. They tell us of polling that shows Trump underwater in districts he carried easily in 2016. One GOP strategist told me that even in heavily Republican districts, Trump's job approval rating among Republicans has dropped 10-20 points. The KFF poll released last week found Trump's overall job approval rating among Republicans dropped 12 points between May and July. On handling coronavirus, the drop in GOP support was an even more dramatic 26 points.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

State Politics, Mid-2020

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   The update -includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Across 15 possible battleground states, nearly every Democratic state party group is hitting higher quarterly fundraising totals or holding more cash on hand in their federal accounts than they did at this point during the 2016 presidential campaign, and a majority of them did both, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission filings and in interviews with party officials. Many of these state parties — responsible for field operations and coordinating a ticket-wide campaign — are seeing three, four or five times the amount of cash they did before.
Louis Jacobson, Cook Political Report:
If the arc of the 2020 election continues as it has for the past few months, the Democrats can look forward to gains in the state legislatures.
This is the conclusion of our second handicapping of state legislative control this election cycle; we published the first on Jan. 15. We're shifting eight chambers, six of which are currently held by the GOP, in the Democrats' direction.

Our rating shifts are dictated by a national political environment in which President Donald Trump's chances of winning a second term have deteriorated amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, and racial justice protests following the death in police custody of George Floyd.
In the key midwestern battleground of Michigan, a surge by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads us to shift the state House – the only chamber being contested in the state this cycle – from Lean Republican to Toss Up. We're also shifting towards the Democrats three chambers in southern presidential battleground states where Biden is running tight with Trump. In North Carolina, we're shifting the House from Likely Republican to Lean Republican, where it joins the state Senate, which had already been in the Lean Republican category. In Georgia, we're shifting both chambers from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. As a precaution, we're shifting both chambers in Ohio from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, following the arrest of the Republican House speaker. Finally, we're moving the Connecticut House and Senate, both currently controlled by the Democrats, from Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Veep Politics

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.

Jonathan Martin, Alexander Burns and Katie Glueck at NYT:
In conversations with Mr. Biden and his vetting committee, lawmakers have recommended Ms. Bass as a consensus candidate who is well-liked across partisan and factional lines and would be a loyal lieutenant to him in government.

Ms. Bass has reinforced that message by assuring Democratic officials that she has no interest in seeking the presidency herself, according to lawmakers directly familiar with the discussions. That commitment could assuage concerns in the Biden camp that he might be overshadowed by a running mate positioning herself to succeed him.
Ms. Bass has also waged a previously undisclosed campaign to woo influential liberal leaders, telephoning union presidents to seek their counsel and support.
Mr. Biden’s campaign is angry about a leak to Politico this week that revealed that former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, one of the leaders of Mr. Biden’s search team, is uneasy with Ms. Harris. Mr. Dodd has repeatedly indicated to allies that he believed Mr. Biden should broaden the prospects and not focus on only well-known possibilities.
Mr. Dodd is scarcely alone in his lack of enthusiasm for Ms. Harris, whose own presidential campaign never matched its high expectations; she dropped out two months before voting began.
“The thing I keep thinking about Kamala is her performance in the primary,” said Representative Filemon Vela of Texas, an early supporter of Mr. Biden. Mr. Vela said his top three choices were Ms. Bass, Ms. Rice and Ms. Duckworth — but he said the last two would fare best in his state.
One Democrat close to Mr. Biden’s campaign said its polling indicated that Ms. Harris has little allure with Black voters. More telling, a Biden campaign official reached out to The New York Times, unprompted, to say that some of the former vice president’s own staff members are not supportive of her.
Christopher Cadelago and Natasha Korecki at Politico:
Allies of Kamala Harris sought and received a meeting with Joe Biden’s campaign staff this week after a leader of his vice presidential vetting team was quoted doubting whether she’d be a loyal No. 2.
Prominent supporters of the California senator asked for the virtual sit-down on the heels of a POLITICO report Monday that Harris is not a lock for VP. It quoted former Sen. Chris Dodd, one of four members of the vetting unit, remarking to a prominent Democratic donor that Harris had “no remorse” for attacking Biden during a debate last year. Biden’s campaign at the time viewed the attack — Harris went after Biden for opposing a school busing program — as a cheap shot contrived to make him look racially insensitive.

That story and another recent POLITICO report detailed that a contingent of Democrats is lobbying against Harris to be chosen as Biden’s running mate.

The conference call included several of the state’s highest-ranking elected officials and labor and business leaders, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, state schools chief Tony Thurmond, state Treasurer Fiona Ma and Chad Griffin, a Democratic consultant and former head of Human Rights campaign, according to organizers.
Representing the Biden campaign were the four main members of his vetting team: Dodd, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Biden's former White House and Senate counsel, Cynthia Hogan.
Harris was not involved in organizing the call, they said.
Rachel Olding at The Daily Beast:
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a leading contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, heaped praise on the Church of Scientology at a 2010 ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Los Angeles facility, The Daily Caller reports. At the event, which was filmed, Bass praised the church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard and told the 6,000 attendees that the opening was “an exciting moment because I know your goal and your commitment is truly to make a difference.” Bass, 66, was a member of the California General Assembly at the time. The shady church has been accused by former members of operating like a cult, allowing sexual and physical abuse to proliferate, and intimidating former members into silence by stalking and threatening them.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Yet Another Bad Day

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Thursday was a bad day for Trump's prospects.

As the previous post mentioned, the second-quarter GDP figures were terrible.

Herman Cain died of COVID-19. Cain attended the infamous Tulsa rally. No one can say for sure that he caught the disease at the rally, but:

Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society, took this tweet as his own off-ramp.
I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.
But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.