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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Trump and Truth

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.

Mr. Trump has appeared to grow noticeably more comfortable in the role of president, according to advisers, and that comfort level has reinforced his confidence in his own instincts, including what he regards as facts. Mr. Trump often points to a key moment — his election in 2016, which defied the polls — as proof that agreed-upon data can be wrong.
His long career in the New York real estate world convinced Mr. Trump that all people are prone to shading their views according to their own self-interest. Objectivity is not something he expects of people, and he long ago came to believe that “facts” are really arbitrary.
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 For Mr. Trump, personal relationships are more important than institutional ones. That means he “gives weight to data based on who told him, not the evidentiary stack underneath it,” [former CIA director Michael] Hayden said.
The result is that the Russian president or the North Korean leader can seem to have a greater impact with Mr. Trump than his own State Department or C.I.A. His willingness to repeat claims like the notion that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of “rogue killers” is a function of that, [GOP operative Rob] Stutzman said.
“This rhetoric really matters,” he said, “in that it belies how little he fundamentally understands the institutions of American democracy.”
This attitude has infected his followers.  Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian at WP:
 Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.
In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Trump, Putin, and American Exceptionalism

In Defying the Odds, we explain that Trump has renounced the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.

Fox News interview with Greta Van Susteren, September 12, 2013:
VAN SUSTEREN: Last night, there was an op-ed put in The New York Times by President Putin of Russia. Right before "On the Record" started, the news broke. So I'm curious what you think. Do you think President Obama knew this was coming, or was this an end run on the president?
TRUMP: I don't think he knew it was coming. I thought it was amazingly well crafted. I've read it a number of times. There are a lot of different ideas in there. And frankly, it was very good for Russia. Makes us feel like almost we're being talked down to. But certainly, a very well written letter or op-ed from the standpoint of Russia.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, Russia wants diplomacy, doesn't want military intervention. So what did President Putin gain by sort of slapping the president in the face a little bit, insulting the United States about exceptionalism and also saying that it was not Assad who had the chemical weapons but the rebels? So what does Putin get out of this? He makes everyone angry, not willing to talk.
TRUMP: Well, I think it makes Putin look extremely diplomatic. And you know, they talk all about his dogmatic ways and his toughness, but it actually makes him sound very reasoned and very reasoning. And frankly, I don't know that he wrote the letter. Certainly, there were his ideas. But the way it was crafted was very, very interesting. And it really is talking down to the president. There's no question about that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Speaker Boehner said he was insulted by some of the remarks in that. I assume it was the part where it talked about exceptionalism, that he was insulted by that. What I thought was extraordinary is how President Putin wanted to speak directly to the American people and bypass the president in addition to sort of the slaps that he made.
TRUMP: Well, absolutely amazing that he did that. And certainly, it's getting play all over the world. And it really makes him look like a great leader, frankly. And when he criticizes the president for using the term "American exceptionalism," if you're in Russia, you don't want to hear that America is exceptional. And if you're in many other countries, whether it's Germany or other places, you don't want to hear about American exceptionalism because you think you're exceptional. So I can see that being very insulting to the world.
And that's basically what Putin was saying is that, you know, you use a term like "American exceptionalism," and frankly, the way our country is being treated right now by Russia and Syria and lots of other places and with all the mistakes we've made over the years, like Iraq and so many others, it's sort of a hard term to use.
But other nations and other countries don't want hear about American exceptionalism. They're insulted by it. And that's what Putin was saying.

The Blue and and the Gray

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  The 2017 tax legislation is greatingly expand the deficit, which puts social security and Medicare at risk.

Like a son who murders both his parents and then begs the court for mercy because he is an orphan, Senator Mitch McConnell is claiming that exploding budget deficits caused by Republican tax cuts need to be cured by cutting Social Security and Medicare. Can you say “chutzpah”?
With less than three weeks left until the midterms, McConnell may have just handed the Democrats the economic argument they had been longing for at the worst possible moment for the Republicans. According to the latest projections, the odds of Republicans retaining control of the House are fading. The number crunchers now peg the likelihood of a House controlled by Democrats at better than 83 percent.
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As to be expected, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seized on McConnell’s comments, and the pile on began. Senator Ron Wyden weighed in: “Here’s what this means: SOCIAL SECURITY is on the ballot. MEDICARE is on the ballot. MEDICAID is on the ballot.” Not to be outdone, Warren gave a campaign lesson of her own: “Step 1: GOP explodes the deficit with $1.5 trillion in tax giveaways to wealthy donors. Step 2: GOP uses the deficit they created as an excuse to slash Social Security and Medicare.” As a matter of fact, this time she was persuasive.
If the tax cuts had trouble gaining traction with the public before McConnell’s pronouncement, they will face an even tougher slog now. Early on, the cuts were the bane of wealthy blue America as the legislation effectively ended the state and local tax deduction upon which many Californians and New Yorkers turned to for relief. Now the rest of the country can detest them as well and look forward to Election Day.
Yusra Murad at Morning Consult:
Last week, President Donald Trump published an op-ed in USA Today titled “Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors,” drawing attention to the midterm battle at the convergence of health policy and a key bloc of extremely motivated voters: seniors.
The president’s column may also shed light on concern among Republicans about losing their status as advocates for older Americans: an Oct. 11-14 Morning Consult/Politico survey finds Democrats hold a 19-point advantage over Republicans among the group of voters who prioritize seniors’ issues such as Medicare and Social Security.
Seniors’ issue voters, the majority of whom are over 65, retired and white, are among the most motivated voters heading into a decisive midterm election in which health care promises to be a leading issue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Trump Says He Won't Be to Blame for a Loss in the House


From AP:
AP: So my question is, if Republicans were to lose control of the House on November 6th — or a couple of days later depending on how long it takes to count the votes — do you believe you bear some responsibility for that?
Trump: No, I think I’m helping people. Look, I’m 48 and 1 in the primaries, and actually it’s much higher than that because I endorsed a lot of people that were successful that people don’t even talk about. But many of those 48, as you know, were people that had no chance, in some cases. We look at Florida, you look at Donovan in Staten Island. He was losing by 10 points, I endorsed him and he won. I could give you a long list of names. Look at Georgia governor of Georgia. And many, many races. And I will say that we have a very big impact. I don’t believe anybody’s ever had this kind of an impact. They would say that in the old days that if you got the support of a president or if you’ve got the support of somebody it would be nice to have, but it meant nothing, zero. Like literally zero. Some of the people I’ve endorsed have gone up 40 and 50 points just on the endorsement.
AP: Eight years ago, Barack Obama said he got shellacked, so you know, taking the outcome of the election as a referendum on himself.
Trump: So I think we’re going to do well. Look, it feels to me very much like ’16. I was going out and making speeches and I was getting tens of thousands of people. And I was getting literally tens of thousands of people, also, more than Hillary in the same location. And I said, ‘Why am I going to lose?’ I mean, I go out, I make a speech like I have, you know, 25 times more people than she gets. And I didn’t need Beyonce to get them. I didn’t have to have, you know, entertainment and entertainers to get them. And then they’d all leave before she made the speech after the entertainer was finished. Honestly, it feels very much like it did in ’16.
Now, I’m not sure that that’s right. And I’m not running. I mean, there are many people that have said to me, ‘Sir, I will never ever,’ you on the trail when I’m talking to people backstage etcetera, ‘I will never ever go and vote in the midterms because you’re not running and I don’t think you like Congress.’ Well, I do like Congress because I think, and when I say Congress I like the Republicans that support me in Congress. We’ve had tremendous support. I mean, we’ve got the taxes with 100 percent Republican votes and we don’t really have much of a majority. You know when you say majority, I always say, ‘If somebody has a cold, we have to delay the vote.’ So I get along, you know, very ... people have no idea how low how well I get along with Republicans in Congress. I get along well with a lot of the Democrats in Congress, but I’ll never get their vote.

Dems Swamping House Republicans in Campaign Money


Elena Schneider writes at Politico that 92 Democratic challengers outraised House GOP incumbents in the third quarter.
There is no historical precedent for financing this broad and deep for congressional challengers. About half of the 92 GOP incumbents are protecting battleground districts, and some of them posted personal-record fundraising totals in the third quarter of 2018 — but they still found themselves swamped by a combination of incandescent online fundraising for Democrats and bigger donors spreading money to challengers around the country, as 61 Democrats raised over $1 million. Fifty-one House Republicans were outraised at least 2-to-1, according to POLITICO’s analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings, while 71 were outspent by their challenger. Only five Democratic House incumbents were outraised.
Meanwhile, 33 GOP representatives have less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers, while no Democratic members lag their Republican opponents in cash. That cash on hand gap has been a particularly dire historical indicator: In the last four elections, two-thirds of the House incumbents who ended September with less cash to spend than their opponents lost their seats weeks later.
Typically, only a handful of incumbents find themselves in that position each year. But a high number of cash-swamped Democratic incumbents heralded the Republican wave election in 2010. That year, 18 House Democrats finished the third quarter with less cash on hand than opponents, and 10 went on to lose their seats weeks later.
The financial picture is even worse for the GOP in open districts, where Democrats lead Republicans in both fundraising and cash on hand in two-dozen contested seats, after an unusually high number of retirements before this election.
...
Another Republican consultant, granted anonymity to speak candidly, put it more bluntly: “We’re getting our asses kicked. Nothing else to say.”
At the Los Angeles Times, Christine Mai-Duc reports :
This year’s midterm election is already the most expensive ever, with the total raised by House candidates nationwide surpassing $1 billion weeks before the Nov. 6 election. In California, with at least seven tightly contested races that could decide control of the House, Democrats seeking to win seats in areas long held by Republicans are raising staggering amounts of money.

In those seven races, Democrats raised $21.6 million over the last three months ending Sept. 30; Republicans took in just $4.2 million in aggregate.

The Republican candidates also had smaller cash reserves, with an average of about $652,000 at the end of the quarter. Their Democratic opponents, all of them running for office for the first time, had on average more than $1.2 million in the bank.
.
..
All but three of California’s 12 Republican House incumbents running for reelection were out-raised by their competitors in the third quarter. Only Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Reps. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley and Ken Calvert of Corona raised more than their rivals.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

GOP Cavalry: F Troop


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

Kenneth P. Vogel and Rachel Shorey at NYT:
Democratic candidates are outpacing the fund-raising of their Republican rivals in key congressional races, but huge checks from conservatives assured that their side will remain financially competitive in the weeks before next month’s midterms.
In an election season that appears likely to shatter midterm fund-raising records, Democrats outraised their Republican opponents in 32 of the closest 45 House races by a total margin of $154 million to $108 million since November 2016, according to an analysis of reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission. Even in the 13 targeted races in which Republicans outraised their Democratic rivals, the margin was a less gaping $41 million to $31 million.
The breakneck Democratic campaign fund-raising, much of which was fueled by donors giving small sums online, has boosted the confidence of party leaders. They believe the financial advantage will give them the resources they need to harness an enthusiasm gap and capitalize on enmity for President Trump headed into Election Day.
...
Republican super PACs like the Congressional Leadership Fund are using the cash to try to offset the Democratic advantages in campaign fund-raising by spending money on voter mobilization and other tasks traditionally handled by campaigns, instead of the television ads on which such groups traditionally spent the majority of their cash.
“That’s an experiment in process, and the jury is still out on whether that can be successful,” said Michael Toner, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission who represents Republican campaigns, including the 2016 presidential bid of the former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “For outside money to be of equal value to campaign money, they’ve got to be effective at turning people out, because people aren’t watching TV anymore.
Dan Merica and David Wright at CNN:
Federal law mandates that political campaigns receive discounted rates for television ads, making money spent by a candidate far more efficient than that given to a super PAC, which has to pay the full rate to run ads. That means that in some districts, groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund need to spend four times as many ads as a Democratic candidate in order to air the same number of ads.
One reason for the more spread out fundraising numbers for Democrats stems from the continued rise of ActBlue, a non-profit organization that helps Democrats raise money from small dollar donors across the country. The platform, which give millions of donors the option to store their information on the platform, allows each of those users to donate money to 14,000 campaigns and nonprofits with Amazon-like efficiency, dispersing money in just one-click.
This has not only led candidates to prioritize small dollar donors by focusing on creating viral moments that boost national recognition and fundraising, but it gives candidates without deep fundraising networks -- mostly those running for the first time -- the ability to raise enough money to keep up with usually well-funded incumbents.
Steve Peoples at AP:
GOP operatives connected to several vulnerable candidates complain that the committee responsible for electing House Republicans has failed to deliver on its promise to invest $62 million in political advertising across 11 states this fall, a promise detailed in a September memo that declared, “The cavalry is coming.”
The operatives spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution; vulnerable Republican candidates still hope to receive additional financial support over the three weeks before Election Day.
But if the cavalry is coming, it’s not coming for everyone.
Already, the Republican operatives and spending patterns by both sides indicate GOP defeat in as many as a dozen House races — halfway to the number Democrats need to seize the House majority this fall. Dozens more seats are in play.
“We’re starting to hone in on what are the races we can actually win. Sometime that requires a hard conversation,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan’s fundraising chief, Spencer Zwick.
Even after a burst of enthusiasm that helped Republican Senate candidates in several states following the recent Supreme Court debate, some Republicans closely following the more complicated House battlefield fear the party may have already lost Congress’ lower chamber. With 22 days to go, they’re working furiously in an expanding political battlefield to limit their losses.
Fundraising challenges make it harder.
As of Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent or reserved $44.8 million of television advertising in competitive House races since the end of July, according to spending records obtained by The Associated Press. That’s significantly less than the $62 million promised in last month’s memo.

Low-Hanging Fruit for Democratic: Latino Turnout

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the demographics of the 2016 election

Antonio Flores and Mark Hugo Lopez at Pew:
More than 29 million Latinos are eligible to vote nationwide in 2018, making up 12.8% of all eligible voters – both new highs, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.
The pool of eligible Hispanic voters has steadily grown in recent years. Between 2014 and 2018, an additional 4 million Hispanics became eligible voters (U.S. citizens ages 18 and older). Much of this growth has been driven by young U.S.-born Hispanics coming of age. Since 2014, around 3 millionhave turned 18. Other sources of growth include Hispanic immigrant naturalizations – among Mexicans alone, 423,000 became U.S. citizens from 2014 to 2017 – as well as residents of Puerto Rico moving to one of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, especially Florida.
...
In 2014, the turnout rate among Latino eligible voters dropped to a record low of 27.0%. (White and Asian eligible voters also had record-low turnout rates.) Despite this, a record 6.8 million Latinos voted.

 The number of Hispanic eligible voters has grown, while midterm election voting has remained flat