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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Widening Gyre

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

Paul Kane and  Colby Itkowitz at WP:
Republican leaders stood by the upset winner of the GOP primary in a competitive House seat despite the gun rights activist’s openness to the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, overseen by top GOP leaders, embraced Lauren Boebert as their nominee Wednesday following her defeat of five-term Rep. Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo.), whom she characterized during the campaign as insufficiently supportive of President Trump.

“Lauren won her primary fair and square and has our support. This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat as Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats continue to peddle their radical conspiracy theories and pushing their radical cancel culture,” Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.

Boebert is the ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets, none of which have a foundation in truth. Conspiracy theory experts consider it a webbed network filled with activists who wrongly believe a secret group of elites inside of and outside of government is working against Trump, as well as other false allegations of pedophilia among top Democratic officials.
Media Matters lists the QAnon candidates. 

Philip Bump at WP:
The thing that’s remarkable about these Q-adjacent candidates (nearly all of whom are Republican) is that many of them have gone on to win. A Post review of the outcomes of the races in which those 59 candidates have actually been on the ballot and received votes show that 11 of 28 candidates either won their primaries, advanced to a runoff or will be on the ballot in November.

In total, candidates who’ve shown support for QAnon have received more than 580,000 votes, as of this writing, including more than 425,000 votes that have gone to Republicans who were more actively engaged in the Q movement than simply using a Q hashtag on a tweet. This isn’t a sign that those voters were all demonstrating support for Q. It is a sign, though, that Q was not seen disqualifying for Republican primary voters.

Most of those successful candidates won’t end up in Washington next January. A number won primary contests against incumbent Democrats in heavily blue districts. It seems likely at the moment, though, that at least two — Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won the party primary in Georgia’s 14th District — will be elected.

The sudden emergence of a possible Q caucus, if you will, itself mirrors Trump’s ascent. QAnon and the president took similar paths to political power.

You’re probably more familiar with Trump’s. Written off in 2015 as a lark, Trump perhaps accidentally stumbled on a successful path to the Republican nomination: say the things that the party elites didn’t want said but which were burbling in conservative media and social media.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Good Primary Day for Democrats

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

At NYT, Jonathan Martin and Adam Nagoourney report that moderates prevailed in Colorado and Kentucky, and that Oklahoma voters endorsed Medicaid expansion.
Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who built a formidable campaign war chest, emerged Tuesday as the Democratic nominee to take on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, fending off a challenge from the left that highlighted the party’s ideological divisions.
In Colorado, John Hickenlooper, the state’s former governor, survived a rough campaign to win his Democratic Senate primary, propelling him to a general election challenge to Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican and top target for Democrats looking to capture control of the Senate.
And in Oklahoma, voters narrowly approved expanding Medicaid coverage to at least 200,000 lower-income adults, according to The Associated Press, an affirmation of Obamacare in an overwhelmingly Republican state. The results, coming as the state battles the coronavirus pandemic, was a repudiation of President Trump and Republican state leaders who had opposed the Medicaid expansion and who supported a court case seeking to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature health care plan.
In Colorado, Republicans nominated another loony who hurts the party brand and could lose an otherwise safe seat.  Carl Hulse at NYT:
Lauren Boebert, a political novice and gun-rights activist who has spoken approvingly of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon, claimed an upset primary victory on Tuesday night against Representative Scott Tipton of Colorado, unseating a five-term incumbent endorsed by President Trump.
Ms. Boebert, 33, is the owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., and has gained attention in recent days for defying pandemic restrictions by keeping her restaurant open. She previously grabbed headlines for confronting a former Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke, over his pledge during an appearance in the state to seize assault rifles.
“I am here to say: Hell, no, you’re not,” Ms. Boebert, who encourages employees in her restaurant to openly carry guns, told him during a town-hall meeting in Aurora. Gun rights have been at the center of the state’s political clashes for years after new restrictions imposed after mass shootings.
More recently, Ms. Boebert defied state orders against opening her restaurant until the Garfield County sheriff obtained a cease-and-desist order against her.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BountyGate Gets Worse

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.  

The story about Russian murder bounties is not going away.

American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, two officials familiar with the matter said.
The investigation into the suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killings has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three Marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.
The new information emerged as the White House tried on Monday to play down the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to encourage and reward killings — including reiterating a claim that Mr. Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.
But that stance clashed with the disclosure by two officials that the intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.
James LaPorta at AP:
 Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The White House did not respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump was not — and still has not been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they have not been fully verified. However, it is rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.

Trump on 1/2/19:   But Russia should be fighting. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Very Silly Party

At The Daily Beast, Molly Jong-Fast writes about some GOP House candidates who do not help the party brand.
Congressional candidate and former air force pilot Buzz Patterson is running for California’s 7th district in the area that makes up the southern suburbs of Sacramento, he’s running against Ami Bera who's held the seat since 2013. Buzz was more than happy to support Trump’s Kung flu racism tweeting, “So, if ‘Kung flu’ is racist, does that make Bruce Lee and ‘Kung fu’ movies racist? And that song back in the 70s?” And Buzz is a Qanon supporter and a big fan of Mike Fynn. Of course there are 57 former or active republican congressional candidates who support Qanon so he's not alone.

In St. Louis, Winnie Heartstrong is a George Floyd truther who released “a 23-page document laying out a series of incoherent conspiracy theories about Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.” Heartstrong, who is Black, postulates that Floyd died years ago. She writes in her manifesto: “We conclude that no one in the video is really one person but rather they are all digital composites of two or more real people to form completely new digital persons using deepfake technology”—and that the video was meant to stoke racial tensions.

Luckily, this district is a D +29, according to the Cook Political Report, so my guess is we aren’t likely to see a Rep. Heartstrong—or Rep. Obike, which was the name she used when she ran for office in Maryland in 2018—anytime soon. She is, however, likely to win the Republican primary on Aug. 4.
And then there’s “former reality show star and convicted felon Angela Stanton-King,” who is running against John Lewis in Georgia. She's hot off a stint in jail—and a Trump pardon. Stanton-King, like so many honorable members of Congress, was jailed for “federal conspiracy charges for her role in a car theft ring.”
Angela is the goddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, who is an anti-abortion activist and one of the few African-Americans in the world who supports Trump. The district is a D +34, so it seems Stanton-King’s penance for her time as lawbreaker will never include a stint as lawmaker.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Brutal Ads

Bad Weekend for Trump

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.  

Jacob Knutson at Axios:
President Trump tweeted Sunday that neither he, Vice President Mike Pence nor chief of staff Mark Meadows were briefed on alleged intelligence that a Russian military spy unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
\Why it matters: Kremlin involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the death of American troops would mark a massive escalation in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Trump has already faced intense criticism over reports that he knew about the intelligence and took no action.
  • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement on Saturday denying the Times report that Trump and Pence had been briefed, but noted that her statement "does not speak to the merit of the alleged intelligence."
  • Trump tweeted on Sunday that "everybody is denying it" and that "there have not been many attacks on us."
  • 22 U.S. service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.
The backdrop: The New York Times reported Friday that Trump was briefed on the finding and that the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March. The report was confirmed by the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and CNN.
  • The Times reported that despite knowing about the bounties, Trump floated expanding the upcoming G7 summit meeting in Washington, D.C., in September to include Russia.
  • Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke in May about his plans to expand the G7 meeting to include Russia. The U.K. and Canada vehemently opposed the move.
  • Russia was disinvited from attending the annual meeting of the eight largest advanced economies in the world in 2014 for illegally annexing Crimea from Ukraine.
The Lincoln Project reacted with impressive speed and force:

Derek Hawkins and colleagues at WP:
Global cases of covid-19 exceeded 10 million on Sunday, according to a count maintained by Johns Hopkins University, a measure of the power and spread of a pandemic that has caused vast human suffering, devastated the world’s economy and still threatens vulnerable populations in rich and poor nations alike.
In America, states around the country continued to report new daily highs in confirmed cases with 44,792 announced Saturday, as the total number of infections in the United States approached 2.5 million.
Here are some significant developments:
  • A record surge in new cases is the clearest sign yet of the historic failure in the U.S. to control the virus — exposing a crisis in governance extending from the Oval Office to state capitals to city councils.
  • Hospitals in Texas and Arizona are admitting coronavirus patients in record numbers as new infections continue to climb across southern and western states.
  • Vice President Pence has postponed planned campaign events in Arizona and Florida next week “out of an abundance of caution” amid major increases in coronavirus cases in those states, a Trump-Pence reelection campaign official said Saturday.
  • The faltering response in the U.S. remains a subject of global shock and fascination, with one prominent French virologist saying Sunday that the situation was “explosive.”
  • President Trump’s campaign directed the removal of thousands of social distancing stickers from seats before his rally in Tulsa

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Trump v. Obamacare, Continued

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the health care issue in the 2016 campaign.  the 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

James Hohmann at WP:
President Trump insists on the campaign trail that he wants to protect insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. His legal team just told the Supreme Court otherwise. 82-page brief submitted late Thursday night by Trump’s representatives states crisply that the president wants to get rid of every provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco packs in a string of rhetorical flourishes that may draw cheers at a Federalist Society legal conference but will inevitably appear as factual citations to back up attack ads that Democrats plan to run this fall against vulnerable Senate Republicans, in a redux of the messaging that proved so potent in the 2018 midterms.

The Trump team’s core argument is that every Republican who voted for the tax cuts three years ago knowingly voted to destroy the 2010 law in its entirely, not just to get rid of the mandate that individuals buy health insurance. And, because the Supreme Court previously upheld the constitutionality of the law on the grounds that the individual mandate is a tax, Trump’s lawyers say that the whole system became invalid once Congress got rid of the penalty for not carrying health insurance.

“Nothing the 2017 Congress did demonstrates it would have intended the rest of the ACA to continue to operate in the absence of these ... integral provisions,” Francisco writes in his brief, which is co-signed by four other Trump appointees at the Justice Department. “The entire ACA thus must fall with the individual mandate.”
The brief is full of little gifts like this to Joe Biden and Democrats who hope to ride his coattails down the ballot. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted against repealing Obamacare in 2017, which she touts as evidence of her independence, but then she voted for the tax legislation. This brief can also be used as a cudgel to attack GOP Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and David Perdue (Ga.), who separately each voted to repeal the underlying law. Recent polls show those three senators are locked in tight races as they seek second terms. Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who trails Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in multiple polls, also voted for the tax bill as a member of the House.
The tax bill, which Republicans saw as a genius move, has turned out to be a political disaster in several ways.