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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Swamp

In Defying the Odds, we discuss how the issue of Supreme Court nominations affected the 2016 race.

In July, Scott Shane and colleagues wrote at NY Times:
When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh introduced himself to the American people on Monday, with a beaming President Trump beside him, he had a lot to say about his mother, a former high school teacher and a Maryland judge. He accorded his father strikingly less attention — just 34 words, compared with 132 about his mother — mentioning his “unparalleled work ethic” while not saying exactly what work he did.
Yet Ed Kavanaugh’s career may shed light on his son’s hostility to government regulation, a major reason conservatives are so enthralled by his nomination to the Supreme Court. He spent more than two decades in Washington as a top lobbyist for the cosmetics industry, courting Congress and combating regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. (Among his hires for legal work: John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice.)
Theodoric Meyer at Politico (h/t Jessie):
“I’ve known Brett for almost 18 years,” Colleen Litkenhaus, a lobbyist for Dow Chemical, wrote on Facebook less than an hour before Loper’s tweet. “He is extra extra smart, kind, warm, thoughtful and caring.”
She was speaking out, she added, “because, if you don’t know Brett personally, you may want to hear from those that do.”
The women rushing to Kavanaugh’s defense include Candi Wolff, the top lobbyist for Citigroup; Sara Fagen, a consultant at DDC Public Affairs; and Laura Cox Kaplan, a former lobbyist for PricewaterhouseCoopers who now hosts the “She Said/She Said” podcast.
Many of them belong to a class of connected Washingtonians who typically try to avoid upsetting their corporate clients by weighing in on Beltway scandals. But they decided to speak because of their friendships with Kavanaugh, who’s deeply integrated in the Republican social scene in Washington. Kaplan said in an interview that it was “physically painful” to watch the scandal unfold.
Eliana Johnson at Politico:
It turns out that the Keystone Cops detective work by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan — which set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh, only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted — was not his handiwork alone.
CRC Public Relations, the prominent Alexandria, Virginia-based P.R. firm, guided Whelan through his roller-coaster week of Twitter pronouncements that ended in embarrassment andv a potential setback for Kavanaugh’s hopes of landing on the high court, according to three sources familiar with their dealings.

After suggesting on Twitter on Tuesday that he had obtained information that would exculpate Kavanaugh from the sexual assault allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, Whelan worked over the next 48 hours with CRC and its president, Greg Mueller, to stoke the anticipation. A longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, Whelan teased his reveal — even as he refused to discuss it with other colleagues and close friends, a half dozen of them said. At the same time, he told them he was absolutely confident the information he had obtained would exculpate the judge.
The hype ping-ponged from Republicans on Capitol Hill to Kavanaugh’s team in the White House, evidence of an extraordinarily successful public relations campaign that ultimately backfired when Whelan’s theory — complete with architectural drawings and an alleged Kavanaugh doppelgänger — landed with a thud on Twitter Thursday evening.
And a Saturday morning update from Heidi Przybyla at NBC
A press adviser helping lead the Senate Judiciary Committee’s response to a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has stepped down amid evidence he was fired from a previous political job in part because of a sexual harassment allegation against him.
Garrett Ventry, 29, who served as a communications aide to the committee chaired by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, had been helping coordinate the majority party's messaging in the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago at a high school party. In a response to NBC News, Ventry denied any past "allegations of misconduct."
He had worked for North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell
Sources familiar with the situation said Ventry was let go from Bell’s office after parts of his résumé were found to have been embellished, and because he faced an accusation of sexual harassment from a female employee of the North Carolina General Assembly's Republican staff.
 ...
 While doing work for the Judiciary Committee, Ventry was employed by CRC Public Relations, a prominent GOP firm helping to promote Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court.
A company spokesman told NBC News, "Garrett was on a leave of absence from the company and as of this morning we have accepted his resignation."

Gosar Family Values

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

Bloomberg reporter (and CMC alum) Sahil Kapur:



Ronald J. Hansen at The Arizona Republic:
Six of U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar's siblings have appeared in online ads asking Arizona voters to back David Brill, their brother's Democratic opponent in November.
The stunning public endorsement underscores the family's rancorous relationship with the conservative firebrand who has represented Arizona's 4th Congressional District since 2011.
"It would be difficult to see my brother as anything but a racist," sister Grace Gosar says in an ad for Brill.
"I think my brother has traded a lot of the values we had at our kitchen table," sister Joan Gosar says in another.
READ MORE: Gosar supports U.K. activist seen as bigot


The public estrangement of Gosar from his brothers and sisters first became publicly known a year ago, when they expressed their dismay for Gosar's political views in a letter to the Kingman Daily Miner.

But the family's latest intervention in Gosar's political career reveals the depths of the gap between one of the most conservative members of Congress and the people who have known him all of his life.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Midterms

In Defying the Odds, we discuss how the issue of Supreme Court nominations affected the 2016 race.

Susan Page at USA Today:
More Americans oppose than support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Public Affairs Poll finds, an unprecedented level of disapproval for a nominee to the nation's high court.
Amid allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, those surveyed say by 40 percent to 31 percent that the Senate shouldn't vote to approve his nomination, the first time a plurality of Americans have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since polling on the issue began. Nonetheless, they also are inclined to believe he will, in the end, be confirmed: Just 11 percent predict he won't; 45 percent say he will.

The findings underscore the serious political stakes – and the potential for blowback in the midterm elections now little more than six weeks away.
From Gallup:

 Support for Prior Supreme Court Nominees, Final Survey, 1987-2018
Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of […] serving on the Supreme Court, or not?
Vote in favor Not vote in favor Margin
% % pct. pts.
Brett Kavanaugh 39 42 -3
Neil Gorsuch 45 32 +13
Merrick Garland 52 29 +23
Elena Kagan 46 36 +10
Sonia Sotomayor 55 36 +19
Samuel Alito 54 30 +24
Harriet Miers 42 43 -1
John Roberts 60 26 +34
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 53 14 +39
Clarence Thomas 58 30 +28
Robert Bork 38 35 +3
Reading for Kavanaugh is latest. Gallup did not measure support for the nominations of Anthony Kennedy, David Souter or Stephen Breyer. Gallup measured support for Neil Gorsuch, Merrick Garland and Ruth Bader Ginsburg just once, shortly after each was first nominated.
Gallup

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rohabacher Update

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

The CA 48 race between Dana Rohrabacher and Harley Rouda is very close.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

First Paper for Structured Independent Study

Answer one of the following:
  1. Take any chapter in the Herrnson book and write a brief update taking into account developments since its publication early in 2016, including that year's elections.  What do we know now that we did not know then?  How does this new information bear on his analysis and conclusions?
  2. Choose any current election for the House or Senate.  What do the television campaign ads tell us about the strategies of the Democratic and Republican nominees?  (In most cases, you may find them on YouTube.) Some examples here: https://www.vox.com/2018/9/14/17852386/campaign-ads-2018-midterms-gop-cruz   In your analysis, consider the economic, demographic, and political makeup makeup of the constituency.
  3. How will the Kavanaugh controversy affect key races for the Senate in 2018? See the list at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/9/3/17800588/2018-midterm-elections-senate .  In your answer, take into account public opinion surveys as well as the political history of contentious Supreme Court nominations (especially Clarence Thomas).
  • Essays should be typed (12-point), double-spaced, and between five and six pages long. I will not read past the sixth page. 
  • Submit papers as Word documents, not pdfs.
  • Cite your sources. Use Turabian/Chicago endnotes. 
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Email me your papers by October 5.  I reserve the right to dock late papers one gradepoint for one day's lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Dark Money Disclosure ... For Now

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.  Campaign finance is a big part of the story.

Adam Liptak at NYT:
In a victory for advocates of campaign finance transparency, the Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to block a trial judge’s ruling that required some nonprofit groups that place political advertisements to disclose the names of their contributors.
The Supreme Court’s brief order gave no reasons and did not note any dissenting votes. The order vacated an earlier one entered on Saturday by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. that temporarily blocked the ruling.
That ruling, issued last month by Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington, required many nonprofit groups that placed advertisements supporting or opposing political candidates to disclose the identities of donors who had contributed more than $200. Before the ruling, such groups could generally shield their donors from public scrutiny.
The case was brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a watchdog group. It sued the Federal Election Commission and Crossroads GPS, a conservative group. Judge Howell struck down a federal regulation that had effectively allowed secret contributions, saying it conflicted with a federal statute.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rich People are Better Off. Everyone Else...

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and Republicans are in serious danger of losing the House.  What is happening?

At NYT, Nelson D. Schwartz writes about the aftermath of the 2008 crash.
A decade later, things are eerily calm. The economy, by nearly any official measure, is robust. Wall Street is flirting with new highs. And the housing market, the epicenter of the crash, has recovered in many places. But like the diary stored in Ms. Swonk’s basement, the scars of the financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession are still with us, just below the surface.
The most profound of these is that the uneven nature of the recovery compounded a long-term imbalance in the accumulation of wealth. As a consequence, what it means to be secure has changed. Wealth, real wealth, now comes from investment portfolios, not salaries. Fortunes are made through an initial public offering, a grant of stock options, a buyout or another form of what high-net-worth individuals call a liquidity event.
Data from the Federal Reserve show that over the last decade and a half, the proportion of family income from wages has dropped from nearly 70 percent to just under 61 percent. It’s an extraordinary shift, driven largely by the investment profits of the very wealthy. In short, the people who possess tradable assets, especially stocks, have enjoyed a recovery that Americans dependent on savings or income from their weekly paycheck have yet to see. Ten years after the financial crisis, getting ahead by going to work every day seems quaint, akin to using the phone book to find a number or renting a video at Blockbuster.
...
When the bubble burst, the bedrock investment for many families was wiped out by a combination of falling home values and too much debt. A decade after this debacle, the typical middle-class family’s net worth is still more than $40,000 below where it was in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. The damage done to the middle-class psyche is impossible to price, of course, but no one doubts that it was vast.
In December reported at Bloomberg:
President Donald Trump is trying out a new campaign slogan: “How’s your 401(k) doing?” The answer for more than half of Americans is that they don’t have one.

Trump has tested out the line this month at a fundraiser, a campaign rally and in a White House meeting, predicting that the rising U.S. stock market will help him win re-election. But only about 45 percent of private-sector workers participate in any employer-sponsored retirement plan, and the lower-income workers in Trump’s political base are the least likely to hold money in such an account, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Ditto the GOP tax cut.  Quentin Fottrell at MarketWatch:
Approximately 76.4 million or 44.4% of Americans won’t pay any federal income tax in 2018, up from 72.6 million people or 43.2% in 2016 before President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to data released Thursday by the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit joint venture by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, which are both Washington, D.C.-based think tanks. That’s below the 50% peak during the Great Recession. They still obviously pay sales tax, property taxes and other taxes.