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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit: Trump Edition

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal

When a Republican senator said that presidential lying was a big deal:
— Jack Pitney (@jpitney) December 15, 2018

Although nothing in the Constitution or federal law explicitly says presidents are immune from indictment while they remain in office, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has asserted that they are. A newly disclosed legal memo from the office of Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton, challenges that analysis. The National Archives made the memo public in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The New York Times.
When a conservative legal scholar said that federal election law applies to payoffs. Hans von Spakovsky on John Edwards:
My experience on the FEC led me to conclude that federal campaign-finance laws are too complex, too ambiguous, and too restrictive. They help ensure the safety of incumbents and make it much more difficult for challengers. We would be better served with a system that did not limit the amount of campaign contributions, but simply required full disclosure of all donations so that voters can make their own decisions on how important it is to them that candidates are receiving funds from particular contributors.
But the gifts made on behalf of Edwards by his campaign contributors to keep this potential scandal quiet were intended to help him stay in the 2008 presidential race as a viable candidate. They would not have been made if not for Edwards’s status as a federal candidate, and they were linked to a federal election. They should be considered illegal campaign contributions under federal law and applicable FEC regulations and advisory opinions. A jury may end up disagreeing that Edwards knew that what he was doing was illegal, but if the government’s facts are correct, then John Edwards should be held accountable for violating federal law.

Preexisting Conditions

In the forthcoming update to Defying the Odds, we discuss the health issue in the 2018 campaign.  

Colby Itkowitz at WP:
Late Friday night, on the last night of open enrollment, a Texas judge ruled in the lawsuit that the ACA was unconstitutional and the whole law should be overturned Nothing happens to the law yet, this decision will be appealed and likely end up before the Supreme Court, but it certainly puts President Obama’s signature policy accomplishment in the perilous situation.
The big question facing Republicans tonight is whether they will support legislation ensuring people with preexisting conditions continue to receive equitable health insurance coverage. Throughout the campaign, Democrats pointed out the hypocrisy of Republicans supporting the lawsuit while also telling voters preexisting conditions protections would be preserved. The problem with that promise is that Congress has not put in place any safeguards or contingencies for those protections in the event the law gets overturned.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Rudy Giuliani and the Rule of Law

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss the people surrounding Trump.
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
-- Machiavelli
At The Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng, Maxwell Tani, Lloyd Grove report on Rudy Giuliani's comments about the crimes of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump.
“Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed… This was not a big crime,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. He added, sardonically, “I think in two weeks they’ll start with parking tickets that haven’t been paid.”
Giuliani was not always so dismissive of the rule of law.

  • "Well, I very much subscribe to the "Broken Windows" theory, a theory that was developed by Professors Wilson and Kelling, 25 years ago maybe. The idea of it is that you had to pay attention to small things, otherwise they would get out of control and become much worse. And that, in fact, in a lot of our approach to crime, quality of life, social programs, we were allowing small things to get worse rather than dealing with them at the earliest possible stage." -- interview, July 29, 2004
  • "We're tied together because we respect human life. We're tied together because we respect the rule of law. Those are the group of ideas that make us Americans." farewell address, December 27, 2001.
  •  "Our belief in democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human life -- that's how you become an American...The best long-term deterrent and approach to terrorism, obviously, is the spread of the principles of freedom and democracy and the rule of law and respect for human life." -- UN speech, October 1, 2001.
  • "Tickets help," Giuliani told the Daily News. "Just like disorder and littering can become contagious the way you see other people do it and you do it, the opposite effect can happen." NY Daily News, 1/24/99

Thursday, December 13, 2018

American Indian and Alaska Natives in 2018

In Defying the Odds, we discuss demographic gaps in the 2016 election.  An updated version will discuss 2018 as well.

From Latino Decisions:
In a historic mid-term election that saw minority and women voters energized like never before, one of the major themes was the importance of the Native American population as both voters and candidates. For instance, their vote appears to have swung important races in Montana, Arizona, and New Mexico. This election also resulted in several Native American candidates representing their electoral communities, highlighted by two Native American women headed to Congress: Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) of New Mexico and Sharice Davids (Ho Chunk) of Kansas. Tom Cole (Chickasaw) and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee), both of Oklahoma, won re-election to Congress. Accentuating the success of Native American statewide candidates, Kevin Stitt (Cherokee) was elected governor of Oklahoma, and Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe) was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. Forty-eight Native American and Alaska Native candidates won election to state legislative offices.
Although research from our team has found that American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) tend to vote at relatively high rates in midterm congressional years, enthusiasm and turnout among Native Americans appeared to be exceptionally high in 2018. A variety of Native American advocacy organizations worked to mobilize Native American voters during the electoral cycle. This includes individual tribal governments and established organizations such as Native Vote and the National Congress of American Indians, and relatively new organizations like Montana Native Vote and #SheRepresents.


Trump, Cohen, and the Enquirer

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal

AMI, which owns the National Enquirer, agreed to pay $150,000 to a former Playboy centerfold model for her story of an affair with Trump, but then didn’t publish it

From the US Attorney, Southern District of New York:
Robert Khuzami, Attorney for the United States, Acting Under Authority Conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, announced that MICHAEL COHEN was sentenced today to three years in prison for tax evasion, making false statements to a federally insured bank, and campaign finance violations. COHEN pled guilty on August 21, 2018, to an eight-count information before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III, who imposed today’s sentence. In a separate prosecution brought by the Special Counsel’s Office (“SCO”), COHEN pled guilty on November 29, 2018 to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Congress and was also sentenced on that case today, receiving a two-month concurrent sentence.
The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election. As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election. AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.
Assuming AMI’s continued compliance with the agreement, the Office has agreed not to prosecute AMI for its role in that payment. The agreement also acknowledges, among other things, AMI’s acceptance of responsibility, its substantial and important assistance in this investigation, and its agreement to provide cooperation in the future and implement specific improvements to its internal compliance to prevent future violations of the federal campaign finance laws. These improvements include distributing written standards regarding federal election laws to its employees and conducting annual training concerning these standards.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Noncollege Whites in 2018

In 2016, educational divides emerged as one of the top explanations of voters’ choices: White voters without a bachelor’s degree made up the Republican base, while a coalition of nonwhite voters and white college graduates formed the Democratic base. The 2018 midterms seemed to continue what we saw in 2016: Districts with bigger black populations, Hispanic populations or college-educated non-Hispanic white populations tended to vote more Democratic, while non-college-educated white voters remained strongly loyal to the GOP. We found a clear negative relationship (R = -0.72) between the Democratic margin of victory in a district and the share of the district’s population age 25 or older who are non-Hispanic white and lack a bachelor’s degree — a group that pundits often call the “white working class.”1
But Ron Brownstein points out that survey data point to an important distinction:
Though Republican candidates almost everywhere registered large margins among white voters without a college degree, Democrats ran much more competitively among the roughly half of that group who are not evangelical Christians, according to previously unpublished results from the 2018 exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, a consortium of media organizations including CNN.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   California is an important part of the story.

With nearly $37 million spent in total, the battle for the open seat in California’s 39th District takes the cake for the most expensive non-special election House race ever.

Winning Democrat Gil Cisneros, a Navy war veteran and Mega Millions lottery winner, poured more than $9 million of his own money into his campaign and raised $2.8 million.

The Paul Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) made Cisneros its top target during the general election, buying $6.2 million in ads — including several roughly-$1 million ad buys in October — attacking the Democrat.

Deciding that the best defense is a good offense, the Nancy Pelosi-aligned House Majority PAC (HMP) spent $2.8 million in negative media buys against Republican Young Kim, most of which came during the same time as CLF’s spending spree. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) dropped another $2 million into the race to help Cisneros.

In California’s 48th District, losing incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was on the wrong side of $11 million in outside spending, the most in opposition spending of any non-special election House candidate in U.S. history. The 15-term congressman endured attacks from almost every major liberal super PAC in existence, these ads focused particularly on his denial of climate change and his frequent trips to Russia.

Among the environmental-focused super PACs, Independence USA spent a race-high $4.5 million in attack ads against Rohrabacher.
A new post-election survey in California’s 48th Congressional District shows that efforts by LCV Victory Fund and its allies to highlight Dana Rohrabacher’s record of denying climate change and opposition to climate action as well as efforts to protect California’s air from pollution were extremely effective in helping propel Harley Rouda to victory over a 15-term incumbent. Voters volunteered Rohrabacher’s position on climate as one of the top reasons for their vote against him, and voters who recall hearing LCV
Victory Fund’s message on climate and air pollution were significantly more likely to vote for Rouda when controlling for partisanship
Joe Mozingo at LAT writes that Orange County was not just Republican, but that it also represented a flamboyant brand of often-extreme conservatism.
With Rohrabacher winding down his last days in Congress after his defeat in November, his departure will mark the end of an outsize Orange County export to the nation: The extreme anti-communist politico whose fears of Soviet domination and anger at American cultural change conjured a litany of bogeymen — gays, liberals, feminists, Latinos, African Americans, Jews, Muslims.

“Dana was the last of them,” said Fred Smoller, associate professor of political science at Chapman University. “That’s why his defeat was so enormous.”
The first wave of demographic change in Orange County knocked Dornan out of office in 1996, when Democrat Loretta Sanchez took that seat.

But Rohrabacher was secure in his mostly white, deeply Republican district. He was not nearly as caustic as Dannemeyer or Dornan, who used to call him a “fruitcake.”

“Dana Rohrabacher came out of the Reagan Revolution, and he really reflected Orange County conservative politics for a generation,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank, and former pollster at UC Irvine. “I think he reflected the values of his district for a long time, and those values changed as it became more politically and demographically diverse.