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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Joe Walsh

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

Bobby Allyn at NPR:
Joe Walsh, conservative talk radio show host and former Tea Party congressman, is launching a long-shot primary challenge to President Trump. He's the second Republican to officially announce a run against Trump, who has a strong approval rating among his party's base.
Walsh, 57, supported Trump during his 2016 campaign but in recent months has been offering a bitter critique of the president, calling Trump a liar, bully and unfit for office. Walsh has also attacked Trump from the right.
"Mr. Trump isn't a conservative. He's reckless on fiscal issues; he's incompetent on the border; he's clueless on trade; he misunderstands executive power; and he subverts the rule of law. It's his poor record that makes him most worthy of a primary challenge," Walsh wrote in a New York Times op-ed this month.
On the Democratic side, meanwhile, 21 candidates are vying for the White House in 2020. But there are far fewer Republicans attempting to deny Trump a second term. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the only other person so far to announce he'll try to unseat Trump, whose support among Republicans usually polls in the 80s, making him a formidable party incumbent.
At WP, Aaron Blake notes some problems:
Last week, Peter J. Hasson pulled out a number of examples of Walsh’s tweets. They include the falsehood that former president Barack Obama is Muslim, employ the racist trope that he should “go back” to someplace other than the United States, and make frequent use of ethnic slurs... And this is just the tweets. Walsh has also been a radio host in recent years; imagine what he has said there that we don’t have a ready-made transcript of. We already know he was briefly pulled off the air for (similar to above) using racial slurs while discussing racial slurs. Then there’s the matter of the child-support dispute that marred his failed 2012 reelection race, in which his ex-wife accused him of being a deadbeat dad and owing her $117,000. (They later reached a settlement.)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Economic Warning Signs

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

Paul Davidson at USA Today:
U.S. stocks tumbled more than 600 points Friday after President Trump vowed to respond to retaliatory tariffs announced by Beijing earlier in the day and ordered American companies to seek “an alternative to China,” sharply escalating a trade war that has roiled markets for months.

Investors had hoped for more talks between the U.S. and China in September after Trump delayed part of the latest round of tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports from September 1 to December 15.

“I think markets thought things were moving along,” says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer of Independent Advisor Alliance. “We just learned things are worse…. substantially worse.”

“Now it seems the truce is off,” he added. “Now it’s anybody’s guess whether there will be talks in September.”

Damian Paletta, Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker at WP:
Top White House advisers notified President Trump earlier this month that some internal forecasts showed that the economy could slow markedly over the next year, stopping short of a recession but complicating his path to reelection in 2020.

The private forecast, one of several delivered to Trump and described by three people familiar with the briefing, contrasts sharply with the triumphant rhetoric the president and his surrogates have repeatedly used to describe the economy.
...“Everyone is nervous — everyone,” said a Republican with close ties to the White House and congressional GOP leaders. “It’s not a panic, but they are nervous.”

Yun Li at CNBC:
U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August, the latest sign that the trade war may be exacerbating the economic slowdown.

The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ index) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July and below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit.

Any reading below 50 signals a contraction. The survey is an initial reading for the month of August. The final figure will be released Sept. 3.

“Manufacturing companies continued to feel the impact of slowing global economic conditions,” Tim Moore, economics associate director at Markit, said in a statement Thursday. “August’s survey data provides a clear signal that economic growth has continued to soften in the third quarter.”
Chris Isidore at CNN:
The Labor Department is revising down the number of jobs that employers added to payrolls by 501,000 during the 12-month period that ran from April, 2018 through March of this year. The government initially estimated the economy added 2.5 million jobs during those 12 months, or just over 200,000 a month. Now it appears it will be closer to 170,000 a month on average.
The new figures don't suggest the job market is weak. A monthly gain of 170,000 jobs is enough to keep unemployment at its current low level. But it's not quite as hot as previously believed, and risks that unemployment will start to rise if employers slow their pace of hiring any further.
Rachel Layne at CBS:
U.S. Steel is temporarily cutting about 200 workers from its Michigan plant, highlighting the ongoing struggles of a company that President Donald Trump had showcased as benefiting from his administration's steel tariffs.

The layoffs, detailed in an August 5 notice with the state of Michigan, will cover "nearly every area" at the facility, U.S. Steel said in an emailed statement Tuesday. The company already temporarily cut 48 workers at the Great Lakes plant and expects to cut more more in September, bringing the total number of layoffs to 200.
Hints of trouble at U.S. Steel have been emerging in recent months, with the Pittsburgh-based company in June announcing it would idle two furnaces, one in Michigan and one in Indiana. The company said there isn't a "single event" prompting the layoffs. Rather, "Current market conditions are being impacted by a multitude of factors," including price, demand, import volume, cost and projected profit margins, U.S. Steel said in the statement.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The GOP Center Cannot Hold

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the conservative movement and the grifters who have drained its resources.  The GOP's moderate wing is not in great shape, either. (The update of the book -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.)

Susan Davis at NPR:
Three weeks after Democrats took control of the U.S. House in the 2018 midterm elections, about 40 reelected and recently defeated lawmakers in the centrist Republican Main Street Caucus gathered at the Capitol Hill Club to sift through the electoral wreckage.
The caucus — then led by Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Jeff Denham of California, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Fred Upton of Michigan — was scheduled to hold its regular meeting with the outside group that inspired its name, the Republican Main Street Partnership, led by president and CEO Sarah Chamberlain.
Founded in the late 1990s, RMSP raises money to support the Republican Party's moderate wing. GOP lawmakers embraced the RMSP name when, in 2017, it launched the caucus — an official member organization registered in the U.S. House. The member caucus was driven by a desire to counterbalance the weight of the conservative wing inside the House GOP. Lawmakers believe that rebuilding the centrist coalition is key to improving the GOP's odds of winning a House majority in 2020.
That Nov. 28 meeting set off a cascading series of events over the next two months. Lawmakers demanded, and were denied, an audit of RMSP's activities. Lawmakers ultimately abandoned the member caucus, and others quietly distanced themselves from RMSP and Chamberlain. Today, lawmakers still don't have answers to their questions about how Chamberlain runs the organization and whether it might be running afoul of campaign finance and tax laws

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Trump and Jewish Voters

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. Earlier this month, he told several Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to their countries.  This week, he said that Jews who back Democrats are stupid or disloyal.

Lloyd Green at The Guardian:
So once again, Jew-baiting will be part of the Trump playbook, just as it was in 2016 and 2018, even if Trump’s allies now proclaim that Jexodus is just around the corner. Old campaign habits die hard, and sometimes not at all.
Three years ago, thinly veiled antisemitic messages from Team Trump were features, not bugs. Pepe the Frog was a constant campaign meme. In July 2016, Trump tweeted out an image of the star of David, Hillary Clinton and piles of money. After the initial stir, the six-pointed star was replaced by Trump with a circle. Still, folks “got it”, on both sides, just like in Charlottesville.
Then just days before the election, George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein took center stage in Trump’s closing ad. Back then Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were not on the stage – someone else would have to make do.
Said differently, religion and ethnicity were fair game for Trump from start to finish, and Jews were not off-limits. As one of Trump’s lawyers told me, it was about expedience, that’s all; nothing personal, just look at Jared Kushner. Or as Steve Bannon confided to Michael Wolff, he couldn’t vouch that Trump wasn’t a racist, but Bannon could say that Trump “probably wasn’t an antisemite”.

Philip Rucker at WP:
Trump’s use of the word “disloyalty” drew immediate criticism from Jewish groups, whose leaders said it echoed anti-Semitic tropes about where American Jews’ loyalty lies. The president insisted his comments were not anti-Semitic.
Regardless, this turn in the president’s rhetoric about Jews magnifies his transactional approach to politics and his miscalculation that his support for Israel should automatically translate into electoral support from Jewish Americans.
It also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivations of many Jews, who are not a monolithic voting bloc and but rather prioritize a wide range of issues — not only Israel, but also education, the economy and the environment, as well as civility and morality.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wacky Week

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms

Martin Selsoe Sorensen at NYT:
The astonishment in Denmark over President Trump’s apparent desire to buy Greenland turned to bewilderment and anger on Wednesday after the American leader abruptly scrapped a state visit because the Danes have no desire to sell.
The cancellation was a rare snub of Denmark’s head of state, Queen Margrethe II, who had extended the invitation to the president and would have hosted him and the first lady.
Mr. Trump further strained ties on Wednesday, calling the Danish prime minister’s rejection of the idea “nasty.”
News that Mr. Trump had called off his visit “came as a surprise,” the Royal House’s communications director told the state broadcaster, adding, “That’s all we have to say about that.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Americans Turn Against Trump on Race, Immigration, and Trade

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about public opinion on key issuesThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

At The Atlantic, David A. Graham says that Trump has turned the public against his views on race, immigration, and trade.
A Reuters poll released today contains a trove of interesting data on race. Trump has long sought to use racial tension to gain political leverage, but this summer he has become especially explicit about exploiting and exaggerating racial divisions, with a series of racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen, and then on their colleague Elijah Cummings, as a strategy ahead of the 2020 election.
But the Reuters poll casts doubt on that strategy: “The Reuters analysis also found that Americans were less likely to express feelings of racial anxiety this year, and they were more likely to empathize with African Americans. This was also true for white Americans and whites without a college degree, who largely backed Trump in 2016.”
Reuters found that white Americans are 19 percent more supportive of a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants than they were four years ago, and slightly less supportive of increased deportations. Other polls find related results. A record-high number of Americans—75 percent—said in 2018 that immigration is good for the United States. Although the Trump administration took steps last week to limit even legal immigration, the Trump presidency has seen an increase in the number of Americans who support more legal immigration—not just among Democrats, but even slightly among Republicans.
One big problem for Trump is that voters have now gotten a chance to see him implement ideas that seemed novel or at least worth a shot during the campaign, and they don’t like what they’re seeing in practice. A trade war with China might have seemed worthwhile in summer 2016, but now that there’s actually one being fought, the public is having second thoughts, and fears of a recession are growing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday found that 64 percent of Americans think free trade is good, up from 57 in 2017, 55 in 2016, and 51 in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage who say free trade is bad has dropped 10 points since 2017.

Monday, August 19, 2019


In  Defying the Oddswe discuss the people surrounding Trump (The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.)
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

Susan B. Glasser at The New Yorker:
On March 5th, Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, arrived in Wichita for the caucus. Rubio left his closing argument to Pompeo, who told the crowd at the Century II arena, “I’m going to speak to you from the heart about what I believe is the best path forward for America.” An Army veteran who finished first in his class at West Point, Pompeo cited Trump’s boast that if he ordered a soldier to commit a war crime the soldier would “go do it.” As the audience booed, Pompeo warned that Trump—like Barack Obama—would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution.” American soldiers “don’t swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other President,” Pompeo declared. “They take an oath to defend our Constitution, as Kansans, as conservatives, as Republicans, as Americans. Marco Rubio will never demean our soldiers by saying that he will order them to do things that are inconsistent with our Constitution.” Listening backstage, Trump demanded to know the identity of the congressman trashing him. A few minutes later, Pompeo concluded, “It’s time to turn down the lights on the circus.”