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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Trump Twitter Tirades (continued)

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.  For his own ego, he seems bent on blowing up negotiations to keep the government open.

Ed O'Keefe at WP:
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that some of the hard-line immigration policies President Trump advocated during the campaign were “uninformed,” that the United States will never construct a wall along its entire southern border and that Mexico will never pay for it, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The comments were out of sync with remarks by Trump, who in recent days has reiterated his desire to build a border wall that would be funded by Mexico “indirectly through NAFTA.”

Trump amplified this stance Thursday in back-to-back tweets that called the North American Free Trade Agreement “a bad joke” and asserted that reworked trade deals with Mexico would somehow pay for the wall “directly or indirectly.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Democrats Outperform in Specials

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Shane Savitsky at Axios:
Democrat Patty Schachtner scored a 9-point victory in a special election in Wisconsin's State Senate District 10 last night, flipping a district that had been held by the GOP since 2000 and that President Trump won by 17 points in 2016, per The Huffington Post.

And that's not all, per Daniel Nichanian at the University of Chicago, there were three other worrying results for Republicans in state special elections last night — though they still managed to hang onto the following seats in these GOP-heavy areas:
  • South Carolina's House District 99 had a 15% net swing to Democrats.
  • Iowa's House District 6 had an 18% net swing to Democrats.
  • Wisconsin's Assembly District 58 had a 25% net swing to Democrats.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nero on the Potomac

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

On Sunday, Axios reported that Republican leaders believe that a loss of the House is unavoidably “baked in." According to the last round of polls, the Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead on the generic congressional ballot, with a Quinnipiac Poll released last week pegging that number at 17 points, and a majority of Americans giving Trump a grade of “D” or “F,” not exactly the kind of marks that one associates with a self-described “very stable genius.”
Indeed, for now, only white men without a four-year degree are staying true to Trump. In contrast, white working class women seem to be slowly heading toward the exits. Nowadays, where “porn star NDAs are now a commonplace in American politics,” according to the New York Times’ Tom Edsall, this shift cannot be called a complete surprise.
Election Day 2018 is more than 11 months away, and as 2016 taught us, never count Trump out. Yes, it is too soon to say that a GOP wipeout is assured. But with Trump evidencing no signs of self-control, and the Republican congressional leadership being forced to play cleanup, the odds of a Democratic takeover rise by the day. 
And this WP story posted on the evening of Martin Luther King Day:
Last Thursday was a critical moment in the stalled negotiations, revealing the president’s priorities even as the discussion fell apart.
Trump complained that there wasn’t enough money included in the deal for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also objected that Democratic proposals to adjust the visa lottery and federal policy for immigrants with temporary protected status were going to drive more people from countries he deemed undesirable into the United States instead of attracting immigrants from places like Norway and Asia, people familiar with the meeting said.

Attendees who were alarmed by the racial undertones of Trump’s remarks were further disturbed when the topic of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) came up, these people said.
At one point, Durbin told the president that members of that caucus — an influential House group — would be more likely to agree to a deal if certain countries were included in the proposed protections, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Trump was curt and dismissive, saying he was not making immigration policy to cater to the CBC and did not particularly care about that bloc’s demands, according to people briefed on the meeting. “You’ve got to be joking,” one adviser said, describing Trump’s reaction.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Republicans Smell a Democratic Wave

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Sean Sullivan at WP:
A raft of retirements, difficulty recruiting candidates and President Trump’s continuing pattern of throwing his party off message have prompted new alarm among Republicans that they could be facing a Democratic electoral wave in November.
The concern has grown so acute that Trump received what one congressional aide described as a “sobering” slide presentation about the difficult midterm landscape at Camp David last weekend, leading the president to pledge a robust schedule of fundraising and campaign travel in the coming months, White House officials said.
But the trends have continued, and perhaps worsened, since that briefing, with two more prominent Republican House members announcing plans to retire from vulnerable seats and a would-be recruit begging off a Senate challenge to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota despite pressure from Trump to run.
And by the end of the week, many Republicans were scrambling to distance themselves from the president after he spoke of “shithole countries” during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers about immigration policy. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), a rising star in the party who faces a strong Democratic challenge this year, quickly denounced Trump for apparently denigrating Haiti, the birthplace of both her parents, during the Oval Office discussion.
Republican strategists have turned decidedly pessimistic about their prospects for the 2018 midterm elections.
Prominent Republicans are now saying privately that Democrats are virtually certain to win control of the House of Representatives.
As one senior Republican on Capitol Hill told ABC News, “If the election were held today, the House would be gone. Fortunately, the election is not today.”
Another prominent Republican strategist working on the midterm elections went further, telling ABC News point-blank that Republicans will lose the House and that this prospect unlikely to change.
“The only question is whether Democrats win narrowly by picking up 25 seats or whether it is a blowout of more than 35 seats,” the strategist told me.
Dante Chinni at NBC:
On top of those political measures of competitiveness, the 30 retirement districts show some demographic points of concern for the GOP.
Among the 30 retirement districts, 11 are above the national average for populations with a college degree.
That could be a problem for the Republicans. In the December NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 57 percent of those with a college-education said they would prefer that the Democrats control Congress, compared to 36 percent of the group who favor Republican control.
And the racial composition of the retirement districts should be worrying for Republicans as well.
Twelve of the retirement districts are above the national average, 38.7 percent, for their minority population. The Republican Party has long struggled to reach minority voters, and those problems have been exacerbated under President Donald Trump.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bleeding Red

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explains why he includes knowledge of military insignia in his famous "bubble test."
In the 2000 census, 26.4 million Americans were veterans of the armed forces. In mainstream America, just about every neighborhood is peppered with numerous veterans, and the local chapter of the VFW or American Legion is still a significant civic force in much of America.
It’s not only about jobs, income, opioids or even race. It is also about the impact of America’s 21st-century wars, and who has done the actual fighting and dying.

The fact is that red state residents are over 20% more likely to join the military, while the denizens of blue America punch way above their weight when it comes to college. Even as Hillary Clinton won 2.86 million more votes, Trump won 60% of veterans.

Ironically, the George W Bush administration helped set the stage for Trump. There was a notable correlation between battlefield casualties and support for Trump. Those parts of the US that felt the carnage more as a reality than as an abstract swung Republican. According to Douglas L Kriner of Boston University and Francis X Shen of the University of Minnesota, “Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan could very well have been winners for Clinton if their war casualties were lower.”
The abstract of the Kriner-Shen article:
America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few Americans seem to notice. This is because the vast majority of citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting, dying, and returning wounded from combat. Increasingly, a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not. In this paper we empirically explore whether this divide—the casualty gap—contributed to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016. The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that indeed, in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump. Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House. There are many implications of our findings, but none as important as what this means for Trump’s foreign policy. If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his electoral fate may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war. Trump should remain highly sensitive to American combat casualties, lest he become yet another politician who overlooks the invisible inequality of military sacrifice. More broadly, the findings suggest that politicians from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Anti-Rohrabacher Ad

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Issa and Royce are out. Now, Barbara Boxer's PAC for a Change is going after Dana Rohrabacher.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Trump Would Have Called Ireland a Shithole Country

Had he been around in the 1840s, he would have described Ireland -- the birthplace of most of my great-great grandparents -- as a shithole.

From The Times,  March 8, 1847:
There is one feature of the famine in Ireland which has forcibly impressed itself on the English public, and which we animadvert on now for the benefit of those whom it specially concerns. So shockingly prominent is it, that we venture to say it will ever be recorded as distinguishing the present from similar calamities. The astounding apathy of the Irish themselves to the most horrible scenes immediately under their eyes, and capable of relief by the smallest exertion, is something absolutely without a parallel in the history of civilized nations. All that we read of in the description of Turkish or Chinese fatalism, of the indifference to life on the banks of the Ganges, or the brutality of piratical tribes, sinks to nothing, taking examples and opportunities into account, compared with the absolute inertia of the Irish in the midst of the most horrifying scenes.
The Turkish predestinarian sees a fellow-creature struggling for life in the water, and will not even throw him a rope though it lies at his feet. He sees a poor wretch assaulted by assassins in the street, and does not even take the pipe from his mouth to lend a hand or raise an alarm.We can understand this, shocking as it is; but we cannot understand what appears to be of daily occurrence in Ireland, and what we have on the authority of persons who seem to share the general stupidity.


Reactions to Trump's Racist Comments

Trump's description  of "shithole countries" has sparked quite a reaction.

Associated Press:
The U.S. president is only hurting himself both at home and abroad, some Africans said.

“He has not only insulted Africans, he has also insulted African-Americans,” said Sylvester Odion Akhaine, associate professor of international relations at the Lagos State University in Nigeria. “Internationally, such language will deepen the isolation of the United States, a country that is already losing its global prestige.”

An opposition lawmaker in Ghana called for a boycott by developing countries against the United States until Trump leaves office. “The sooner he is made aware that America needs the world and the world needs America the better it is for all of us,” Ras Mubarak said.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Shithole Countries"

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.

Josh Dawsey at WP:
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.
Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.
In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Issa Out

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) just announced that he will not seek reelection.  He had a very close race in 2016 and was going to be a top Democratic target in 2018.  

There is a stark regional divide in California politics:  not just north-south, but coastal-inland.

Issa is one of just two California Republican House members whose district touches the Pacific Ocean.  The other is Dana Rohrabacher.  Both districts are potential Democratic pickupsl

That is not mere coincidence. Coastal districts have different demographics and economics,  They are also more attuned to environmental issues, and the Trump administration's decision to allow new offshore oil drilling (except in Florida) is likely to be unpopular in any district where one can smell seawater.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Way California

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Alexei Koseff at The Sacramento Bee:
Pushed out by party activists last summer for negotiating with Democrats on a climate change program, former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes is doubling down on his fight to reshape the California GOP – with a key assist from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mayes announced Tuesday the formation of New Way California, an initiative that aims to expand the appeal of Republican policies and reverse the party’s declining prospects in the state. Republicans, who now make up just a quarter of registered voters in California, have not won a statewide election in more than a decade and hold fewer than one-third of the seats in both houses of the Legislature.
“There really is one-party rule here in California,” Mayes said at a press conference. “Republicans have failed to be able to reach out to average folks in California. They don’t think that we care about them, they don’t think that we are working for their benefit.”

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sorting Matters More Than Gerrymandering

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

Charles Hunt at
Gerrymandering, or even the redistricting process generally, has no bearing on county-level vote.
Therefore, if we observe similar declines in the number of competitive counties as we did in competitive congressional districts, we know that gerrymandering is not the sole cause. Using the same calculations Cook Political uses for congressional districts and applying them to county-level presidential results from the last 25 years, Figure 2 shows the resulting trend.
Not only do we observe the same trend in counties as we did among congressional districts, but the disappearance of swing counties is even sharper than that of congressional districts. While the number of swing congressional districts have declined by 56% since 1996, swing counties declined by 73% over the same period.
If gerrymandering, or even redistricting generally, was the main culprit in polarizing our politics or making our elections less competitive, then we would not expect significant changes in geographic areas for which the borders don’t change. Instead, we see that more and more counties are voting more and more consistently for one party or the other. At all geographic levels, and not just congressional districts subject to redistricting, voters are sorting into more like-minded and more partisan communities. This phenomenon of sorting is clearly a serious cause of this partisanship, regardless of whatever effects gerrymandering is said to have.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Very Excellent Student

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.

John Bowden at The Hill:
Trump was asked by a reporter at Camp David on Saturday why he "felt the need" to tweet the early morning message that blasted doubts about his mental health. In the tweet, Trump referred to himself as "like, very smart."

"Only because I went to the best colleges, or college," Trump responded during the press conference, where he was flanked by GOP congressional leaders.

"I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out, made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, which you've probably heard."
There is no record that Trump made the dean's list or graduated with any other kind of honor.  He refuses to release his college transcript.

He misspells simple words such as lying, honored, and tap.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

"A Very Stable Genius"

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Trump and the Sessions Recusal.

 In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Michael S. Schmidt at NYT:
President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

Public pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer, who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986.

The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. The events occurred during a two-month period — from when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March until the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May — when Mr. Trump believed he was losing control over the investigation.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bannon Endorsements Lose Value

Kevin Robillard at Politico:
After his ouster from the White House late last summer, Republican Senate candidates of all stripes sought the backing of the Breitbart chairman and his affiliated political group, the Great America Alliance. The thinking was that an endorsement from Bannon would provide an implicit Trump seal of approval, even if the president himself couldn’t or wouldn’t wade into a Republican primary battle.

But Trump’s evisceration of Bannon on Wednesday — after his former ally said in an upcoming book that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian operatives was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” — has freed GOP candidates who didn’t win Bannon’s backing to slam those who did as disloyal to the president. And at least one candidate who sought Bannon’s endorsement ended up attacking him.
Trump's statement:
Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.
Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bannon on the Trump Tower Meeting: Treasonous, Unpatriotic

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

At The Guardian, David Smith writes about Michael Wolff's new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.  Wolff spoke with Bannon.
He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.”
The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”
Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Yawning Gender and Education Gap

Dante Chinni at WSJ:
When Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, they were propelled by a big swing toward the party among women. Now, signs are emerging Republicans could be handicapped in 2018 by women shifting away from the GOP.
In particular, women with a four-year college degree have moved toward favoring Democratic control of Congress, recent polling shows, helping to account for a substantial Democratic lead in multiple surveys on the question of which party Americans want to see leading Congress after the midterm elections.
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Democrats with a 20-point edge among women on control of Congress. That lead is larger than the 12-point Democratic edge among women during the last midterms, in 2014.
The Democratic advantage is even bigger among women with college degrees. These women would rather see Democrats than Republicans lead Congress by 32 percentage points, 62% to 30%, far larger than the party’s edge among these women in the past two midterm years, the latest Journal/NBC News survey found.

With the two parties now at about parity among men, the Democrats’ big advantage among college-educated women helps account for the party’s 11-point lead among Americans overall in the last Journal/NBC News survey, conducted Dec. 13-15.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Opinion on the Tax Bill: Context

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  

Karlyn Bowman at AEI:
Since 1984, when the question has been asked on exit polls, “taxes” has never been the top issue for voters. Voters who do say it’s the top issue for them cast their votes in substantial numbers for Republicans.
In polls, Republicans generally make taxes a higher priority than Democrats do. Somewhat worrying for the GOP then is that in recent polls they appear to be losing their advantage as the party better able to handle the issue. In June, the Republicans had a 4-point advantage on the issue in the NBC News/Wall Street poll. In their December poll, the Democrats had a 4-point advantage. These responses could be read as a commentary on the tax bill, but it is more likely that they reflect more generally negative views of the GOP.