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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump Threatens California

President Trump said Thursday he is considering pulling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from California, warning that the nation’s most populous state would turn into a “crime nest” without the federal agents.
Trump said heavily Democratic California, which gave Hillary Clinton a resounding victory in the 2016 presidential race, was “doing a lousy management job.” He pointed to “a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation” and lamented the “protection of these horrible criminals.”
“Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California. All I’d have to do is say is, ‘ICE and Border Patrol, let California alone,’ you’d be inundated. You would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country.”
He added: “If we ever pulled our ICE out, and we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Guns of the GOP

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

Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, and Daniel Lippman at Politico:
MANY REPUBLICANS FEEL LIKE THEY GO HOME to their safely red district and interact with constituents who are gun-toting NRA members -- many of whom show up to barbecues, fundraisers and political events carrying a weapon. Multiple Republicans told us they have held events at high-end shooting ranges. Gabe Debenedetti: “AR-15 auction removed from McMorris Rodgers fundraiser”
FORGET THE MONEY that the NRA gives -- it’s relatively inconsequential compared to other industries, and it’s a lazy explanation for the position that many Republicans hold. But many GOP voters exist in a media environment where they read the NRA’s magazines, pay attention to their scorecards come election time and wonder if the long arm of the U.S. government will come get their guns.
MOST REPUBLICANS exist in a climate in which their only political fear is a primary challenger on the right. To these Republicans, national polls mean squat. Getting on the “wrong side” of the gun issue would be going soft on guns -- that’s the way to lose a primary election. Few of these Republicans believe they’ll lose an election by not supporting stringent gun regulations.

CONSIDER THIS: In the House -- the more conservative of the two bodies -- 36 lawmakers sit in seats that elect Republicans by an average of 20 points or more. If you start looking wobbly there on any core issue -- which lawmakers say is immigration, abortion and gun rights -- you could be looking for a new job.
THEN THERE’S THEIR ARGUMENT that new gun laws wouldn’t do much. Ban assault weapons? Well there are plenty on the streets now. And if you ban assault weapons and someone shoots up a school with a pistol, then what’s next? Will the government move to make pistols illegal. How about tightening background checks? Many Republicans will tell you the laws in place now aren’t being enforced as they should be. Why add new regulations?
THERE IS A CLEAR SPLIT AMONG TOP REPUBLICANS WE TALK TO.Many believe this shooting is a tipping point. Others say, “eh.” Remember, Republicans didn’t do anything after one of their own — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — was shot. And in 2011, they did nothing when Gabby Giffords -- then a member of the House -- was shot in the head meeting constituents outside a supermarket.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pennsylvania Redistricting

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

Elena Schneider at Politico:
Democrats’ hopes of winning the House this fall got a boost Monday with the release of a new congressional-district map in Pennsylvania that could help the party pick up several seats in the battleground state.
Under the previous map, drawn by a Republican Legislature in 2011 and approved by the then-Republican governor, Republicans won 13 of the state's 18 congressional districts in 2016, when President Donald Trump carried 12 of the 18 districts.

But early estimates of the new, court-drawn map suggest there are now 10 Trump seats — opening the door for Democrats to inch closer to the House majority when voters go to the polls this November. The extra Democratic-leaning seats are primarily in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“This is pretty close to a Democratic wet dream,” Christopher Nicholas, a Republican consultant based in Pennsylvania, said of the new map.
Christopher Ingraham at WP:
Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida, wrote that the new Pennsylvania mapshares characteristics with a court-drawn map in Florida. “We've now had two state Supreme Courts — FL and PA — order the creation of fairer congressional redistricting plans for their states that obviously are more compact and respect more political boundaries than the Republican gerrymanders they replace,” he wrote.

Dave Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, wrote that “the PA Supreme Court's map doesn't just undo the GOP's gerrymander. It goes further, actively helping Dems compensate for their natural geographic disadvantage in PA.”

Rick Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California at Irvine, wrote that “the early indications are that this is a much more competitive map which will help the Democrats compared to the gerrymandered maps drawn by the Republican legislature.”

Monday, February 19, 2018

Trump, Russia, and the Oath of Office

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's place in the American constitutional system.  His response to the Russia indictment -- which spelled out a cyber-attack on American democracy -- was not to plan a tough response or improve our defenses.  Instead, he faulted the FBI for spending too much time on the issue.

Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 of the Constitution spells out the presidential oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Arguably, his failure to react to the attack is a violation of this oath.

But he is also breaking his oath on an even deeper level.

Madison wrote that the stability of the constitutional order depended on the veneration of its institutions "without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability."

Trump routinely attacks anything or anyone who gets in his way -- including Congress, the courts, and public servants. And his constant lying undermines respect for the presidency.

He is not preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.

He is damaging and deserting it.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Russia did not help me."

And by the way, folks, just in case you're, like, curious—no, Russia did not help me, okay? [Laughter] Russia. I call it the "Russian hoax." One of the great hoaxes. Actually, that's the thing I was thinking about. That's the thing that the Democrats did best. They lost the election, and they didn't know what happened, and they needed an excuse, so they said "Russia." And then they said, wait a minute, wait a minute, "Russia and Trump." Honestly, it's the thing they did best. They did a rotten job of running, but to convince people about this hoax, that was probably the thing that they did best. But it is one great hoax. No, Russia did not help me, that I can tell you, okay? Any Russians in the audience? [Laughter] Are there any Russians in the audience, please? I don't see too many Russians. I didn't see too many Russians in Pennsylvania. [Laughter] I didn't see too many Russians.
-- Donald Trump, September 22, 2017

And I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it's turned out to be. This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election. It's an election that's very hard for a Democrat to lose because the Electoral College is set in such a way that it's very hard to lose that election for a Democrat. They lost it. They lost it very badly and very easily.

I mean, you look at the votes; it was 306 to what -- 223 or something. They lost it by a lot. They didn't know what to say, so they made up the whole Russia hoax. Now it's turning out that the hoax has turned around. And you look at what's happened with Russia, and you look at the uranium deal, and you look at the fake dossier. So that's all turned around.
-- Donald Trump, October 12, 2017

Saturday, February 17, 2018

How the Russians Helped Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

Philip Rucker at WP:
But Trump’s own Justice Department has concluded otherwise. A 37-page federal indictment released Friday afternoon spells out in exhaustive detail a three-year Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy and boost Trump’s campaign, dealing a fatal blow to one of the president’s favorite talking points.
A Russia “hoax” this was not.
The indictment — signed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, both of whom Trump has at times mused about wanting to fire — reveals that the scope of Russia’s alleged efforts to help Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was extraordinary.
From the indictment: 
Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and pages, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S> persons to post on ORGANIZATION [the Internet Research Agency] -controlled social media accounts. Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016.

5.Certain Defendants travelled to the United States under false pretenses for the purpose of collecting intelligence to inform Defendants' operations. Defendants also procured and used computer infrastructure, based partly in the United States, to hide the Russian origin of their activities and to avoid detection by U.S. regulators and law enforcement.

6.Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants'' operations included supporting the presidential campaign of the -candidate Donald J. Trump ("Trump Campaign") and disparaging Hillary Clinton. Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. Some Defendants, posing as U.S> persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities

33.ORGANIZATION employees, referred to as "specialists," were tasked to create social media accounts that appeared to be operated by U.S. persons. The specialists were divided into the day-shift and night-shift hours and instructed to make posts in accordance with the appropriate U.S. time zone. The ORGANIZATION also circulated lists of U.S. holidays so that specialists could develop and post appropriate account activity. Specialists were instructed to write about topics germane to the United States such as U.S. foreign policy and U.S. economic issues. Specialists were directed to create "political intensity through supporting radical group, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements."
34.Defendants and their co-conspirators also created thematic group pages on social media sites, particularly on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. ORGANIZATION-controlled pages addressed a range of issues, including: immigration (with group names including "Secured Borders"); the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including "Blacktivist"); religion (with group names including "United Muslims of America" and "Army of Jesus")' and certain geographic regions within the United States (with group names including "South United" and "Heart of Texas"). By 2016, the size of many ORGANIZATION-controlled groups had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.
35.Starting at least in or around 2015, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to purchase advertisements on online social media sites to promote ORGANIZATION-controlled social media groups, spending thousands of U.S. dollars every month. These expenditures were included in the budgets the ORGANIZATION submitted to CONCORD.
36.Defendants and their co-conspirators also created and controlled numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if U.S. personas or groups controlled them. For example, the ORGANIZATION created and controlled the Twitter account "Tennessee GOP," which used the handle @TEN_GOP. The @TEN_GOP account falsely claimed to be controlled by a U.S. state political party. Over time, the @TEN_GOP account attracted more than 100,000 online followers.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Culture of Corruption, Mid-February

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal

Carol E. Lee, Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker and Rich Gardella at NBC:
More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.
Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance.
White House officials said Wednesday they would not comment, as is their policy, on the nature of security clearances. CNN also reported on the clearances earlier Wednesday evening. It is unclear whether some employees have had their clearance levels changed since mid-November.
EPA on Wednesday retracted its claim that Administrator Scott Pruitt has received a “blanket waiver” to fly first class whenever he travels, after POLITICO pointed officials to federal travel rules that appeared to bar such arrangements.
Pruitt has been routinely flying first class at taxpayers’ expense after securing what EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox had described as "blanket waiver,” POLITICO reported Tuesday. But the General Services Administration says federal rules require agencies’ oversight staffers to sign off on officials’ first- or business-class travel "on a trip-by-trip basis ... unless the traveler has an up-to-date documented disability or special need.”

Wilcox changed his explanation after POLITICO pointed out that section of the regulations. GSA does allow first-class travel for security reasons, but only if agencies request a waiver for each trip.
Lisa Rein at Politico:
Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general has found.
Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most-senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a report released Wednesday. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare.
The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip. Shulkin also improperly accepted a gift of sought-after tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match, the investigation found, and directed an aide to act as what the report called a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Big Fat Liar"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's management style.

Chief of Staff John Kelly has lied about how wife-beater Rob Porter stayed on the White House staff. Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report at WP:
Kelly is “a big fat liar,” said one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”
This portrait of the West Wing in turmoil is based on interviews with more than a dozen top White House officials and outside advisers and confidants, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Chaos Presidency

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's management style.

Peter Baker at NYT:
More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.

To visit the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the granite, slate and cast iron edifice across West Executive Avenue from the White House where most of the president’s staff works, at times feels like walking through a ghost town. The hallways do not bustle as much as in past administrations. The budget director is doing double duty as the acting head of the consumer protection agency. The personnel director is doing triple duty, also overseeing the offices of political affairs and public liaison.
We have vacancies on top of vacancies,” said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied White House turnover over the last six administrations. “You have initial vacancies, you have people who left in the first year and now you have people who are leaving in the second year.”
According to a report by Ms. Tenpas, Mr. Trump’s 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama’s in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan’s, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office.
Beyond those leaving, many positions have never been filled nearly 13 months after the inauguration. Some of those vacancies stem from the glacial pace of background investigations and the Senate confirmation process, which has grown worse with each successive president. But in many cases, the Trump administration has still not identified candidates.
According to the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization that tracks appointments along with The Washington Post, the Trump administration has made the fewest nominations, not counting those that have failed, and has had the fewest confirmed by this point of any of the last five administrations. At the State Department, nominees have yet to be made for three under secretary positions and 10 assistant secretary positions, senior-level jobs that have traditionally been crucial to managing foreign policy
There are consequences. David Nakamura at WP:
More than a year into Trump’s administration, the president has yet to nominate an ambassador to Seoul. Last week, The Washington Post reported that the White House had dropped Trump’s original choice, Victor D. Cha, a former George W. Bush administration official, for undisclosed reasons — and without informing the South Koreans.
Normally, an ambassador would help a VP prep for a visit.
Yet the small indignities continued to pile up, even as Pence arrived in Seoul. As the vice president disembarked Air Force Two, his aides told reporters that he would be greeted by Ahn Ho-young, whom they described as the South Korean ambassador to Washington.
Only hours later, after Pence arrived at his hotel for the evening, did his office issue a correction. The man who greeted the vice president was Cho Yoon-je, who had replaced Ahn in November

Monday, February 12, 2018


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

At Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere writes of Democratic efforts to gain state legislative seats.
At the center of those efforts is the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, mostly forgotten in the 25 years since it was founded as the D.C. hub for state legislative campaigns, but now working to coordinate efforts and partners, and along the way double its spending for the cycle to $35 million in strategic investments.
Realistically, most people working on state senate or assembly campaigns are young and don’t know what they’re doing. Often, it’s their first campaign, and many times, their only campaign. That can be true of the candidates, too, and certainly of the volunteers.
Over the phone and during regular check-in visits in person, the DLCC has been moving in with its experienced staff of operatives to get staffers and elected officials up to speed.
“The thing that’s surprising to them is they’ve known us forever, but now we’re able to show up to the table with a lot more resources,” said Jessica Post, who came on board as the DLCC’s executive director last year as part of an effort to expand the organization in the current environment. “Part of what we’re having to do is orient [local Democratic leaders] to say, ‘Play big, create big competitive maps, we’ll help you fund the infrastructure, and we’ll come in and invest with our partner groups.’”
The burst of voter interest and money in statehouse races and gerrymandering has shocked Democrats, including those working with former Attorney General Eric Holder at the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (on whose board Post sits). Planned Parenthood is getting involved, as are the League of Conservation Voters and other groups. The new Forward Majority super PAC has promised to put $100 million into state races. The Democratic National Committee has pitched in with infrastructure and staff in several races.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Senate Democratic Fundraising is Going Well

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

Kevin Robillard and Maggie Severns at Politico:
Republicans started the election cycle with designs on expanding their Senate majority, but the GOP's candidates are far behind Democrats in fundraising going into 2018.
The numbers are stark: No Republican running for a Democratic-held seat raised more than $1 million from contributors in the fourth quarter of last year, but two Democrats running for seats held by Republicans did. By contrast, of the 10 vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016, all but West Virginia’s Joe Manchin raised more than $1 million.

Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the only Republican seeking reelection in a state Hillary Clinton won, raised only $821,000 —an amount that was nearly doubled by his likely Democratic challenger.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Insecurity at the White House

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of  scandal
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
White House staff secretary Rob Porter had to quit this week because his ex-wives told the media that he beat them.  Chief of staff John Kelly screwed up the situation royally, as Chris Cillizza explains at CNN:
Let's review the facts here. Porter's ex-wives told the FBI in January 2017 that he had abused them verbally and physically. Thirteen months later, Porter still had no permanent security clearance due to the questions regarding these incidents. That, coupled with the fact that Kelly had come to learn at least some of the allegations against Porter last fall, make Kelly's urging Porter to stay on the job all the more appalling.
At no point in the past year did Kelly not think to ask why Porter's security clearance hadn't come through? After all, Porter was one of the people who spent the most time with President Trump on a daily basis -- and someone who was, effectively, the gate-keeper of all information that Trump saw. Upon hearing the allegations -- or part of them -- against Porter last fall, Kelly never felt like it was his job to find out more? And, after learning more of the details earlier this week, Kelly thought it made sense to put out a fulsome statement praising Porter -- a statement that was crafted at least in part by White House communications director Hope Hicks, who was romantically involved with Porter?
Also at CNN,  Jim Sciutto, Gloria Borger and Zachary Cohen report:
Thirty to 40 White House officials and administration political appointees are still operating without full security clearances, including senior adviser to President Donald Trump Jared Kushner and -- until recently -- White House staffer Rob Porter, according to a US official and a source familiar with the situation.
The White House claims that the backlog of interim security clearances is a procedural consequence of the review process carried out by the FBI and White House Office of Security, which can take time to complete.
But several sources, including intelligence officials who have served previous Democratic and GOP administrations, describe the backlog as very unusual and make clear that the process should have been completed after a year in office.
Eliana Johnson at Politico:
“The concept of interim clearances was created for somebody in a position of importance to be able to come on board and start working right away while the investigation ran its course,” said Bradley Moss, an attorney who specializes in security clearance law. “I’ve never heard of somebody just being allowed to sit on an interim clearance indefinitely. It runs contrary to the entire concept of the clearance process."
That’s why Kelly concluded that White House aides whose backgrounds would preclude them from receiving full clearances would have to go, according to the senior administration official.
However, Moss added, the president himself holds the ultimate authority over the clearance process, which he can alter by executive order – though it would be unprecedented. “If he wants individuals like Jared Kushner and Rob Porter to just sit with interim clearances for three years, he can do that,” Moss said.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Not There on Impeachment

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign and other scandals.

One week after the State of the Union address and the president’s call for national unity, America remains no less divided and President Trump has since branded the Democrats as treasonous amidst a stock market meltdown. Almost on cue, a Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday revealed a country riven by politics, nowhere more so than if the president fires Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

By a whisker-thin 47 percent to 46 percent, the public opposes Trump’s impeachment and removal from office if special counsel Robert Mueller gets the boot. Separately, over in the Sunshine State, opponents of impeachment hold a six-point lead. Surprising? Not at all.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

More California Blues for the GOP

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

California's 50th CD should be an easy hold for the GOP.  It might not be.

Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan at Politico:
The criminal investigation into Rep. Duncan Hunter is intensifying as a grand jury in San Diego questions multiple former aides about whether the California Republican improperly diverted political funds for personal use.
Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed Hunter’s parents, as well as a female lobbyist with whom many people close to the congressman believe he had a romantic relationship, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The Justice Department is trying to determine whether hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hunter’s campaign account were spent improperly on his family and friends. Hunter already sold his home to pay back what even he now acknowledges were improper charges, moving his wife and kids in with his parents while he mostly lives in his Capitol Hill office.
It’s a stark reversal of fortune for Hunter, 41, whose friends once considered him a hero. The ex-Marine served three tours as an artillery officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting in some of the bloodiest battles in Fallujah.
Now, the five-term lawmaker’s Republican colleagues worry that he’s on the brink of personal and political ruin. Some Republicans are urging GOP leaders to force him to retire, worried that his troubles could cost the party another seat in its uphill effort to maintain the House majority.
Ed Kilgore at New York:
A new PPIC poll indicates that Feinstein’s doing pretty well, leading de León by a robust 46 percent to 17 percent margin among likely voters, with significant leads among virtually every subgroup.

Of perhaps even greater significance, there were no Republican Senate candidates with sufficiently viable campaigns for PPIC to even include them in the poll. With less than a month left before the candidate filing deadline for the June 5 nonpartisan primary, that almost certainly means that for the second election year in a row, Republicans won’t have a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the November general election (under the top-two system, the top two finishers, regardless of party or percentage, advance to the general election).
And while California Republicans do have three candidates for governor this year, that could be two too many for the party to place someone in the general election. The new PPIC poll shows Democrats Gavin Newsom (the lieutenant governor and retiring Governor Jerry Brown’s heir apparent) and Antonio Villaraigosa (former mayor of Los Angeles) dominating a large field with 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The top-performing Republican, state legislator Travis Allen, is at 8 percent, and it’s not entirely clear his candidacy will survive recently disclosed allegations of sexual harassment in 2013. The other two Republicans in the race hold a combined 10 percent of the vote.
If, as appears likely, there are no Republicans at the top of the ballot for the Senate and gubernatorial races in November, it could have a baleful effect on GOP turnout. And that could be a real problem for Republicans trying to hold onto six endangered U.S. House seats.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

California Looks Good for House Democrats

Christine Mai-Duc and Sarah D. Wire at Los Angeles Times write about California House elections.
18 The number of Democratic challengers who raised more than $500,000 by the end of 2017. 
That's a staggering number of candidates compared with previous years. Just four challengers in the 10 GOP-held seats we're currently watching raised that much in the entire 2016 election cycle. None of them had raised $500,000 by the end of the first year.

By raising such substantial sums so early, these candidates have passed a key test for demonstrating viability: amassing enough money to run a competitive campaign and get their messages out to voters.

While Republican strategists argue that Democrats are going to spend a lot of this money fighting each other in crowded primaries, it's also likely that many of the ads, mailers and campaign messages will focus instead on the already-vulnerable Republicans they are attempting to unseat. Donors who are getting engaged early also could consolidate behind a single Democratic candidate once the field dwindles.
Polls in a pair of Southern California congressional races that show voters unwilling to re-elect to GOP incumbents could be bad news for Republicans across the state.

The separate polls, done by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, found a majority of voters disinclined to cast their ballots for Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa (Orange County).

But those results may spread far outside those district boundaries, since they track closely with voter disapproval of President Trump and general unhappiness with Republican control of Congress.
In Rohrabacher’s district, where Republicans hold a 43 percent-to-30 percent registration margin over Democrats, 51 percent of likely voters said they were disinclined to vote for the 14-term incumbent, compared with 41 percent who favored his re-election.
The so-called enthusiasm gap is even wider, with 28 percent of likely voters strongly inclined to vote for Rohrabacher and 44 percent strongly convinced they will not support him.

It’s a similar situation for Knight, magnified by the fact that in his once strongly Republican district in northern Los Angeles County, Democrats now have a 41 percent-to-36 percent registration edge.
After winning a tough re-election campaign in 2016, Knight now finds that 56 percent of his district’s likely voters don’t support him, compared with 38 percent who do. Only 27 percent enthusiastically back his re-election, while 50 percent of those voters are strongly disinclined to vote for him.
Polling suggests that Trump, his policies and his GOP congressional supporters bear at least part of the blame for the poor showings by Rohrabacher and Knight.
A ghost haunts the Democratic party.  The ghost's name is Gary Miller.  In 2012, he was a GOP House member running in the redrawn 31st district. Though the district leaned Democratic, making Miller a top target, too many Democrats entered the primary.  They split their party's vote so much that the top two finishers were both Republicans:  Miller and State Senator Bob Dutton.  Party fratricide thus cost Democrats a winnable seat. They don't want the same thing to happen this year, especially since California is so important to their chances of retaking a majority in the House.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

GOP Districts Have Fewer Immigrants

Caitlin Owens, Chris Canipe report at Axios:
House seats held by Republicans generally have significantly lower foreign-born populations than those held by Democrats, a likely indication of why the two parties are so far apart on immigration — especially in the lower chamber.
Why this matters: The clock is ticking on protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and Congress isn't close to a solution. It's obviously members' job to reflect the interests of their constituents. When the majority of a district's voters don't have any skin in the game, meeting in the middle can be tough.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Fundraising Looks Good for House Democrats

Elena Schneider at Politico:
More than 40 House Republican incumbents were outraised in the final quarter of 2017 by one — or several — of their Democratic opponents, according to the latest round of fundraising numbers. And of that group, more than a dozen had less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers.

For the GOP, here’s the really disturbing part: The trendline is getting worse, not better. Despite the myriad advantages of incumbency and control of Congress, there are more House members with less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers than the quarter before.
“Those numbers should be concerning for all Republicans,” said Mike DuHaime, a GOP consultant based in New Jersey. “This is going to be the most challenging political environment since 2006, so you have to be ready. And lot of these members came in after 2006, so for many, this will be the most challenging environment they’ve ever run in. And that’s going to prove difficult.”
A flood of Democratic money poured into House races across the country in 2017, provided in large part by small-dollar, online contributors animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress. More than 80 Democratic challengers in Republican-held districts have at least $250,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year — a sign that the House battlefield may be wider than previously thought.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

2018 State Legislative Elections

Alexander Burns and Alan Blinder at NYT:
As national Republicans dig in to defend their majorities in Congress in the midterm elections, party leaders across the country have grown anxious about losses on a different front: state legislatures. Over the last decade, Republicans have dominated most state capitals, enacting deep tax cuts, imposing new regulations on labor unions and abortion providers, and drawing favorable congressional maps to reinforce their power in Washington.
Yet that dominance appears to be fraying, strained by the same forces taxing Republicans in Congress. National strategists in both parties see the landscape of legislative races expanding, especially in areas around major cities where President Trump has stirred an insurrection among liberals, and college-educated voters and white women have recoiled from Republicans.
Over the last year, Democrats have snatched away Republican seats in more than a dozen special legislative elections from Seattle and Tulsa, Okla., to Atlanta and Miami, in many cases electing female and minority candidates with strong turnout on the left.
Republicans will not be easily dislodged: In many states, Republican governors have built powerful machinery to defend their allies, and Mr. Trump remains popular enough across much of the Midwest and South to limit Democratic gains. In 31 out of 50 states, Republicans command the entire legislature; in 25 of those states, the governor is also a Republican.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Partisan Views of the FBI

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

Mike Allen at Axios:
President Trump's hammering on the FBI — and green-lighting yesterday of the Russia memo's release over Bureau objections — is having a profound effect:

A SurveyMonkey poll for Axios finds that not even 40% of Republicans approve of America's main federal law enforcement agency — a stunning turn for the law-and-order party.

Why it matters: Trump, who earlier turned a huge swath of Republicans toward more favorable opinions of Russia, has now turned his party against his own FBI.
The numbers: FBI approval in the SurveyMonkey Poll, taken over the past two days, is 64% among Democrats and just 38% among Republicans. Unfavorable opinion of the FBI: 47% in the GOP; 14% among Ds.
As you see below, overall opinion of the FBI fell over the past year in the two polls we compared, likely driven entirely by falling approval from Rs.
Be smart: The stark new Republican skepticism of the FBI means that Trump has succeeded in preemptively undermining the findings of special counsel Bob Mueller.
Many Republicans will now see Mueller's report or recommendations as a political document, and the conservative media will portray it that way.
It's the great muddying we have been telling you about since December.
This is a massive swing from the initial bipartisan accolades for Mueller.
When the special counsel was named last May, Newt Gingrich tweeted: "Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down."

Friday, February 2, 2018

Latest Data on 2018

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

Nate Cohn at NYT:
Last month it seemed that Democrats might ride a giant tsunami to control of the House and Senate. Now, some are wondering whether there’s a Democratic wave at all.
The Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot, which asks people whether they’ll vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress, has dwindled since the heart of the tax debate in December. Then, nearly all surveys put Republicans behind by double digits. Now, poll averages put the Democratic lead at only around six or seven percentage points.
The question isn’t really whether Republican standing has improved recently. It has. The question is whether anyone should care: Is it just one of many blips and bumps along the road, or does it say something meaningful about the midterm elections?
The short answer: Check back in a month.
Philip Bump at WP:
Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.) on Wednesday became the latest GOP member of the House to announce his decision not to run for reelection. He’s the 34th sitting Republican to do so, according to DailyKos’s trackerof open seats, and the 22nd whose decision to leave is not based on running for another office. (In Gowdy’s case, he’s aiming to enter the judiciary.)
As of this writing — and this seems to be changing with regularity — 17 percent of the seats with which the Republicans began the 115th Congress will have no incumbent in November. That’s the highest percentage since 2008, when 17.4 percent of GOP seats were abandoned before the election. But of course, the Republicans hold a lot more seats now than they did after the 2006 Democratic rout.
Angela Hart at The Sacramento Bee:
Three times more Democrats are running in the 10 targeted Republican-held California House districts this year compared to 2014 and 2016.
The latest tally of Democratic candidates, according to Federal Election Commission filings, is now at 63. In 2016, 22 Democrats competed in those districts. In 2014, there were 20.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Carson Culture of Corruption

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of  scandal.  HUD Secretary Ben Carson fits right in.  Among other things, he used to hawk dubious nutritional supplements.

Juliet Eilperin and Jack Gillum at WP:
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson allowed his son to help organize an agency “listening tour” in Baltimore last summer despite warnings from department lawyers that doing so risked violating federal ethics rules, according to internal documents and people familiar with the matter.

Career officials and political appointees raised concerns days before the visit that Carson’s son, local businessman Ben Carson Jr., and daughter-in-law were inviting people with whom they potentially had business dealings, the documents show.

Carson Jr. put people he’d invited in touch with his father’s deputies, joined agency staff on official conference calls about the listening tour and copied his wife on related email exchanges, according to emails.

“I expressed my concern that this gave the appearance that the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain,” Linda M. Cruciani, HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations, wrote in a July 6 memo, describing her reaction upon learning of Carson Jr.’s involvement from other staff members.

The two-page memo, obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), details conference calls and meetings that Cruciani and her colleagues had with Carson, his son and other senior HUD officials to urge that Carson Jr. not be involved in the listening tour, an event intended to give the secretary a chance to see federally supported housing projects firsthand and to convey his policy vision to the public.

Our book says that the 2016 election was a Coen Brothers version of the 1992 election, featuring a slightly scrambled cast of characters:  a Bush, a Clinton, a bombastic billionaire.  The pattern continues.  During the Bush 41 administration, Paul Manafort got into trouble over a HUD scandal.  Paul Manafort is now in deeper trouble, and there is a HUD scandal, though the two things are not directly connect.

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