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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Swamp

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

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

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

Gosar Family Values

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

Bloomberg reporter (and CMC alum) Sahil Kapur:



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


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

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Midterms

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rohabacher Update

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

First Paper for Structured Independent Study

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

Dark Money Disclosure ... For Now

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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rich People are Better Off. Everyone Else...

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

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

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Caution about the Democrats' Leftward Drift

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the leftward drift of the Democratic Party.

At Brookings, Elaine Kamarck and Alexander Podkul urge caution about overstating the Democrats' leftward drift.
For every stunning progressive upset—such as the victories of Ayanna Presley in her Massachusetts congressional primary or Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial primary—there are victories of more conventional Democratic candidates. Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily won his re-nomination in New York, and likewise Sen. Tom Carper (DE), handily beat Our Revolution-endorsed Kerri Harris in Delaware’s U.S. Senate primary.

...
As the following table reports, self-identified progressive Democrats did well. A total of 101 progressive Democrats won their primaries, which was just under 3 in 10 of all progressives. However, establishment candidates fared somewhat better. A total of 139 won their primaries, with better than 1 in 3 establishment candidates winning the Democratic nomination.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Economic Inequality and the Midterm

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

First, the situation is not unique.  In 2006, just before the midterm "thumpin'" that cost Republicans control of Congress, President Bush expressed confidence that the economy would save his party.  Eduardo Porter at NYT, 10/24/2006:
President Bush, in hopes of winning credit for his party’s stewardship of the economy, is spending two days this week campaigning on the theme that the economy is purring. “No question that a strong economy is going to help our candidates,” Mr. Bush said in a CNBC interview yesterday, “primarily because they have got something to run on, they can say our economy’s good because I voted for tax relief.”
But Republican candidates do not seem to be getting any traction from the glowing economic statistics with midterm elections just two weeks away.
The economy is virtually nowhere to be found among the campaign ads of embattled Republican incumbents fighting to hold onto their House or Senate seats. Nor is it showing up as a strong weapon in the arsenal of Republican governors defending their jobs from Democrats.
“I don’t know of another election cycle in which the economy was so good, yet the election prospects for the incumbent party looked so bad,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist. “If something goes wrong, Republicans are to blame. If something goes right, Republicans don’t get credit.”
Second, for millions of Americans, the economy is not so greatPatricia Cohen at NYT:
As new research illustrates, two groups in particular have stalled: whites without a college degree, and blacks and Hispanics with one. Both are being far outpaced by college-educated whites.
“America has been a story of getting ahead, of progress,” said Morris P. Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University. “There’s been no story of progress — for them.”
The findings, part of a study on the demographics of wealth between 1989 and 2016 from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, show significant advances in education and earnings among white, black and Hispanic Americans over that period. A Census Bureau report this week also showed continued income gains last year. But the study highlights the growing importance of relative shifts in position up or down the income ladder at a time when the economy’s riches are flowing increasingly to the wealthiest sliver.
The economic swoops and comebacks of the last three decades have chipped away at many measures of well-being. An advanced global economy has radically revalued the contributions of blue-collar labor and technological skills.
The lingering economic insecurity has fired resentments, sharpened identity politics and fueled populism on the right and left that is upending hierarchies in the Democratic and Republican Parties.
But parallels between whites who did not finish college and blacks and Hispanics who did show that “this is not clearly a race story and not clearly an education story,” said William R. Emmons, an economist at the St. Louis Fed and a co-author of its report.
David Leonhardt at NYT:
The stock market, for example, has completely recovered from the financial crisis, and then some. Stocks are now worth almost 60 percent more than when the crisis began in 2007, according to a inflation-adjusted measure from Moody’s Analytics. But wealthy households own the bulk of stocks. Most Americans are much more dependent on their houses. That’s why the net worth of the median household is still about 20 percent lower than it was in early 2007. When television commentators drone on about the Dow, they’re not talking about a good measure of most people’s wealth.
The unemployment rate has also become less meaningful than it once was. In recent decades, the number of idle working-age adults has surged. They are not working, not looking for work, not going to school and not taking care of children. Many of them would like to work, but they can’t find a decent-paying job and have given up looking. They are not countedin the official unemployment rate.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Manafort Flips


U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
Paul J. Manafort, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., pleaded guilty today to a superseding criminal information filed today in the District of Columbia, which includes conspiracy against the United States (conspiracy to commit money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports and Violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice) and conspiracy to obstruct justice (witness tampering). A status report with regard to sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 16, 2018.

For the president, the plea agreement from his former campaign chair is at least a huge blow and potentially disastrous. It had been widely reported that Trump believed Manafort could incriminate him and took great relief from the thought that he would keep his lips sealed.

For starters, Manafort likely knows whether Trump had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, which would expose the president to co-conspirator liability. Manafort likewise was at the center of the manipulation of the Republican platform to favor Russian interests in the Ukraine.

More generally, Manafort’s shamed, mumbled court confession to all Mueller’s charges further makes more untenable Trump’s histrionic shrieks of “witch hunt,” which already had been losing purchase.
Manafort’s cooperation promise also may bode ill for Roger Stone, his former business partner, on whom Mueller already has been turning the vise, and possibly Jared Kushner, who worked closely with Manafort during the campaign and now is a senior adviser to his father-in-law at the White House.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Blue Edges: D Recruitment, R Retirements

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

Harry Stevens at Axios:
More Democratic congressional candidates have competed in the 2018 election cycle than either party attracted in any cycle since 1980, according to an Axios analysis of Federal Election Commission data.

Why it matters: The last time either party drew this many congressional candidates was in 2010, when Tea Party rallies and grassroots opposition to President Barack Obama brought a new generation of conservative Republicans to Congress.

By the numbers: 1,706 Democratic congressional candidates have spent or raised money during the current cycle. That breaks the previous record set in 2010, when 1,688 Republican congressional candidates registered with the FEC.

But the enthusiasm gap between parties was far larger in 2010. During that cycle, only 1,136 Democratic candidates ran for Congress, compared to 1,550 GOP candidates this time around.
The bottom line: The number of candidates in itself doesn't guarantee election victories. But it's one more sign of how motivated Democrats are this year, and that could lead to victories if it translates into high Democratic voter turnout.
Elena Schneider at Politico:
A glut of GOP retirements has House Republicans defending a record number of open seats this fall — further fueling the odds of a Democratic takeover.
Of the 44 districts left open by incumbents who are retiring, resigning or seeking higher office, Democrats are targeting almost half of them. They need to gain 23 seats to win the House majority.

The open seats may be an overlooked factor in an election season dominated by GOP angst over a potential voter backlash against President Donald Trump. Recent history explains why Republicans are so concerned: In the past six midterm elections, the president’s party has not retained a single open seat he failed to carry two years prior, according to an analysis by the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman.
“Retirements and open seats could be our biggest problem right now,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant who leads the pro-Trump outside group America First, which will spend on a handful of House races in 2018. “New candidates have to fight their way through a primary and don’t have the same fundraising ability and built-in name recognition [as incumbents]. That’s a huge challenge.”

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trump Lies About Puerto Rico

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race.

After Hurricane Maria last year, a number of Puerto Ricans moved to Florida, and their votes may help the Democrats.   Trump seems bent on further alienating them.


From the Democratic gubernatorial nominee:


On July 12, Frances Robles reported at NYT:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s plans for a crisis in Puerto Rico were based on a focused disaster like a tsunami, not a major hurricane devastating the whole island. The agency vastly underestimated how much food and fresh water it would need, and how hard it would be to get additional supplies to the island.
And when the killer storm did come, FEMA’s warehouse in Puerto Rico was nearly empty, its contents rushed to aid the United States Virgin Islands, which were hammered by another storm two weeks before. There was not a single tarpaulin or cot left in stock.
Those and other shortcomings are detailed in a FEMA report assessing the agency’s response to the 2017 storm season, when three major hurricanes slammed the United States in quick succession, leaving FEMA struggling to deliver food and water quickly to storm victims in Puerto Rico.
The after-action report describes an initially chaotic and disorganized relief effort on the island that was plagued with logistical problems and stretched into the longest feeding mission in the agency’s history.

Rohrabacher and Russia: Parody Ad

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential raceWe also discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign 

From NBC:
A Democratic PAC focused on flipping Republican-held House seats in California is out with a provocative new digital ad that seeks to exploit Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s ties to Russia.
The new spot from Red to Blue California, obtained by NBC News before its Tuesday release, is styled to look like a message from the Russian government endorsing Rohrabacher.
In it, photos of Rohrabacher and Russian President Vladimir Putin are shown in front of a Russian flag as a narrator thanks Rohrabacher. One version of the ad is in English, while the other is in Russian with English subtitles.
“The Russian Federation is proud to endorse Dana Rohrabacher for Congress, You are true Russian hero. Thank you, Dana Rohrabacher, for standing with Putin and Russia,” the narrator says.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Mr. Madison's Midterm

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

Quinnipiac:
American voters back Democratic candidates over Republicans 52 – 38 percent in races for the U.S. House of Representatives nationwide, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.
Independent voters back Democrats over Republicans 50 – 35 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll finds.
Democrats lead by a narrow 48 – 42 percent among men and by a wide 55 – 35 percent among women. White voters are divided as 48 percent go Republican and 45 percent go Democratic. Democrats lead 84 – 7 percent among black voters and 64 – 22 percent  mong Hispanic voters.
American voters disapprove 72 – 18 percent of the job the U.S. Congress is doing. There is no listed party, gender, education, age or racial group which approves of Congress.
Congress should be more of a check on President Donald Trump, voters say 58 – 27 percent. Republicans say 62 – 11 percent that Congress is doing enough to check the  resident, the only listed group to feel that way.
But voters say 56 – 36 percent they would not like to see Congress begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
...
American voters trust the news media more than President Trump 54 – 30 percent to tell the truth about important issues. Republicans trust Trump more than the media 72 – 12 percent, the only group that trusts Trump more. White voters with no college degree are divided as 45 percent trust Trump more and 43 percent trust the media more.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Americans Look Down on Trump


The President's favorability rating -- a measure of whether people like him, rather than approve of his job performance -- has also taken a hit in this poll, with 61% saying they have unfavorable views of Trump, up from 55% in June. That unfavorable number is the worst since he won the presidency, and it matches the worst level seen during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump has also lost ground on several personal attributes, most notably perceptions of his honesty: Just 32% say they see the President as honest and trustworthy, the worst read in CNN polling. About a third, 32%, say he's someone they are proud to have as President, down 6 points since March and the lowest since Trump took office. Only 36% say he "cares about people like you," another new low. Just 30% say he'll unite the country and not divide it, matching his previous low on that measure from November 2017. Four in 10 say the President can bring the kind of change the country needs, down 5 points from March and matching a November 2017 low. And 60% say the President does not respect the rule of law, not significantly changed since March.
Quinnipiac has equally brutal findings:
American voters give President Trump his lowest grade for honesty since he was elected, saying 60 – 32 percent that he is not honest. Trump gets low grades on most character traits: 
  • 57 – 38 percent that he does not have good leadership skills; 
  • 55 – 41 percent that he does not care about average Americans; 
  • 65 – 30 percent that he is not level-headed; 
  • 57 – 39 percent that he is a strong person;
  • 51 – 42 percent that he is intelligent;
  • 60 – 33 percent that he does not share voters’ values; 
  • 55 – 41 percent that he is not fit to serve as president;
  • 48 – 42 percent that he is mentally stable.

Monday, September 10, 2018

GOP's Midterm Problems


At NYT, Alexander Burns and Kenneth P. Vogel report on OMB Director Mick Mulvaney's comments at a closed-door NYC fundraiser:
“You may hate the president, and there’s a lot of people who do, but they certainly like the way the country is going,” Mr. Mulvaney said, adding of voters: “If you figure out a way to subtract from that equation how they feel about the president, the numbers go up dramatically.”
...
Even as Mr. Mulvaney conceded that Mr. Trump’s personal unpopularity was a problem for the party, he predicted it would not ultimately be a decisive factor for most voters. He also alluded to Mr. Cruz, without mentioning his name, as a lawmaker who might lack the charm to win a contested race this year.
...
Mr. Mulvaney, a former member of Congress from South Carolina, who was elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, said Democrats had not marshaled a broad movement of opposition to Washington the way Republicans did that year. He argued that they lacked an issue to unify their cause, unlike Republicans eight years ago, who rallied in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Instead, Mr. Mulvaney said, Democrats were putting forward a “movement of hate,” and asked rhetorically: “What is the signature piece of legislation they’re against? The tax bill?”

Nancy Cook and Bernie Becker at Politico:
The White House and top congressional Republicans want to push for a House vote on a second round of tax cuts ahead of the midterms in hopes of bolstering their economic pitch to voters — but they’re running into opposition within their own party.
GOP leaders conceived of the second tax bill as a messaging win that would put Democrats on their heels ahead of the midterms, forcing them to vote against tax relief for the middle class. But the concerns over the bill are largely flowing from the Republican side, mainly from members fighting to keep hold of seats in suburban districts where President Donald Trump is most unpopular — and that are key to the GOP’s hopes of keeping their majority.

A dozen House Republicans, all but one of them from the high-tax states of California, New Jersey and New York, voted against the tax law in December because it capped state and local tax deductions, which they said would lead to tax increases on too many of their constituents.
Some of those GOP lawmakers have openly said they would prefer to leave the tax issue alone as Congress also grapples with how to fund the government and the House potentially votes on health care measures that might be more politically beneficial to vulnerable incumbents. “If we were to pass that here in the House, it would be an exercise in futility, because it could never pass in the Senate,” Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey, who opposed the first bill, said Friday on CNBC.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Donald Trump has no knowledge of the Bible at all."

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character

In UnhingedOmarosa Manigault Newman -- an ordained Baptist minister -- says that Trump suggested to her that he might take the oath of office on The Art of the Deal instead of the Bible.  She says that she talked him out of it, and that he made as if he had been joking.  She goes on (p. 196):
...Donald Trump has no knowledge of the Bible at all. It might as well be a paper brick to him. “We love the Bible. It's the best,” he said during the campaign. “We love The Art of the Deal, but the Bible is far, far superior.” How would he know? He says he never reads the Bible. When asked, he can't recite his favorite scripture or name the books (remember when he quoted from “two Corinthians” during the campaign?). I'm not saying the president has to be a biblical scholar, but he should be biblically aware. Since the Bible has little significance to him, it might have felt disingenuous to him to take an oath on it. But The Art of the Deal meant a lot to him. Nothing has more meaning to Donald than himself.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Trump v. the US Constitution

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.

Lloyd Green at The Guardian:
Donald Trump has demanded that the New York Times reveal the identity of an anonymous op-ed writer so he might be charged with treason. To cloak himself from criticism, Trump also seeks to weaken America’s libel laws.
Yet even as Trump wages war on free speech and the first amendment, he appears to have forgotten that the only reason he holds office is the constitution itself. Trump demonstrably lost the popular vote; his legitimacy emanates solely from the provisions of the document he appears to hold in the same regard as the truth.
Fear, the latest chronicle of a president from Bob Woodward, who with Carl Bernstein did so much to bring down Richard Nixon, only reinforces this dismal picture. From beginning to end, Woodward treats us to a portrait of an occupant of the Oval Office who sucks the life out of his subordinates.
Trump is continually reminded of the legal constraints that encumber the presidency, that dyspeptic diktats are not substitutes for legislation or even executive orders, and that the White House counsel and attorney general ultimately owe duties to their country and offices, not reflexively to the guy who hired them.
And he hates all of it.
 Patrick Anderson at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:
He even asked South Dakota's two U.S. Senators, Republicans Mike Rounds and John Thune, to draft policies for new libel laws.

“Hey Mike and John, could you do me a favor?" Trump said. "Create some libel laws that when people say stuff bad about you, you could sue them."

The president has been defensive of his administration in response to an anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times and stories about an upcoming book from journalist Bob Woodward about his administration, including a part that describes staffers swiping documents from his desk.



Lara Brown at The Hill:
On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump swore to “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States … [and] preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Presidency scholars will admit readily that this oath is full of ambiguity and that many of our past presidents crossed constitutional boundaries and engaged in morally untenable behavior, such as lying, scapegoating and staging cover-ups.
Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order that led to the internment of more than 112,000 Japanese-Americans. And since Harry Truman sent troops into North Korea, as Lou Fisher with the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at the Catholic University of Americashowed, “Presidents have exceeded constitutional and statutory authority in exercising the war power.”
From Crédit Mobilier and Teapot Dome to Watergate and the Lewinsky affair, plenty of scandals have swamped previous administrations and left a lasting stain on presidents.

Still, no president has come close to President Trump and the volume and scope of his behavior.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Obama v. Trump

In Defying the Odds, we discuss public  opinion in the 2016 election and the current landscape.

Stephen Collinson at CNN:
Just as Barack Obama was warning that America is in the grip of a politics of fear that undermines norms and political accountability, President Donald Trump was unleashing his latest assault on traditions of governance that underpin the nation's democracy.
"These are extraordinary times. Dangerous times," Obama warned in an extraordinary indictment of the behavior of a successor to whom he handed power in January 2017 and who has torn at the conventions that restrain presidents ever since.
It was a revealing moment in an enthralling clash of philosophy, temperament and style that unfolded Friday between a current and former president who epitomize opposing currents in an epochal political moment and are now in direct conflict ahead of the midterm elections.
Trump's latest Gallup approval rating is 41 percent.

In February, Gallup reported that President Obama's retrospective approval rating is 63 percent.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Primary Rouda and General Election Rouda

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

Harley Rouda is running against Dana Rohrabacher in CA 48.  Even though California has a top-two primary system in which candidates can draw in votes from independents and all parties, Rouda's spring strategy was to motivate Democrats.  In this ad, he featured Barack Obama, attacked the GOP's "Washington extremists," and toured liberal positions on guns and Planned Parenthood.


In the general election, however, he is downplaying party and instead focusing on his record as a businessman.  His tagline is "Common Sense for Common Ground."

September Meltdown

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.

An anonymous administration official writes of Trump in the NYT:
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.



On the Woodward book:


He lies. He insulted people with the r-word on the radio.