Search This Blog

Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

If I Did It

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandalThe update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Felicia Sonmez at WP:
President Trump suggested Sunday that he mentioned former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden in a phone call with the leader of Ukraine, amid swirling questions about whether Trump sought to use his influence to seek reelection help from a foreign country.
In an exchange with reporters outside the White House before departing for events in Texas and Ohio, Trump was asked about his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate a company with ties to Hunter Biden, and the call between Trump and Zelensky is the subject of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, and largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters. “And Ukraine has got a lot of problems.”

Saturday, September 21, 2019

High Crimes and Ukraine

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandalThe update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz at WSJ:
President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden ’s son, according to people familiar with the matter, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump’s potential 2020 opponent.

“He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” if his lawyer’s assertions that Mr. Biden acted improperly as vice president were true, one of the people said. Mr. Giuliani has suggested Mr. Biden’s pressure on Ukraine to fight corruption had to do with an investigation of a gas company for which his son was a director. A Ukrainian official this year said he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son Hunter Biden.
Mr. Trump in the call didn’t mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine, said this person, who didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on any investigation.
The interactions between the president, Mr. Giuliani and Ukraine have come under scrutiny in recent days in the wake of a whistleblower complaint that a person familiar with the matter said involves the president’s communications with a foreign leader. The complaint, which the Washington Post reported centers on Ukraine, has prompted a new standoff between Congress and the executive branch.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Student Turnout

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

A release from  from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.
College-student voting rates in the 2018 midterm elections doubled compared to the 2014 midterms, marking a watershed election year for student voter turnout, according to a report today from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. The report, Democracy Counts 2018, is based on an analysis of the voting patterns of more than 10 million college students on more than 1,000 campuses participating in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).
In 2018, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an increase over 2014.
Major research findings include:​​
  • In the 2018 midterm elections, college students turned out to vote at double the rate of the last midterm. Across all students in the study, the National Student Voting Rate (NSVR) in 2018 was 40.3 percent. Remarkably, this 2018 student turnout was closer to the NSLVE-estimated voting rate for the 2016 presidential election–51.3 percent–than to the previous midterm in 2014–19.3 percent;
  • According to the U.S. Elections Project, the voting rate among all Americans increased 13 percentage points in 2018 as compared to the prior midterm. By comparison, the college and university National Student Voting Rate (NSVR) rose 21 percentage points;
  • In 2018, the voting rates of 99 percent of campuses in the study increased from the 2014 midterms, and nearly half of all institutions saw their rate increase between 15-24 percentage points;
  • Women in college continued to vote at higher rates than men in 2018, with black women maintaining their position as the most active voters on campus, and Hispanic women making the largest gains;
  • While older Americans historically vote at higher rates than their younger counterparts, 2018 data showed a trend toward age parity. The turnout gap between students over 30 and those under 22 narrowed from 22.3 percentage points to 16.9 points;
  • There was relative consistency in voting rates between students attending two-year, four-year, public or private institutions. Women’s colleges continued to vote at the highest rates among institutional types, but two-year, four-year, public, and private institutions showed consistent upward movement between 2014 and 2018; and,
  • Voting gaps between disciplines persisted in 2018. Turnout among students in STEM fields, as well as those majoring in business, lag behind students studying the humanities, social sciences, and education.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Justice Nails PAC Scamster

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the conservative movementThe update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Eric Hoffer wrote: "What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult or a corporation."  The conservative movement is a case in point.

Maggie Severns and Derek Willis at Politico:
In one of the first Justice Department cases of its kind, Maryland political consultant Kelley Rogers pled guilty to wire fraud on Tuesday for operating multiple fraudulent political action committees that raised money from donors for conservative causes but kept much of the funds for Rogers and his associates.
Rogers’ arrest and indictment took place shortly after Politico and ProPublica investigated one of Rogers’ PACs, Conservative Majority Fund, which since 2012 has raised close to $10 million — mostly from small-dollar donors, many of them elderly -- while giving out just $48,400 to politicians.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


 In Defying the Oddswe discuss the role of social media in the 2016 campaign.    The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Trump on Facebook

In Defying the Oddswe discuss social mediafake news, and Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  

At Now This,  Judd Legum talks about Trump and Facebook:

Monday, September 16, 2019

Demon Mitch

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

Alayna Treene at Politico:
Pelosi believes there is a ceiling on how much the party can shift public opinion on Trump, the aides say, noting that his approval rating has remained steady over the last several months.
  • But demonizing McConnell "is something even the more moderate Democrats can glom onto," one aide said. "He's seen as the face of obstruction and Trump’s enabler in the Senate. It's easy to message against him."
Details: Over the next few months, Pelosi will be hyper-focused on McConnell and "his refusal to pass meaningful legislation," per the Democratic leadership aides. The Senate's inaction on gun violence is a particularly effective example, they add.
  • Another benefit of the strategy, in their view, is that it creates a fresher way for the caucus to pivot to their own legislative achievements: "Their message of ‘look at all the things we’re passing' was falling flat," a Democratic congressional aide said.
  • By focusing on McConnell and Senate Republicans' blocking tactics, the aide said, House Democrats can "tout the good they’ve done and also helps show the importance of Dems taking back the Senate.”

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Not a Good Week for Julian Castro

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

Rebecca Klar at The Hill:
Texas Rep. Vincente Gonzalez switched his presidential endorsement from fellow Texan Julián Castro former Vice President Joe Biden.

Gonzalez said Biden is the Democratic candidate with the best chance to beat President Trump in the general election.

"I think at this point in time we need to narrow the field and unite as Democrats to defeat Trump in November 2020, and that's why I believe I'm moving my support to Vice President Joe [Biden]," Gonzalez said Sunday in a CNN interview.
The endorsement swap came after Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary, hit Biden for his age and memory during last week's Democratic debate.

"Are you forgetting what you said just two minutes ago?” Castro asked Biden. A review of the debate transcript appears to prove that Biden did not contradict himself when describing his health care proposal

Saturday, September 14, 2019

"My Favorite Dictator"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governingThe update --recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Trump has always liked dictators.

Nancy A. Youssef, Vivian Salama and Michael C. Bender at WSJ:
Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
“Where’s my favorite dictator?” Mr. Trump called out in a voice loud enough to be heard by the small gathering of American and Egyptian officials. Several people who were in the room at the time said they heard the question.

The witnesses said they believed the president made the comment jokingly, but said his question was met by a stunned silence.
It couldn’t be determined whether Mr. Sisi was present or heard the remark.
The White House declined to comment. Egyptian officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Even if lighthearted, Mr. Trump’s quip drew attention to an uncomfortable facet of the U.S.-Egypt relationship.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Abrams Playbook

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

Greg Bluestein at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Stacey Abrams issued a forceful plea Monday for national Democrats to compete in Georgia in 2020 with two U.S. Senate races on the ballot and a chance to carry the state in the presidential race for the first time in more than two decades.

In a memo ricocheting around Washington, the party’s 2018 gubernatorial nominee wrote that “any less than full investment in Georgia would amount to strategic malpractice” and challenged the party to “do better and go big” next year.

It was sent to reinforce the growing sentiment that Georgia will be a 2020 political battleground, particularly now that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s decision to step down at year’s end means that Republicans must defend two Senate seats next year.

In the 16-page memo, Abrams and her top aide Lauren Groh-Wargo urged Democrats to shun “false choices” between chasing more moderate white voters and left-leaning minorities who often skip elections.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Biden and Electability

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

Lloyd Green at The Guardian:
Joe Biden sits squarely atop an unwieldy Democratic presidential field, and is the only challenger who appears comfortably competitive when paired against Donald Trump in electoral battlegrounds such as Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. While other contenders lead the president in national polls, Biden is the one candidate who generates the kind of coalition necessary to avoid the debacle of 2016, that is a Democratic popular vote victory coupled with another electoral college defeat.
Biden is reassuring, not strident, and in that sense he is the anti-Trump. Barack Obama’s vice-president runs well with traditional Democratic constituencies along with those swing voters necessary to cobble together a win on election day 2020.
Trump is unpopular but that does not make a Democratic victory a given. Unalloyed progressive economics tethered to full-throated multiculturalism could cost them the White House. It is a reality that many Democrats understand and intuit. That is why the numbers show Biden leading the primary field. Electability is a real thing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

North Carolina 9 and the Suburbs

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

Votrs in Mecklenburg County, a suburban stronghold, gave Democrat Dan McCready a margin of 12 percentage points over Republican Dan Bishop, bigger than the nine-point advantage McCready posted there during last year’s invalidated race in the state’s 9th Congressional District.
Bishop won the race based on running up the count in the more exurban and rural portions of the district in the south-central part of the state, continuing the geographical divide in the era of President Trump. That provided a sigh of relief for Republicans worried that defeat would have prompted even more retirement announcements.
But Democrats see the trend going deeply in their favor — in 2016, Republicans won this seat by more than 17 percentage points. “They needed to win it, they squeaked by. I don’t think any Republican in the House, who’s concerned about his or her electoral prospects, can feel better about the situation,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters.
Democrats can still play offense in 2020 as at least 25 Republicans still in office won by less than 5 percentage points last year, including a handful who have already decided not to run again in 2020. History falls on the Democratic side, as the House majority has not changed hands during a presidential election year since 1952.
And Republicans face a conundrum if they are going to try to win back the net gain of 19 seats they need to reclaim the majority. Many of those seats look more like the suburban portions of Mecklenberg County than they do Union County, a rural county along the state border that gave the GOP candidate 60 percent of its vote.
But the party’s current messaging focus — heavily reliant on disparaging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), along with her “squad” of liberal freshmen — is resonating in rural areas that, for the most part, Republicans already hold.
Alan Fram at AP:
 Special elections generally attract such low turnout that their results aren’t predictive of future general elections. Even so, the narrow margin in the GOP-tilted district suggested that Democrats’ 2018 string of victories in suburban districts in red states including Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas could persist next year.

Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who runs House Democrats’ political committee, said the close race showed her party is “pushing further into Republican strongholds” and was in a “commanding position” to do well next year.
Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in North Carolina, said the narrow margin suggests that the country’s other closely divided swing districts “could be still up for grabs.”
There is almost no pathway to Republicans regaining House control next year unless they avoid losing more suburban districts and win back some they lost last year.

Alexander Bolton at The Hill:
A Senate Republican aide said “the suburbs are key” in describing the dynamics on gun legislation.
House Republicans got rocked in the suburbs in the last election,” the aide added, referring to the key demographic change that fueled the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018.
McConnell told reporters in April that stopping the erosion of support from suburban voters would be central to keeping Republican control of the Senate in the 2020 election.
He noted that Republicans lost control of the House in 2018 because “we got crushed in the suburbs.”
“We lost college graduates and women in the suburbs, which led in the House to loses in suburban Kansas City; Oklahoma City; Houston; Dallas; Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.,” McConnell said in the April interview. “We’re determined not to lose women, certainly not by 19 points, and college graduates in our Senate races. And I don’t think we will.”
A Republican poll of 1,000 registered voters in key suburban districts conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on Aug. 7-8 found that suburban women voters rated working to prevent gun violence as their top priority.
Seventy-two percent of suburban women surveyed by the poll said gun laws should be more strict and 55 percent said they believe that stricter laws would help prevent gun violence.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Trump v. Intelligence

In Defying the Odds,we discuss Trump's approach to governingThe update --recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Jim Sciutto and Marshall Cohen at CNN:
President Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries, according to multiple senior officials who served under Trump.
Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President "believes we shouldn't be doing that to each other," one former Trump administration official told CNN.
In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump "believes they're people who are selling out their country."
Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. Responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong Un's brother as a spy, Trump said he "wouldn't let that happen under my auspices."

These new details about Trump's approach to foreign intelligence follow CNN's exclusive report that the United States in 2017 removed one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government. CNN reported on Monday that the asset provided the US with insight and information on Russian President Vladimir Putin and that the extraction was driven, in part, by concerns that Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the spy. In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, "All these arguments about who urgently extracted whom, who saved whom -- this, you know, is in the genre of what you call pulp fiction."
But he is okay with foreigners offering intelligence on Americans:   . "If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent' -- oh, I think I'd want to hear it."

Monday, September 9, 2019

Trump's Taliban Fiasco

In Defying the Odds, we discuss foreign policy issues in the 2016 campaign. Our update takes the story through the 2018 election.

At NYT, Peter Baker, Mujib Mashal and Michael Crowley report on the collapse of Trump's bizarre plan to invite Taliban negotiators to Camp David during the 9/11 anniversary week.
When [US negotiator Zalmay] Khalilzad left Doha after the last round of talks concluded on Sept. 1, two days after the Situation Room meeting, he and his Taliban counterparts had finalized the text of the agreement, according to people involved. Leaders of both teams initialed their copies and handed them to their Qatari hosts.
Before the end of the meeting, Mr. Khalilzad brought up the idea of a Taliban trip to Washington. Taliban leaders said they accepted the idea — as long as the visit came after the deal was announced.
That would become a fundamental dividing point contributing to the collapse of the talks. Mr. Trump did not want the Camp David meeting to be a celebration of the deal; after staying out of the details of what has been a delicate effort in a complicated region, Mr. Trump wanted to be the dealmaker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be.
The idea was for Mr. Trump to hold separate meetings at Camp David with the Taliban and with Mr. Ghani, leading to a more global resolution.
 But Taliban leaders, having refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government until after the group had an agreement with the United States, said the Americans were tricking them into political suicide.
A senior Taliban leader said on Sunday that Mr. Trump was fooling himself to think he could bring the Taliban and Mr. Ghani together at Camp David “because we do not recognize the stooge government” in Kabul.
On Fox, Chris Wallace on Fox asked Pompeo about inviting murderous thugs to Camp David:
QUESTION: I want to get to the bigger question. Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States – you had an agreement in principle already, your envoy meeting with Taliban leaders in Qatar. Fine. Who thought it was a good idea for the President of the United States to meet with Taliban leaders, who have the blood of thousands of Americans on their hands, just three days before 9/11?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We know the history of Camp David. We reflected on that as we were thinking about how to deliver for the American people. And so as we considered the right path forward, your point about an agreement in principle – I think that’s true. We weren’t complete. There were still lots of implementation issues, lots of technical issues that needed to be worked on, even though we’d been doing this for months. President Trump ultimately made the decision. He said: I want to talk to President Ghani. I want to talk to these Taliban negotiators. I want to look them in the eye. I want to see if we can get to the final outcome that we needed so that we could sign off on that deal, so we found that arrangement acceptable, that the verification was adequate. And we concluded this was a perfectly appropriate place. You know the history of Camp David. Lots of bad folks have come through that place. There have been lots of peace negotiations taken place. It’s almost always the case, Chris, that you don’t get to negotiate with good guys. The reason you’re in negotiations to end wars, to end conflict, to end violence, to reduce risks to the American people, is almost always because the person across the table from you isn’t exactly the finest.
One wonders what "bad folks" he was talking about.  Sadat?

Sunday, September 8, 2019


In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandalThe update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Hurricane of Lies

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

Salvador Hernandez at Buzzfeed:
Showing no signs of backing down or even the slightest inclination to admit he was wrong, President Trump has insisted for five days straight that his false claim that Hurricane Dorian was set to smash into Alabama — contradicting forecasts from government meteorologists — was correct.
But the president's relentless arguments and memes trying to prove himself right reached a tipping point Friday when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service, issued a statement from an unnamed spokesperson backing up the president's claim and casting doubt on a local weather service forecast office which had tried to reassure Alabama residents that despite the president's tweet, there would be "no impacts" from the hurricane felt in the southern state. (The local forecast office proved to be correct.)

(He has been making that spelling mistake for years.)

Leaving the Hill

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

So far this year, House Republicans are retiring at a faster clip than Democrats.  One problem is the self-reinforcing expectation that the GOP will not regain the majority. Emily Cochrane and Julie Hirschfeld Davis at NYT:
A majority of those who have announced their retirements had safe seats in Republican districts and could have easily been re-elected. But the day-to-day realities of Democratic rule — already brought home by the 2018 midterm elections and the ascension of Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have left their mark.
Curtailed access to convenient meeting rooms, a schedule set by the majority and no control over the legislative agenda are only some of the perpetual complaints of whichever party is in the minority in the House.
“When candidates would ask me, ‘What’s life like in the minority?’ I would say, ‘It’s great,’” said former Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York. With a chuckle, he added, “But it’s not so great.”
Republican strategists and aides suspect that some of the impending retirements will come not only from members tired of Washington gridlock, but from other members facing the loss of prized committee power.
“Some of it is the minority and the nastiness, no doubt about it,” said Representative Don Bacon, Republican of Nebraska. But he added, the term limits were a factor behind the conference “losing great people
On Capitol Hill, a rude awakening for less-senior Republicans who have never served in the minority may have also contributed to the number of departures. Nearly three-quarters of the Republican conference — 142 members in all — are in the minority for the first time in an institution where the majority carries all of the power, dictating which bills are considered and when, and what language can be debated and how.

Friday, September 6, 2019

CA Voter Demographics

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

Whites make up only 42% of California’s adult population but comprise 58% of likely voters. In contrast, Latinos make up 35% of the state’s adult population but only 19% of likely voters. The shares of Asian American (13%) and African American (6%) likely voters are proportionate to their shares of the state’s adult population—15% for Asian Americans and 6% for African Americans. Half (51%) of Democratic likely voters are white; 24% are Latino, 12% are Asian American, and 10% are African American. An overwhelming majority (76%) of Republican likely voters are white; relatively few are Latino (11%), Asian American (8%), or African American (1%). Among independents, 51% are white, 20% are Asian American, 19% are Latino,
and 6% are African American.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Sharpiegate, Continued

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

But by far the more important reason for the readjustment of the past is the need to safeguard the infallibility of the Party. It is not merely that speeches, statistics, and records of every kind must be constantly brought up to date in order to show that the predictions of the Party were in all cases right. It is also that no change in doctrine or in political alignment can ever be admitted.
Sharpiegate is just the latest example of Trump administration officials trying to backfill a provable lie. Greg Sargent at WP gives other examples:

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Fake Weather

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

18 U.S. Code § 2074. False weather reports

Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 795; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(G), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)