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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Alabama Senate Primary

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.  Our next book will explain 2020.

James Varney at The Washington Times:
With time running out to catch front-runner Jeff Sessions in the Republicans race for U.S. Senate in Alabama, a trailing GOP candidate jabbed him for getting fired by President Trump.
In television ads run by Rep. Bradley Byrne, whom most polls show in third place heading toward the GOP primary March 3, an actor playing Mr. Sessions is summarily sacked by a three-person panel that chides his performance as Mr. Trump’s first attorney general.
“He let the president down and got fired,” a woman says, as a rumpled man in a fake MAGA hat stands before the tribunal.

“And Hillary still ain’t in jail,” a man sighs before Mr. Sessions’ imaginary file is stamped, “fired.”
Driving a wedge between Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump has become a reoccurring theme in the race.

Paul Gattis at
Another new Byrne ad includes a recording of Tuberville speaking at a campaign stop last August, appearing to give support to a citizenship pathway for undocumented immigrants. The ad concludes with a voiceover that said, "Hey, Tommy, that's amnesty."
Tuberville, meanwhile, fired back at Byrne on Saturday – dismissing suggestions that he supports amnesty as “fake news” and added, “it pisses me off.”

For his part, Tuberville posted social media messages over the weekend with a quote from Trump reported by that said, “my life would have been a lot easier,” had the president chosen current U.S. Attorney General William Barr as his AG instead of Sessions.
And Tuberville criticized “politicians in the House and Senate” who say they want to build the Mexican border wall that’s a central tenant of Trump’s White House. But in reality, Tuberville said, those politicians don’t want to build the wall because building it is “something they can raise (campaign) money on.”

Monday, February 17, 2020

GOP Tong Warfare in Georgia Senate Race

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.  Our next book will explain 2020.

In January, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appointed wealthy Kelly Loeffler to fill the vacancy of Senator Johnny Isaakson, who resigned because of ill health.  But Rep. Doug Collins, a zealous defender of Trump on the Judiciary Committee, wanted the job, and Trumpworld supported him  He is now challenging her in the November 3 special election, which will trigger a January 3 runoff if nobody wins a majority. At WP, Paul Kane reports on the resulting warfare:
After years of producing hamstrung nominees from contested primaries, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced in 2013 that it would not allow any dollars to go toward firms that worked for GOP challengers to incumbents. Only one GOP incumbent has lost a primary challenge since then.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has no such rule, so consultants for Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) face no blowback in his challenge to Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).\

McConnell’s team offers no apology for its tactics. Its blacklist policy is well-known to every Republican consulting firm, as is its well-honed image of being willing to be the toughest kid in the political sandbox.

“With this emotional, ill-informed decision, Doug Collins has united conservatives in opposition to his candidacy, and Senator Loeffler has quickly assembled more Republican support in Georgia than Collins ever knew existed,” said NRSC spokesman Jesse Hunt, calling the four-term congressman “a swamp creature."
 Soon after Isakson announced his retirement plans in August, Collins began considering the Senate race. In early October, his campaign paid almost $30,000 to John McLaughlin, a well-known Republican pollster. With impeachment looming, Collins signed Convergence Media onto his House campaign account to boost his online fundraising presence.
Convergence has close ties to Kevin McCarthy and is on retainer to NRCC,.
The three GOP leaders — McConnell, [Kevin] McCarthy and [RNC Chair Ronna Romney] McDaniel — never spoke to one another about the feud, according to their advisers. But the messages were sent at the highest staff levels.
NRSC officials complained to top advisers of McDaniel, who employs Shields’s wife, Katie Walsh, as a consultant. And McConnell’s world made their displeasure clear to McCarthy’s orbit.
 ...In a roughly 10-day span after Collins entered the race, Convergence Media declined to work on his Senate race, followed by a direct-mail firm and John McLaughlin, the GOP pollster.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bloomberg Bucks

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, has begun.

 Alexander Burns and Nicholas Kulish at NYT:
Since leaving City Hall at the end of 2013, Mr. Bloomberg has become the single most important political donor to the Democratic Party and its causes. His personal fortune, built on a financial information and news company, is estimated at over $60 billion. It fuels an advocacy network that has directed policy in dozens of states and cities; mobilized movements to take on gun violence and climate change; rewritten election laws and health regulations; and elected scores of politicians to offices as modest as the school board and as lofty as the Senate.
He has spent billions on philanthropy:
But The Times’s examination — based on a review of years of campaign and nonprofit tax filings, as well as interviews with more than 50 people who have benefited from his support — illustrates how deeply that philanthropy is entwined with Mr. Bloomberg’s political preoccupations. In fact, in 2019, the year he declared his presidential candidacy, Mr. Bloomberg’s charitable giving soared to $3.3 billion — more than in the previous five years combined. His campaign disclosed that total in response to inquiries by The Times, but the donations were not itemized and most of it does not fall under public disclosure requirements.
Mr. Bloomberg has probably spent more from his personal fortune on his presidential campaign than any politician in American history. And while there have been political megadonors like the casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, philanthropic giants like Bill Gates and self-funded candidates like Ross Perot, never before has one presidential hopeful combined the influence and reach of all three.
With a chilling effect:
“They aren’t going to criticize him in his 2020 run because they don’t want to jeopardize receiving financial support from him in the future,” said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at the good-government group Common Cause.

That chilling effect was apparent in 2015 to researchers at the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group, when they turned in a report on anti-Muslim bias in the United States. Their draft included a chapter of more than 4,000 words about New York City police surveillance of Muslim communities; Mr. Bloomberg was mentioned by name eight times in the chapter, which was reviewed by The Times.
 When the report was published a few weeks later, the chapter was gone. So was any mention of Mr. Bloomberg’s name.
 Rebecca R. Ruiz at NYT:
Mr. Bloomberg, the multibillionaire behind Bloomberg L.P., has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the race, paying to make his voice omnipresent on television and radio. He has deployed his corporation in service of his campaign, reassigning employees from the various arms of his empire and recruiting new ones with powerful financial incentives, including full benefits and salaries well above national campaign norms.
Entry-level field organizing work for Mr. Bloomberg, for example, pays $72,000 annually — nearly twice what other campaigns have offered. In under 12 weeks, Mr. Bloomberg’s operation has grown to a staff of thousands, with more than 125 offices around the country and a roster of slick events featuring swag, drinks and canap├ęs.
Day-to-day, some Bloomberg campaign workers with prior political experience, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about their work for Mr. Bloomberg, described what they saw as an unfathomable luxury: the ability to brainstorm and act on their ideas without concern for costs. The campaign has, for instance, hired 70 staff members in Florida and opened field offices in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
Howard Dean strategist Joe Trippi says that penury can spark creativity, but...
 Nonetheless, he added, laughing: “Picking between the advantage of being a little bit more creative with your money, versus having the money to do whatever you want to do — most campaigns would pick having more money.” 
Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts at Voice of San Diego:
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has built a significant footprint in San Diego County, and it’s squeezing local campaigns.

Leading up to 2020, local campaigns were concerned presidential campaigns would buy up TV time in the run-up to the March election — making it harder and more expensive for them to buy their ads to reach a mass audience.

Now, there’s a bigger concern they didn’t see coming.

Multiple local campaign professionals have told us Bloomberg’s campaign is hiring staffers, paying them more than local campaigns could come close to matching and promising to keep many of them on through November.

It’s created a labor squeeze for campaign workers and paid canvassers, just as candidates are starting the process of turning out voters.
Stuart Stevens sarcastically replies to Bloomberg critics:

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Persuasion and Turnout

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way.

Ruy Teixeira at WP:
[In 2018] the overwhelming majority of the Democrats’ improved performance came not from fresh turnout of left-of-center voters, who typically skip midterms, but rather from people who cast votes in both elections — yet switched from Republican in 2016 to Democratic in 2018. The data firm Catalist, whose numbers on 2018 are the best available, estimates that 89 percent of the Democrats’ improved performance came from persuasion — from vote-switchers — not turnout. In its analysis, Catalist notes, “If turnout was the only factor, then Democrats would not have seen nearly the gains that they ended up seeing … a big piece of Democratic victory was due to 2016 Trump voters turning around and voting for Democrats in 2018.”

Crucially, Democrats in 2018, especially the successful ones, did not run on particularly radical programs but rather on opposition to Trump himself, and to unpopular GOP actions on economic policy and health care (tax cuts for the rich and efforts to repeal Obamacare’s protections, for example). In the end, the 2018 results do not support Sanders’s theories — not the central importance of high turnout, nor the supposed non-importance of changing mainstream voters’ minds, nor the most effective issues to run on.
What about the magic of higher turnout?
As Nate Cohn of the New York Times has noted after scrutinizing the data, it’s a mistake to assume that Democrats would benefit disproportionately from high turnout. Trump is particularly strong among white noncollege voters, who dominate the pool of nonvoters in many areas of the country, including in key Rust Belt states. If the 2020 election indeed has historically high turnout, as many analysts expect, that spike could include many of these white noncollege voters in addition to Democratic-leaning constituencies such as nonwhites and young voters. The result could be an increase in Democrats’ popular-vote total — and another loss in the electoral college.
And most voters say that they would not vote for a socialist. 

Friday, February 14, 2020


In Defying the Odds, we discuss social mediafake news, and Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

McCay Coppins at The Atlantic:
What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.
After the 2016 election, much was made of the threats posed to American democracy by foreign disinformation. Stories of Russian troll farms and Macedonian fake-news mills loomed in the national imagination. But while these shadowy outside forces preoccupied politicians and journalists, Trump and his domestic allies were beginning to adopt the same tactics of information warfare that have kept the world’s demagogues and strongmen in power.
A preview of 2020:
Shortly after polls closed in Kentucky’s gubernatorial election last November, an anonymous Twitter user named @Overlordkraken1 announced to his 19 followers that he had “just shredded a box of Republican mail in ballots” in Louisville.
There was little reason to take this claim at face value, and plenty of reason to doubt it (beginning with the fact that he’d misspelled Louisville). But the race was tight, and as incumbent Governor Matt Bevin began to fall behind in the vote total, an army of Twitter bots began spreading the election-rigging claim.
The original post was removed by Twitter, but by then thousands of automated accounts were circulating screenshots of it with the hashtag #StoptheSteal. Popular right-wing internet personalities jumped on the narrative, and soon the Bevin campaign was making noise about unspecified voting “irregularities.” When the race was called for his opponent, the governor refused to concede, and asked for a statewide review of the vote. (No evidence of ballot-shredding was found, and he finally admitted defeat nine days later.)
The Election Night disinformation blitz had all the markings of a foreign influence operation. In 2016, Russian trolls had worked in similar ways to contaminate U.S. political discourse—posing as Black Lives Matter activists in an attempt to inflame racial divisions, and fanning pro-Trump conspiracy theories. (They even used Facebook to organize rallies, including one for Muslim supporters of Clinton in Washington, D.C., where they got someone to hold up a sign attributing a fictional quote to the candidate: “I think Sharia law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”)
But when Twitter employees later reviewed the activity surrounding Kentucky’s election, they concluded that the bots were largely based in America—a sign that political operatives here were learning to mimic Russian trolling tactics. 
Fox News’ own research team has warned colleagues not to trust some of the network’s top commentators’ claims about Ukraine.
An internal Fox News research briefing book obtained by The Daily Beast openly questions Fox News contributor John Solomon’s credibility, accusing him of playing an “indispensable role” in a Ukrainian “disinformation campaign.”
The document also accuses frequent Fox News guest Rudy Giuliani of amplifying disinformation, as part of an effort to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and blasts Fox News guests Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova—both ardent Trump boosters—for “spreading disinformation.”

The 162-page document, entitled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration,” was created by Fox News senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy, who produces research from what is known as the network’s Brain Room—a newsroom division of researchers who provide information, data, and topic guides for the network’s programming.

Mike McIntire and Kevin Roose at NYT:
About a dozen candidates for public office in the United States have promoted or dabbled in QAnon, and its adherents have been arrested in at least seven episodes, including a murder in New York and an armed standoff with the police near the Hoover Dam. The F.B.I. cited QAnon in an intelligence bulletin last May about the potential for violence motivated by “fringe political conspiracy theories.”

Matthew Lusk, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary for a Florida congressional seat and openly embraces QAnon, said in an email that its anonymous creator was a patriot who “brings what the fake news will not touch without slanting.” As for the theory’s more extreme elements, Mr. Lusk said he was uncertain whether there really was a pedophile ring associated with the deep state.
“That being said,” he added, “I do believe there is a group in Brussels, Belgium, that do eat aborted babies.”

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Plan B

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way.

 Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin at NYT:
The Democratic presidential primary is entering an intensely tumultuous phase, after two early contests that have left former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. reeling and elevated Senator Bernie Sanders but failed to make any candidate a dominant force in the battle for the party’s nomination.
Within the Democratic establishment, the results have deepened a mood of anxiety and frustration: The collapse of Mr. Biden’s support in the first two states, and the fragmentation of moderate voters among several other candidates, allowed Mr. Sanders, a Vermont progressive, to claim a victory in New Hampshire and a split decision in Iowa with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.
In both states, a majority of voters supported candidates closer to the political center and named defeating President Trump as their top priority, but there was no overwhelming favorite among those voters as to which moderate was the best alternative to Mr. Sanders. Unless such a favorite soon emerges, party leaders may increasingly look to Michael R. Bloomberg as a potential savior.
In an unmistakable sign of Mr. Bloomberg’s growing strength and Mr. Biden’s decline, three black members of Congress endorsed the former mayor of New York City on Wednesday, including Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia, a high-profile lawmaker and gun-control champion in her first term — and a senior adviser to Mr. Bloomberg told campaign staff that internal polling showed the former mayor now tied with Mr. Biden among African-Americans in March primary states.
In early January, Representative Gregory Meeks of New York offered an off-the-cuff assessment of the Democratic race: Should Mr. Biden wheeze in the early states, many in the party would turn to Mr. Bloomberg as a Plan B.
“If Mr. Biden can’t get out of New Hampshire and Iowa, then Bloomberg has Super Tuesday,” Mr. Meeks said at the time.
On Wednesday, he was one of the three black lawmakers who endorsed Mr. Bloomberg.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

New Hampshire

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way.

Bernie Sanders won NH with about 26% of the vote -- the lowest vote share of any winner of the New Hampshire primary.  Some worry that he could cruise to victory over divided opposition, as Trump did in 2016.  But unlike the GOP, Democrats strictly require proportional delegate allocation, which means he could not win the same way as Trump.

Buttigieg ran a very close second. Klobuchar is getting massive attention for coming in third.

Warren is a distant fourth, with about nine percent. A lot of NH voters are in the Boston media market and commute to jobs in Massachusetts. Bay State candidates Dukakis (1988), Tsongas (1992) and Kerry (2004) all won the primary.  Warren should have done better.

Biden was a sad fifth, with about eight percent.

Victorious in New Hampshire on the heels of a popular-vote win in Iowa, Bernie Sanders has forced the Democratic establishment to reckon with a prospect it has been dismissing: He's currently the favorite to win the party's presidential nomination.
The Vermont senator has seen his fortunes rise since Iowa, leap-frogging a struggling former Vice President Joe Biden as the frontrunner in two national surveys of Democratic voters — ahead by 8 points in a Quinnipiac poll and 10 points in a Monmouth poll. At a jubilant election night party here, he told a cheering crowd that his victory in the state was "the beginning of the end for Donald Trump."

The prospect was causing waves of anxiety in the Democratic Party.
“A lot of mainstream and moderate Democrats are growing increasingly nervous with the prospect of Bernie Sanders as the nominee,” said Jonathan Kott, a Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Trump Budget: A Gift to Democrats

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

Jeff Stein and Erica Werner at WP:
The White House on Monday proposed a $4.8 trillion election-year budget that would slash major domestic and safety net programs, setting up a stark contrast with President Trump’s rivals as voting gets under way in the Democratic presidential primary.

The budget would cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and also wring savings from Medicare despite Trump’s repeated promises to safeguard Medicare and Social Security.

It takes aim at domestic spending with cuts that are sure to be rejected by Congress, including slashing the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 26.5 percent over the next year, and cutting the budget of the Health and Human Services department by 9 percent. HHS includes the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will see a budget cut even as the coronavirus spreads -- although officials said funding aimed at combating the coronavirus would be protected.
Bloomberg was quick on the draw:

Monday, February 10, 2020

Bloomberg's Parallel Universe of Money

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, has begun.

Kathleen Ronayne and Andrew DeMillo at AP:
Bloomberg is running, but he’s on his own track, essentially creating a parallel race to the nomination with no precedent. While his competitors are hunkered down in the four states with the earliest primaries, Bloomberg is almost everywhere else — a Minnesota farm, a Utah co-working space, an office opening in Maine. He’s staked his hopes on states like Texas, California and Arkansas that vote on March 3, aiming to disrupt the Democratic primary right around the time it’s typically settling on a front-runner. Or, should Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, be that front-runner, Bloomberg could be a backstop to Democrats still looking for a moderate choice.
Skipping the early voting states and banking on success in later delegate-rich contests has never been done successfully. But no candidate has ever brought the financial firepower that Bloomberg can — he is worth an estimated $60 billion and has already spent more than $200 million building a campaign in more than two dozen states, taking him well past Super Tuesday.

 Alexi McCammond, and Stef W. Kight at Axios:
  • He’s blowing through cash to create a parallel (or bigger) unofficial, uncoordinated party infrastructure in case the DNC can’t help the eventual Democratic nominee enough in states that should be competitive with Trump.
  • With 2,100 paid staff, Bloomberg has three times as many as Trump, five times as many as Joe Biden and more than twice as many as Elizabeth Warren, according to data the campaigns provided to Axios.
  • He pays his staff more than any other 2020 Democrat's campaign and offers housing if they have to move to New York City, according to a campaign official.
  • What they're saying: "He’s building his own infrastructure, he has been able to invest in the tech and data to really build his own operation," said a Bloomberg campaign aide. "If you look at what happened in Iowa, it’s a good problem for us to have that we are self-reliant."
  • By the numbers: In just over a month, Bloomberg spent more than the top 2020 contenders spent for the whole final quarter of 2019 combined, according to Federal Election Commission data. He also outspent the entire RNC and DNC.
  • He's locked down big names in Democratic politics, many of whom were crucial in Barack Obama's election.
  • Since January, Bloomberg has spent more on Facebook ads than Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Warren combined.
  • Trump is the king of Facebook ads, but Bloomberg has spent $5.7 million more than the president's campaign in the past month.
  • Stories about Bloomberg have remained in the top 5 for social media interactions for the past few weeks, according to the Axios-Newswhip 2020 Attention Tracker.
  • But he doesn't get nearly the online attention that Biden, Sanders and Warren have long enjoyed — a metric that is often correlated to enthusiasm for a candidate.

Resembling fund-raisers in every aspect but one, Mr. Bloomberg’s events are organized under the auspices of a division of the campaign known as the Committee for Mike, a unit that closely resembles the structure of a traditional fund-raising operation — except that it does not actually solicit donations.
Unveiled last month, the Committee for Mike was described by the campaign as a network of influencers committed to Mr. Bloomberg’s candidacy. Its staff members have asked supporters to speak up for Mr. Bloomberg on social media and in personal conversations with their friends and colleagues, especially those who may reside in key primary states and general-election battlegrounds. Among the people managing the operation are former top fund-raisers for Senators Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
To supporters of other campaigns, this branch of the Bloomberg operation appears to have another effect. By pursuing contributors and asking them to get involved in his candidacy — without actually donating money to him — Mr. Bloomberg could have the effect of dampening fund-raising for opponents who cannot underwrite their campaigns with personal wealth.
The approach comes straight out of Mr. Bloomberg’s re-election playbook of 2005, when his team locked down the biggest Democratic donors in New York City by bringing them onto his mayoral campaign as blue-chip endorsers
. As he is doing now, he was financing his own campaign. But their support helped wipe some of the most important Democratic financiers from the contributors’ list of his donations-dependent Democratic challenger, Fernando Ferrer.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

What Happened in Iowa

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, has begun.

The Iowa caucuses resulted in a virtual tie between Sanders and Buttigieg.  But the count took a long time, and uncertainty marred the outcome.  Dirty tricks apparently hampered the process, but there were other reasons.

Maggie Astor at NYT reports:
Historically, the party had focused on highlighting only one caucus result: the number of delegates each candidate had earned for the state convention. The winner of the Iowa caucuses was the person who earned the most state delegates, which translate into national delegates, which determine the nomination. This year, however, the state party chose to release four results from the caucuses.
That’s because in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton edged out Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the state delegate count by a quarter of a percentage point, earning roughly 700 to Mr. Sanders’s 697. That meant 23 national delegates for Mrs. Clinton and 21 for Mr. Sanders — an inconsequential difference between the two rivals.

Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign fought for an audit in Iowa — comparing the reported results with the papers on which caucus leaders had recorded voters’ preferences — and accused the state Democratic Party of a lack of transparency.
Largely because of Mr. Sanders’s objections, the party decided to release additional numbers in 2020 that it had always logged but never made public: the number of supporters each candidate had in the first round of voting and the number he or she had in the second round, after nonviable candidates were eliminated and caucusgoers realigned.
... [The] need to report four sets of results instead of just one was a major factor in the debacle, as the state party struggled with what it called “inconsistencies” in all that data.
Matthew Rosenberg, Nick Corasaniti, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth at NYT:
The faulty smartphone app behind the chaotic aftermath of Iowa’s Democratic caucuses was the work of a little-known company called Shadow Inc. that was founded by veterans of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, and whose previous work was marked by a string of failures, including a near bankruptcy.
The app grew out of a broader push by Democrats, backed by tens of millions of dollars in donor money, to match the Republicans’ prowess in digital advertising and organizing after the 2016 election. Much of the energy and investment have gone into enterprises that are intended to both boost the Democrats’ digital game and turn a profit, like Shadow.
Yet instead of showcasing how far the Democrats had come since the 2016 defeat, the disarray surrounding the Iowa caucuses raised new questions about how the party hopes to compete in 2020 with the Trump campaign, a digital juggernaut that is churning out ads and raising record sums of money.
“It’s the exact opposite of the Trump team approach — bring the engineers in house, figure out exactly what we need, we build it, we test it, we own it,” said David Goldstein, chief executive of Tovo Labs, a progressive digital consulting firm.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Carville's Wisdom

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, has begun.

James Carville appeared on MSNBC and made sense:
"There is only one moral imperative in this nation right now and that is to beat Donald Trump. That's the only moral imperative. It's the only thing I want to hear. Until we understand that -- we win every argument. We win the argument on anything. We don't win elections because we talk about stuff that is not relevant. We had a great experience in 2018 and the day after we started all this goofy stuff. So, hopefully, we have time to jerk this thing back and be about healthcare, prescription drug prices, education, infrastructure, climate, diplomacy, rejuvenating whatever it is. But this is not happening so far. We can't act like this is going well. We can't come out and put three wonderful talking points. These campaigns have got to be more relevant."

Carville advice to Warren: "For God's sake, Senator Warren, get real out here. Let's move this thing along."

Carville on Warren's path to the nomination: "The best bio I've seen in a presidential campaign and she had a very good critique which is that corruption is holding the country back. For some reason, I don't know why, she decided to chase Bernie's left tail all over the country and became known for exotic positions, to put it mildly. And if she can get back to what she's about. I don't know her well. Obviously she is very smart. I think she understands what is happening in the country."

Carville on Biden coming in fourth place in Iowa: "He has had an honorable life in politics. This is just not the time. What's happened is he blocked out access for my guy Michael Bennet, for Gov. Bullock, blocked out access to Senator Booker, probably some people that were going to run didn't run because he was in the race. Maybe he'll come back, but he's going to have a difficult time. This is not a very good night for him to say the least."

Carville on how the Democratic platform is unappealing: "Look at the British Labour Party. We're like talking about people voting from jail cells. We're talking about not having a border. I mean, come on, people. Every day there are people out there struggling. We're trying to get votes."

At Vox:
We have candidates on the debate stage talking about open borders and decriminalizing illegal immigration. They’re talking about doing away with nuclear energy and fracking. You’ve got Bernie Sanders talking about letting criminals and terrorists vote from jail cells. It doesn’t matter what you think about any of that, or if there are good arguments — talking about that is not how you win a national election. It’s not how you become a majoritarian party.
For f---’s sake, we’ve got Trump at Davos talking about cutting Medicare and no one in the party has the sense to plaster a picture of him up there sucking up to the global elites, talking about cutting taxes for them while he’s talking about cutting Medicare back home. Jesus, this is so obvious and so easy and I don’t see any of the candidates taking advantage of it.
The Republicans have destroyed their party and turned it into a personality cult, but if anyone thinks they can’t win, they’re out of their damn minds.
How do Democrats win?
By framing, repeating, and delivering a coherent, meaningful message that is relevant to people’s lives and having the political skill not to be sucked into every rabbit hole that somebody puts in front of you.
The Democratic Party is the party of African Americans. It’s becoming a party of educated suburbanites, particularly women. It’s the party of Latinos. We’re a party of immigrants. Most of the people aren’t into all this distracting shit about open borders and letting prisoners vote. They don’t care. They have lives to lead. They have kids. They have parents that are sick. That’s what we have to talk about. That’s all we should talk about...
They’ve tacked off the damn radar screen. And look, I don’t consider myself a moderate or a centrist. I’m a liberal. But not everything has to be on the left-right continuum. I love Warren’s day care plan just like I love Booker’s baby bonds. That’s the kind of stuff our candidates should explain and define clearly and repeatedly for voters and not get diverted by whatever the hell is in the air that day.
Here’s another stupid thing: Democrats talking about free college tuition or debt forgiveness. I’m not here to debate the idea. What I can tell you is that people all over this country worked their way through school, sent their kids to school, paid off student loans. They don’t want to hear this shit. And you saw Warren confronted by an angry voter over this. It’s just not a winning message.
The real argument here is that some people think there’s a real yearning for a left-wing revolution in this country, and if we just appeal to the people who feel that, we’ll grow and excite them and we’ll win. But there’s a word a lot of people hate that I love: politics. It means building coalitions to win elections. It means sometimes having to sit back and listen to what people think and framing your message accordingly.
That’s all I care about. Right now the most important thing is getting this career criminal who’s stealing everything that isn’t nailed down out of the White House. We can’t do anything for anyone if we don’t start there and then acquire more power.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Trump, Prayer, Religion

In Defying the Odds, we discuss cultural reasons for Trump's victory. His evangelical support has received much attention. But it came at a cost, both to the GOP and to American Christianity.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, Arthur Brooks implored his listeners to follow the words of Jesus and love their enemies.  In his speech, Trump said:
Thank you. Well, thank you very much. I’m working very hard for you, I will tell you. (Laughter.) And sometimes you don’t make it easy, and I certainly don’t make it easy on you. (Laughter.) And I will continue that tradition, if I might, this morning. And, Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you. (Laughter.) But I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say. (Laughter.)
As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your President, have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us, and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.
Attacking Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney, he then said:
I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, “I pray for you,” when they know that that’s not so.
During a White House rant later, he doubled down:
So I’ve always said they’re lousy politicians, but they do two things: They are vicious and mean. Vicious. These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. And she wanted to impeach a long time ago. When she said, “I pray for the President. I pray for the…” — she doesn’t pray. She may pray, but she prays for the opposite. (Laughter.) But I doubt she prays at all.
And those were the ones — you know, I had some that said, “Oh, I wish you didn’t make the call.” And that’s okay, if they need that. It’s incorrect. It’s totally incorrect. And then you have some that used religion as a crutch. They never used it before. An article written today: “Never heard him use it before.” But today, you know, it’s one of those things. But, you know, it’s a failed presidential candidate, so things can happen when you fail so badly running for President.
Joe Scarborough pointed out that Trump was directly rejecting the teaching of Jesus:

It was hardly the first time that Trump trashed a core belief of Christianity:

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Dirty Trick in Iowa?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, has begun.

Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein at Bloomberg:
Supporters of President Donald Trump flooded a hotline used by Iowa precinct chairs to report Democratic caucus results after the telephone number was posted online, worsening delays in the statewide tally, a top state Democrat told party leaders on a conference call Wednesday night.

According to two participants on the call, Ken Sagar, a state Democratic central committee member, was among those answering the hotline on caucus night and said people called in and expressed support for Trump. The phone number became public after people posted photos of caucus paperwork that included the hotline number, one of the people on the call said.

The phone call Wednesday night between the Iowa Democratic Party staff and state central committee, the party’s elected governing body, came as the party was still counting results.

Several glitches, including problems with a new phone application that was supposed to quickly send individual caucus results to the state party, plagued Iowa’s troubled caucuses, causing the outcome to be delayed for days. More than 48 hours after caucusing began, the party had reported results from 96% of precincts and the race was too close to call.
 Ben Collins, Maura Barrett and Vaughn Hillyard at NBC:
Users on a politics-focused section of the fringe 4chan message board repeatedly posted the phone number for the Iowa Democratic Party, which was found by a simple Google search, both as screenshots and in plain text, alongside instructions.

"They have to call in the results now. Very long hold times being reported. Phone line being clogged," one user posted at about 11 p.m. ET on Monday, three hours after the caucuses began.

"Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines," responded another anonymous user, sarcastically.

Some users chimed in, posting alleged wait times on hold, imploring others to “clog the lines [and] make the call lads.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Romney Votes Guilty

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of lawThe 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  The House impeached him.  Today, the Senate failed to convict him.

Mitt Romney today became the first senator to vote for the conviction of a president of his own party.  His remarks:
The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it. The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of Congress for these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other’s good faith.

The allegations made in the articles of impeachment are very serious. As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise “impartial justice.” I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

The House Managers presented evidence supporting their case; the White House counsel disputed that case. In addition, the President’s team presented three defenses: first, that there can be no impeachment without a statutory crime; second, that the Bidens’ conduct justified the President’s actions; and third that the judgement of the President’s actions should be left to the voters. Let me first address each of those defenses.

The historic meaning of the words “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the writings of the Founders and my own reasoned judgement convince me that a president can indeed commit acts against the public trust that are so egregious that while they are not statutory crimes, they would demand removal from office. To maintain that the lack of a codified and comprehensive list of all the outrageous acts that a president might conceivably commit renders Congress powerless to remove a president defies reason.

The President’s counsel noted that Vice President Biden appeared to have a conflict of interest when he undertook an effort to remove the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. If he knew of the exorbitant compensation his son was receiving from a company actually under investigation, the Vice President should have recused himself. While ignoring a conflict of interest is not a crime, it is surely very wrong.

With regards to Hunter Biden, taking excessive advantage of his father’s name is unsavory but also not a crime. Given that in neither the case of the father nor the son was any evidence presented by the President’s counsel that a crime had been committed, the President’s insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit. There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did.

The defense argues that the Senate should leave the impeachment decision to the voters. While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president. Hamilton explained that the Founders’ decision to invest senators with this obligation rather than leave it to voters was intended to minimize—to the extent possible—the partisan sentiments of the public.

This verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The President’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not “perfect”— No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.

In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, “I stand with the team.” I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.

I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?

I sought to hear testimony from John Bolton not only because I believed he could add context to the charges, but also because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.

Like each member of this deliberative body, I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence. I am convinced that freedom itself is dependent on the strength and vitality of our national character. As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction. We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office. The results of this Senate Court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgement of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the President’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong. 
We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.