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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Foreign Interference 2020

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Russia is makingsimilar effort this year.

Julian E. Barnes at NYT:
Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials said Friday in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help President Trump.
At the same time, the officials said China preferred that Mr. Trump be defeated in November and was weighing whether to take more aggressive action in the election.
But officials briefed on the intelligence said that Russia was the far graver, and more immediate, threat. While China seeks to gain influence in American politics, its leaders have not yet decided to wade directly into the presidential contest, however much they may dislike Mr. Trump, the officials said.
The assessment, included in a statement released by William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, suggested the intelligence community was treading carefully, reflecting the political heat generated by previous findings.

Julian E. Barnes at NYT:
Russia continues to use a network of proxy websites to spread pro-Kremlin disinformation and propaganda in the United States and other parts of the West, according to a State Department report released on Wednesday.
The report is one of the most detailed explanations yet from the Trump administration on how Russia disseminates disinformation, but it largely avoids discussing how Moscow is trying to influence the current campaign. Even as Democrats on Capitol Hill have urged the American government to declassify more information on Russia’s efforts to interfere with the election, President Trump has repeatedly told officials such disclosures are unwelcome.
Most of the report focuses on an ecosystem of websites, many of them fringe or conspiracy minded, that Russia has used or directed to spread propaganda on a variety of topics. Those include an online journal called the Strategic Culture Foundation and other sites, like the Canada-based Global Research. The document builds on information disclosed last week by American officials about Russian intelligence’s control of various propaganda sites.
 Isaac Stanley-Becker at WP:
David Adrian posted passionately about American politics, sharing adulatory memes on Facebook about President Trump and recirculating material from his reelection campaign.
Facebook on Thursday said Adrian’s accounts were part of a coordinated network of accounts and pages originating in Romania and posing as conservative Americans supportive of the U.S. president’s reelection. In addition to African American support for Trump, the material focused on members of the president’s inner circle, conservative media and Christianity. It also invoked themes associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents believe Trump is battling a cabal of deep-state saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex.

Facebook, Twitter penalize Trump for posts containing coronavirus misinformation

The motive of those behind the deceptive material could not be determined, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy. It was not clear whether the intent was genuinely to promote Trump, he said, or whether there were financial incentives.

The disclosure came three months before the November election and amid heightened concern about efforts to manipulate public opinion and discredit the vote. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, last month cited intelligence briefings in warning about Russian and Chinese efforts to sow doubt about the American electoral system. Facebook, which regularly reports actions against foreign and domestic influence campaigns using its platform, last fall identified a network of Russian-backed accounts praising Trump and attacking Biden.
Facebook release here

Betsy Woodruff Swan at Politico:
Twitter will start labeling the accounts of media outlets affiliated with the governments of countries on the U.N. Security Council, it announced Thursday.
The new labels won’t apply to all media outlets that receive government funding — only “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” according to Twitter’s blog post announcing the change.

The labels will go on the accounts for China Daily, Russia Today, Sputnik and other media outlets, a Twitter spokesperson said. But not Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, two media outlets funded by the U.S. government, or NPR and the BBC. The blog post described NPR and the BBC as “state-financed media organizations with editorial independence.”

"Against God"

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 underway.

Julie Zauzmer and  Sarah Pulliam Bailey at WP:
When Pope Francis visited the United States in 2015, his welcomer-in-chief was then-Vice President Joe Biden.

Almost wherever Francis went, Biden was there — in the White House and the Capitol, and also in sacred spaces, including at Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Biden followed the pope from Washington to Philadelphia, leading a farewell ceremony for the visiting dignitary he has called “the single most popular figure in the world.”

This week, President Trump painted a very different picture of Biden, mocking his presumptive Democratic opponent as a man hostile to religion. “Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment. No religion, no anything,” Trump said of Biden on Thursday. “Hurt the Bible. Hurt God. He’s against God. He’s against guns. He’s against energy, our kind of energy.”
 Others noted that Biden almost always has rosary beads in his pocket, and frequently holds them in his hand — including while he monitored the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011. He has written and spoken at length of how faith helped him grieve the loss of his first wife and daughter many years ago, and his son Beau more recently.
In 2011, George P. Matysek Jr. wrote at The Narthex:
The New York Times is reporting that as U.S. military forces began their mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden May 1, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “fingered his rosary beads” in the Situation Room of the White House.

It’s not the first time we have heard about Biden’s rosary. An Irish Catholic from Scranton, the vice president carries his rosary with him. It is said that when he underwent brain surgery, he asked doctors if he could keep a rosary under his pillow.
Patrick Crowley, Cincinnati Enquirer, October 23, 2005:
 Biden said that if he runs for president, he intends to aggressively defend his own values as well as those of the Democratic Party.
"If I'm the nominee, Republicans will be sorry," he said. "The next Republican that tells me I'm not religious I'm going to shove my rosary beads down their throat.
"I am so sick and tired of this pontificating about us not being the party of faith," said Biden, a Roman Catholic who has served in the Senate since the Nixon administration.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Campaign Finance in the Interregnum

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technology.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Primaries in Kansas, Michigan, and Missouri

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

The Democrats' Akin ploy failed in Kansas.  James Arkin and Ally Mutnick report at Politico:
Rep. Roger Marshall won the GOP primary for an open Senate seat in Kansas on Tuesday, turning aside the controversial Kris Kobach — to the relief of Republicans concerned that Kobach could put not just the state but the party's Senate majority at risk this fall.
With nearly all the votes tallied, Marshall had 40 percent of the vote, to only 26 percent for Kobach. The result was a more decisive victory for Marshall than expected by many Republicans, who had predicted with deep concern that the race was a tossup going into Tuesday.
 Republicans got another piece of good news in Kansas on Tuesday, when Rep. Steve Watkins was ousted in his primary by state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who has seized on Watkins’ litany of ethical and legal transgressions, including felony charges of voter fraud in the closing weeks of the primary. Some Republicans feared Watkins' renomination could have jeopardized the party's hold on an otherwise GOP-leaning House seat.
Clare Foran at CNN:
Freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has prevailed against a Democratic primary challenge from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, CNN projected Wednesday morning.
In Michigan's 13th Congressional District, Tlaib faced a rematch in Tuesday night's Democratic primary against Jones, who beat her once before to serve out the remainder of former Rep. John Conyers' term, but lost to Tlaib in the full-term election for the seat in the heavily Democratic district.
As a member of the so-called progressive "Squad," Tlaib, who made history in 2018 along with Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar as the first two Muslim women ever to serve in Congress, has a number of built-in advantages as she runs for reelection, including high name recognition, the ability to raise significant amounts of money and a devoted national following. At the same time, however, Tlaib has faced controversy over some outside-the-mainstream political positions and at times she has faced criticism, including from Democrats, over statements related to Israel.
Nicholas Fando at NYT:
Cori Bush, a progressive activist and a leader of the swelling protest movement for racial justice, toppled Representative William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri in a Democratic primary on Tuesday, notching the latest in a stunning string of upsets against the party establishment.
Ms. Bush, 44, had captured nearly 49 percent of the vote by late Tuesday evening compared with 45.5 percent for Mr. Clay, according to The Associated Press. She had tried and failed to unseat Mr. Clay in 2018, but this year rode a surge in support for more liberal, confrontational politics within the Democratic Party amid the coronavirus pandemic and the national outcry over festering racial inequities.
James Hohmann at WP:
The vibe inside the House Democratic Caucus has changed dramatically since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled Joe Crowley, then the No. 4 in party leadership, two summers ago in a primary. AOC, as everyone calls her, is a member of the self-described “Squad” of four far-left liberals who won their seats in 2018. Another member of that quartet, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, easily fended off a primary challenge on Tuesday in Michigan from the president of the Detroit city council, who is more aligned with the Democratic establishment and only lost by 900 votes last time.

Clay is the third Democratic incumbent to lose a primary this year. Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, lost to former middle school principal Jamaal Bowman last month in New York. Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.), who chairs a railroads and pipelines subcommittee, lost in March to activist Marie Newman in Chicago largely because of his opposition to abortion rights.

Speaking to supporters in a purple mask, Bush thanked a list of far-left groups for supporting her bid, including the Democratic Socialists of America. “I will never take for granted the movement that got me here,” she said. “An incremental approach isn’t going to work any longer. We’ve decided that we’re not going to wait any longer for change.”
 Rachel Roubein at Politico:
Missouri voters on Tuesday approved Medicaid expansion to many of the state’s poorest adults, making their conservative state the second to join the Obamacare program through the ballot during the pandemic.
The Missouri ballot measure expands Medicaid to about 230,000 low-income residents at a time when the state’s safety net health care program is already experiencing an enrollment surge tied to the pandemic’s economic upheaval. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.
A winning streak: Missouri becomes the sixth Republican-led state where voters have defied GOP leaders to expand Medicaid, just weeks after Oklahoma voters narrowly backed the program. No state has ever voted down such a ballot initiative in recent years, underscoring the popularity of Medicaid expansion even in parts of the country hostile to Obamacare.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pandemic Politics, Early August

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 underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair: "Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. `The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,' said the expert."

Ipsos:  "Two-thirds of Americans believe our country is handling the pandemic worse than other countries (65%) and favor a single, national strategy for combatting the virus’ spread (67%)."

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Battle for the Hill, Early August

James Arkin at Politico:
On Thursday, the top operative for Senate Republicans' campaign arm appeared on a private Zoom call organized by GOP operatives to discuss the party's efforts to stave off a Democratic takeover.
During the presentation, National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Kevin McLaughlin warned that if hardline conservative Kris Kobach wins next Tuesday's Kansas Senate primary, it could doom the GOP Senate majority — and perhaps even hurt President Donald Trump in a state that hasn't voted Democratic since 1964.
“The Senate majority runs through Kansas,” McLaughlin warned, according to people familiar with the call.

The new warning came after a flurry of Democratic meddling has scrambled the closing weeks of a primary race that had otherwise gotten back on track. Senate Republicans have opposed Kobach for a year, fretting that he can’t win a Senate contest after losing the 2018 gubernatorial race, and have warned about him consistently in public and in private.
 Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson at NYT:
Suburban districts like these have long been critical bases of Republican support, packed with affluent white voters who reliably chose Republicans to represent them in Congress. Democrats seized control of the House in 2018 by making inroads in communities like these, and Republicans have tied their hopes of reclaiming power to preserving their remaining footholds there. But as Mr. Trump continues to stumble in his response to the pandemic and seeks to stir up racist fears with pledges to preserve the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream,” such districts are slipping further from the party’s grasp, and threatening to drag down congressional Republicans in November’s elections.
Interviews with more than two dozen party officials, strategists and voters in areas like these help explain what recent polls have found: that Mr. Trump’s strategy is alienating independent and even some conservative voters — particularly women and better-educated Americans — who are turned off by his partisan appeals and disappointed in his leadership. From the suburbs of St. Louis to Omaha to Houston, they expressed deep concern about Mr. Trump’s approach to twin national crises, lamenting his confident declarations that the coronavirus was under control and his move to stoke racial divides after nationwide protests over police brutality against Black Americans.
One result is that House Republicans, who began the election cycle hoping to win an uphill battle to recapture their majority — or at the very least, claw back some of the competitive districts they lost to Democrats in 2018 — are instead scrambling to shore up seats that once would have required little effort to hold. Analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently forecast that November could bring “a Democratic tsunami,” and placed once safe Republican incumbents on an “anti-Trump wave watch list.”
Amy Walter at Cook Political Report:
But this is 2020. We are constantly battling 2016 political PTSD ("what if the polls are wrong?"). Trump also has an uncanny ability to survive political challenges that would sink traditional politicians.

We also live in a time of deep and sustained partisanship. In 2018, despite losing the national vote by almost eight points, Republicans were able to (narrowly) hold onto statewide races in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Ohio. And, of course, this partisanship and division is nurtured and exploited by technology like social media. As such, we don't just live in different bubbles; we live in different realities. It's not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how well Trump is handling this crisis; they disagree on whether we are currently in a crisis. For example, according to a July Pew Opinion Research poll, just under half (46 percent) of Republicans view coronavirus as a major threat to the health of the public, compared to 67 percent of independents and 85 percent of Democrats.

The once rock-solid grip that the president had on his party seems to be slipping. Talking with pollsters and strategists from both sides this week, it's clear that Trump is suffering not just with Democrats and independents but also with GOP voters. They tell us of polling that shows Trump underwater in districts he carried easily in 2016. One GOP strategist told me that even in heavily Republican districts, Trump's job approval rating among Republicans has dropped 10-20 points. The KFF poll released last week found Trump's overall job approval rating among Republicans dropped 12 points between May and July. On handling coronavirus, the drop in GOP support was an even more dramatic 26 points.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

State Politics, Mid-2020

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

Across 15 possible battleground states, nearly every Democratic state party group is hitting higher quarterly fundraising totals or holding more cash on hand in their federal accounts than they did at this point during the 2016 presidential campaign, and a majority of them did both, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission filings and in interviews with party officials. Many of these state parties — responsible for field operations and coordinating a ticket-wide campaign — are seeing three, four or five times the amount of cash they did before.
Louis Jacobson, Cook Political Report:
If the arc of the 2020 election continues as it has for the past few months, the Democrats can look forward to gains in the state legislatures.
This is the conclusion of our second handicapping of state legislative control this election cycle; we published the first on Jan. 15. We're shifting eight chambers, six of which are currently held by the GOP, in the Democrats' direction.

Our rating shifts are dictated by a national political environment in which President Donald Trump's chances of winning a second term have deteriorated amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, and racial justice protests following the death in police custody of George Floyd.
In the key midwestern battleground of Michigan, a surge by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads us to shift the state House – the only chamber being contested in the state this cycle – from Lean Republican to Toss Up. We're also shifting towards the Democrats three chambers in southern presidential battleground states where Biden is running tight with Trump. In North Carolina, we're shifting the House from Likely Republican to Lean Republican, where it joins the state Senate, which had already been in the Lean Republican category. In Georgia, we're shifting both chambers from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. As a precaution, we're shifting both chambers in Ohio from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, following the arrest of the Republican House speaker. Finally, we're moving the Connecticut House and Senate, both currently controlled by the Democrats, from Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Veep Politics

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 underway.

Jonathan Martin, Alexander Burns and Katie Glueck at NYT:
In conversations with Mr. Biden and his vetting committee, lawmakers have recommended Ms. Bass as a consensus candidate who is well-liked across partisan and factional lines and would be a loyal lieutenant to him in government.

Ms. Bass has reinforced that message by assuring Democratic officials that she has no interest in seeking the presidency herself, according to lawmakers directly familiar with the discussions. That commitment could assuage concerns in the Biden camp that he might be overshadowed by a running mate positioning herself to succeed him.
Ms. Bass has also waged a previously undisclosed campaign to woo influential liberal leaders, telephoning union presidents to seek their counsel and support.
Mr. Biden’s campaign is angry about a leak to Politico this week that revealed that former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, one of the leaders of Mr. Biden’s search team, is uneasy with Ms. Harris. Mr. Dodd has repeatedly indicated to allies that he believed Mr. Biden should broaden the prospects and not focus on only well-known possibilities.
Mr. Dodd is scarcely alone in his lack of enthusiasm for Ms. Harris, whose own presidential campaign never matched its high expectations; she dropped out two months before voting began.
“The thing I keep thinking about Kamala is her performance in the primary,” said Representative Filemon Vela of Texas, an early supporter of Mr. Biden. Mr. Vela said his top three choices were Ms. Bass, Ms. Rice and Ms. Duckworth — but he said the last two would fare best in his state.
One Democrat close to Mr. Biden’s campaign said its polling indicated that Ms. Harris has little allure with Black voters. More telling, a Biden campaign official reached out to The New York Times, unprompted, to say that some of the former vice president’s own staff members are not supportive of her.
Christopher Cadelago and Natasha Korecki at Politico:
Allies of Kamala Harris sought and received a meeting with Joe Biden’s campaign staff this week after a leader of his vice presidential vetting team was quoted doubting whether she’d be a loyal No. 2.
Prominent supporters of the California senator asked for the virtual sit-down on the heels of a POLITICO report Monday that Harris is not a lock for VP. It quoted former Sen. Chris Dodd, one of four members of the vetting unit, remarking to a prominent Democratic donor that Harris had “no remorse” for attacking Biden during a debate last year. Biden’s campaign at the time viewed the attack — Harris went after Biden for opposing a school busing program — as a cheap shot contrived to make him look racially insensitive.

That story and another recent POLITICO report detailed that a contingent of Democrats is lobbying against Harris to be chosen as Biden’s running mate.

The conference call included several of the state’s highest-ranking elected officials and labor and business leaders, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, state schools chief Tony Thurmond, state Treasurer Fiona Ma and Chad Griffin, a Democratic consultant and former head of Human Rights campaign, according to organizers.
Representing the Biden campaign were the four main members of his vetting team: Dodd, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Biden's former White House and Senate counsel, Cynthia Hogan.
Harris was not involved in organizing the call, they said.
Rachel Olding at The Daily Beast:
Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a leading contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, heaped praise on the Church of Scientology at a 2010 ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Los Angeles facility, The Daily Caller reports. At the event, which was filmed, Bass praised the church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard and told the 6,000 attendees that the opening was “an exciting moment because I know your goal and your commitment is truly to make a difference.” Bass, 66, was a member of the California General Assembly at the time. The shady church has been accused by former members of operating like a cult, allowing sexual and physical abuse to proliferate, and intimidating former members into silence by stalking and threatening them.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Yet Another Bad Day

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 underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Thursday was a bad day for Trump's prospects.

As the previous post mentioned, the second-quarter GDP figures were terrible.

Herman Cain died of COVID-19. Cain attended the infamous Tulsa rally. No one can say for sure that he caught the disease at the rally, but:

Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society, took this tweet as his own off-ramp.
I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.
But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Economic News: As Bad As It Gets

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax and economics issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  In 2020, forecasters always said, a good economy could tip the election in Trump's favor.  A bad economy would drag him down.

A very, very bad economy.

And Trump is weak at managing expectations:

Rachel Siegel and  Andrew Van Dam at WP:
The U.S. economy shrank 9.5 percent from April through June, the largest quarterly decline since the government began publishing data 70 years ago, and the latest, sobering reflection of the pandemic’s economic devastation.

The second quarter report on gross domestic product covers some of the economy’s worst weeks in living memory, when commercial activity ground to a halt, millions of Americans lost their jobs and the nation went into lockdown. Yet economists say the data should also serve as a cautionary tale for what’s at stake if the recovery slips away, especially as rising coronavirus cases in some states have forced businesses to close once again.

GDP shrank at an annual rate of 32.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency that publishes the statistics on quarterly economic activity. While it usually stresses the annualized rate, that figure is less useful this quarter because the economy is unlikely to experience another collapse like it did in the second quarter.

Still, while a tailspin at the second quarter rate is unlikely, the nascent recovery that began appearing earlier this summer appears to be in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell warned that the most recent surge in infections has begun to weigh on the economy, while reemphasizing that a recovery can’t be sustained unless the virus is under control.

“We’re still digging out of a hole, a really deep hole,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit. “The second quarter figure will just tell us the size of the hole we’re digging out of, and it’s a big one.”

Tami Lubby at CNN Business:
In yet another sign that the economic recovery is teetering in a resurgence of coronavirus cases, the number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row.
Some 1.4 million people filed for initial jobless claims last week, up 12,000 from the prior week's revised level, which was the first increase in 16 weeks.
On an unadjusted basis, 1.2 million people filed first-time claims, down 171,000 from the week before. The seasonal adjustments are traditionally used to smooth out the data, but that has tended to have the opposite effect during the pandemic.
Continued claims, which count workers who have filed for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 17 million for the week ending July 18, up 867,000 from the prior week's revised level. These seasonally adjusted claims peaked in May at nearly 25 million

Jeffrey Bartash at MarketWatch:
Consumer confidence swooned in July amid a rash of new coronavirus cases in many U.S. states, signaling a rockier economic recovery in the months ahead.
The index of consumer confidence fell to 92.6 this month from a revised 98.3 in June, the Conference Board said Tuesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a reading of 96.0.
The level of confidence is still above its pandemic low of 85.7, but it’s likely to be a long time before it returns to its pre-crisis peak. The index stood near a 20-year high at 132.6 in February before the pandemic struck.
The economy is not expected to make a full recovery for at least a year or two.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Decline of Conservatism

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.  

Lydia Saad at Gallup:
In January and February, an average of 40% of Americans identified as politically conservative. This was up from an average of 37% in 2019 and was tied for the highest rate of conservatism Gallup had recorded in the past six years. This coincided with President Donald Trump being acquitted of impeachment charges. It also came amidst strongly positive economic signals in the form of near-record-low unemployment and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching record highs.

Nevertheless, the percentage of Americans identifying as conservative reverted to an average 37% in March and April as the coronavirus pandemic emerged. It fell further to 34% in May and June as the pandemic has worn on, Trump's job approval rating has tumbled, and the racial justice movement emerged as a national focus following the death of George Floyd.

Meanwhile, the percentages identifying as liberal increased from an average of 22% in January/February to 26% in May/June.

As the United States has been transformed in 2020 from an economically prosperous country to one crippled by high unemployment and a sharp drop in GDP, Americans' perspective on politics has shifted. Part of this may stem from the economic challenges created by COVID-19, compelling large majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike
to support the $2.2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress in March.
The downward trajectory of President Trump's job approval rating, from a term high of 49% in February to 38% in June, is likely contributing to Americans' swing to the left. When Trump was prevailing over a strong economy and fighting off impeachment, conservative ideals may have had more appeal than today when his approval has fallen below 40% and his administration is struggling to contain the coronavirus.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Akin Ploy in Kansas

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

In the 2012 Missouri  Senate race, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill ran ads during the GOP primary campaign saying that Todd Akin was "too conservative."  The idea of the "attack ad" was to drive GOP voters to Akin, her weakest potential foe.  It worked.  

Others have since copied the tactic.

James Arkin at Politico:
A mysterious new super PAC with links to Democrats released a TV ad on Wednesday meddling in next month's Kansas Republican Senate primary.
The super PAC, Sunflower State, formed on Monday and two days later launched its first TV ad, focused on Kris Kobach and Rep. Roger Marshall, two of the Republicans running in the Aug. 4 primary. National Republicans have expressed concern that Kobach — the former secretary of state who lost the 2018 governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly — would put the seat in jeopardy if he becomes the nominee, while Marshall has attempted to consolidate support from the establishment in the primary.
The ad is engineered to drive conservative voters toward Kobach. A narrator in the ad calls Kobach "too conservative" because he "won't compromise" on building President Donald Trump's border wall or on taking a harsher stance on relations with China. By contrast, the ad labels Marshall as a "phony politician" who is "soft on Trump."
Sunflower State has apparent ties to Democrats. The media buyer used to place the ad, Old Town Media, was also used to place more than $11 million in ads from Unite the Country, the pro-Joe Biden super PAC that spent heavily in the Democratic presidential primary. Sunflower State also holds its account at Amalgamated Bank, which is used by Senate Majority PAC, a top Democratic outside group, among other prominent Democratic groups, including Biden's campaign, according to the filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Monday, July 27, 2020

NRCC Loses in the Triage Tent

Sorry, House Republicans, you get to bleed out on the gurney.

Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee at WP:
Senior House Republicans are pleading with the deep-pocketed Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to provide financial help as Democrats vastly outraise the GOP, but top campaign officials are so far declining to commit.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been prodding the RNC to write a check to the National Republican Congressional Committee — a request he has made multiple times. McCarthy specifically has asked Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to make a financial commitment to the House GOP, according to several officials familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe private conversations.

But Kushner, who oversees such decisions and has a greater say than RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, has refused thus far, the officials say. While the Trump campaign and the RNC have brought in record amounts of money, some Trump officials see donating to the House as a wasteful investment as the GOP’s chances of reclaiming the majority sharply deteriorate. Their decline in fortunes can largely be attributed to Trump’s sagging support over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the sliding economy.
 “The campaign just wants the money. . . . They don’t care about the House — it’s not their concern,” one official close with the Trump campaign said. “When you’ve been working in politics for years, and you understand it’s a team sport, you kind of look at these things a little differently. I don’t think they see it that way.”

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Obscurity as an Asset for Senate Challengers

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

At WP, Paul Kane reports that incumbent GOP senators are reversing the usual pattern by challenging their challengers to debate. The elections may simply be an extension of a referendum on Trump instead of a choice between two candidates -- which is just fine with many of the challengers.
And the pandemic has limited campaign activities that are normal for a big Senate race, activities such as state fairs, beach walks and large church services — and without those staples, there are fewer chances for candidates to make mistakes.

Instead, Republicans are growing fearful that Democratic candidates are receiving such little scrutiny that they could steamroll to victory, and to the Senate majority, mostly by raising huge amounts of money that fund smart media campaigns on TV and social media.

“The more voters see their candidates, the worse off they are. This is a very weak crop of recruits,” said Jesse Hunt, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democrats contend that their candidates are doing as much as anyone could expect with the novel coronavirus still raging in many states, suggesting that the Republican senatorial nominee in Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, is the most shut-in candidate in the nation. Tuberville refused to debate former attorney general Jeff Sessions in the primary and has yet to agree to debate Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election campaign in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points.

That phenomenon gets combined with a national news corps that is heavily focused on covering coronavirus stories, limiting the number of stories from key Senate battlegrounds. GOP strategists feel that their incumbents still have to face the Capitol press corps every day that the Senate is in session, while the Democratic challengers carefully choose their public appearances.

This election season has not yet had a single big “tracker” controversy — involving those usually young staffers who follow opposing candidates from event to event, hoping to capture them on camera doing or saying something controversial.

With their ammunition limited, Republicans keep fighting over debates, nowhere as fiercely as in Maine.
Also note that newspapers have slashed their reporting staffs.