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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Threshold

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.

If several candidates remain in the race but fall short of the 15% threshold, that enlarges the delegate haul for the candidates above the 15% threshold. As the winner of the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses, and a close second in the Iowa caucuses, Sanders has already benefited disproportionately in delegate allotments. In Iowa, Sanders won 26% of the vote but got 30% of the delegates; in New Hampshire, he won 26% of the vote but got 38% of the delegates; and in Nevada, he won 47% of the vote but secured 67% of the delegates.
A candidate with a solid base of supporters, like Sanders, is well positioned to collect some delegates in almost every contest. Until the field narrows, meanwhile, the anti-Sanders vote will be splintered. The longer this splintering continues, the easier it is for Sanders to build his delegate lead.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Impeachment Changed Few Minds

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.  The Senate failed to convict him.

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Laura Bronner at FiveThirtyEight:
For a little over three months, we tracked over 1,100 Americans on how they felt about the impeachment process, surveying respondents like Engel every few weeks via Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to find out whether their views on impeachment were changing.1 But there was remarkably little movement. The share of Americans who thought Trump committed an impeachable offense hovered between 55 and 58 percent in six separate surveys.

Respondent after respondent told us that their belief of Trump’s innocence or guilt was just reinforced by the process. “The Democrats put up a flimsy case,” said Alan Satow, 60, a Republican. “They had all these witnesses, but they weren’t presenting facts. It was just a lot of hearsay.”

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Leaving the House

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.

Melanie Zanona at Politico:
Another House Republican is calling it quits: Rep. Ralph Abraham of Louisiana announced yesterday he will not seek reelection in 2020. The deets from Myah Ward: “Abraham, who represents Louisiana’s 5th congressional district, said he made the decision to only serve three terms six years ago, but as recently as January, Donald Trump asked him to reconsider. He’s one of more than two dozen Republicans who announced this cycle that they will not run for reelection in 2020.
“The announcement comes just months after Abraham’s unsuccessful bid for governor of Louisiana, where the congressman placed third in the primary election behind Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Edwards went on to defeat Rispone in the runoff election, despite Trump’s support for Rispone. … His seat is in a safe Republican district that went for Trump by a margin on 29 points in 2016.” The latest: https://politi.co/2vkHOed.
By the numbers … “When President Trump took office in January 2017, there were 241 Republicans in the House. Since then, 111 (46%) have either been defeated/retired/otherwise left office or are retiring in 2020,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, a House editor for the Cook Political Report.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Bad Virus Spin

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

Joseph Zeballos-Roig at Business Insider:
Public health officials warned for the first time on Tuesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus is "inevitable" in the US and said the virus could lead to a "severe" disruption to the everyday lives of Americans.
"Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in the United States," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters during a conference call. "It's not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses."
Messonnier also said: "We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

That assessment was echoed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday there would likely be additional cases of coronavirus in the US and called it "an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally.
Russell Brandom at The Verge:
This morning, President Trump seems to have wished a vaccine for the new coronavirus into existence. “I think that whole situation will start working out,” he told reporters at a press conference in India. “We’re very close to a vaccine.”
At a Senate hearing that same day, Trump’s acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf took a similar line, promising a vaccine would be ready within “several months.”
“You’re telling me we’re months away from having a vaccine?” asked Senator John Kennedy (R-LA). “That’s your testimony as head of the Department of Homeland Security?”
“That’s what I’ve been told by HHS and CDC, yes,” Wolf responded.

None of it was true. The CDC estimates that a vaccine for the new coronavirus is unlikely to be available in the next 12-18 months, far too late to be useful in preventing an outbreak in the US. Asked about the ambitious estimate in the same hearing, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said simply, “that’s never happened in human history.”



Fears of a pandemic come after the Trump administration spent the past several years gutting the very government programs that are tasked with combatting such a crisis.
In 2018, for instance, the CDC cut 80% of its efforts to prevent global disease outbreaks because it was running out of money. Ultimately, the department went from working in 49 countries to just 10.
Here are some other actions the Trump administration undertook to dismantle government-spending programs related to fighting the spread of global diseases, according to Foreign Policy:
  • Shutting down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.
  • Eliminating the US government's $30 million Complex Crises Fund.
  • Reducing national health spending by $15 billion.
  • Consistently attacking Mark Green, the director of the US Agency for International Development. 
The CDC is working on a new test to screen for the coronavirus, but according to New York magazine, problems with the test's development resulted in only three out of 100 public-health labs being equipped to screen for the virus. Moreover, each test costs as much as $250, and the Health and Human Services Department is already running out of money to finance an adequate response to the outbreak.

A Good Sign for Incumbents

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.

Justin McCarthy at Gallup:
Most Americans (59%) say the U.S. representative in their local congressional district deserves to be reelected, and 35% say the same for most members of Congress. Both figures are the highest seen since 2012 and are on the high end of what Gallup has recorded over the past decade. Still, fewer Americans support returning members of Congress to Washington today than felt this way in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
...
Democrats have a solid majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the elevated 59% of Americans saying their member of Congress deserves reelection augurs well for their bid to maintain their majority next year. This assumes, however, that the 59% holds for the remaining nine months before Election Day. If Americans still feel their member deserves another term at a similar level closer to November, this could mean a favorable environment for Democrats' prospects of maintaining power in at least one chamber of Congress.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Unpresidented

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.

Mike Allen at Axios:
  • Other presidents lamented disloyal servants, but rarely purged them en masse and in public. Trump told staff after his impeachment acquittal that he felt surrounded by "snakes" and "bad people" he wanted ousted.
  • Other presidents plugged loyalists into key jobs — but rarely made that the prerequisite. To run the powerful presidential personnel office, Trump last week tapped John McEntee, 29, who has no experience in staffing governments, and was fired by his former chief of staff John Kelly — but is a favorite of the family.
  • Other presidents pardoned criminals — but never in a big batch in the middle of a re-election race, after getting lobbied on TV. Trump's 11 pardons and commutations this week included Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat and former Illinois governor whose wife, Patti, had appealed to Trump on Fox News. Blagojevich told cameras that he's now a "Trumpocrat."
  • Other presidents pressured their Justice Department, but never so nakedly and publicly. Trump, asked this week if he agreed with Attorney General Bill Barr that White House tweets made it impossible to do the job, said: "I do agree with that. I think that’s true. ... I'm allowed to be totally involved. I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country."
Q    I just wanted to follow up on my colleague’s question about Russian interference.  Can you pledge to the American people that you will not accept any foreign assistance in the upcoming election?
And on this idea of a purge in your administration, there was recently the departure of your Acting DNI, Joseph Maguire.  You replaced him with your Ambassador to Germany, Rick Grenell.  Some of your critics have pointed out that Ambassador Grenell has no intelligence experience.  How can you justify to the American people having an Acting DNI with no intelligence experience?
THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, first of all, I want no help from any country.  And I haven’t been given help from any country.
And if you see what CNN, your wonderful network, said — (laughter) — I guess they apologized, in a way, for — didn’t they apologize for the fact that they said certain things that weren’t true?  Tell me, what was their apology yesterday?  What did they say?
Q    Mr. President, I think our record on delivering the truth is a lot better than yours sometimes, if you don’t mind me saying.
THE PRESIDENT:  Your record is — let me tell you about your record.  Your record is so bad you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Q    I’m not ashamed of anything, and our —
THE PRESIDENT:  You have probably the worst record —
Q    — organization is not ashamed, sir.
THE PRESIDENT:  — in the history of broadcasting.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Coronavirus and the Economy

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

Desmond Lachlan at The Hill:
The number of those infected with the coronavirus is already some ten times higher than was the case with the 2003 SARS epidemic. At the same time, in an effort to bring the epidemic under control, around 150 million Chinese residents remain under lockdown. That is preventing Chinese factories from returning to normal production schedules, causing havoc in the Chinese transportation system and inducing Chinese consumers to scale back on their purchases.

Already China’s economic problems are reverberating throughout the global economy. As underlined by Apple and Hyundai’s recent earnings warnings, global supply chains, reliant on in-time Chinese parts deliveries, are being seriously disrupted. At the same time, commodity export-dependent emerging market economies are being dealt a body blow by a Chinese induced decline in international commodity prices, while those economies reliant on Chinese tourism are being severely impacted by a generalized suspension of international flights to China....
The coronavirus threat to the world economy is also coming at a time that the global economy is suffering from serious financial market vulnerabilities. A decade of ultra-easy monetary policy by the world’s major central banks has left the world drowning in debt. This is underlined by the fact that global debt to GDP levels today are higher than they were on the eve of the 2008 global economic and financial market crisis. More troubling yet, global equity market valuations appear to be stretched, global credit risk has been seriously mispriced and global credit has been grossly misallocated.
Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic:
Now a new coronavirus that originated in China is confronting him with a potential pandemic, a problem that Trump seems ill-prepared to meet. A crisis that is heading into its third month could draw out every personal and managerial failing that the president has shown to this point. Much of what he’s said publicly about the virus has been wrong, a consequence of downplaying any troubles on his watch. He has long stoked fears that foreigners entering the United States bring disease. Now he may double down on xenophobic suspicions. He has hollowed out federal agencies and belittled expertise, prioritizing instead his own intuition and the demands of his political base. But he’ll need to rely on a bureaucracy he’s maligned to stop the virus’s spread.
Peter Baker at NYT:
According to data compiled by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, turnover among what she calls Mr. Trump’s “A team,” meaning his senior staff, has hit 82 percent, more in three years than any of the previous five presidents saw in their first four years. Moreover, the Trump administration has been notable for a high level of serial turnover, with 38 percent of the top positions replaced more than once.
“Many key departments and White House entities have been hollowed out,” Ms. Tenpas said. The president has thus been left with acting officials in many key areas. “He seems completely unbothered,” she said. “He claims that actings give him flexibility, but fails to see that temporary leaders cannot advance his policies nearly as well as a Senate-confirmed appointee who has the stature and all the powers to do so.
For your consideration, the top leadership at DHS as of late February:
  • Secretary (acting), Chad F. Wolf 
  • Deputy Secretary (vacant), Ken Cuccinelli, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary
  • Chief of Staff (acting), John Gountanis
  • Executive Secretary (acting), Juliana Blackwell
  • General Counsel (acting), Chad Mizelle

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bernie Wins Nevada

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.

Matt Viser at WP:
Sen. Bernie Sanders won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, providing another boost to an insurgent campaign that is challenging the Democratic establishment and stifling the plans of rivals who still hold out hope of stopping him.

Sanders’s advantage in Nevada was overwhelming, with substantial leads in nearly every demographic group, allowing him to set down a marker in the first state with a significant share of nonwhite voters. Sanders expanded the electorate by attracting relatively large numbers of first-time caucus-goers, providing momentum as the race shifts into a critical stretch over the next 10 days.

He prevailed among those with college degrees and those without; those living in union and nonunion households; and in every age group except those over 65. He won more than half of Hispanic caucus-goers — almost four times as much support as his nearest rival, former vice president Joe Biden — and even narrowly prevailed among those who identified as moderate or conservative. Despite attacks on his health proposal by the powerful Culinary Union, he won in caucus sites filled with union members.
Ryan Lizza at Politico:
The powerful Culinary Union, which opposes Sanders’ Medicare for All plan and spent the final weeks of the campaign in a high-profile fight with his campaign, was supposed to weaken him. And yet the Sanders’s ranks were speckled with red-shirted Culinary members. (Overall, Sanders won 34% of caucus-goers from union households, besting all of his rivals.)

Sanders wasn’t supposed to be able to break through with black and brown voters, but the group was racially and ethnically diverse. (Sanders won 27% of African Americans and 53% of Hispanics across the state.) The Sanders movement is supposed to be limited to those crazy college kids who don’t remember socialist as a slur. But there were plenty of older Sanders backers at the Bellagio chanting “Bernie” along with their 20-something comrades. (Sanders won every age category in the state except Nevadans over 65, which he ceded to Joe Biden.)
Sure, the numbers are tiny. In a state of 3 million people, turnout of over 100,000 participants is considered enormous. Candidate events here on the days leading up to the caucuses were sleepy affairs, with fewer attendees than in Iowa and New Hampshire where the big cities are a fraction of the size of Vegas.
But the Sanders victory still exploded a lot of myths. He was said to have a ceiling of 30% or so. Remarkably, against a much larger field of candidates Sanders is poised to come close to the same level of support as he did in 2016 in a one-on-one race against Hillary Clinton, to whom he lost 47%-53%. (He was at 46% with a quarter of precincts reporting as of this writing.) He was said to be unable to attract anyone outside his core base. But he held his own with moderate voters (22%) and won across every issue area except voters who cared most about foreign policy, who went with Biden.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Super PACs and Democrats

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technologyThe 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Zach Montellaro at Politico:
JUST SUPER — You get a super PAC! And you get a super PAC! A new super PAC backing Warren called Persist PAC has quickly become one of the top outside spenders in Nevada ahead of Saturday's caucuses, POLITICO's Maggie Severns and Alex Thompson wrote. (Advertising Analytics tracks about $800,000 in TV and radio ads .) A statement from team Warren doesn't entirely wave off the group, after Warren has crusaded against super PACs earlier in the cycle. "Sen. Warren's position hasn't changed. Since day one of this campaign, she has made clear that she thinks all of the candidates should lock arms together and say we don't want super PACs and billionaires to be deciding our Democratic nominee," Warren campaign spokesman Chris Hayden said. (Axios' Margaret Talev and Alexi McCammond first reported details about the super PAC.)
This means that every Democratic candidate falls into one of three categories: A billionaire self-funder, a candidate supported by some outside money — yes, including Sanders, who got air cover from a nurses' union super PAC and general support from the nonprofit he founded, Our Revolution — or Tulsi Gabbard, who appears to fall into neither of the former categories. An interesting detail from The New York Times' Jonathan Martin: EMILY's List, which hasn't endorsed a candidate, gave $250,000 to the new outside groups supporting both Warren and Klobuchar.
Brian Sloydysko at AP:
Many now rue that early days of the primary were dominated by pledges of the sources of money campaigns would reject rather than building a fundraising network to compete with Trump. Along with the Republican National Committee, he has raised more than $525 million for his reelection effort since the start of 2019.
“It was a huge mistake to try to adhere to this level of financial purity. The only person who can do it is Bernie Sanders — no one else can. Barack Obama couldn’t, Hillary Clinton couldn’t and Donald Trump can’t,” said Rufus Gifford a prominent Democratic fundraiser who held high-level posts in both of Obama’s campaigns. “That will be the lesson of this primary — especially if Bernie Sanders wins.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

Russia Is Helping Trump Again

Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.
The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was at the briefing.
...

Under Mr. Putin, Russian intelligence has long sought to stir turmoil among around the world. The United States and key allies on Thursday accused Russian military intelligence, the group responsible for much of the 2016 election interference in the United States, of a cyberattack on neighboring Georgia that took out websites and television broadcasts.
The Russians have been preparing — and experimenting — for the 2020 election, undeterred by American efforts to thwart them but aware that they needed a new playbook of as-yet-undetectable methods, United States officials said.
They have made more creative use of Facebook and other social media. Rather than impersonating Americans as they did in 2016, Russian operatives are working to get Americans to repeat disinformation, the officials said. That strategy gets around social media companies’ rules that prohibit “inauthentic speech.”
And the Russians are working from servers in the United States, rather than abroad, knowing that American intelligence agencies are prohibited from operating inside the country. (The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are allowed to do so with aid from the intelligence agencies.)
Russian hackers have also infiltrated Iran’s cyberwarfare unit, perhaps with the intent of launching attacks that would look like they were coming from Tehran, the National Security Agency has warned.
Some officials believe that foreign powers, possibly including Russia, could use ransomware attacks, like those that have debilitated some local governments, to damage or interfere with voting systems or registration database. 
Trump replaced Maguire with Richard Grenell, a political operative with no intelligence background whom Trump previously appointed as ambassador to Germany. Jonathan Stevenson, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, writes at NYT:
Mr. Grenell’s appointment also makes brazenly obvious what was already quite clear: that the president sees impartial intelligence an impediment to the implementation of his policies unless it caters to his own political biases and often counterfactual contentions.
Among those biases is his sympathy for far-right influences in Europe, which Mr. Grenell publicly and emphatically shares. Neither the president nor his new intelligence chief is likely to focus sufficiently on the rising threat of transnational right-wing extremist groups. The dubious contentions include the president’s view, contrary to U.S. intelligence assessments, that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

Mr. Grenell has shown perhaps a little more finesse. In a 2016 Fox News opinion piece, he merely minimized Russian meddling in American political processes as a longstanding practice that should come as no surprise and was not especially significant.
The practical upshot, however, is the same: Mr. Grenell, like Mr. Trump, does not rate Russian efforts to manipulate American elections a pressing national security concern. \
From this perspective, Mr. Grenell’s appointment as the country’s highest-ranking intelligence officer looks intended to ensure that any U.S. intelligence assessments and warnings of Russian meddling in the 2020 election are downplayed and withheld from Congress, if not completely suppressed.

Debate Fallout

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.

Dino-Ray Ramos at Deadline:
The latest Democratic presidential debate drew a record 19.7 million viewers for NBC News and MSNBC.
The networks said that it was the most watched Democratic debate in history. It also topped the 18.1 million who watched the second night of the Democratic debate in June. That event was broadcast by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo.
NBC said that the debate generated 13.5 million live video streams and 22 million video views across all platforms. The network said that it translated into an average audience of 417,000 viewers.
The numbers are fast national figures from Nielsen.
 Matt Flegenheimer, Alexander Burns and Jeremy W. Peters at NYT:
Michael R. Bloomberg had put in the hours, his people said — holding mock debate sessions with top aides and meeting at length to prepare in New York and Palm Springs, Calif.
His campaign had anticipated the unsurprising questions about allegations of a hostile workplace for women at his company, stop-and-frisk policing in his city, the unseemliness of a Democratic contender who has long written checks to Republicans. And Mr. Bloomberg recognized that he would have to answer them, or at least deflect serviceably enough to survive.
But Mr. Bloomberg’s debate performance on Wednesday proved so lackluster that both supporters and rivals counted themselves taken aback, leaving his campaign more rattled than at any point since he entered the race. While Mr. Bloomberg sought to project a steely calm on Thursday during a swing through Utah, he and his team have been left to explain away a comedown that exposed some of his gravest liabilities.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bad Debate for Bloomberg

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.

At the Las Vegas debate, Hallie Jackson asked Bloomberg about sexual harassment suits that ended in nondisclosure agreements.  Like Trump, he answered by talking about all the opportunities that he had provided for women.  Jackson then turned to Warren, who had been critical of Bloomberg on this point.
WARREN: Yes, I have. And I hope you heard what his defense was. "I've been nice to some women." That just doesn't cut it. The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what's lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace. So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story? (APPLAUSE)
BLOOMBERG: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told. And let me just -- and let me -- there's agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that's up to them. They signed those agreements, and we'll live with it.
BIDEN: Come on.
WARREN: So, wait, when you say it is up to -- I just want to be clear. Some is how many? And -- and when you -- and when you say they signed them and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they allege, that's now OK with you? You're releasing them on television tonight? Is that right? (APPLAUSE)
BLOOMBERG: Senator...
WARREN: Is that right, tonight?
BLOOMBERG: Senator, the company and somebody else, in this case -- a man or a woman or it could be more than that, they decided when they made an agreement they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody's interests.
BIDEN: Come on.
BLOOMBERG: They signed the agreements and that's what we're going to live with.
(CROSSTALK)
BUTTIGIEG: You could release them now.
WARREN: I'm sorry. No, the question is...
BLOOMBERG: I heard your question.
WARREN: ... are the women bound by being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately? Because, understand, this is not just a question of the mayor's character. This is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against. (APPLAUSE) That's not what we do as Democrats.
JACKSON: Mr. Vice President?
BIDEN: Look, let's get something straight here. It's easy. All the mayor has to do is say, "You are released from the nondisclosure agreement," period.(APPLAUSE)
...
BLOOMBERG: I've said we're not going to get -- to end these agreements because they were made consensually and they have every right to expect that they will stay private.
(AUDIENCE BOOS)
But how many people were watching?  And will they remember? Also note:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bloomberg Baggage

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.

At Axios, Mike Allen sums up some of Bloomberg's vulnerabilities:
  • He bought power and silence: He hid behind $400 million in ads to buy his way to second place — after spending billions of dollars to ingratiate himself with would-be critics.
  • He was crude and sexist: The N.Y. Times and WashPost unloaded detailed investigations of sexist language and behavior. The WashPost reported a lawsuit by a former Bloomberg LP saleswoman: "She alleged Bloomberg told her to 'kill it' when he learned she was pregnant," which she interpreted as "have an abortion to keep her job." Bloomberg denied that under oath and reached a confidential settlement, per the Post. The campaign said: "Mike simply does not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment."
  • When he was New York mayor, the city's stop-and-frisk policy targeted black and Latino people. Bloomberg told a black church in Brooklyn in November: "I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong."
  • He has Cheney-like authoritarian instincts: He called the NYPD the "seventh largest army in the world," and joined George W. Bush in Muslim-targeting crackdowns in the years after 9/11. "I think people, the voters, want low crime," Bloomberg told the N.Y. Times in an interview in 2018. "They don’t want kids to kill each other."
  • He censors and silences media. He owns one of the largest media companies in the world, with his journalists under orders not to cover his "wealth or personal life." After he announced, Bloomberg News journalists were told in an internal memo: "We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries."
  • He coddled China for business reasons. Bloomberg told PBS' "Firing Line" in September, during a discussion of climate, that Xi Jinping "is not a dictator — he has to satisfy his constituents or he's not gonna survive." Michael Forsythe, one of the top journalistic diggers in Hong Kong, left Bloomberg News in 2013 and later joined the N.Y. Times, where he's now an investigative reporter, after Bloomberg News sat on an exposé about financial shenanigans by the regime, because of fears that Bloomberg would be expelled from China. Bloomberg editors said the article wasn't ready.

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 AL.com:
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 Politico.com 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 canapés.
...
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: