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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

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.