Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

How Mooch is Too Mooch?

In the case of now-former White House Communications Director Anthony "Mooch" Scaramucci, 12 days would have been too mooch. He had been on the job only 11 days and then he quickly and unexpectedly joined the 4.3% of the labor force that is currently unemployed. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "Mr Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team." If you believe that, we have a wonderful quaint old bridge in Brooklyn you might want to buy. There is zero chance that the brash New York financier left the White House to help the straight-laced four-star Marine Corps general. Some reports say that Trump fired Mooch. Axios is reporting that Kelly wielded the hatchet. The kind of profanity-filled rant that Mooch went on last week is not the kind of talk Kelly wants from anyone in the White House. Very possibly Kelly told Trump: "Either he goes or I go," and Trump agreed to let Kelly fire Mooch. According to some reports, Trump's daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner had also soured on Mooch, so they decided not to defend him. Strategist Steve Bannon hated him from the get-go, so Mooch didn't have a lot of allies.

Although his tenure was pretty short, even by Trump White House standards, Mooch did accomplish something major: He got rid of Reince Priebus as chief of staff. The consequences of that may be felt for a long time, as Priebus was the last White House link to the institutional Republican Party, except possibly for Vice President Mike Pence, although he doesn't seem to play much of a role in anything. As a result of Priebus' departure, Trump and his staff are operating entirely on their own, as if they have nothing to do with the Republican Party. This can't be a plus going forward on new legislation, such as changing the tax code.

The Washington Post, in a wry bit of commentary, has ranked all of Mooch's 11 days in office, from best to worst. And now that he's out, he enters the next chapter of his life having lost virtually everything besides his bank account. His wife left him, he's divested from his business, his reputation is in tatters, and his alma mater thinks he's dead. On top of that, with such a short tenure, Mooch won't even be able to land a nice book deal. Maybe he can write a tell-all pamphlet. Things like this are why New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks is now calling Donald Trump the "anti-mentor"—"He takes everybody around him and he makes them worse."

It will be interesting to see how long it takes Trump to find another communications director. He's already gone through three of them, between Mike Dubke, Sean Spicer, and Mooch, and none has managed to last even three months. The candidate whose name is being bandied about is Kellyanne Conway, who makes sense inasmuch as she's loyal, she's got experience, and she's happy to lie through her teeth as often as is needed. Any outside candidate, on the other hand, would be crazy to take the job, as it would almost certainly be career suicide. This being the case, if it's not Conway, it would not be a surprise for Trump to do the job himself, which is what he's wanted all along anyhow. (V & Z)

Kelly Was Furious about Comey Firing

It would seem that Donald Trump is somewhat fortunate that John Kelly was still around to be appointed White House Chief of Staff. CNN is reporting that when the President fired James Comey from his post as FBI Director, Kelly was near-apoplectic. He called Comey to empathize and to vent, and suggested that he himself might resign as Secretary of Homeland Security.

This news raises a fairly important question. Let's note, first of all, that Donald Trump is a 71-year-old man who is used to doing things his way, and getting his way. He sees no reason to change, and indeed, just shuffled the White House staff in an effort to remove most of the obstacles that were stopping him from running on instinct. John Kelly is a 67-year-old man and former Marine Corps general who is used to doing things his way, and getting his way. He presumably sees no reason to change, either, and has already experienced near-resignation-level frustration with the President's behavior.

Now, the question: How can this possibly work? There's zero chance that Trump is going to change his stripes, and indeed, the odds are he's going to be even more unfettered. So, the real question is: Can a former Marine Corps general get used to being ignored and likely embarrassed? Can he stand to be so close to the epicenter of train wrecks, when he could barely tolerate it while watching from a distance? Anything's possible, and it's certainly true that Trump is a bit intimidated by military brass, so he might grow a little less unfettered rather than more so. Still, this is a pairing that seems headed for disaster. (Z)

Trump Dictated Junior's Misleading Statement

These days, the Washington Post can be counted on to reveal some new Russiagate-related dirt just about every week. This week's entry came on Monday, when they shed some rather significant additional light on Donald Trump Jr.'s response when his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya became public news. The White House brain trust agreed that, since the cat was going to be let out of the bag anyhow, Junior should get out ahead of the story. Initially, he planned something daring: To tell the truth (albeit not necessarily the whole truth). But then, the President himself stepped in and personally drafted Junior's statement, including the key assertion: that Junior and Veselnitskaya "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children." This, of course, quickly proved to be misleading, to the point of effectively being a lie.

The president's advisers and legal team were not happy to learn this news, because Trump has once again unwittingly, and significantly, increased his own legal exposure. It means, first of all, that whether or not Trump Sr. was aware of the meeting, he has now inserted himself into the matter. Further, this revelation will be going right into Robert Mueller's "obstruction of justice" file as exhibit B (or maybe C, or D, or Z). Someone in the White House should really sit the President down and explain to him that Richard Nixon had plausible deniability on the Watergate break-in itself, but dug his grave with the effort to cover the scandal up. (Z)

Does Trump Ever Think About Implications?

To go straight to the point, the answer to the question in the headline is: No. Donald Trump is a walking id who clearly thinks one step ahead (if that much) and either does not care about, or does not understand, the long-term implications of his words and actions. The foolish mistake he made in personally dictating Trump Jr.'s misleading statement (see above) is one example. For another, consider this tweet from Monday:

It would be easy enough to rip this tweet to shreds, pointing out all the ways that it's inaccurate or misleading, or that—for example—there's no need to announce that the White House is not in chaos unless, you know, it's in chaos. But more importantly is that Trump has once again shot himself in the foot. A tweet like this may make him feel better for a while, and may also please the base for a day or two. But those effects are fleeting. And then, Trump will be forever on the record as claiming personal responsibility for the performance of both the stock and the job markets. Which means that, if those things go south—as they are bound to do at some point in the next few years—he's got ownership. Even he can't spin that a good job market in 2017 is his doing, but a bad one in 2018 is somehow Barack Obama's fault. Similarly, if the border is secure, then why is a wall needed? Presumably, it's not anymore. And if the border somehow becomes "insecure" again, thus necessitating a wall, whose fault is that? Ah, right—Hillary's. (Z)

First Democrat Declares for 2020

It's going to be a crowded Democratic field in 2020, as representatives, senators, governors, and possibly even former vice presidents come out of the woodwork to vie for the chance to take on Donald Trump. Or, maybe, Mike Pence. Now, the first candidate has officially thrown his hat into the ring. It's Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), who will retire from Congress when his third term comes to an end in 2018 in order to concentrate full-time on his presidential run.

"Ummmm, who?" is likely the first question that leaps to most people's minds. Well, Delaney is a Columbia and Georgetown Law grad. Before his political career, he was a successful entrepreneur, founding a company (Health Care Financial Partners) that made loans to smallish health care service firms, and another company (CapitalSource) that made loans to other small- and medium-sized businesses. Both companies were eventually absorbed by larger firms, but for a while, Delaney was the only former CEO of a publicly-traded company serving in Congress.

Politically, Delaney does not like to be called a centrist, but that's what he is. He is not much a fan of unions, says that "attacking banks" is bad policy, wants to allow corporations to repatriate their hoards of foreign cash without penalty, and wants to run as a candidate who can reach across the aisle. He also likes Medicare and Social Security, wants to raise the minimum wage (though not to $15/hour), and is strongly pro-environment. So, he's not a "Democrat in name only," but he's also not exactly in step with the progressive/liberal wing of the party, either. Particularly since Delaney apparently does not plan to run against Trump; the op-ed announcing his run does not mention the President at all.

The thinking behind Delaney's very, very early announcement is clear enough. For well-established candidates—a Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), a Joe Biden, etc.—there are good reasons to hold off on making an announcement as long as is possible. In particular, formally announcing a presidential run puts a big target on a candidate's back, and also causes much more restrictive campaign finance rules to kick in. However, for a virtual unknown, these things are not much of a concern for Delaney. And by launching first, he gets some press coverage, and also has ample time to spend traveling the country trying to build support and name recognition. The playbook he's running is straight from Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign, which started almost as early, and with a candidate who was almost as unknown.

That said, Delaney is looking at a Mount Everest-level uphill battle. His lack of stature and the depth of the Democratic bench are both huge problems. He should also be nervous that only two men have gone from representative to president with no other political offices in between (James Garfield and Abraham Lincoln, with only Garfield moving directly from Capitol Hill to the White House). Finally, choosing not to run against Donald Trump seems to be a very bad misread of the tenor of the times and of the mood of the Democratic base. Time will tell, but at the moment Delaney looks an awful lot more like a Lincoln Chafee or a Martin O'Malley than he does a Jimmy Carter. (Z)

Democrats Will Fund Pro-Life Candidates in 2018

The issue of abortion continues to divide Democrats. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), chairman of the DCCC, whose job it is to elect Democrats to the House, said yesterday that there will be no litmus tests. If House candidates are with the Democrats on most issues, but are pro-life and running in a red state where pro-choice candidates have no chance to win, the DCCC will fund them. This statement and position are sure to infuriate liberals, as well as groups devoted to promoting access to abortion.

Democrats need to pick up a net of 24 seats to take over the House. A gain of 24 seats is well within the range of historical outcomes, in which the president's party generally loses a few dozen seats in the House in the midterm elections. The problem, however, is that Democrats need to win a substantial number of districts in fairly red states, hence Luján's position.

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean has already pushed back on this decision and said he will withhold support from the DCCC if it follows through on this. Other progressives are sure to do the same in the coming days. The issue came to a head in Omaha in April when pro-life Democrat Heath Mello ran for mayor. Bernie Sanders campaigned for him and was roundly criticized by other Democrats for doing so. Sanders pushed back by saying that if the Democrats are going to protect a woman's right to choose, they are going to need to win elections in red states. In some ways, Republicans are more flexible than Democrats. The GOP will support candidates who deviate from the party line on one or two issues, as long as they are with the party on most of them. Democrats have more trouble with that. (V)

Strange Activity in Alabama Senate Race

Alabama will hold a special election next month to permanently fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has definitely taken notice, and will use $8 million from his super PAC to support Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed to his seat. Strange is an obedient backbencher who is willing to take his marching orders from McConnell. His two opponents in next month's primary are Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who famously posted the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and lost his job when he refused to remove them. Both Brooks and Moore are extremely conservative and would join with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in the Stick-it-to-McConnell caucus. McConnell is thus pulling out all stops to make sure Strange wins.

A poll released last week shows Strange at 33%, Moore at 26% and Brooks at 16%. McConnell wants to keep it that way. He said the Alabama race is his top political priority now. Donald Trump has not endorsed anyone in the race. (V)

ACLU To Spend $5 Million to Restore Felons' Voting Rights in Florida

Florida is one of only three states that do not let felons vote after they have served their time. In other states, former felons either get their voting rights back automatically or can apply to get them back. The Florida Constitution prohibits restoration of voting rights under nearly all conditions. The provision dates back to 1868, when it was intended to disenfranchise black voters. Currently, an estimated 1.7 million former felons live in Florida. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by about 100,000 votes in 2016 in Florida. If the felons had been reenfranchised and 30% had actually voted, with 60% of the vote going to Clinton (a conservative assumption given the racial break-down of felons), Clinton would have carried Florida.

The ACLU has started a project to get an initiative on the ballot to amend the state constitution to restore voting rights to most felons after they have served their time. The group is prepared to spend $5 million to make this change. The bar is high; it needs the support of 60% of the people who vote in the next midterm. If that bar is met, the change would go into effect before the 2020 election. In a sense, this is the Democrats' answer to the Republicans' effort to disenfranchise people by claiming "voter fraud." Former felons are disproportionately black (and thus Democratic leaning), so by making a big effort to make it possible (or easier) to vote, Democrats are increasing their base at the same time Republicans are trying to reduce the Democratic base using restrictive voting laws. Democracy in action? Not so much. (Z & V)

Arpaio Guilty of Contempt

Joe Arpaio once touted himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff." He was also an early and enthusiastic Donald Trump supporter, and seemed to be on top of the world as Trump's star rose and the sheriff gunned for his sixth term in 2016. But then it all came crashing down. Arpaio lost his re-election bid badly, and shortly thereafter went on trial for criminal contempt of court. He was found guilty on Monday; the conviction carries with it a six-month sentence. Not terribly long, but not exactly short for a man who is 85 and who won't be winning any popularity contests with the other prisoners.

Arpaio is appealing, but his defense is so flimsy that it is hard to believe that it's the best his attorneys could come up with. They argued, in essence, that Arpaio did not understand that a judge's order addressed to him, telling him to stop discriminating against minorities, actually applied to him. So, his appeal is not likely to work out. This will leave Trump with an interesting question: Does he pardon the former sheriff? It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility; it would please the base, and it would give the President a chance at a test drive before needs to use the pardon power on, say, someone he's related to. The problem, from the GOP perspective, is that Arpaio is rather unpopular in his home state these days. In 2018, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) could feel the voters' wrath during his re-election campaign if a pardon is issued. So could any Republican candidate who is running for Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) seat, should that come to pass. Which means that while Arpaio's career is over, he's still creating headaches wherever he goes. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul31 Trump Wants to Starve the ACA but the Courts May Say No
Jul31 Trump Should Pay Attention to The Ratio
Jul31 U.S. Escalates the Confrontation with North Korea
Jul31 Biden 2020?
Jul31 Hackers Broke into Voting Machines in 90 Minutes
Jul31 Flake Sets His Strategy
Jul31 Secret Donations from Outside Groups Are Boosting Trump's Agenda
Jul31 Christie Barks at Cubs Fan
Jul30 Fall Out from the Health-Care Debacle May Hurt Republicans Next Year
Jul30 Tax Breaks May Break Tax Reform
Jul30 Police Unhappy With Trump
Jul30 Trump Unleashed?
Jul30 McMaster May Be a Short Timer, Too
Jul30 Sandoval May Campaign against Heller
Jul30 How Did Mooch Make His Money?
Jul29 Score: Mooch 1, Reince 0
Jul29 Trump's Staffing Woes Can Only Get Worse
Jul29 Republican Blame Game Begins
Jul29 Takeaways from the Health-Care Fiasco
Jul29 LePage: Collins Is Running for Governor
Jul29 Can a Pardon Be Questioned?
Jul29 Congress Passes Bill to Sanction Russia; Trump Will Sign It
Jul29 Pentagon Is Not Enforcing Anti-Transgender Directive
Jul28 The War Is Over, 51-49
Jul28 Tax Reform Just Got Harder
Jul28 Paul Ryan Has Another New Problem: Moderates
Jul28 What Is Going on with Anthony Scaramucci?
Jul28 Lewinsky Prosecutor Tells Trump to Cut it Out
Jul28 Attorney General Cruz?
Jul28 Murkowski Fights Back
Jul28 Record Number of Democrats Challenging Republican Incumbents in the House
Jul27 Senate Votes Down a Repeal-Only Bill
Jul27 Trump Bans Transgender People from the Military for Partisan Reasons
Jul27 Trump Attacks Sessions for the Third Consecutive Day
Jul27 Breitbart Defends Sessions
Jul27 Scaramucci Appears to Attack Priebus
Jul27 Russia Sanctions Bill Moves Forward
Jul27 What Is "Fake News," Exactly?
Jul26 Senate Votes to Begin Debate on Health Care
Jul26 Boehner Says Republicans Will Never Repeal Obamacare
Jul26 Trump Continues to Bash Sessions
Jul26 Senate Won't Formally Recess in August
Jul26 Trump Holds Rally; Says He Can Be Presidential
Jul26 Scaramucci Threatens to Fire Everyone
Jul26 Senate Judiciary Committee Has Subpoenaed Paul Manafort to Appear Today
Jul26 Beware the Open Mic
Jul25 Democrats Offer "Better Deal" for America
Jul25 Kushner: Me Collude? No way!
Jul25 Senate May Vote on Health Care Today
Jul25 Trump Floats the Idea of Giuliani as Sessions' Replacement