Nov. 20

Click for

New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

Previous | Next

Alabama's Biggest Newspapers Endorse Jones

The three biggest newspapers in Alabama all ran the same headline at the top of page one yesterday: STAND FOR DECENCY, REJECT ROY MOORE. Here are the papers:

Stand for decency, reject Roy Moore

The editorial, which ran in all three papers, said that the Alabama Senate election is a referendum on whether the people of Alabama will accept the kind of behavior Moore has exhibited. In recommending that readers reject Moore, the papers said condoning that kind of behavior is not worth one Senate seat. The editorial was about as clear as an editorial can be. Here is a typical paragraph from it:

How can we look our neighbors, our parishioners, our colleagues, our partners, or our children in the eyes and tell them they are worth less than ensuring one political party keeps a Senate seat? How can we expect young Alabamians to have faith in their government or their church, when its leaders equivocate on matters as clear cut as sexual abuse?

The paper also attacked Moore for his notion that only white Christians matter and his disrespect for the law. Three options were offered to Republicans: stay home, write in another name, or vote for Jones. The editorial writers said the only moral choice is voting for Jones, since Moore must be stopped. It duly noted that Jones is pro choice, but said that other than that, he is the kind of candidate who will work for what the people of Alabama want. Whether newspaper endorsements matter any more is a matter of much debate, but in any event, Moore is not being cut any slack by the three biggest ones in Alabama. (V)

Moore Is Already Affecting the 2018 Races

The Roy Moore scandal is metastasizing beyond Alabama, just as Republicans were afraid it would. Republicans in other states are being asked if they support Moore. If they say "no," they are going to antagonize hard-core conservative Trump voters, whom they desperately need. If they say "yes," they are going to antagonize well-educated suburban voters, who they desperately need. If they say "well, it depends" or "beats me," that means they have already forgotten that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie went down that road and got walloped in a swing state.

Specifically, Democrats around the country are asking Republicans a simple yes/no question: "Should child molester Roy Moore drop out?" Local newspapers are also pressing candidates around the country to answer the question. Some candidates are trying to hedge, but the Democrats figure that if a candidate refuses to answer, many voters will take that to mean the candidate doesn't think molesting children is such a big deal. This is not somewhere most candidates want to be. (V)

Franken Won't Resign

There has been pressure from many on the left for Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) to step down in the wake of the allegations made against him by radio host Leeann Tweeden. In part, this is because they are honestly upset about his alleged behavior. In part, it is because they don't want him to be used as a cudgel by the Roy Moores of the world, in the form of, "Why should I drop out of the Senate race if Al Franken doesn't resign? Seems like a double standard!" Never mind that Moore's behavior was orders of magnitude worse than Franken's, not to mention that Moore wouldn't drop out even if Franken did resign.

In any case, Franken's aides made clear on Sunday that he will not be bowing to calls for his resignation. "He is spending time with his family in Washington, DC, and will be through the Thanksgiving holiday. And he's doing a lot of reflecting," they explained, while making clear that the reflection was about being a better person, and not about possibly being an ex-senator. In theory, then, Franken will remain available as a weapon in tit-for-tat comparisons of Republican and Democratic sexual harassment. That said, any Republican who tries that runs the risk of reminding voters of the even worse behavior of the party's currently-sitting president, so we might not hear all that much about Franken after all, particularly once the Alabama Senate election is over, and Roy Moore stops using the Minnesota senator to excuse his own nefarious deeds. (Z)

Seven Senators Are on the Fence on the Tax Bill

While most Republican senators are gung-ho for the tax-cut bill, seven members of the caucus aren't all the way to "yes" yet. The leadership will need to convince at least five of them to vote for the bill or it will go down in flames. Here are the uncertain seven:

Can the leadership get five of the seven to "yes"? It won't be easy, but it is possible. However, if it passes the Senate, it has to go to conference. What comes back won't be the Senate bill, and the problems could start all over. (V)

White House: Tax Bill Trumps Repealing Obamacare

Well, the White House didn't exactly say that (after all, buildings can't talk), but Budget Director Mick Mulvaney made it clear yesterday that if the provision of the Senate's tax bill that sets the fine to $0 for people without insurance has to go to save the bill, so be it. Cutting taxes for corporations is the top priority and if the price for getting it is that millions of people get to keep their insurance, Mulvaney is willing to pay it. (English translation: If we need the votes of Sens. Collins and Murkowski, make the deal.) Put in other words, Republicans are willing to break 7 years worth of promises to their voters to keep their big donors happy. In any event, the House bill didn't have this provision, so even if it stays in the Senate bill, it might not emerge in the conference bill. (V)

Republicans Desperately Want the Tax Bill to Pass; Democrats, Too

Democrats all over the country are campaigning against the Republicans' tax bills, but secretly they will be quite happy if it passes. The reasoning is straightforward: An emerging Democratic target is the affluent, well-educated suburban voter. If the tax bill raises taxes for that kind of voter, the voter may just switch parties and become a Democrat. Suburban voters already largely agree with the Democrats on cultural issues and the environment. The one thing keeping them in the (R) column has been economics. But it they see the Republicans are favoring the very wealthy at their expense, that could be the last straw.

Republican pollsters John and Jim McLaughlin have confirmed that eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes is a problem. Their surveys show that 45% of the voters don't want the deductions axed while only 36% do, and public opinion is moving in the wrong direction for the Republicans. Only 13 House Republicans voted against the tax bill, but they may have to vote again. If the Senate passes its own bill, a conference committee will be tasked with writing a compromise bill and sending it back to both chambers for a vote. As more people become aware of what is in the two bills, House members may have second thoughts when voting again. And those Republicans from high-tax states who vote for any bill that eliminates the deductions are going to be the Democrats' top targets in 2018. (V)

Trump Fires Back at Ball

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." If old Ben were still alive today, he might well amend that to three things—"death, taxes, and that Donald Trump will not let any slight pass if he hears about it." Yesterday, we noted that a war of words had commenced between the President and LaVar Ball, the notoriously outspoken father of amateur shoplifter and UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball. Trump thinks that he deserves all of the credit for springing Ball the younger from the hoosegow, while Ball the senior disagrees strenuously. On Sunday, after becoming aware of LaVar's feelings on the matter, Trump tweeted this:

Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017

Apparently, that did not get it out of The Donald's system, because six hours later he followed with this very similar tweet:

Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017

Wedged in between those was a tweet slamming Jeff Flake(y); a pun almost as clever as Al Franken(stein). Perhaps John McCain(and Abel) is up next. Or Bob Cork(it), or Mitch McCon(job), or Lindsey Graham(cracker). The possibilities are endless.

In any event, it's neither surprising nor particularly newsworthy when the President gets into Twitter feuds, since they happen on an almost-daily basis. The question that's actually of interest is whether or not this behavior is actually hurting him. And while there's no question that a fair segment of his base loves every minute of it, Democratic pollster and political consultant Jim Messina says that his data indicate that Trump is indeed hurting himself with the Obama-Trump voters. These folks represent only 3%-5% of the population, but given that they are concentrated in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, they have an outsized influence. According to focus groups that the Messina Group has conducted, a large segment of the Obama-Trump voters have seen no improvement in their circumstances since Trump became president. They are increasingly interpreting his behavior as a sign that he really cares only about two things: rich people like himself, and carrying on his Twitter vendettas. Messina argues that if Democrats hammer on that characterization in 2018 and in 2020, Trump and his party will be doomed. (Z)

How to Keep Trump Happy? Lie to Him

Quite a few things that were true of Donald Trump the private citizen are also true of Donald Trump the President. Among them:

These tendencies, when taken together, create something of a problem for his staff. They don't want to get yelled at (or fired), but it is also the case that Trump's approval ratings are cratering across the board. So, how can this problem be solved? Easy: Lie to the President.

OK, what they are doing is not exactly lying, at least not all of the time. It's more like selective truth-telling (which, of course, is a specialty of Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, and at least a dozen other White House insiders). What Team Trump does is try to show him three kinds of polls: (1) Internal polls, where they can cook the numbers a bit; (2) Narrowly-focused polls, like those that measure how Trump's base feels about him; and (3) Whatever positive polls come out of the major polling firms; most commonly the President is clued in on Rasmussen's results, since their well-known Republican house effect tends to produce the most Donald-friendly numbers.

The strategy doesn't always work—sometimes Trump finds his own polling news on TV, or on the Internet, and then is in a bad mood for hours. This is part of the reason that aides are terrified of what will happen during all the down time that Trump has while he celebrates Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago. Still, keeping the President calm some of the time is better than keeping him calm none of the time. (Z)

NRCC Lottery Offers a Weekend at Trump's Hotel in D.C. as the Prize

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which collects money for Republican House candidates, sent out an email to potential donors yesterday. It said that anyone donating $10 or more will be entered in a lottery. The prize is an all-expense-paid weekend trip to D.C. around Christmas, with the lucky winner and a guest staying naturally at the Trump hotel in the nation's capital.

The hotel has beeen a source of controversy ever since Trump took office. For one thing, the building is owned by the government, so in negotiations between the landlord and the tenant, Trump represents both sides. In addition, the lease says that the leaseholder may not be an elected official. While Trump lost the popular vote, he was elected, so it would seem that Trump is in violation of the lease. However, the General Service Administration (which Trump controls, of course) has ruled that Trump is in compliance with the lease. Finally, the Constitution's emoluments clause states that the president may not take gifts from foreign governments. Several foreign governments that have wanted to curry favor with Trump have held big ($100,000 and up) bashes at the hotel. Are these gifts in the sense of the emoluments clause? So far the courts have not weighed in on any of this. (V)

Back to the main page