• Judge Denies Scott's Request for an Injunction
• Cindy Hyde-Smith Working Hard to Blow It
• Nielsen May Be Next To Go
• House Democrats Begin Deciding on What to Investigate
• Sherrod Brown Is Considering a Presidential Run in 2020
• Hillary Clinton Readying 2020 Run
• Will Tom Vilsack Run Against Joni Ernst in 2020?
Anti-Pelosi Democrats Claim They Have the Votes
Graham Supports Bill to Protect Mueller
Denham Loses His House Seat
Staff Anger Spills Over at White House
Trump’s Appointment of Matt Whitaker Is Backfiring
Mimi Walters Now Trails In Vote Count
Arizona is nearly finished counting all the ballots that were dropped off at polling places. With 99% of the votes tabulated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) had 1,097,321 votes (49.7%), and Rep. Martha McSally had 1,059,124 votes (48.0%). Put another way, Sinema's lead had grown to 38,197 votes with roughly 21,500 votes still outstanding. That lead is literally insurmountable, and so all the various outlets have called the race, and McSally conceded. She might still be headed to Washington, however, as the replacement for Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who is merely keeping the seat of the late John McCain warm. However, even if McSally is appointed to Kyl's seat, she will have to stand for election in 2020 (because appointed senators get to serve only until the next federal election) and again in 2022 (because that is when McCain's term ends). She will be a top target in 2020 and maybe in 2022, depending on what happens in 2020.
This is doubly good news for the Democrats as they look ahead to 2020. Even if things go against them in Florida (see below) and Mississippi (see further below), they will be down 53-47. A 3-seat hole is very different from a 4-seat hole, particularly when looking at the 2020 map. On top of that, this result makes clear that the right Democrat can win statewide in purple-trending Arizona. In a presidential year, which means higher turnout, this will be a prime pickup opportunity for the blue team. And fortunately for them, their bench there is not empty. How about Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Harvard-educated veteran of the Iraq War? Or Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who is about to make some headlines looking into potential malfeasance by Interior secretary Ryan Zinke (see below)? They might also look to Katie Hobbs or Kathy Hoffman, both of whom just won statewide offices in Arizona (Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction, respectively). In short, it's no longer beyond the realm of possibility that the Democrats will gain control of both houses of Congress and the White House just four years after the GOP pulled off the trick. (Z)
The recount in Florida is underway and the legal beagles are barking. Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) had his lawyers file an emergency motion asking Broward County Circuit Judge Jack Tuter to order the ballots and voting machines in the county to be impounded. The judge declined, but did offer a compromise, proposing that three Broward County sheriff's deputies be added to the group of folks overseeing the recount there. It is unclear whether Scott is going to accept this proposal. What is clear is that he and his team are going to keep maneuvering, as late Sunday, they filed another request for injunction, one that would bar the counting of any ballots received after Saturday. The judge has not yet ruled on that one.
Scott isn't the only one making demands. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) demanded that Scott not be involved with the recount in any form, comparing him to a South American dictator. The judge asked everyone to tone it down. Both sides know that the PR war is as important as the actual counting, with an eye to delegitimizing the other side if it wins.
Donald Trump weighed in yesterday as well, saying an honest recount is impossible, so the elections should just be awarded to Scott and Ron DeSantis, both of whom are leading right now. (V)
On November 27, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will face Mike Espy (D) in a runoff election for one of the two U.S. Senate seats that are still undecided. This is necessitated by the fact that last week's election was technically a primary, since it was a special election triggered by the resignation of Republican Thad Cochran. In ruby-red Mississippi, the runoff should be a layup, especially since the only thing that prevented Hyde-Smith from taking 50% of the vote (and thus a victory without need for a runoff) were folks voting for an even more conservative candidate. It is unlikely that those people are suddenly going to discover an affinity for a Democrat who also happens to be black.
Still, Hyde-Smith is doing whatever she can to keep it competitive. Late Sunday, a recording from early November leaked in which she—while attempting to show affection for a supporter—declared that, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." "Public hanging" is dangerously close to "lynching," and this from a white woman in a state that had more lynchings than any other: 581 between 1882 and 1968, most famously that of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. In short, it was an ill-considered joke, or remark, or whatever it was that she was going for.
The Senator does not appear to have improved the situation with her response on Monday. She began by issuing a defiant statement:
In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.
Later she fielded questions from the press:
In today’s press conference receiving an endorsement from the National Right to Life President, @SenHydeSmith was only asked questions regarding her statement on “public hangings” this is what she and Gov. @PhilBryantMS had to say: #mssen #mselex pic.twitter.com/HuFZlNlq34— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) November 12, 2018
In the span of roughly 2 very awkward minutes, she offered up half a dozen variations on a non-answer answer: "I put out a statement yesterday and we stand by that statement," "I put out a statement yesterday and that's all I am going to say about it," etc.
As we noted yesterday, this brings to mind George Allen's "macaca" moment, when he blew his Senate race in Virginia by making a similar kind of verbal gaffe and then failing to own it. Is it really plausible the same could happen in Mississippi? It's not probable, but it is plausible. The black population of Mississippi is about 1.1 million, and they make up a higher percentage of that state's overall population than is the case in any of the other 49 states. Roughly 900,000 folks cast votes last Tuesday. So, if enough black voters are spurred to action by this, coupled with the state's white, liberal rump, and possibly some urban/suburban folks who decide that this new information means Hyde-Smith isn't the candidate for them, things could get interesting. The one thing that is certain is that the incident has caused money to pour into Espy's campaign coffers from across the country, which means he'll have plenty of cash for advertising, get-out-the-vote operations, and the like. (Z)
It was widely expected that, once the midterms were over, Donald Trump would do a little housecleaning. And late Monday, the Washington Post reported not only that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is on the chopping block, but that the axe might fall as soon as today. This is based on Donald Trump's reasoning that: (1) Nielsen has responsibility for border security, (2) Immigration to the United States has not ended, and therefore (3) Nielsen is to blame. This is not unlike blaming Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin if the Dow Jones drops 600 points (which it did on Monday)—in both cases, the Secretary has some responsibility, but not nearly so much as Trump wants to believe.
Chief of Staff John Kelly—who regards Nielsen as a protégé—is trying to talk Trump out of it, but since Kelly is in the doghouse, too, his influence is limited. In fact, the odds that Nielsen stays are probably lower than the odds that Kelly and Nielsen get shown the door at the same time. If Nielsen is indeed canned, Trump will look to replace her with an immigration hardliner (well, one even harder than Nielsen is). Finding someone like that is not too hard. For example, there's one just down the hall from the Oval Office, in the person of Stephen Miller. However finding someone like that who can also get approved by the Senate, now that's the trick.
We shall see how many heads roll in the next few weeks. There are 24 jobs that are considered Cabinet level, if we include the Vice President and the Chief of Staff. Thus far, 11 have turned over, with Kelly, Nielsen, Ryan Zinke (Interior), Wilbur Ross (Commerce), and possibly James Mattis (Defense) rumored to be short-timers. This is, of course, an unprecedented amount of instability. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had turned over 5 spots by this point in their administrations, Barack Obama and George W. Bush 4 each, and George H. W. Bush only 2. Donald Trump likes to outdistance his predecessors; this is one way in which he's definitely done it. (Z)
Yesterday we had items about what Reps. Jerrold Nadler (NY), Maxine Waters (CA), and Adam Schiff (CA) plan to do once they get their chairs' gavels, but these aren't the only House members who want to hold the administration accountable. The Washington Post has an article listing the Democrats' top targets, including these and many more:
- Russian interference in elections:
The Democrats are certainly interested in special counsel Robert Mueller's report, but they are not going to sit around
twiddling their thumbs waiting for it. They are going to conduct their own investigations. One item high on the agenda is
to determine if the Russians have leverage over Donald Trump due to possible money laundering he has done for them in the past that,
if exposed, would put him in serious legal jeopardy.
- Matt Whitaker:
If AG Matt Whitaker does not recuse himself from supervising Mueller (which he almost certainly won't do), the Democrats will start
looking at his conflicts of interest. They also want to know if he is serving as a back channel, demanding that Mueller tell him everything
he has found so far and then spilling the beans to Trump. How the Democrats will investigate this, though, remains unclear. They can, and will, subpoena him, but the probability that he tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is close to zero.
- Hush money:
If reports that Trump was deeply involved in paying hush money to Stormy Daniels (by now we figure our loyal readers know that her birth name is Stephanie Clifford, so this will be the last mention of it unless it becomes a legal issue) and Karen McDougal are true, he probably violated
federal election law. Congress can't prosecute him, but it can certainly make his violations of the law public to prepare for a
possible impeachment later.
- Tax returns:
A 1924 law gives the chair of the Ways and Means Committee the legal authority to examine anyone's tax return.
Incoming chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) has said he intends to use this authority to get Trump's tax returns. The committee
could then make them public by a simple majority vote. Expect Trump to fight this tooth and nail because there is undoubtedly
something very damaging there. Otherwise he would have long ago made his returns public to show what a great businessman he is.
Earlier this year there was a report of a flurry of phone calls between Trump Tower and the Alfa Bank in Moscow.
If it turns out Trump paid a lot of interest on loans he got from the Alfa Bank, they would show up as deductions on his
tax return. This is what Neal wants to find out.
- Emoluments clause:
A pending lawsuit brought by Democratic House members alleges that Trump has violated the Constitution's emoluments clause
by profiting from foreign governments renting blocks of rooms at his D.C. hotel. Also, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), a senior
member of the Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over government properties (including the building that houses
Trump's hotel), wants to look into this matter.
- Security clearances:
Democrats want to know how first son-in-law Jared Kushner was allowed to see classified documents without a security clearance.
They also want to know why the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan was revoked.
- Media targeting:
Has Trump used the power of the government to try to punish his critics, including CNN and the Washington Post's owner, Jeff
Bezos? That might violate the First Amendment.
- Brett Kavanaugh:
The issue here is not Kavanaugh himself, but the FBI investigation of him. It was incredibly sloppy. Dozens of potential witnesses
who might have shed light on the truth or falsehood of Christine Blasey Ford's allegations about Kavanaugh were practically begging
to be interviewed and the FBI never called them. Why? Did the White House pressure the FBI? Would that be obstruction of justice,
or possibly some other crime?
- Family separations:
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wants to know more about the policy of separating parents from their children at the border, some of whom have
apparently been lost. Also, there have been reports of the children being locked in cages, which would effectively mean they were imprisoned
without a trial and conviction.
- Health care:
A lawsuit is pending that, if successful, would end the Affordable Care Act. Normally the government defends its laws, but the
Trump administration is not doing so. Democrats want to investigate this.
- Betsy DeVos:
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has avoided scrutiny so far, but that is about to end. There are a couple of issues they will start with,
such as changes she made that make it harder for students who were duped by for-profit schools to get loan forgiveness.
Also, she let schools that promised good jobs after following a course of study and didn't deliver off the hook.
- Ryan Zinke: There are reports that Zinke used his office for personal gain. That's one of the government's little no-no's. Raúl Grijalva, who will take over the Natural Resources Committee, wants to pursue this.
This is merely a preliminary list. No doubt every House committee chair is going to come up with a Christmas list (or Hanukkah list, or Kwanzaa list, or Festivus list) of items relevant to his or her committee to investigate. (V)
To no one's surprise, now that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) won his Senate race, he is thinking about running for president. Given the election results, it is not surprising. Energetic progressive candidates probably went down in Georgia and Florida, while more mainstream Democrats won the senatorial and gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. To Brown, that says the right Democrat can win back the Midwest and thus the White House, and he might well be that Democrat.
In his statement yesterday, Brown talked about the dignity of work, meaning that he wants to compete for the votes of blue-collar voters in the Midwest who went for Trump in 2016. Brown is a strong union supporter, which will no doubt help him if he decides to go for it. (V)
As we noted in our write-up, Hillary Clinton's camp has sent enough mixed signals that a 2020 run definitely remains on the table. That is especially true given that the candidate herself has failed to issue a full Sherman. And this weekend, former longtime Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he opined that preparations for "Hillary 4.0," as he describes it, are well underway.
It is nearly inconceivable that Penn is (1) just guessing, or (2) speaking out without clearance from Team Clinton. In other words, this has "trial balloon" written all over it. The timing is also instructive. Coming the weekend after the election, it affords maximal time for Clinton to pull things together, while not allowing Republicans to make her a campaign issue in the midterms. So, consider her a candidate (and a frontrunner) until provided information to the contrary. (Z)
If the Democrats are to have any chance to take back the Senate in 2020, one of the seats they would really have to win is that of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). One of the Democrats' strongest candidates is Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, and Barack Obama's secretary of agriculture. He remains popular in Iowa and appeals to rural voters due to his agricultural background. If he were to run, that would probably clear the field and he would get the Democratic nomination unopposed.
However, Vilsack might decide to wait until 2022, when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is almost certain to retire. The downside of waiting, though, is that presidential years always have an electorate more favorable to Democrats, so that would argue for a 2020 run. So far, Vilsack hasn't said a word about his future plans. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov12 A (Little Bit of) Wall Is Being Built
Nov12 Kobach Ran a Lousy Campaign
Nov12 The FoxConn Con
Nov12 Jerrold Nadler Will Subpoena Matthew Whitaker on January 3
Nov12 Maxine Waters Also Has an Agenda
Nov12 Adam Schiff Wants to Know if Trump Took Action against the Media
Nov12 More on Arizona
Nov12 It Is Not Quite as Partisan as You Might Think
Nov12 Monday Q & A
Nov11 Where Things Stand in Unresolved Elections
Nov11 Can't Donald Trump Do Anything Right?
Nov11 Trump Jr. Thinks He May Be Indicted Soon
Nov11 Now, This Is How To Take a Joke
Nov11 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Beto O'Rourke
Nov10 Trump's Worst Week?
Nov10 Trump Claims He Doesn't Know the Man He Appointed as Acting Attorney General
Nov10 In Florida, It is Deja Vu All over Again
Nov10 WSJ: Trump Knew All about Hush Money Payments to Daniels and McDougal
Nov10 Trump May Replace Wilbur Ross with Linda McMahon
Nov10 Ocasio-Cortez Can't Afford D.C. Apartment until She Starts Work
Nov09 Some Races Are Still Undecided
Nov09 Sinema Takes the Lead in Arizona
Nov09 Karen Handel Concedes
Nov09 Matthew Whitaker's Appointment as Attorney General May Be Unconstitutional
Nov09 Mueller Reportedly Working on "Final" Report
Nov09 What the 2020 Candidates Learned This Week
Nov09 White House's War With Acosta Grows Nastier
Nov09 Friday Q & A
Nov08 Split Decision
Nov08 Winners and Losers
Nov08 Tribalism Wins
Nov08 Exit Polls Show Pretty Much What Was Expected
Nov08 Voters Approve Ballot Measures
Nov08 How Voters Made History on Tuesday
Nov08 And So It Begins
Nov08 Trump Fires Sessions
Nov08 Mueller Just Got Some Help
Nov08 Welcome to 2020
Nov08 The Democrats Probably Lost the Senate until at Least 2022
Nov08 Democrats Had Modest Success in the State Legislatures
Nov06 Politico: Democrats Will Win House, Republicans Will Keep Senate
Nov06 What to Watch for on Tuesday
Nov06 Trump Closes with Anger
Nov06 Will There Be a Youth Wave?
Nov06 Early Turnout Was Huge This Year
Nov06 We May Never Know Who Won in Georgia and Texas
Nov06 We May Be Left in Suspense Tonight
Nov06 Today's Senate Polls
Nov05 Prognosticators Are Predicting a Split Congress