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

Four Senators Oppose Motion to Proceed on Health-Care Bill

Two more senators have announced that they are "no" votes on the motion to proceed to debate on the health-care bill. The new ones are Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Both of them think it doesn't go far enough in repealing the ACA. They join Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who also thinks that, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who thinks the bill goes too far.

By all accounts, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump were stunned by their sudden reversal of fortune. They were both busily engaged in negotiations with specific senators when Moran and Lee made their announcement. Once McConnell and Trump learned the news, they agreed to put out statements an hour later. The Majority Leader got to work on his, and the White House staff got to work on theirs, and then two minutes later, this came across Twitter:

So, that's twice that McConnell got scooped in one day. However, he has already announced that he agrees with Trump, and that the next step is to attempt a straight repeal, followed by a replacement in late 2018 (e.g., after the midterm elections). Undoubtedly, Rand Paul will be crying tears of joy in the morning.

In order to secure a straight repeal, McConnell needs 50 votes, since Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has already ruled that a repeal qualifies under budget reconciliation rules. That means that McConnell will need to keep all of the 48 votes he (hoped) he had, plus win back two of the defectors. That's a tall order; there was no particular enthusiasm for a repeal two months ago, so there's no reason to believe there will be now. Further, the various fence-sitting centrist senators know that their constituents are going to be none too happy with two years of uncertainty about their health care. There's also significant risk with this plan, because while "repeal" requires only 50 votes, "replace" will need 60, which means at least a few Democrats. It's hard to see how McConnell will get 60 Democratic + Republican votes in two years when he couldn't swing 50 Republican votes right now. And if there is no "replace" in two years, then the insurance market could collapse, with the GOP holding the bag. Actually, it could collapse before that, if insurers are no longer willing to be part of a program that they think is going the way of the dodo.

If McConnell can't get a repeal through the Senate, or he decides it's too risky, then the alternatives are not going to make him happy. He could go back to the drawing board, perhaps embracing the plan Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have put forward, which would keep the Obamacare taxes in place, but would allow state governors to decide how best to spend the money. The problem is that this plan appears to have very little support on either side of the aisle. In addition, whether it's this plan or some other new plan, McConnell would be burning copious amounts of time that he does not want to spend, particularly with the start of FY 2017-18 looming on September 1.

A third option for McConnell, if "repeal" and/or "come up with a new plan" don't fly, would be for him to—gasp!—work with the Democrats. Susan Collins has been advocating this approach for weeks, and the recuperating Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a statement on Tuesday night saying the time had come to reach across the aisle. "The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care," McCain declared. A bipartisan approach would also be fine and dandy with the President, who cares little about the actual substance of any new health-care bill, and simply wants to be able to declare a victory.

There are, however, some serious downsides to the bipartisan approach from where McConnell sits. First, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has made clear that if Obamacare is repealed, his caucus will not be willing to work with the GOP. And if McConnell backs off the repeal and starts chatting with the Democrats, then a significant portion of his caucus will bolt, starting with Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Paul, Lee, and Moran. A sizable portion of the base will also be upset, since "work with the Democrats to fix Obamacare" is not exactly the same thing as "repeal Obamacare." Going bipartisan, then, may be the quickest path to a resolution for McConnell, but it could also be the quickest path to becoming ex-Majority Leader.

And finally, it is worth noting that whatever tack McConnell chooses, there are certain realities that have reared their ugly heads in the past month or two that are not going away. Town halls full of angry constituents, for example. John McCain's unavailability for the next week or two or more. Republican governors who are justifiably concerned about "solutions" that will take health care away from so many of their citizens, and have not been at all shy about conveying this message to their senators. In short, the Majority Leader is going to be earning his paycheck in the next few weeks. (V & Z)

Trump Is the Least Popular President Since World War II

Five Thirty Eight has compiled a table showing the approve/disapprove numbers for all presidents since World War II after 175 days of being president. Donald Trump is the least popular in the list by a wide margin. Here are the numbers:

Rank President Year Approve% Disapprove% Net approval%
1 Harry S. Truman 1945 87% 3% 84%
2 Lyndon B. Johnson 1964 75% 10% 65%
3 John F. Kennedy 1961 72% 14% 58%
4 Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953 69% 15% 54%
5 George H. W. Bush 1989 67% 18% 49%
6 Richard Nixon 1969 63% 16% 47%
7 Jimmy Carter 1977 62% 22% 40%
8 Ronald Reagan 1981 58% 30% 28%
9 George W. Bush 2001 52% 33% 19%
10 Barack Obama 2009 56% 37% 19%
11 Bill Clinton 1993 46% 46% 0%
12 Gerald Ford 1975 35% 41% -6%
13 Donald Trump 2017 39% 55% -16%

Trump's low popularity is unusual. Presidents normally get a honeymoon period before the heavy weather sets in. The average for all the presidents other than Trump is +38 approval. Only two presidents have had an approval rating below 50%, and one of these was Jerry Ford, who got clobbered when he pardoned Richard Nixon (Note to Trump: Use of the pardon power may be bad for your popularity). No president before Trump ever had a disapproval rating north of 50% at this point in his presidency—until now. None of this means that Trump's base is deserting him, but hanging onto your base while losing everyone else is a tightrope act (see below). (V)

More Americans Want Trump Impeached than Wanted Nixon Impeached

A new Monmouth University poll shows that a higher percentage of Americans want to see Donald Trump impeached (41%) than supported impeaching Richard Nixon 6 months into his second term (24%). The good news for Trump is that more people oppose impeachment (53%) than support it. The poll's director, Patrick Murray, believes this is at least in part due to the more partisan environment that exists now than existed then.

According to the poll, Trump's approval is now at 39% vs. 52% disapproval. These numbers have been holding steady for months, suggesting that his core voters are still with him, despite all the negative news about Donald Jr.'s meeting with Russians. A WaPo/ABC poll gives a similar result, with 36% approving of Trump. A Bloomberg poll gives Trump a 40% approval rating, so the polls are pretty consistent. He is probably a bit shy of 40%. As long as Trump's base is still with him, it is unlikely that House Republicans will have the nerve to impeach him, much as they would prefer a President Pence to a President Trump. (V)

Investigators Are Probing Trump's Digital Operation for Collusion with Russia

The investigation of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia has spawned a new target: its digital operation. The Senate and House committees examining Russiagate, as well as the Justice Dept., want to know if the digital operation, run by first son-in-law Jared Kushner, tipped off the Russians to areas where Hillary Clinton was unexpectedly weak so the Russians could target the area. Some investigators think the Russians may have targeted key swing states and even precincts and want to know if the Trump campaign gave them information about where to dump fake news.

This focus could be a problem for Kushner, who already is a person of interest for his December meeting with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank. He was also present at the meeting with a Russian lawyer close to Vladimir Putin and a former (?) Russian spy, along with Donald Trump, Jr., and Paul Manafort.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said that the Russians appear to have targeted black voters in two decisive states, Wisconsin and Michigan. He is amazed they figured out that these states were in play, since the Democrats were too brain-dead to realize this themselves. He also noted that Twitter and Facebook were so overwhelmed in those states that they couldn't tell fake news from real news. The Trump campaign ran a major digital operation and paid a Texas company $90 million for its part in it. That company might have had detailed demographic information down to the precinct level, and Warner wants to know if any of it might have found its way to the Russians somehow. (V)

Flake Is between a Rock and a Hard Place

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has never been much of a fan of Donald Trump and didn't endorse him in 2016. The White House is now returning the favor by having discussons with at least three Republicans who might potentially challenge Flake in a primary. One of them is former state senator Kelli Ward, who has already announced. The others are Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit and former Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham, both of whom are potentially interested in a run.

The problem for Flake is that he is the Democrats' #2 Senate target, after Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), and Trump won Arizona by a fairly narrow margin, 47% to 44%. If Flake gets on the Trump team, he may get a clear shot at renomination, but it could hurt him in the general election. But if he continues to play hard to get, he may face a primary opponent supported by Trump. So far, Flake does not have a strong Democratic opponent, but the Democrats are no doubt looking hard for one. (V)

Democrats Are Looking to the Blue Dogs to Win Back the House

Progressive Democrats can't abide the centrist Blue Dog Democrats, whom they regard as Republicans-Lite. Many of the Blue Dogs oppose abortion and support gun-owners' rights, much to the consternation of party activists. But the DCCC is looking at potential Blue Dogs in a number of districts as their hope for winning back the House.

The Democrats' problem is that to recapture the House, they have to knock off 24 Republicans, many of them in conservative districts. DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) has been working with the Blue Dogs to recruit conservative Democrats in some of these districts. Lujan doesn't believe liberal Democrats can win in these places.

The problem is that Democrats are badly divided on whether they would rather be right or would rather win. DNC Chairman Tom Perez recently said that the party cannot support anti-abortion Democrats. In contrast, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the Democrats are a big-tent party and are willing to support anti-abortion districts where the alternative is a Republican. (V)

Urbanization of the West Is Becoming a GOP Nightmare

The West is still full of wide-open spaces where the voters like guns and religion and don't care much for Democrats. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the West is increasingly home to big cities stuffed with Democrats. This could become a demographic nightmare for the GOP. Take Nevada, for example. In the 2016 Senate race, former representative Joe Heck (R) won every county in the state except Clark County (Las Vegas). Unfortunately for Heck, 2 million people live in Clark County, and that represents 70% of the votes statewide. Heck lost.

A similar picture is playing out elsewhere in the West. Many of the western states have one big city that is growing rapidly and is highly Democratic. For example, Arizona's Maricopa County (Phoenix) represents 60% of the vote in the Grand Canyon state and is growing by leaps and bounds. In the past 5 years, 80% of the state's growth has been in Maricopa. In 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry by 10 points in Arizona. In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 3 points. A few more years of growth in Maricopa County and Arizona will turn blue.

Colorado is dominated by the Denver metropolitan area (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, and Jefferson Counties), which together represent half the statewide vote. In New Mexico, it is Bernalillo County (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe County (Santa Fe, of course). Even in Utah, the growth of Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo are a threat to the Republicans down the road, but probably not for a decade or so. Still, the changing demographics of the West, especially, the growth of the Latino population, is something that has to be keeping Republican long-range strategists awake at night. (V)

Twitter Users Sue Trump

For better or worse, Donald Trump is setting a lot of precedents as president. And now, he's going to go into the law books (probably not the only time that will happen), as seven Twitter users and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University have filed suit against the President, press secretary Sean Spicer and White House social media guru Dan Scavino.

At issue are two potentially incompatible habits of Trump's. The first is that he makes liberal use of Twitter's block feature when users dare to criticize him. The second is that he uses his personal Twitter account for official business; for example, he first announced his pick for FBI director thusly:

The plaintiffs' argument is that Trump's twitter account, used in the way that it is, is a public forum, like a public park or a government building. Therefore, consistent with the First Amendment, he cannot ban citizens from "attending." The remedy they seek is to be unbanned (which will, of course, embarrass Trump). The case has some meat to it, and the SCOTUS has already signalled sympathy with this general perspective. So, Trump could be headed for a defeat. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul17 More Setbacks for Health-Care Bill
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Jul17 Trump Jr. Excuses, Part II: Hillary Is Shady, Too
Jul17 Trump Jr. Excuses, Part III: Hillary Is Shady, Too (Alternate Version)
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Jul12 Obamacare Exchanges are Stable