Dem 49
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GOP 51
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Omarosa: Trump Is a Racist
      •  Hawaii Chooses the Democrats Who Will Be Elected in November
      •  Four States to Vote on Tuesday
      •  A Year Later, What Is the Lesson from Charlottesville?
      •  Charlottesville, Part II Fizzles
      •  Over 100 Newspapers Will Fight Back on Trump's Attacking the Media
      •  The Trump Jr. Follies Continue

Omarosa: Trump Is a Racist

On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, Omarosa Manigault Newman told Chuck Todd that after her upcoming book had gone to press, she personally heard a recording in which Donald Trump used is the infamous "n-word." She said that confirmed what she had already thought of him: He is a racist.

Unlike some other people who have criticized Trump, she was a colleague and a "friend" (as much as that is possible with him) for a decade. In the interview, she repeatedly admitted that she was complicit in Trump's deceptions over a long period of time. When Todd asked her why she didn't quit much sooner, after she began to conclude that he is a racist, she said that she was the only black person at the table, and that if she quit, there would be none. Indeed, after her firing, no other black folks have been hired for a position as high as hers, so her concern was justified. Most likely the only reason Trump hired her in the first place is that she was a high-profile black woman who was willing to carry his water, no matter what he said or did. People like that are in short supply.

She also described her firing as being especially intimidating. Chief of Staff John Kelly didn't call her into his office to do the deed. Instead, he told her to go to the situation room. She didn't think nuclear war had broken out, but she sensed that something nuclear was about to happen, so she turned on a recording device (probably her phone) before getting there in order to protect herself. Once inside with her, Kelly locked the door and told her that she was finished and if she didn't go quietly, there would be legal action against her and it would get ugly. Manigault Newman told Todd that if it weren't for the recording (which was played during the show), no one would believe her. The recording gives her instant credibility, at least on the firing.

In the Situation Room, when she asked Kelly if Trump knew about the firing, he said everyone on the staff "reports to me, not to the president." During the interview with Todd, she said that Kelly's statement was incredible: Everyone in the White House works for Kelly, not for the president? She made the point that most Americans think that the people in the White House work for Trump (and the American people), not for Kelly. When Trump hears this, he is not likely to be pleased.

Some time after she left the meeting, Manigault Newman was offered a carrot as well as a stick: A deal in which she would be paid $15,000 for her silence, as well as a (no-show) job with the campaign. She turned it down so she could tell the American people what really happened.

As with Rick Gates at the trial of Paul Manafort, Manigault Newman clearly has credibility issues. She was a huge Trump supporter for over a decade, then Kelly fired her, and suddenly Trump is a big racist. Could it be that she made a quick estimate that the $15,000 a month payment and the job would last only until the 2020 election and that a best-selling book (it is now #2 among all books at Amazon) would be worth more? Maybe. On the other hand, she claims to have recordings of conversations with Trump and others, and the ones that have been released so far have backed her up. She is going on a book tour shortly, and will no doubt have the opportunity to say more explosive things. If they, too, are backed up by recordings, her credibility will go up, even for things for which she does not have recordings.

The White House fired back after the interview. The basic strategy goes back about 3,000 years: If you don't like the message, shoot the messenger. Kellyanne Conway went on multiple shows yesterday to tear Manigault Newman apart. Conway told Fox News: "I think he [Trump] believes it's a low blow to write a book riddled with lies and accusations and insinuations, whether 30 pieces of silver or a seven-figure book..." In view of the "pieces of silver" reference, it would appear that Donald Trump has been promoted from president to savior. Marc Short, Trump's former legislative affairs director, had this to say: "The media ridiculed and mocked Omarosa for the full year plus that she was in the White House. And now she writes a book and all of a sudden she's like an oracle."

If Manigault Newman says explosive things on her book tour, it could get ugly as Kelly noted. But for him and Trump, not her. (V)

Hawaii Chooses the Democrats Who Will Be Elected in November

Hawaii held its primaries on Saturday. The polls closed at 8:00 local time, but that was early Sunday morning for most of the United States because of the time difference. Inasmuch as Hawaii is the bluest state in the country, having favored Hillary Clinton by 32 points, there isn't likely to be too much drama there on Election Day. And in case there was any doubt on that point, it was answered on Saturday, when Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans by a margin of something like 8-to-1 (approx. 240,000 to 30,000).

Consequently, the new governor of Hawaii will be the same as the old governor, namely incumbent David Ige (D), who managed to easily fight off a challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D), 54%-44%. He will defeat the minority leader of the Hawaii House of Representatives, Andria Tupola (R), a part of a key GOP constituency, namely Mormon Samoan-Americans. The new senator from Hawaii will be the same as the old senator, namely incumbent Mazie Hirono (D), who was unopposed. In November, she will defeat Ron Curtis (R), whose official campaign website is a WordPress page (translation: amateurish). Hawaii's two representatives will be Ed Case (D), who will succeed Hanabusa, and incumbent (and progressive hero) Tulsi Gabbard (D). In the state legislature, the GOP will try, and probably fail, to improve upon their meager numbers. Currently, the Democrats hold 46 of 51 state assembly seats, and 25 of 25 state senate seats. The red team managed to field candidates in only five state senate races and 18 assembly races, so even if they somehow run the table they will still be the minority party in each chamber.

In short, Tuesday's contests (see below) will be a heck of a lot more interesting than Saturday's. (Z)

Four States to Vote on Tuesday

Even though many Americans are at the beach in August, 14 states have their primaries this month. Four of these will be held tomorrow. Here is the rundown:

  • Connecticut: Gov. Dan Malloy (D-CT) is retiring, giving the Republicans a shot at taking over the governor's mansion. Five Republicans are running. The state party has endorsed Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, but Tim Herbst, a former selectman from Trumbull, also has a chance. On the Democratic side, Ned Lamont, who gained fame beating Joe Lieberman in a Senate primary on 2006, only to lose to him when he turned around and ran as an independent in the general election, is the favorite.

    CT-05 is an open seat because Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) is retiring on account of her role in covering up a sexual harassment scandal in her office. The Democratic primary is between a former Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman and a newbie progressive candidate, Jahana Hayes, who was the 2016 national teacher of the year. If Hayes wins the primary and general election, she will be the first black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. The district is D+2, so even in a modest blue wave, the winner of the primary is likely to prevail in the general election.

  • Minnesota: As a consequence of Al Franken's resignation from the Senate, Minnesota is one of two states with both Senate seats up this year (Mississippi is the other one). In the regular Senate race, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) will beat whomever the Republicans nominate, so it doesn't matter so much who wins that GOP primary. In the special election for Franken's old seat, appointed Sen. Tina Smith (DFL-MN) has a real race on her hands. Richard Painter, George W. Bush's ethics lawyer, who left the GOP and has been a thorn in Donald Trump's side (because ethics is his thing), is challenging her for the DFL nomination. The Republican nominee will be state senator Karin Housley, who will likely lose to the Smith/Painter winner in the general election.

    Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) is stepping down, and former governor Tim Pawlenty (R) wants his old job back. However, a conservative country commissioner, Jeff Johnson, is the favorite of conservative organizations. Both have some explaining to do to Trump's fans. Pawlenty has called him "unhinged and unfit," while Johnson called him a "jackass." On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Walz (DFL-MN), state AG Lori Swanson, and state representative Erin Murphy are all running.

    Two vulnerable Democratic House seats are in play. Both districts voted for Trump. MN-01 is an R+5 district in southern Minnesota that Trump won. This is Tim Walz' district, but he is retiring to run for governor. Democrats are backing former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dan Feehan. Republicans have a two-way race between state senator Carla Nelson, a pro-Trump candidate, and Jim Hagedorn, who has twice before run for the seat and who almost won in 2016. The other House race of note is for the seat Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-MN) is vacating. The district is R+4, so it will be a serious battleground up there in the Iron Range. The top two Democrats in the race are former state representative Joe Radinovich and current state representative Jason Metsa, who has strong union support. Several other Democrats are also in the race, but they don't have much money. The Republican nominee will be retired police officer and Trump supporter Pete Stauber.

  • Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is running in the Democratic primary, but if he wins, he might not accept it since he likes being an independent. If he wins and declines the nomination, no Democrat will be on the ballot to pull votes away from him. The Republicans will undoubtedly find someone who has nothing better to do this fall than give some speeches before being crushed by Sanders in November.

    Although Vermont is a very liberal state, Governor Phil Scott is a Republican and is favored to win another 2-year term. Five Democrats are running for the Democratic Party nomination. If Ethan Sonneborn wins, the debates should be quite interesting, since Sonneborn is 14. Vermont does not have a minimum age for governor.

  • Wisconsin: Donald Trump is on the ballot in the Badger State. Technically, the Republicans who are running for the Senate nomination to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) are state senator Leah Vukmir and Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson, but Trump pervades the race. A video has emerged in which Vukmir blasted Trump as "offensive to everyone" at an event run by Charlie Sykes, a "Never Trumper." The state party nevertheless backs her. Nicholson is a conservative outsider who supports Trump and who is backed by conservative organizations.

    Wisconsin does not have term limits, so Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is going for a third term. Eight Democrats have signed up to try to win the right to oppose him. State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers is leading in the polls, and if he wins, he has a good shot at unseating the unpopular Walker.

    A House race that has attracted a lot of attention is the one to fill the seat of retiring Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). The main Democrats in the race are Randy Bryce, an ironworker with no previous political experience, and Cathy Myers, a member of the Janesville school board. In the Republican primary, Ryan's former staffer, attorney Bryan Steil, has the Speaker's blessing.

In all, a bunch of interesting races for Tuesday. (V)

A Year Later, What Is the Lesson from Charlottesville?

One year ago, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, VA, carrying semi-automatic rifles and chanting slogans like "White lives matter" and "Jews will not replace us." One counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed by a white supremacist who intentionally drove his car into a crowd. After the rally, Donald Trump said: "There are very fine people on both sides."

What lesson can we take from Charlottesville and Trump's reaction? To find out, Politico interviewed 16 knowledgeable people, including a former CIA director, social science researchers, religious leaders, and politicians. The results were published here. Below is a very brief summary.

Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of the CIA and of the NSA, said that before Charlottesville, America was an idea, adding: "But, for me, the president's response to Charlottesville put the concept of the nation as 'blood and soil' back into play for the first time since Appomattox." Hayden observed that Donald Trump's embrace of "blood and soil" has been reinforced by the President's approach toward immigrants, refugees, and other nations. The "blood and soil" concept, of course, was prominent in Hitler's rise to power.

Prof. Eddie Glaude of Princeton said: "Charlottesville did not change much. It only made explicit what many Americans—at least those who do not have their heads buried in the sand—already knew. Donald Trump rode the third rail of American racism straight to the White House, fueling anxieties, hatreds and fears along the way."

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) had this to say: "The deadly rally that occurred a year ago in Charlottesville was a reminder that some of the darkest parts of our nation's history—regarding racism, bigotry, and hate—are very much alive today."

Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said: "When 23 states pass voter suppression laws, purge voter rolls and draw racialized, gerrymandered districts, furthering the disenfranchisement of black, brown and white voters, that's racism."

Prof. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, which is located in the city where the march happened, said: "The lack of national leadership on this issue has been striking, and so disgraceful that any good history of the Trump administration will emphasize it."

However, all of the 16 people missed the real message of Charlottesville, something that Trump actually picked up on quickly. Namely, that he can support racism, bigotry, and even Nazis, and while he gets some bad PR for a week or two, his base sticks with him completely. He is focused like a laser on keeping 40-45% of the country in his camp and then using voter suppression techniques of various kinds to eke out another win in 2020. Nothing else matters to him. (V)

Charlottesville, Part II Fizzles

Yesterday, based on experts' predictions, we noted that white supremacists tend to turn into cowards when they know they are going to be challenged. This being the case, it was very likely that the organizers of "Unite the Right 2" were being overly optimistic when they estimated a turnout of 400 Neo-Nazis, klansmen, etc. Even with lowered expectations, however, Sunday's attendance was, by any measure, pathetic. Sorry, make that "Sad!" The actual number of white supremacists who showed up? About 20.

The counter-protesters were, as expected, out in force, with the result that non-supremacists outnumbered supremacists by a margin of something like 50 to 1. Given that, along with the aforementioned cowardice characteristic of Neo-Nazis, klansmen, etc., there were few confrontations and fewer arrests. Certainly no cars plowing into crowds or hospitalizations or deaths.

This means that the big story here is, not surprisingly, Donald Trump's response. Apparently he did not realize how anemic Sunday's event would be, and he decided to get out in front of it with a tweet on Saturday:

Trump could have just ignored the whole thing, something that would have been particularly easy to do if he had just waited and seen what a non-event Sunday was, but he chose not to do so. In any case, there would appear to be three basic ways to interpret this tweet:

  • Trump Just Doesn't Get It: When it comes to these particular groups, calling for unity makes no sense. White supremacists, by definition, have no interest in coming together with non-whites. And non-whites (along with many of their white allies), for their part, have no interest in coming together with white supremacists. He may have felt he had to say something, and decided that this sounded as good as anything.

  • Trump Gets It All Too Well: As noted above, the lesson of Charlottesville I was that Trump can say anything, and the base is unfazed. It may be that this was an opportunity for Trump to send a dog whistle, and to let the racists among his base know that he's still with them. After all, there's only one type of racism, and when Trump refers to "all types of racism," that is code for: "I believe white people are often victims of racism, too."

  • Trump Is Trying to Thread a Needle, Badly: There is no question that Trump needed votes from racists to get elected. There is also no question that he needed votes from non-racists to get elected. He may be trying to reach out to both sides at the same time with a kumbayah kind of message. The problem, as noted above, is that the racists don't particularly want to come together with the rest of the country (i.e., people of color, immigrants, lib'ruls), and the non-racists are likely to know a poorly-executed dog whistle when they see one. So, if Trump was trying to please both elements within his base, he almost certainly failed on both counts.

In any event, given the anemic turnout on the white supremacist side on Sunday, it is fairly safe to say that we won't be seeing a "Unite the Right 3" on August 12 of next year. So, this is likely the end of the line for this particular story. (Z)

Over 100 Newspapers Will Fight Back on Trump's Attacking the Media

The Boston Globe has lined up over 100 newspapers to publish editorials on Thursday pushing back against Donald Trump's attacks on the media. Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe's deputy editorial page editor, said: "The response has been overwhelming. We have some big newspapers, but the majority are from smaller markets, all enthusiastic about standing up to Trump's assault on journalism."

Trump often calls news he doesn't like "fake news," and has repeatedly called the media "the enemy of the people." Authoritarian leaders almost always do this, to silence their critics. Each paper will write its own editorial in its own words and from its own experience, but many papers are likely to talk about the First Amendment and the freedom of the press as a founding principle of democracy. (V)

The Trump Jr. Follies Continue

While playing armchair psychologist can be a dubious game sometimes, it is crystal clear that Donald Trump Jr. desperately craves his father's approval, and also that he loves attention almost as much as his pop does. Consequently, young Trump is quick to jump on social media to post just about anything pro-daddy that he can, without necessarily looking carefully at what he's posting (is it doctored?), where it came from (white supremacists?), or even if the thing makes sense.

This weekend, Don Jr. stepped in it again, with this Instagram post (which, after getting mocked even by Republicans, he ultimately deleted):

Send in the clowns

The careful reader might notice a few problems here. Like, for example, that a 50% approval rating is not exactly something to celebrate, and is not evidence of a "magic wand." There's also the misspelling of 'America.' But most egregious of all, noticeable to anyone with 20/400 vision or better, is that the graphic has been clumsily Photoshopped. The angle and size on the font for Trump Sr.'s approval rating doesn't match the rest of the text, and the fire-engine red box behind it doesn't exactly blend with the maroon background.

Here, for reference, is the actual graphic. Note Trump's correct approval rating:

actual graphic, Trump at 40%

But Photoshop skills aside, the numbers are all wrong. For starters, FiveThirtyEight puts Trump's current weighted approval at 42%. When Obama left office, his approval was 63%, better than Bill Clinton, Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Trump is better than Nixon but worse than all other presidents back to John F. Kennedy. So compared to Obama, Trump is 21 points lower.

Now unemployment. It is true that unemployment has gone down since Trump took over, simply because he inherited a good economy and hasn't wrecked it yet, despite starting a trade war. But when Obama left office, unemployment was 4.8% and falling not 9.4%. The 9.4% figure is the rate at the height of the recession, which Obama inherited from George W. Bush.

As to jobs, it is true that the U.S. economy has added 3.2 million jobs since Trump took over. But 2.9 million job losses under Obama only reflects his first year when, when George W. Bush's recession was still raging. To get a better idea of Obama and the economy, we need to look at his whole period in office. In his 8 years, the economy added 11 million jobs, most of them (10 million) during his second term, after the recession ended and his policies took hold.

Next the deficit. Trump likes to talk about his tax cut. But he rarely talks about the deficit it will cause. This year's deficit is projected to be $804 billion. Next year's will be $981 billion, and by 2020 the CBO projects a trillion-dollar deficit. By way of comparison, in Obama's last year in office, the deficit was $585 billion, not $936 billion, so it is on course to more than double by the end of Trump's first term.

Finally, GDP growth. While the economy did grow by 4.1% in the last report, compared to the months before it, that appears to be an outlier. For 2018 as a whole, economic growth has been 2.8%. In 2016, it grew by 1.6%, so indeed it is better now than in 2016, but by 1.2%, not 2.5% as shown in the graphic. In short, by cherry picking numbers (and making them up where needed), one can give the impression that the economy has been wildly successful this year and dreadful during Obama's term, but the reality is that it was only terrible in the first two years of Obama's term due to the Bush recession. In Obama's second term it did fine, leading to the expansion Trump inherited. When looking at economic (and other) numbers, always remember, figures don't lie, but liars figure.

In any event, the whole incident makes Trump Jr. look either kind of dumb or kind of dishonest. Neither is a good look for someone who might well find himself under indictment, with his credibility on the line, in the near future. Meanwhile, this raises two (admittedly brutal) questions that are hard to answer now, but will undoubtedly be fodder for future historians. The first is: Is Don Sr. proud of his son, or is he embarrassed by him? Given their fraught personal history, either is possible. The second is: Is Eric actually the "dumb one"? That's the rep that the brothers Trump have developed, as seen on "Saturday Night Live" and other comedic shows. However, one cannot help but notice that at least Eric knows enough to keep his lips zipped. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug12 Omarosa Was Telling the Truth about the Hush Money
Aug12 Charlottesville Back on Deck Today
Aug12 Chris Collins Will End Re-Election Bid
Aug12 Today's Swamp News, Part I: Wilbur Ross the Grifter
Aug12 Today's Swamp News, Part II: Who's Really Running the VA?
Aug12 Realignment Was on Full Display in Ohio Special Election
Aug12 Paul Ryan Nears the End of the Line
Aug11 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Slams Omarosa Manigault-Newman's Not-Yet-Published Book
Aug11 Manafort Trial: Judge's Errors, Mystery Conference
Aug11 Trump Uses Market Pain to Get His Way around the World
Aug11 Unfortunately, Market Pain Doesn't Work with North Korea
Aug11 Judge Holds Roger Stone's Aide in Contempt of Court
Aug11 Trump vs. NFL Enters Year Two
Aug11 National Republicans Want Trump to Endorse Martha McSally
Aug11 Cruz Is Getting Nervous
Aug10 Devin Nunes: GOP Has to Keep the House to Protect Trump
Aug10 Pence Announces "Space Force" Proposal
Aug10 Kobach's Lead Is Cut in Half
Aug10 Morrisey Is Struggling against Manchin
Aug10 Democrats Still Don't Get the White Working Class
Aug10 Time for Pelosi to Go?
Aug10 Bill Nelson Claims that Russians Have Penetrated Florida Voter Registration Systems
Aug10 "Chain Migration" Is Alive and Well
Aug09 Takeaways from Tuesday's Elections
Aug09 Gates' Testimony Concludes, Bank Fraud Likely to Be Next Up in Manafort Trial
Aug09 Michael Cohen Isn't the Only One with a Tape Recorder
Aug09 China Makes Tit-for-Tat Official
Aug09 Trump Administration Hits Russia with More Sanctions
Aug09 As Many as 66 Republican Districts Could Flip
Aug09 Why Trump Wants to Talk to Mueller
Aug09 Republican Congressman Is Charged with Securities Fraud
Aug09 Republicans Are Worried about Losses in State Legislatures
Aug09 Which Trifectas Are Within Reach for the Democrats?
Aug08 Overall, a Solid Night for the Democrats
Aug08 Gates Continues to Dish on Manafort
Aug08 Next Round of Tariffs on Chinese Goods Revealed
Aug08 Cohen Is Under Investigation for Tax Fraud
Aug08 Trump Has Raised $135 Million, Much of it for His Reelection
Aug08 Corporations Have Discovered the Democrats
Aug08 Nearly Half of Republicans Want the President to Be Able to Ban News Outlets
Aug07 Gates Levels Manafort from the Witness Stand
Aug07 Trump Reinstates Some Sanctions on Iran
Aug07 Trump Endorses Kobach
Aug07 Big Tech Declares War on Alex Jones
Aug07 Trump Scorches Jerry Brown
Aug07 West Virginia to Introduce Smartphone Voting App
Aug07 Karl Rove: Trump Shouldn't Be Talking about a Red Wave
Aug07 There Was a Small Blue Wave in Tennessee Last Week
Aug06 Trump Throws His Son Under the Bus
Aug06 Trump Doesn't Seem to Get It