• Kelly's Demise Is Official
• Republicans in Denial, Part 1: The Comey Hearing
• Republicans in Denial, Part 2: Rasmussen and the Midterms
• Republicans in Denial, Part 3: California
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: John Delaney
Donald Trump and every other Republican in the country have had some time to digest the latest filings from special counsel Robert Mueller and from his colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. And none of them are too happy about the news.
Trump, for his part, responded the way he generally does when he's really upset (and scared); he went on Twitter to obfuscate and to counter-punch:
“This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here. At this late date, after all that we have gone through, after millions have been spent, we have no Russian Collusion. There is nothing impeachable here.” @GeraldoRivera Time for the Witch Hunt to END!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
Watched Da Nang Dick Blumenthal on television spewing facts almost as accurate as his bravery in Vietnam (which he never saw). As the bullets whizzed by Da Nang Dicks head, as he was saving soldiers....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
....left and right, he then woke up from his dream screaming that HE LIED. Next time I go to Vietnam I will ask “the Dick” to travel with me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018
One assumes that this is a test run for "collusion illusion," and that we'll be hearing that a lot more if it catches on. As to Geraldo Rivera, he went on a Twitter tear of his own on Saturday, and made all sorts of declarations like "There is 0 chance @realDonaldTrump can or will be indicted" and "Findings of more extensive contacts between @POTUS& Russia are embarrassing but not criminal" and "Heather Nauert is a great choice to represent us in the United Nations." The latter observation has nothing to do with Mueller, of course, but it does show that Rivera (a Fox News employee) knows what side his bread is buttered on these days, and that he frames his "analysis" accordingly.
As to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Trump is referring to the fact that the Senator called him an "unindicted co-conspirator." This is not a particularly provocative thing for Blumenthal to say; Mueller's filings on Cohen refer repeatedly to "individual #1," which could only be Trump, and which has already become a meme. For example:
Still, Trump needed a target, and Blumenthal was available, and so it goes. The "Da Nang Dick" bit, of course, is a slur on Blumenthal's having avoided service on the warfront in Vietnam, and then having lied about it. The President does not seem to know or care that every time he blasts someone else's avoidance of that war, he also brings attention to his own draft-dodging.
Trump's response is not at all surprising. First of all, because this is what he does. Second, because he has no political career to worry about, since he never wanted to be a politician, and he has (at most) one more election in his future, during which he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, while lying in bed with a live boy, a dead girl, a goat, Vlad Putin, and three porn stars, and 40% of the country would still vote for him. Many other Republicans, by contrast, cannot be so sanguine. For them, their anxiety levels are going up, up, up. They recognize that it's not just Trump himself who is at risk, but that he could take the GOP down with him. And, making things worse, the President is not preparing in any meaningful way for what's coming. Instead of establishing a "war room" within the White House that coordinates political and legal strategy, and makes sure that important developments are responded to in a meaningful way, Team Trump has adopted a bunker mentality and is basically just winging it. "A war room? You serious?" said one former White House official. "They've never had one, will never have one. They don't know how to do one."
And those Republicans who are getting nervous are not going to be happy about what John Dean had to say on Saturday. Dean knows a little something about presidencies going down in flames, as he was at the center of the Watergate scandal (as White House counsel), and ended up doing a little time in Club Fed himself (for obstruction of justice). His conclusion, after reviewing Friday's filings: "I think what this totality of today's filings show (is) that the House is going to have little choice, the way this is going, other than to start impeachment proceedings." Dean is a Republican, but one who has no dog in this particular fight. Readers can decide for themselves whether his assessment is more or less reliable than that of Geraldo Rivera, a man whose biggest claims to fame in the last 10 years are a second-place finish on the Celebrity Apprentice, and a last-place finish on Dancing with the Stars. (Z)
It's been rumored for months that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was a dead man walking, and for the last week his demise has been regarded as imminent, especially since he doesn't even speak to his boss anymore. In contrast to DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, there will be no return from the brink for Kelly, as Donald Trump made his departure official on Saturday. Kelly will remain until the end of the year, though it's anyone's guess as to why. Maybe he just really likes the White House gym.
The expected replacement for Kelly is Nick Ayers, who currently serves in the same capacity for VP Mike Pence. However, there is a small fly in the ointment. Ayers does not particularly want to live in Washington anymore, and wants to move back to Georgia so his young children can be closer to their relatives. He has offered to take over for Kelly for a short while, until a permanent replacement can be found, but Trump wants a two-year commitment. So, we shall see if they can work it out. Perhaps Ayers will be swayed by the fact that he'd actually be spending about half his time in Florida, which is right next door to Georgia. (Z)
After the GOP took a thrashing in 2012, party pooh-bahs commissioned an "autopsy" to figure out what had gone wrong, and how the Party could right the ship in future elections. It did them some good, apparently, as they had a good 2014 and a very good 2016. This year, however, they have taken another shellacking. And as we have observed, the Party seems to have little interest in figuring out what happened this time around. Instead of asking, "Why did we lose?" the question is something more like "How can we convince ourselves that we didn't really lose, and that we should stay the course?" Several news items from Friday and Saturday illustrate the pattern.
The first, and perhaps clearest, indication that the GOP is not being self-critical enough is former FBI Director James Comey's appearance before the House Oversight Committee on Friday. As everyone knows at this point, the Republicans have their hands on the levers of power in the House for about two more weeks. So, time is precious, and one would think they would want to squeeze every last drop out of their remaining time in power, since it could be a while before the GOP has the House again. But, as Comey revealed in his post-testimony press conference, the primary topic of conversation was...Hillary Clinton's e-mails. "After a full day of questioning, two things are clear to me: One, we could have done this in (an) open setting," he declared. "And two: When you read the transcript, you will see that we are talking again about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, for heaven's sakes." He's not lying; the transcript was released on Saturday, and Hillary Clinton was mentioned over 100 times, while e-mail was mentioned over 50 times.
The GOP has had a fair bit of success running against Hillary Clinton, not only as a person, but as a big, scary symbol of everything wrong with the Democratic Party (as they see it). However, Clinton is no longer in politics, and is not too likely to return. The Democrats, to their credit, have realized that they cannot make "we're not Trump" their central issue, and expect to win. They've got to offer more than that, and most Democratic officeholders (and aspiring officeholders) are clearly trying to do so. The Republicans, by contrast, appear to be far too wedded to "We're not Hillary" for their own good. (Z)
Donald Trump's favorite pollster is Rasmussen Reports. This is because they always have his approval ratings higher than anyone else, and they are generally the only polling house that has him above water or, at least, nearly so (we explained recently why this happens). He's not the only one; Republicans of all stripes (particularly including Fox News pundits) point to Rasmussen as the place for getting the "unskewed" truth about what people are thinking.
On Saturday, CNN's polling guru Harry Enten published his assessment of Rasmussen's midterm performance. It's not pretty, as they were far and away the most inaccurate of all major pollsters. Specifically, they had the GOP winning the overall House vote by 1 point. In reality, the Democrats won, and by almost 9 points. That means Rasmussen was off by nearly 10 points. That's really bad. In fact, it's disastrous. For any other polling house, that might even be enough to put them out of business.
The point here is not to slam Rasmussen, though. It's to point out that polls don't generally shape voters' feelings, they reflect them. And any Republican, from Donald Trump on down, who gloms onto a poll that is too optimistic is necessarily convincing themselves that things are going better than is actually the case. That is not a way to win elections. (Z)
And finally, let's take a look at California, where the GOP got some of its worst news of the cycle, losing every House seat in the onetime Republican bastion of Orange County. This result was entirely foreseeable, as we (and everyone else) had multiple items about the GOP's loss of the suburbs in general, and of the Orange County suburbs, in particular. Many GOP muckety-mucks were nonetheless caught unaware, their disappointment made worse by the fact that several districts did not flip until after all the absentee ballots were counted.
Now, a narrative (with Fox News toting much of the water) is emerging that "explains" how the GOP didn't lose Orange County as much as they were cheated out of it. The key to this theory is a change in the California election codes—AB1921, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) two years ago. Previously, only family members of absentee voters were allowed to deliver ballots to polling places on behalf of a voter. AB1921 allows anyone, including paid political operatives, to do so. And Republicans are claiming that Democrats "abused" the new law, with some blue-team operatives gathering ballots by the hundreds (known as "ballot harvesting"), in order to win all those House elections.
There is some truth here, in that Democratic operatives really did engage in ballot harvesting. And, on the surface, it looks a little shady, since the practice bears a passing similarity to what happened in NC-09 (where the election may well be voided). Two problems, though. First, in NC-09, there is compelling evidence that some (or many) fraudulent Republican ballots were cast, and that some (or many) legitimate Democratic ballots were thrown in the garbage. There's no evidence that such things happened in California. The other problem is that both state parties in California appreciated the significance of AB1921, and so both engaged in ballot harvesting. The Democrats just did a better job of it, aided by the fact that momentum was on their side. "To say we were caught flat-footed by this is just not true," Matt Fleming, a spokesman for the California GOP, said. "We were well aware of this, we even did it ourselves, we pay attention to election laws."
The upshot here, and with Rasmussen, and the Comey testimony, is that the GOP certainly appears to be in "sticking its head in the sand" mode. That is not too surprising, given that the most prominent member of the Party is the ostrich-in-chief. And maybe, once the shock of the midterms has worn off (or, once the S.S. Trump starts to take on more water), Republicans will start to get real about 2020, and to figure out what they can do to course-correct. If not, then they are helping set themselves up for another very bad Tuesday night in November. (Z)
This week, we go with one of the only major Democrats who has already thrown their hat into the ring.
- Full Name: John Kevin Delaney
- Age on January 20, 2021: 57
- Background: The grandson of immigrants, Delaney's father was a
lifelong union man (a "60-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers," brags
the candidate's website). Delaney worked alongside his old man during the summers (and sometimes
during the school year), and so learned the ins and outs of blue-collar life firsthand. An excellent
student, he attended Columbia University for his BA and Georgetown for his JD, supported (in part)
by scholarships from his dad's union. After, he launched a career as an entrepreneur, and founded
two companies (Health Care Financial Partners and CapitalSource) that are now traded on the NYSE.
That success means he's one of the richest members of Congress, with a net worth in the realm of
$100 million. He's also the only current member of the House to have been CEO of a publicly-traded
- Political Experience: In 2012, backed by the millions in his bank
account, Delaney decided to give politics a try. He knocked off 10-term Republican incumbent Roscoe
Bartlett in MD-06, aided significantly by the fact that the district had just been redrawn to be
more Democrat-friendly. He was reelected twice, and then decided not to run again this year in order
to focus on his presidential run.
- Signature Issue(s): Election reform. During his time in Congress, Delaney has
been a leading voice for fairer elections, and introduced the
Open Our Democracy Act,
which would end gerrymandering nationwide, make Election Day a national holiday, and turn all primaries
into jungle primaries.
- Instructive Quote: "I also think, and I think right now in particular
this is true, what my party, the Democratic Party, should be is a big tent party. We should be a
party that's welcoming of progressives, moderates, independents and even disaffected Republicans,
because there's a huge coalition of voters in this country who actually agree with each other on so
many important things we should be doing for our future."
- Completely Trivial Fact: If Delaney wins the presidency, he will
be only the third person to go from being a member of the House to being president with no
other political office in between. The others are Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield.
Presumably, he would be hoping that his presidency does not end in the same way that
- Recent News: Delaney has really made Iowa into a second home.
Or maybe his primary home, with Maryland knocked to second on the list. This week, he was there
marking his twentieth visit to the Hawkeye State this year.
- Three Biggest Pros: (1) Election reform is an issue that looks like it
could be a big winner in 2020; (2) If the Democrats decide to try to win back blue-collar white
ethnics, Delaney is a good guy to do it; and (3) If America wants another businessman president,
Delaney is one whose success is real and measurable.
- Three Biggest Cons: (1) Another unknown white guy from Maryland named
Martin?; (2) Delaney is one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, according to those who
measure these things, which is probably not a selling point in the current political climate; and
(3) Delaney sometimes says odd things when the cameras are on, like comparing himself to the guy who
stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square.
- Is He Actually Running?: Yes. He was the first serious Democrat to
formally announce, and
in July of last year. He's got a campaign website, of course; it is
- Betting Odds: He's getting 100-to-1 at every book that has him listed.
Our calculator is in the repair shop, but we believe that translates into a 1% chance of landing the
- The Bottom Line: He's running the Jimmy Carter playbook: Get going early, win Iowa and surprise some people, and then build on that momentum to win some primaries and become the frontrunner. The problem is that while that formula worked for the peanut farmer 40 years ago, it hasn't been replicated since. Dick Gephardt (1988), Tom Harkin (1992), Mike Huckabee (2008), Rick Santorum (2012), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX, 2016) could share a few insights about whether an Iowa caucus win really sets you up to claim your party's nomination.
You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec08 Trump Picks William Barr as Attorney General
Dec08 Nauert Under Scrutiny
Dec08 Kelly Is No Longer on Speaking Terms with Trump
Dec08 Pelosi Suggests Two New Members of the House Might Not Be Seated
Dec08 Trump Advisers Fear a Recession by 2020
Dec08 Tillerson Unloads on Trump and Vice Versa
Dec07 Supreme Court Hears a Double Jeopardy Case
Dec07 Arrest of Chinese Executive Makes a Messy Situation Messier
Dec07 Trump Employs an Undocumented Housekeeper
Dec07 Haley Replacement: It's Nauert, of Course
Dec07 Manchin Will Be Ranking Member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee
Dec07 Trump Tries to Save Coal, Is Doomed to Fail
Dec07 Valadao Concedes
Dec06 Bush Is Memorialized, and Yet Trump Becomes the Story
Dec06 Takeaways from Mueller's Memo about Michael Flynn
Dec06 Maryland and D.C. AGs Subpoena Trump's Businesses
Dec06 Roger Stone Keeps Seeking the Limelight
Dec06 Two Down, 40 to Go
Dec06 Sanders Looks to Be Gearing up for 2020, but Maybe He Shouldn't
Dec06 Thursday Q&A
Dec05 Flynn Spilled His Guts
Dec05 NRCC Says it Was Hacked
Dec05 Trump: I Am the "Tariff Man"
Dec05 Trade War Has Cost Nebraska Farmers a Billion Dollars So Far
Dec05 GOP Senators Are Hopping Mad About Saudi Arabia
Dec05 Democrats Lost Florida Because They Took Latinos for Granted
Dec05 Democratic Governors: Opposing Trump Is Not Enough
Dec05 House Democrats May Not Seat Mark Harris in January
Dec04 Trump Wants to Withdraw from NAFTA
Dec04 Nielsen Appears Safe for Now
Dec04 Trump Attacks Cohen, Praises Stone
Dec04 Bush Wanted Trump at His Funeral
Dec04 Republican Legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin Try to Weaken Incoming Governor
Dec04 NC-09 Just Keeps Getting Shadier
Dec04 Iowa Democratic Leaders Want a Young 2020 Candidate
Dec03 The Real Reason the Government Shutdown Has Been Delayed
Dec03 Senate to Take up Saudi Arabia Punishment
Dec03 Trump Is Embedded in a Culture of Lying
Dec03 The New Senate Will Be Even Friendlier to Trump than the Old One
Dec03 No Autopsy This Time
Dec03 Comey and Goodlatte Reach a Deal
Dec03 Harris to Decide on a Run over the Holidays
Dec03 Monday Q&A
Dec02 Trump and Xi Make Nice
Dec02 Mattis: Russia Tried to Interfere in Midterms
Dec02 Bush Plans Come into Focus
Dec02 Replacing Nikki is Tricky
Dec02 Pelosi Promotes Barbara Lee
Dec02 Six White House Officials Violated the Hatch Act