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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Winners and Losers from the Fight over Kavanaugh
      •  Trump Will Reportedly Meet with Kim Again
      •  Times' Reporting on Trump's Taxes Isn't Finished
      •  Candidates for Whom Trump Has Held Rallies
      •  Charlie Cook's House Ratings
      •  Republicans Rule
      •  As Maine Goes, So Goes the Nation
      •  Booker Launches His Presidential Campaign
      •  Today's Senate Polls

PW logo More Than $4 Million Raised to Oppose Collins
Trump Campaign Aide Sought Online Manipulation Plans
Alaska GOP Weighs Actions Against Murkowski
Majority Oppose Kavanaugh
The Corruption of the GOP Is Complete
McConnell Says GOP Senators Were ‘Under Assault’

Winners and Losers from the Fight over Kavanaugh

Every major battle in Congress produces winners and losers, and the confirmation battle over now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh is no exception. The Hill has a compact list of winners and losers from this one as follows.

  • Mitch McConnell: Conservatives never liked the Majority Leader much because he sometimes cut deals with the Democrats, but after delivering them two very conservative Supreme Court justices, he now ranks up there with Jesus and Ronald Reagan. Ultimately, what counts is whether you deliver, and McConnell delivered on the judges. Also on tax cuts. The carping may not stop entirely, but conservatives now know when the chips are down, he's their man.

  • GOP Senate majority: The Republican caucus held together, except for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who paired with the absent Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and voted "present." There are signs that the affair revved up the Republican base in many critical states. Of course, the election is in 4 weeks, which in politics is a long time x 4. Still, the Republicans probably increased the chances of holding their majority in the Senate.

  • House Democrats: While the Kavanaugh confirmation fight may have helped Senate Republicans, it absolutely helped House Democrats because it fired up many college-educated women in swing districts that Republicans are probably going to lose now (see below). In particular, there is now a good chance Democrats will pick up four to six districts in California alone.

  • Donald Trump: He promised to appoint pro-life judges and justices and he came through. In 2020, he is going to make fulfillment of his promise a big part of his reelection campaign. His base will be extremely happy and unlikely to desert him no matter what special counsel Robert Mueller reports.
  • House Republicans: They could lose their grip on power as a result of the Kavanaugh hearings. Is that worth it? Maybe, but a lot depends on what future Democratic committee chairmen do with their newfound subpoena power. The ranking members may not like it.

  • The FBI: Republicans have long been complaining that the FBI is political (as a result of text messages between two anti-Trump lovebird agents). Now Democrats are accusing it of carrying out a sham investigation of whether Kavanaugh attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford as a teenager. It is never good for an agency to have both Democrats and Republicans think it is partisan, even if they each cherry pick different facts to base that on.

  • Senate moderates: They are no more. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) talk a great game about how moderation and respect are so awfully important and then they go and vote the party line. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had the courage of her convictions, but ultimately got lucky and was able to vote "present" instead of "no." The center didn't hold. In fact, there is no center anymore.

  • Michael Avenatti: He has been denounced by many people on both sides of the aisle for teasing about another witness and then bringing forward someone who claimed that Kavanaugh spiked the punch at parties, which led to girls being gang raped. In the short term, this had the effect of weakening the claims of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, whose accounts were less outlandish, and were better supported by evidence. On the other hand, The FBI never even attempted to verify Avenatti's client's claims. If a House committee does so next year and they are corroborated, he could yet end up a winner.

  • America: There is no doubt that the country is more polarized than ever, with facts and the truth basically irrelevant now. Almost everyone is on one side or the other and nothing is going to change that anytime soon. The only good news on this front is that it's been worse. The country was surely even more divided in 1860, and what happened next wasn't terribly pleasant, what with 750,000 American soldiers dying in a brutal war over the next 5 years. Hopefully we can get though this one with fewer deaths.

There you have it. Probably the long-term damage to America is the worst of all, and it could have been completely avoided. All that would have been necessary is for Trump to have withdrawn Kavanaugh's nomination after Ford's letter came out, and to replace him with an equally conservative nominee with fewer skeletons in his closet. But giving in is something Trump sees as a fatal weakness, because the weak are eaten. Always. (V)

Trump Will Reportedly Meet with Kim Again

The on-again, off-again relationship between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is back on again. They had "productive" meetings on Sunday, according to the Secretary, and agreed to a second Trump-Kim summit "at the earliest possible date," once "working-level negotiating teams" can hammer out the relevant details.

Needless to say, diplomacy is almost always a good thing, and this is big enough news that it cannot simply be overlooked. However, it is also hard to take it all that seriously, for three reasons. First, the Trump administration has, more than once, pitched a fit and canceled a meeting with Kim at the last minute. So, any plans for a summit should be considered soft until Trump's plane actually touches down in the same country as Kim's. Second, Kim and his family have spent decades promising one thing and then doing another, and there has yet to be any indication that is going to change. Third, the two sides aren't even in the same ballpark as regards endgame, since they have radically different definitions of "denuclearization." Until all three of these issues are meaningfully addressed, one should regard Trump-Kim summits as nothing more than PR opportunities for participants on both sides. (Z)

Times' Reporting on Trump's Taxes Isn't Finished

You may have thought that after issuing forth with a 13,000-word article laying bare all sorts of Trump family tax shenanigans, the Times would be done with that particular story. And, if so, you thought wrong. In a declaration that surely must make the President shudder, lead reporter Susanne Craig told CNN on Sunday that, "We've got more leads and more string to pull. We're just going to keep going on it. There's a lot of information that we've been given." Oh, and for those who are not big newspaper readers, there is also a 30-minute video about the story that is in the works, and that will be disseminated widely via YouTube and other social media platforms.

Nobody outside the NYT offices, of course, knows exactly what they've got up their sleeves. However, one can only imagine that someone willing to commit tax fraud in the 1980s and early 1990s was willing to keep doing so in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Meanwhile, just about everyone who's taken a look at the Trump Organization's business sees a lot of indications of money laundering, so that could be another line of inquiry.

Meanwhile, the current situation grows more and more similar to Watergate every day. In Nixon's case, he was hounded by newspaper reporters (particularly Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein), and by a special investigator working for the FBI, and by Congress. Eventually, it was too much, and he gave up. Donald Trump is now being hounded by newspaper reporters (including Bob Woodward, back for another go-round), and by a special investigator working for the FBI. In just over four weeks, there's a very good chance that Congress (at least, one chamber of Congress) will join the list, and Trump will have the Tricky Dick trifecta. Will the heat eventually grow to the point that Trump feels the need to get out of the kitchen? For what it is worth, 782 days elapsed between the Watergate break-in and Nixon's resignation. Donald Trump is currently in the 626th day of his presidency. (Z)

Candidates for Whom Trump Has Held Rallies

Donald Trump doesn't like governing much, but he really, really enjoys campaigning, especially for himself, but also for other Republicans. The Washington Post compiled a list of candidates for whom Trump has held rallies so far. More are expected in the coming month. He has also mentioned some of these folks in speeches, tweets, and at events. After the midterms, it will be interesting to see how many of his endorsees won. First, here is the list of Senate candidates he has campaigned for. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk. The colors indicate which party controls the seat now:

State Candidate Rallies Mentions in speeches Tweets Other Total
Pennsylvania Lou Barletta 1 3 7 2 13
Montana Matt Rosendale 2 1 3 2 8
North Dakota Kevin Cramer 1 2 2 3 8
Nevada Dean Heller* 1 2 2 2 7
Tennessee Marsha Blackburn 2 1 3 1 7
Missouri Josh Hawley 1 2 2 1 6
West Virginia Patrick Morrisey 2 1 3 0 6
Ohio Jim Renacci 1 1 1 3 6
Florida Rick Scott 1 2 0 2 5
Mississippi Roger Wicker* 1 2 0 1 4
Indiana Mike Braun 2 1 0 0 3
Mississippi Cindy Hyde-Smith* 1 0 1 1 3
Minnesota Karin Housley 1 1 0 0 2

Now the list of House candidates:

District PVI Candidate Rallies Speech mentions Tweets Other Total
NV-03 R+2 Danny Tarkanian 1 1 4 0 6
SC-01 R+10 Katie Arrington 1 1 3 0 5
WV-03 R+23 Carol Miller 2 1 0 1 4
MN-01 R+5 Jim Hagedorn 1 0 1 0 2
MN-02 R+2 Jason Lewis* 1 0 1 0 2
MT-AL R+11 Greg Gianforte* 1 0 0 0 1

What can we learn from Trump's choices? First, he prefers Senate candidates. That seems reasonable since the Senate is somewhat more important than the House on account of its power to advise and consent on judicial appointments (although the House has the sole power to impeach federal officials). Second, his choice of Senate candidates for whom he has held rallies was not compiled by an expert. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) does not need any help and Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) is already a lost cause, for example. He also missed Arizona, but could yet go there, of course.

On House races, Trump is batting .500 on where to campaign. Arrington, Gianforte, and Miller are in such red districts that they don't need any help. If he thinks they do, the blue wave is going to be a massive tsunami. It probably isn't, and even if it is, there are better places to spend time than in R+23 districts. And while the other districts are competitive, they aren't the most competitive ones. Besides, given the importance of the Senate and how bad the House looks, it might be wiser for Trump to just skip House races altogether and focus entirely on the half dozen or so Senate races in which a Democrat is running in a state he won. But logic and political strategy aren't Trump's strong points. (V)

Charlie Cook's House Ratings

There are two ways to look at the House elections: macro and micro. The macro way looks at the generic poll, the president's popularity, historical factors, etc. The micro way examines all 435 House races one at a time. Election guru Charlie Cook does the latter. He has 182 races solid for the Democrats and 145 solid for the Republicans. Here are all the others.

Charlie Cook

What strikes one first is the sea of red. This is not a good thing for the Republicans, because it means that a huge number of Republican-held seats are in play. Four Republican seats are likely Democratic, almost certainly meaning they are lost. Another 11 Republican seats are leaning Democratic, which means they are probably lost. That's 15 total, only 8 short of what the Democrats need to flip the House. Next we have 31 toss-up seats, of which 29 are currently held by Republicans. If they split evenly, say 15 for the Democrats and 16 for the Republicans, the Democrats net 30 seats, which is enough. But historically, toss-ups rarely split evenly. One side usually wins two-thirds or more. So if Cook is right, the Democratic pickup could be in the mid 30s.

What is the most surprising about this table is how few Democrats are in danger. Two Democratic seats in Minnesota are toss-ups, but only one Democratic seat even leans Republican (the newly created open PA-14). Cook could be way off base, but this is not a good omen for the GOP since Cook follows all the races very carefully and the Kavanaugh fall-out is likely to exacerbate the GOP's problems in the House. (V)

Republicans Rule

Not for decades, if ever, has the Republican Party had so much power as it has right now. It completely dominates government at almost all levels (except for mayors in big cities). The GOP controls the White House, both chambers of Congress, and now the Supreme Court, But that is not all. They also have 33 of the governors' mansions and the trifecta of the governor's mansion and both chambers of the state legislature in 25 states (plus de facto Nebraska, whose unicameral legislature is theoretically nonpartisan, but not really). They also have 4104 of the 7183 seats in the state legislatures, close to a record. If you are a Republican, what's not to like?

Well, one thing that might make you a bit uneasy is the midterm election coming up 4 weeks from tomorrow. There are many indications that Democrats will take back the House and they will certainly take back somewhere between 5-12 governorships, plus quite a few seats in the state legislatures. There is even a small chance they might take back the Senate, but that hinges on red-state Republican voters feeling that their work is done now that Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, and so not bothering to vote.

In the longer run, when a party has close to absolute power, the voters expect them to carry out their program, and they will be judged by it. If they do, 2020 will be a good year for the GOP, otherwise not. Also, the stock market is close to its longest bull market in history. If the bears suddenly show up and chase the bulls away, everything could change on a dime. (V)

As Maine Goes, So Goes the Nation

Maine used to be a bellwether and even held its elections in September instead of November, so people could use its results to predict what was coming up for the rest of the country two months later. But that is not true any longer and that is not what we are talking about here, anyhow. What we are interested in is the crowdpac funding site in which opponents of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination have pledged $3.5 million to defeat Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) if she voted to confirm Kavanaugh, which she did. Now her Democratic opponent will start out with $3.5 million, without having to make a single phone call.

But who's to say this technique will stop with Collins and Maine? Suppose the Democrats win the House and introduce a Medicare-for-all bill. And suppose that opponents of the bill then set up crowdpac or gofundme campaigns to raise money for the future opponents of Democrats in conservative districts if they vote "yes"? Then suppose Sheldon Adelson or other Republican megadonors drop, say, $5 million in each of those campaigns? What effect will that have on the votes of the Democrats affected?

In short, this new technique didn't work to sway Collins, but it could become the new normal with crowdfunding, either by small donors or large donors, every time there is a contentious vote in the House or Senate. Up until now, outside groups have poured money into campaigns, but pouring money into pre-campaign pots to try to influence specific votes on specific issues breaks new ground, and the results could amplify the already considerable effect money has on politics. It's probably not a good thing. (V)

Booker Launches His Presidential Campaign

The 2020 presidential campaign season is upon us already. Usually presidential hopefuls waited at least until the day after the midterms. No more. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who has been champing at the bit for months, roared into Iowa and gave a barnburner of a speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner to a huge Democratic crowd that ate it up. New Jersey senatorial campaigns aren't usually fought in Des Moines, but another campaign most definitely is, and Iowans are fully aware of it. So Booker is in. In addition to his visit to Iowa, Booker has visited 15 other states lately, none of whom are chock-a-block with New Jerseyites. So make no mistake: Booker is running for president.

The reason he is starting so early is that he got in quite a few potshots at Brett Kavanaugh in the recent hearings and wants to make his start while Democrats remember it. After the midterms, the other 30 or 40 possible candidates will start showing up in Iowa to praise ethanol subsidies and trash tariffs on pork.

As we have pointed out before and will again, there are two paths open to the Democrats in 2020. They could try to win back the angry white men in the Midwest. That could best be attempted by running a progressive, pro-union middle-aged white guy from the Midwest (paging Sherrod Brown). The other path is to concede the Midwest and let the angry white men there just stew, and try to put the Obama coalition together again and focus on winning North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. That's Booker's plan. How the Democratic primary voters feel about this is something we won't know for quite a while though. (V)

Today's Senate Polls

We remain a little bit leery of these YouGov polls. The organization that runs them is legitimate and unbiased but these are Internet polls, so the trick is to correct for sampling bias (too many young tech guys and not enough little old ladies in tennis shoes). Correction requires a good model of what the actual voting electorate will look like, which is hard to know at this point. That said, the newest batch is showing us everything you would have expected of these races six months ago: The deep red states are leaning strongly GOP, the deep blue state is leaning strongly Democratic, and the purplish state is a toss-up. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema 47% Martha McSally 44% Oct 02 Oct 05 YouGov
New Jersey Bob Menendez* 49% Bob Hugin 39% Oct 02 Oct 05 YouGov
Tennessee Phil Bredesen 42% Marsha Blackburn 50% Oct 02 Oct 05 YouGov
Texas Beto O`Rourke 44% Ted Cruz* 50% Oct 02 Oct 05 YouGov

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct07 Kavanaugh Is Confirmed
Oct07 Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part II
Oct07 About Those Unemployment Numbers
Oct07 Trump Administration Pulls Out of Iran Treaty
Oct07 This Week's Senate News
Oct07 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Avenatti
Oct06 Kavanaugh Nomination Advances to a Vote
Oct06 Trump Jr. Slams Manchin
Oct06 Brett Kavanaugh in Historical Perspective, Part I
Oct06 No Nobel for Trump
Oct06 Charlie Cook Changes Gubernatorial Ratings in Four Races
Oct05 Senators Begin Processing the FBI Report
Oct05 Kavanaugh Critics Mount Final Push
Oct05 Heitkamp Will Vote against Kavanaugh
Oct05 Kavanaugh Is Closing the Enthusiasm Gap
Oct05 Democrats Will Use Republican Tactics If They Win the House
Oct05 Keith Ellison May Step Down from the DNC
Oct05 Cook Political Report Changes Ratings in 12 Races
Oct05 Today's Senate Polls
Oct04 Swing Senators Condemn Trump over Ford Remarks
Oct04 Right-Leaning Media Work to Discredit Ford
Oct04 Today's Kavanaugh Revelations
Oct04 McConnell Moves Forward With Kavanaugh Vote
Oct04 Trump Probably Won't Be Punished for Tax Offenses
Oct04 Almost Nobody Votes
Oct04 Nobel Peace Prize to Be Announced Today
Oct04 Today's Senate Polls
Oct03 Trump Makes an Explicit Pitch to Men
Oct03 Ford Wants the FBI to Interview Her
Oct03 NYT: Trump is a Tax Cheat
Oct03 Two Attorneys Depart Mueller's Team
Oct03 House Republicans Need Split Personalities to Win
Oct03 The Most Important State Legislature Elections
Oct03 Nelson-Scott Debate Gets Down and Dirty
Oct03 Today's Senate Polls
Oct02 Trump Expands Scope of FBI Probe of Kavanaugh
Oct02 Immovable Object Meets Irresistible Force?
Oct02 Poll: More Americans Believe Ford than Kavanaugh by Small Margin
Oct02 Trump, Rosenstein Will Meet...Eventually?
Oct02 2020 Conventions Are Coming into Focus
Oct02 Congress Might Reject NAFTA 2.0
Oct02 California Passes More Gun Control Laws
Oct02 Today's Senate Polls
Oct01 Kavanaugh May Help House Democrats and Senate Republicans
Oct01 Even If He Is Confirmed, Kavanaugh May Not Be Home Free
Oct01 Everyone Weighs in on Kavanaugh
Oct01 New NAFTA Looks to Be a Go
Oct01 California Passes Net Neutrality Law, DoJ Sues
Oct01 Preview of the 2020 Senate Races
Oct01 Democrats Will Examine Trump's Tax Return If They Win the House