• Trump Apologizes to Kavanaugh on Behalf of the Nation
• Trump Spars with Taylor Swift
• Has the GOP Lost Women Forever?
• Watch Out for the Mob
• Donnelly and Braun Debate Each Other
• States Switching from Insecure Voting Machines to Other Insecure Voting Machines
• Debating the Debates
• Today's Senate Polls
Grassley Pledges to Raise $3 Million for Collins
Dina Powell Eyed to Replace Nikki Haley
Heller Just Ahead in Nevada
Weiner Will Be Released Early from Prison
Russian ‘Troll Factory’ Set on Fire
Hogan Holds Massive Lead In Maryland
Donald Trump and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein had a talk on Air Force One on the way to Trump's speech in Orlando yesterday. When asked about it, Trump said: "We had a good talk." It is completely unclear what that means, since Trump has been attacking Rosenstein for months, and the only recent event that might have changed that is the news story that Rosenstein was allegedly thinking about invoking the 25th Amendment to declare Trump unfit to be president. That story is unlikely to have improved the relationship between the two.
Reporters understand this pretty well and one of them asked Trump point blank if he planned to fire Rosenstein. He said: "No, I don't." That could mean (1) "I will tell John Kelly to handle it," or (2) "I am going to wait until after the midterms to stick the knife in him."
This wonderful relationship between the two men notwithstanding, the Justice Dept. is already thinking about who would supervise special counsel Robert Mueller should Rosenstein cease to be deputy AG. The current thinking is that the solicitor general, Noel Francisco, would take over. It is widely expected that after the midterms, both Rosenstein and AG Jeff Sessions will leave the administration, allowing Trump to appoint a new AG who will hamstring Mueller. Of course, that won't do much good if Mueller's investigation is basically complete, as may be the case, given that attorneys have begun exiting his team. (V)
At the swearing-in ceremony for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump apologized to Kavanaugh for the terrible pain and suffering he endured during the past several weeks. Trump did not apologize to Christine Blasey Ford for any pain and suffering she might have endured during the same period, not to mention what she endured when someone (who she insists was Kavanaugh) tried to rape her when she was 15. Not only did Trump fail to apologize to Ford, but he attacked her for violating fairness, decency, and due process. In other words, for coming forward and telling her story.
Trump also said that Kavanaugh was proven innocent, which is nonsense. At best, no conclusive proof of his guilt turned up, but that is hardly surprising given that the FBI didn't interview Ford or Kavanaugh's other accusers or the dozens of other people, like Debbie Ramirez, who said they could shed light on Kavanaugh's character. Having a hasty investigation that didn't talk to the key people and then produced a secret report is hardly proof of innocence. But of course, Trump doesn't care about the truth. He cares about revving up the white men who form his base and stoking their feelings of rage in order to get them to the polls on Nov. 6.
Kavanaugh was sworn in by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, with the other eight justices in attendance. Kavanaugh will hear his first cases today. They involve robberies and burglaries, which seems almost poetic. (V)
Taylor Swift is one of the world's most successful musicians, with over 40 million albums sold, and a trophy case populated by just about every honor the music world has to offer. She also holds half a dozen Guinness World Records, all of them related to the speed and/or frequency with which her releases have been downloaded. That probably says a little something about the age of her target demo, as does the fact that she's got 112 million followers on Instagram, making her the platform's fifth most popular user.
Swift was also well known, until this week, for keeping her political opinions to herself. Given that she is primarily a country singer, her silence somewhat implied liberal sympathies, since country singers with right-leaning politics (e.g., LeeAnn Rimes, Kenny Chesney, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr.) have no problems , while those who openly embrace left-leaning politics (e.g., the Dixie Chicks) can find themselves with not many fans left. In any case, Swift did such a good job of hiding her true sympathies that a sizable community of white supremacists on the site 4chan persuaded themselves that she was one of them, based on bizarre evidence, like the fact that they held a poll about what she should name her new cat, 'Meredith' won, and Swift actually did name her cat 'Meredith.' Ipso facto, it's a signal! They neglected to take note, however, of the fact that she chose the name almost a week before the poll was posted. Oh, well, nobody ever accused white supremacists of being Rhodes Scholars (although they do have a thing or two in common with Cecil Rhodes).
In any case, all of that is now at an end. On Monday, Swift took to Instagram to break her silence. The post was somewhat lengthy, but it's all pretty significant:
I'm writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I'll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I've been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.
I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.
So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting!
The reaction was predictable. The white supremacists, first of all, are devastated. They will have to go back to fantasizing about Eva Braun. Meanwhile, Republicans across the spectrum ripped into Swift. The National Republican Senate Committee said that it was nice that "multimillionaire pop star Taylor Swift came down from her ivory tower to tell hardworking Tennesseans to vote for Phil Bredesen." GOP activist Charlie Kirk suggested that Swift was confused, and didn't fully understand what she had written. Mike Huckabee sniffed that nobody cares what Swift thinks besides 13-year-old girls. There's also a conspiracy theory that Swift's account was hacked, and that she didn't really write the post.
Needless to say, Donald Trump rarely misses an opportunity to attack a high-profile woman (nor, for that matter, to remind white supremacists that he's on their side). Note that he was not personally mentioned (much less attacked) in the post. Still, he waded right in, echoing Kirk's sentiment that Swift doesn't really understand what she's talking about, and declaring that he now likes her tracks "about 25% less." Of course, the odds that Trump can name a single Taylor Swift song are roughly equal to the odds that he can speak fluent Sanskrit.
In any case, the GOP is playing with fire here. Beyond the fact that attacking (yet another) woman in public, high profile fashion is not likely to help the Party's support among women voters (see below), Swift is a popular celebrity with an enormous and loyal fanbase. A popular pundit (say, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity), or a well-known politician (say, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, or Bernie Sanders, I-VT) can't move the needle all that much with their endorsements, since they are all preaching to the choir. Swift, by contrast, connects with people whose partisan loyalties may not be all that well-formed, and who otherwise might not vote (as is often the case with young people). Already, there has been a huge spike in voter registrations at vote.org (65,000 in the first 24 hours after Swift's Instagram post). It's a safe bet that most of those folks are not signing up to vote a straight GOP ticket. (Z)
We may be in the middle of a historic shift in the two-party system. Instead of a liberal party and a conservative party, we may soon have a women's party and a men's party. Politico has a long article on how a trend that has been in evidence for decades is accelerating: Women are leaving the GOP in droves. Donald Trump's habit of bragging about grabbing women by the pu**y started the more rapid movement, and the GOP's treatment of Christine Blasey Ford continued it. The big question Politico looked at is how permanent this shift might be.
Women's dislike of Donald Trump is well known. Not only is there the "Access Hollywood" tape, there are also his insulting remarks to Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Mika Brzezinski, and others, as well as the credible accusations of sexual assault lodged against Trump by at least a dozen women, and then the fact that he cheated on his wife several times (or more) shortly after she gave birth. Not all of these are equally bad problems, but none of them help Trump's overall popularity with female voters. It's true that 84% of Republican women still support Trump. But there is a catch: Fewer and fewer women are identifying as Republicans. In addition, more women vote than men (almost 10 million more in 2016).
Politico's conversations with Republican pollsters, strategists, and operatives, confirm that there is a significant problem here. In 1994, 42% of women identified as Republican. Now only 25% fully identify as Republican. Shifts like this matter. In 2014, white college-educated women supported Democrats for Congress by 2 points. Now they support Democrats by 22 points. If they are fired up and vote in 4 weeks, it could affect many races. Working-class women are still largely with Trump, though.
Various experts say that once a voter has switched allegiance, she (or he) is not likely to come back, so white educated women (and all black women) are probably gone forever. Unfortunately for Republicans, there is no equal and opposite motion among men.
Interviews with women, many of whom were lifelong Republicans until recently, brought up many factors that are related to the shift away from the Republicans. Some said Trump is entitled and pompous. Others said his cabinet picks were corrupt. Some mentioned his racist view that "white is right." Trade wars and increasing the federal deficit also came up. One teacher said: "The Republican Party to me seems like it's being run by white, upper-class or wealthy businessmen who aren't paying attention to the rest of us." This is not a good place for the Republicans to be long term. And depending on what happens on Nov. 6, maybe not in the short term either. (V)
No, not that one, "The Godfather" and "The Sopranos" notwithstanding. The GOP has figured out that it's not going to work so well to run on the tax cut (which went mostly to the rich), or the booming economy (which didn't much help the Democrats in 2016, either), or the wall that hasn't been built, or the peace treaty with North Korea that hasn't been signed, or the billions of dollars in new infrastructure that hasn't been constructed. So, they are casting around for other themes, and—as the Washington Post's Matt Viser and Robert Costa point out, they seem to have settled on a new one in the last week or so. Consider these tweets from three GOP pooh-bahs:
You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law - not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2018
This partisan rage is sad, and not good for our Nation. We can disagree and still respect each other’s humanity. America is better than the angry mob. https://t.co/CgXngKTwhh— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 7, 2018
We will either state that facts and evidence can be brushed aside when politically inconvenient, and signal that media bullying and mob intimidation are valid tactics - or we will stand up and say that serious, thoughtful, fact-based deliberation must still define this body.— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) October 5, 2018
Yep, it's the notion that the Democratic Party is little more than a mob, one that will presumably plunder and pillage, Viking-style, if allowed to hold political office.
Was this a centrally-coordinated talking-point? Or, is everyone in the GOP just following Trump's lead, as they pretty much always do these days? Or, did the instincts of Trump, McConnell, Cruz (and dozens of others) merely lead them to the exact same smear? Who knows, but this attack is really the logical outgrowth of two threads of Trumpism that have been in full view throughout his time in office. The first is his disdain for the First Amendment, whether it is freedom of the press, freedom of speech, or, in this case, freedom of assembly. The second is his willingness to pander to some folks' fear that there are bands of marauders out there just waiting to harm them. It was undocumented immigrants/MS-13 (which are basically the same thing in TrumpWorld), and black immigrants from "shithole" countries, and Muslims (mostly from countries that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks). Now, it's turning into all Democrats. This line of attack may very well work with little old ladies and angry white men who are persuaded that liberals hate America, and that the Russians are great friends:
How well will it work with the other voters the GOP needs? Presumably we're going to find out, in precisely four weeks. (Z)
One of the key races that will determine control of the Senate is the one between Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and former state representative Mike Braun. They had their first debate yesterday. Donnelly highlighted how he has backed much of Donald Trump's agenda while Braun argued that instead of Trump-lite, the voters could have a walking Trump clone. Here are five takeaways from the debate.
- Brett Kavanaugh was a major flashpoint, with Donnelly defending his "no" vote
- Donnelly thinks health care is his winning issue
- Donnelly attacked Braun mercilessly, saying if Trump nominated Bugs Bunny, Braun would cheer
- Donnelly kept emphasizing his record of voting for Trump's proposals 62% of the time
- Braun cast himself as a Trump-style outsider
Braun tried repeatedly to point out that he is a businessman with only 3 years of political experience while his opponent is a career politician. The idea that not knowing much about government is seen as a plus tells you all you need to know about how much Trump has taken over the country. (V)
Some states have finally got the message that having voting machines connected to the Internet is a terrible idea because they can be easily hacked. So they are switching to voting machines that are connected to the cellular phone network. Security experts have sent a letter to the federal government saying this is just as bad because a well-funded hacker (such as a government actor) can install a fake cell tower (called a stingray) near a polling place and trick the voting machines into communicating with it instead of with the real cellular network. Once the stringray is talking to the voting machines, it can exploit bugs in their code to install patches that can change the vote totals before passing them to the real machine that collects and consolidates precinct-level raw data. The letter emphasized that getting quick results is much less important than getting accurate results.
Not surprisingly, vendors of the cellular voting machines pooh-pooh security concerns and say their machines are just fine. So do state officials who have bought them. For example, Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission said: "It is not a large concern at this point." Of course, it would be unusual for a spokesman to say: "Yes, our machines are vulnerable to Russian hacking, but they give quick results and were cheap to buy, so we like them." Consequently, when independent academic researchers say the machines are vulnerable and state officials say they are just hunky dory, it's probably better to believe the researchers.
No one even knows how many cellular voting machines are out there. There are 10,000 election districts in the U.S. and there is not even a central list of them. Each state (hopefully) keeps track of all the machines within their state, but even that is not sure. One estimate of the number of cellular voting machines puts it over 1,000, but that is not certain.
The situation is not hopeless, though. For example, in June, North Carolina enacted a law banning wirelessly enabled machines anywhere in the state. But most states have no such law. (V)
With the 2020 election campaign already in full swing, the Democrats are turning their attention to the primary debates. The Democrats are certain to have the same problem in 2020 that the Republicans had in 2016: Too many candidates to fit on the stage. If there are, say, 20 serious candidates, and a debate takes, say, 90 minutes, then each candidate gets 4½ minutes for questions and answers. Convincing the primary voters to vote for you based on 4½ minutes of talking won't be easy. In fact, just getting them to remember your name will be tough for many of them, especially Tom Kaine, Tom Ryan, Tommy Duckworth, and Tim Steyer.
Although the format is still being ironed out, it is likely that ultimately the Democrats will go down the same road as the Republicans, with a prime-time debate for the grown-ups and a not-prime-time debate for the kids. The candidates assigned to the kiddie table will be out of the running from the start and this is starting to dawn on the candidates. Who does the assigning and using what criteria is becoming an acute problem for all the candidates, especially the lesser-known ones. Consequently, most of the potential candidates are already trying to raise money and their profiles.
The director of the Marist Poll, Lee Miringoff, has said that using the national polls to determine who gets to sit at the grown-ups' table and who is relegated to the kiddie table is a bad idea. This could lead to candidate A polling at 6.0% making the cut but candidate B at 5.9% not making the cut, with polls having a margin of error of 4%. This means that A is between 2% and 10% and B is between 1.9% and 9.9%, so saying that A is a major player and B is not makes no sense. An alternative is to divide the field into two or three teams by drawing lots rather than using polls. Yet another idea is to avoid debates until after the Iowa caucuses and use the actual caucus results to separate the sheep from the goats.
The DNC wants to nail down the format long before the major candidates are known (already it may already be too late for that). It is also looking at formats other than having 10 people on the stage at once. However, no matter what the Party decides, some candidates will scream that it disadvantages them. There is no magic bullet here that will make everyone happy. (V)
The big news today is that Montana poll, which is great news for the blue team (if true) but is also a major outlier compared to other polls of the race (which consistently give Tester a small lead of roughly 3 points, which is, of course, way less than 24). In view of this, the pollsters actually sent their results to a polling expert in Arizona, to make sure there were no flaws in the methodology. He did not find any, but it is still advisable to take that poll with a Big Sky-sized grain of salt until there is some sort of corroborating data. Also noteworthy is that Jacky Rosen has lost her lead over Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), although that race is so close that this could just be statistical noise. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||44%||Rick Scott||46%||Oct 01||Oct 05||Florida Southern Coll.|
|Montana||Jon Tester*||56%||Matt Rosendale||32%||Aug 13||Aug 31||U. of Montana|
|Nevada||Jacky Rosen||45%||Dean Heller*||48%||Oct 08||Oct 08||Siena Coll.|
|Texas||Beto O'Rourke||42%||Ted Cruz*||47%||Oct 01||Oct 05||Emerson Coll.|
|Texas||Beto O'Rourke||42%||Ted Cruz*||54%||Oct 08||Oct 08||Siena Coll.|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct08 Trump Will Reportedly Meet with Kim Again
Oct08 Times' Reporting on Trump's Taxes Isn't Finished
Oct08 Candidates for Whom Trump Has Held Rallies
Oct08 Charlie Cook's House Ratings
Oct08 Republicans Rule
Oct08 As Maine Goes, So Goes the Nation
Oct08 Booker Launches His Presidential Campaign
Oct08 Today's Senate Polls
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