Dem 46
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Ties 2
GOP 52
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Family Separations May Soon Begin Again
      •  Today's Voter Suppression News, Part I
      •  Today's Voter Suppression News, Part II
      •  Trump Kills Blue-Slip Protocol
      •  Trump Praises Robert E. Lee
      •  Ballot Measure Could Change Florida Politics for Years
      •  Democrats Have Raised a Lot of Money
      •  Today's Senate Polls

PW logo Democrats Hold Double-Digit Lead In Generic Ballot
Zinke Leaves Meetings Off His Public Schedule
GOP Tracker Posed as Reporter
Democratic Hopes of Taking Senate Look Dim
Bloomberg Visits New Hampshire
Quote of the Day

Family Separations May Soon Begin Again

The second portion of Melania Trump's interview with ABC News aired on Friday night, and in it, she continued to be something less than an asset for her husband's administration. Asked about the zero-tolerance policy that led to the separation of thousands of families, the First Lady said, "I didn't know that that policy would come out. I was blindsided by it. I told [Donald] at home, and I said to him that I feel that's unacceptable, and he felt the same."

Either she is not telling the truth about her husband's response, or he wasn't telling her the truth when they spoke, because there is zero chance he was actually upset about what happened. How can we be sure (besides his unending stream of anti-immigrant rhetoric)? Because the administration, apparently having learned very little from the original fiasco, is gearing up to take another bite at the apple. Presumably to avoid some of the political blowback and/or legal setbacks that happened the first time, the new approach will reportedly look something like this: Parents who are seeking asylum will be allowed to remain in detention with their children for up to 20 days, and then they can choose: (1) To keep the children in detention with them for as long as the asylum process takes (which could be months or years), or (2) To send the children to a government-run shelter, so that relatives can claim them.

Clearly, Team Trump thinks this will be an improvement on the previous approach, but they are likely to be in for a disappointment. Given that the second option carries with it some risk that the children will be adopted out to non-relatives, and so will be lost to their parents, that's not such a great alternative. That leaves parents pretty much stuck with the first option, which means that the whole scheme is a pretty baldfaced attempt to get around court rulings that forbid the incarceration of children for extended periods. "It's the parents' choice, and not ours," will be the argument of AG Jeff Sessions, or whoever replaces him. It's not probable that many judges will see it that way. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service looked into the matter, and that was certainly their conclusion. Meanwhile, there is surely going to be some serious political pain for the administration to endure once it re-engages one of its single-most unpopular policies.

There are two, and perhaps three, impetuses behind this news. The first is that immigrant crossings at the border are way up this summer, nearly 40% over the same period last year. The second is that the increased number of immigrants is really sticking in the craw of notorious xenophobe Stephen Miller, and he is making a big ruckus in the White House about doing something. The possible third impetus is that there still is no wall being built along the Mexican border, and the administration is probably trying to signal that they are doing "something" in advance of the midterms. Of course, when that something is pretty unpopular, it could easily do more harm than good, especially since several of the states with the largest number of legal immigrants also happen to be home to a large number of GOP House and Senate seats that are in danger. (Z)

Today's Voter Suppression News, Part I

There is a pretty big scandal playing out in Georgia this week. The Peach State has an "exact match" law that says that if there is even a single letter (or character) of disagreement between: (1) your voter registration and (2) your drivers license, social security or state ID card, the Georgia Secretary of State can reject the voter registration. That means a typo, a missing comma or period, an inadvertent misspelling (say, 'Boulavard' instead of the correct 'Boulevard') could trigger the law. And since voter registration cards are often filled out by hand, there's an awful lot of human judgment involved.

In a little over three years, from 2013 to 2016, Secretary of State Brian Kemp's (R) office flagged 35,000 registrations, or about 11,000 a year. In 2017, the law was on hold due to a court case. In 2018, with the court case resolved, Kemp's office has flagged 53,000 registrations. That's about five times as many as in previous years, and roughly seven in ten of the 53,000 happen to belong to black voters. Perhaps that is a remarkable coincidence. Or maybe black voters have unusually poor handwriting. Or maybe—and we're just spitballing here—it has something to do with the fact that Kemp just so happens to be running for governor right now against a black opponent, namely State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D).

Needless to say, this is not a good look for Kemp, particularly in a state where almost one-third of the population is black. Abrams' campaign has called on him to resign as Secretary of State, so he's no longer in a position to muck around with the voting rolls. Further, several civil rights and voting rights groups have filed lawsuits. Polling of the race has very consistently given Kemp a lead of about 2 points. Assuming that turnout this year is similar to the last Georgia gubernatorial election (2014), that equates to about 51,000 votes. So, removing 53,000 voters from the rolls who figure to break sharply for Abrams would provide a very nice additional cushion for the Secretary. And unless the courts interfere, it may just work. (Z)

Today's Voter Suppression News, Part II

It's unfortunate that we even have one item like this, much less two on the same day. Nonetheless, there continue to be developments as regarding the citizenship question that the Trump administration wants to add to the next census. Since the census is conducted under the auspices of the Department of Commerce, Secretary Wilbur Ross has been the point person on the matter. He has consistently claimed, including in testimony before Congress, that the question was his idea, that he did not discuss it with anyone in the White House, and that the only purpose was to make sure that all Americans (even undocumented ones) are properly accounted for, so their home states get the proper amount of representation and federal dollars. Anyone who believes that, especially the last part, should really head over to the eBay page, where we have a number of handsome bridges for sale.

This week, a sizable portion of the truth came out. It was already widely known, as of about six weeks ago, that Ross did discuss the idea with members of the executive branch, particularly Jeff Sessions, before proposing it. And now, court filings from the administration reveal that the idea actually began with Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach. Not only does that make it a lie that this was all Ross' idea, but it also makes very clear what the real purpose is, since Bannon and Kobach are rather well known for their interest in denying the vote to minority voters, and also for being, well, kinda racist.

We likely won't know where this story is headed for at least a few months. The administration has effectively thrown Ross under the bus by confirming that he perjured himself before Congress, which is of course a felony. Assuming the Democrats gain control of the House, they may just decide to take a look-see at that little matter. Meanwhile, it is the case that asking a citizenship question is within the purview of the executive branch. However, if it can be proven that the intent was discriminatory—which seems pretty much a slam dunk at this point—then that's not kosher. So, none of this is likely to work out in Team Trump's favor. (Z)

Trump Kills Blue-Slip Protocol

A longstanding Senate tradition (but not a formal Senate rule) is that presidential nominations for lifetime appointments to U.S. district courts and appellate courts can be vetoed by the senators in the state where the judge will serve. Donald Trump has just killed that tradition, probably forever, by nominating three conservative members of the Federalist Society to the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This is over the strenuous objections of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), both of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and are from San Francisco, where the Ninth Circuit is based. The next time a Democratic president appoints a black Jewish lesbian socialist judge to a court in a state with a Republican senator who objects, the objection will just be ignored.

The end of the so-called "blue-slip protocol" means that presidents will be free to nominate highly partisan judges, as Trump has done, because one obstacle to their confirmation has now been removed and is unlikely ever to come back.

The Ninth Circuit has ruled against Trump in numerous high-profile cases, including those involving dreamers, the Muslim ban, and so-called sanctuary cities, so it's no surprise he'd like to "pack" that circuit with as many hard-right-wingers as he can. (V)

Trump Praises Robert E. Lee

Donald Trump's latest rally took place Friday night in Cincinnati, Ohio. Looking to score some cheap brownie points, he decided to say some flattering things about some of the state's most notable native sons, including William McKinley, Neil Armstrong, the Wright Brothers, and Ulysses S. Grant (and ignoring notable daughters, like Annie Oakley and Toni Morrison). In the lead-up to Grant, Trump decided to indulge in an extended sidebar about the greatness of Grant's sometime nemesis, Robert E. Lee:

So Robert E. Lee was a great general and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia, he couldn't beat Robert E. Lee. He was going crazy, but Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle and Abraham Lincoln came home and he said "I can't beat Robert E. Lee." And he had all of his generals, they looked great, they were the top of their class at West Point. They were the greatest people. There's only one problem: They didn't know how the hell to win. They didn't know how to fight. They didn't know how.

And one day, it was looking really bad. And Lincoln just said, "You," and hardly knew his name. And they said, "Don't take him, he's got a drinking problem." And Lincoln said, "I don't care what problem he has. You guys aren't winning."

And his name was Grant. General Grant. And he went in and he knocked the hell out of everyone. And you know the story. They said to Lincoln, "You can't use him anymore, he's an alcoholic." And Lincoln said, "I don't care if he's an alcoholic, frankly, give me six or seven more just like him." He started to win. Grant really did—he had a serious problem, a serious drinking problem, but man was he a good general. And he's finally being recognized as a great general.

But Lincoln had almost developed a phobia, because he was having a hard time with a true great fighter, a great general Robert E. Lee.

If the point here was to compliment Grant, well, this is pretty close to the textbook definition of a backhanded compliment. And it hardly needs to be said that Trump's grasp of history here is very clumsy, like that of someone who vaguely recalls a Paul Harvey "rest of the story" report from about 20 years ago. It may surprise Trump to learn, for example, that Grant and Lee faced off against each other for less than a year (May 1864-April 1865), that Lincoln knew exactly who Grant was for years before that, and that Lee suffered quite a few big losses (Antietam, Gettysburg, etc.) well before Grant was transferred east. And if Trump can give a single piece of specific evidence in support of his assessment of Lee, we'll eat our hats (well, we would, if we wore them).

Of course, what's really going on here is that Trump rarely misses an opportunity to fire off a dog whistle to the segment of his base that venerates Lee (and, quite often, the white supremacy he fought for). After all, Cincinnati literally borders the South (specifically Kentucky), and the Midwest has a sizable number of the sort of people who elected Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to Congress. That would be the same Steve King who kept a Confederate flag on his desk for years, despite the fact that Iowa fought with the Union during the Civil War. This is also not the first time that Trump has gone to this particular well; he's lamented the removal of Lee statues several times in past months. Obviously, waging the culture wars requires thinking on your feet, particularly when only one NFL player kneeled this weekend. (Z)

Ballot Measure Could Change Florida Politics for Years

If Florida voters approve Amendment 4 on Nov. 6, it could change Florida (and national) politics for years ahead. The measure would automatically re-enfranchise Florida felons who have served their time (except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense). The number of people who would regain the franchise is estimated to be 1.6 million, or about 10% of the state's voting-age population. One out of five black adults is currently disenfranchised by the current law. Since black voters are disproportionately Democrats, if they regain the right to vote (and exercise it), it could be a great boon to the Democrats. To pass, the measure must get 60% of the vote. Polls consistently show support in the 70%-75% range. So, barring a last-moment collapse (which is possible, with the TV advertising now gearing up), it should clear the 60% bar. (V)

Democrats Have Raised a Lot of Money

Members of the blue team have been bringing in the cash in bundles as midterm season races toward the finish line. The champ is Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), who raised $38.1 million in the third quarter, the most any Senate candidate has ever raised in a single quarter in all of U.S. history. He did it in small donations, with over 800,000 people contributing to his campaign. Nevertheless, he trails badly in the polls. His opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hasn't announced his totals for Q3 yet.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also set a record. He raised $27.1 million for his reelection campaign, the most ever for an Ohio race. The previous record was that of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who raised $25.8 million in 2016. Brown's opponent, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) hasn't announced his total yet, but it is expected to be a fraction of what Brown raised. It is unlikely the Senator will need to spend all of that money, given that he has a big lead in polls, so it's likely that a fair bit of it will be earmarked for a possible 2020 presidential run. Or, to help other Democrats this year, who will then be in Brown's debt for when he needs some endorsements.

Many House Democratic candidates are also outraising their Republican opponents. Since the end of July, Democrats have reserved $109 million in television time, compared to $60 million for Republicans.

And all of this is before both parties call in the big guns. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently decided he is once again a Democrat, is planning to spend $80 million to help Democrats in House races. Republicans are leaning on megadonor Sheldon Adelson to come up with some cash in addition to the $20 million he already donated. They also recently held a meeting with 50 top lobbyists, urging them to donate to GOP candidates.

Republicans are already starting the blame game, trying to fault some party officials or organs for not keeping up with the Democrats. However, it is possible that enough big donors will come through in the final weeks to even up the fundraising score. On the other hand, business tycoons like Adelson and the Kochs know that investing in a losing candidate is like buying a gold mine that has already been played out. So, they might be conservative with their spending (no pun intended), and decide not to throw money at struggling candidates. (V)

Today's Senate Polls

The bad polling news just keeps coming for Phil Bredesen and Beto O'Rourke. It's getting to the point that they're going to need an October surprise to save their campaigns. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema 47% Martha McSally 41% Sep 10 Sep 25 Latino Decisions
Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse* 56% Robert Flanders 32% Oct 05 Oct 09 SocialSphere
Tennessee Phil Bredesen 40% Marsha Blackburn 54% Oct 08 Oct 11 Siena Coll.
Texas Beto O`Rourke 43% Ted Cruz* 51% Oct 08 Oct 11 Siena Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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