• Pence Can Be Tone Deaf, Too
• Veterans Unhappy about Trump "Stunt"
• Five Takeaways from Indiana Senate Debate
• Democrats Bank on Women to Flip the House
• It's Not a Wave, It's a Realignment
• Axelrod Warns that Democrats Are Playing Trump's Game
• Republicans Pull the Plug on Steve King
• Today's Senate Polls
Early Voting Has Already Set Records
National Archives Release Draft Indictment of Nixon
Forecast Sees Bigger Democratic Gains
Kemp Pulls Out of Debate to Campaign with Trump
Democrats Hopeful About Unseating Gianforte
Dead Heat for Alaska Governor
Donald Trump has a love-hate relationship with the Constitution. He loves the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) but despises the First Amendment (freedom of the press) and the Seventh Amendment (trial by jury, not "lock her up"). Now another Amendment is in the Trump doghouse: the Fourteenth. This one, ratified in 1868, states that people born in the United States, and under her jurisdiction (in other words, not the children of foreign diplomats), are automatically citizens of the United States. In a last ditch effort to save the House of Representatives for the GOP, yesterday he announced that he was going to issue an executive order banning birthright citizenship to babies born of noncitizen parents. His argument, which virtually no constitutional lawyer buys, is that the amendment applies only to children born to U.S. citizens. It is likely that he will forget about it by next Wednesday, but if this were actually to fly, the next Democratic president might get the bright idea of issuing an executive order defining the term "well-regulated militia" (named in the Second Amendment and whose members may bear arms) as only members of the military and law enforcement organizations.
As a general rule, the Supreme Court, not the president, gets to determine what the Constitution means. And the Court did rule on this citizenship issue once. That was in 1898, in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, in which it declared that the child born on U.S. soil of noncitizen parents is indeed a citizen. Most lawyers regard this as settled law, but Vice President Mike Pence supported Trump yesterday by noting (correctly) that the Supreme Court has never specifically addressed the issue of children born of parents illegally in the country. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who would dearly love to be attorney general, complimented Trump and said that birthright citizenship is "absurd." On the other hand, departing Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who most certainly does not want to be AG, was having none of this, telling a Kentucky radio station: "You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order."
Trump also claimed that the U.S. is the only country with birthright citizenship. Actually, about 30 countries have unrestricted birthright citizenship, including Canada and almost all of South America. Another 25 or so recognize birthright citizenship with some restrictions. (V)
Vice President Mike Pence is walking a very fine line right now. On one hand, he wants to keep the base happy (see above), because he hopes to inherit them whenever Donald Trump leaves office. On the other hand, he wants to fly under the radar as much as is possible, so that when and if the current administration implodes, he can act as surprised as anyone that there was collusion with the Russians/obstruction of justice/a whole stable of porn stars paid under the table/a whole series of Trump pee pee videos/whatever it may prove to be.
Occasionally, however, we get a reminder that even if Pence plays his hand perfectly, he's still a pretty small-time politician who is prone to unforced errors and whose views are far outside the mainstream. On Monday, the Veep provided a case in point, when he attended a political rally and asked a Jewish rabbi to offer blessings and to speak about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. That was an OK thought, if a little contrived. The problem is that the "rabbi" that Pence chose is an adherent of messianic Judaism (aka, Jews for Jesus). At best, this is a pretty fringy form of Judaism. At worst, it is Christianity masquerading as Judaism, with an eye toward encouraging conversion. Since the folks who died were most certainly not messianic Jews, it was a very inappropriate choice, and Pence was blasted on Tuesday by Jews of all political stripes.
In the end, Pence might look in the mirror each morning and see a future president, but the odds are very long. He may think he's got the base with him, but he lacks several of the skills (such as they are) that propelled Trump to the top, including an unparalleled ability to self-promote and an utter shamelessness in terms of saying whatever provocative thing comes into his head. The Donald is sui generis, and a lot of Republicans are going to be very sad when they discover that in 2020 or 2024. Unless, of course, Trump uses an executive order to end term limits for presidents. (Z)
In order to "protect" the United States against the caravan of asylum-seekers making its way north from Central America, Donald Trump has decided to deploy the U.S. Army, giving the operation the name "Operation Faithful Patriot." With the latest increase in deployment, the total size of the force numbers 5,000. That means that the caravan now has more American soldiers devoted to it than any country in Europe except Germany, more than any country in East Asia except South Korea, and more than half as many as are currently stationed in Afghanistan (9,800).
It is, in short, a gross overreaction, and one clearly timed to coincide with the midterms, as Trump does whatever he can to gin up the base and to cause them to ignore the fact that no wall has been built. Active-duty soldiers are presumably aware that they are being used as a prop, but they are not allowed to speak out about their commander-in-chief. Discharged veterans have no such constraints, and so many of them have blasted Trump for trivializing them and their service. "Donald Trump thinks unarmed people who are fleeing horrors and are still 1,000 miles away are a national security threat a week before Election Day?" asked former Marine Will Fischer. Brig. Gen. Dave McGinnis (ret.), added that, "The big problem that I and many former and active military guys have with this thing is that the Posse Comitatus [law] forbids the army from enforcing domestic laws unless there's no other choice and Trump has lots of choices."
Thus far, Trump has proven bulletproof to pretty much any criticism. Much like Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), who was untouchable...until the military turned against him and spoke out. So, Trump may want to be careful about playing with this particular fire. (Z)
There are a handful of Senate races that are toss-ups, but the three toss-up-iest are almost certainly Florida, Missouri, and Indiana. The final debate was held in the latter on Tuesday, with Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and GOP challenger Mike Braun fighting like cats and dogs, and Libertarian Lucy Brenton circling around on the margins. Here are the takeaways, according to The Hill:
- Both candidates continued to tie themselves to Trump
- Both candidates are open to legislation ending birthright citizenship
- Donnelly ties Braun to entitlement reform
- Differing responses to Saudi Arabia
- Libertarian candidate touted positions outside of the mainstream
In short, the two major party candidates are both claiming to be Trump Jr., but one of them has the all-important (R) next to his name, while the other wants to protect Social Security and Medicare. Indianans are going to have to decide what is most important to them. (Z)
Women are far more likely to support Democrats than men and are also more likely to vote than men, but this year the gender gap looks like it will be especially large. A Morning Consult poll asked voters how enthusiastic they were about voting this year. The number who were "very motivated" is shown below:
As can be seen, Democratic women are the group most fired up to vote. According to an earlier WaPo/Schar poll, in 69 swing House districts, college-educated women favored Democrats over Republicans by 27 points. If women, especially college-educated women, do indeed vote in exceptionally large numbers, the chances that the Democrats take over the House will skyrocket. Donald Trump might respond by trying to repeal women's suffrage by executive order, but the courts probably wouldn't go for that.
What will probably also play a role here is the unusually large number of women running for office this year, the House in particular. This may be part of the reason women are so motivated to vote.
There is also anecdotal evidence that women are very engaged. For example, the nonpartisan center for Responsive Politics said that donations from women to House candidates this year is at an all-time high. In a week we will know whether women determined control of the House.
On the other hand, while Democrats are doing well with college-educated women, they are continuing to lose ground with non-college men, as shown by this graph:
In one study, if noncollege men move another 5 points toward the Republicans and everyone else stays where they are, the Republicans will win both the electoral vote and the popular vote in the 2020 presidential election. (V)
Political analyst Ronald Brownstein makes the argument that looking for a blue wave next week is the wrong way to analyze the election, no matter how well the Democrats do. He says that the thing to notice is how people have sorted themselves politically by their demographic characteristics, and this could be permanent. The key factor is how Donald Trump has single-handedly changed politics, possibly for years to come. In particular, he has made education and income the main predictors of how people identify with the parties and how they vote. Specifically, he has driven college-educated people, especially women, away from their long-standing allegiance to the Republican Party and also broken the grip the Republicans had on well-off suburbanites. On the other hand, he has solidified the support of working-class and less-educated voters, especially men, for the Republicans.
An analysis by CNN shows that two-thirds of House Republicans represent districts where the education level is below the national average and three-fifths of the Republican districts are below the national average in income as well. If the Democrats pick off most of the affluent suburbs next week, the Republican caucus will be tilted even more toward low-income, low education districts and voters.
If this happens, it will put the Republicans in a tough spot, with the interests and policy preferences of its voters in stark contrast with those of its donors. While the GOP can try to distract the voters with cultural issues like abortion, immigration, caravans, and kneeling football players, there is a very real chance that sooner or later, the voters come to realize that the Party is doing nothing for them on the economic front. This will become especially clear if there is a recession soon and the Republican response is to cut taxes for the rich while its voters are floundering. That could test the ties that hold the new Republican coalition together like nothing else. (V)
Speaking of distinguished political analysts, David Axelrod—architect of Barack Obama's two successful presidential campaigns—sat for an interview with Politico magazine and said that he's none too happy with how Democrats are responding to Donald Trump, arguing that they are playing the game by his rules, and so are "walking into his trap." He further explained:
And within the Democratic Party, I think there is a big debate about how to deal with Trump because he has no boundaries. He's willing to do anything and say anything to promote his interests. It's a values-free politics; it's an amoral politics. And so, there is this body of thought that you have to fight fire with fire and so on. But I worry that we'll all be consumed in the conflagration.
In short, he won't be voting for Michael Avenatti.
Axelrod thinks that the correct approach for the Democratic candidate in 2020 is, to use Michelle Obama's phrase, "go high." In other words, to recognize that many voters are exhausted by the constant exchange of artillery fire, and to try to rise above the fray, essentially ignoring whatever lines of attack Trump attempts. Ronald Reagan had much success with this approach, alternatively cutting Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, the Russians, and the Cubans off at the knees by rolling his eyes and acting as if they were silly and pitiable. It may be time for the Democrats to take a page from the Gipper's playbook, especially since the Republicans don't seem to be using him right now. (Z)
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is an outspoken white supremacist. Although King is in a deep-red district (R+11), his racist remarks aren't going over well with the voters. A recent poll put him behind Democrat J.D. Scholten 45% to 44%. In 2016, he crushed his Democratic opponent by 22 points.
Normally, the NRCC comes to the rescue of Republican incumbents in races as close as this one, but NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) has made the decision to cut King off. Stivers attacked King's recent comments and actions, adding "We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior." Given how important every race is to keep control of the House, for the Republican leadership to take a moral stand and possibly lose an otherwise winnable race is unusual to say the least. Of course, it is also possible that Stivers has internal polls showing that King is a dead man walking, so he is using King's white nationalism as a cover for pulling out of a race he thinks is unwinnable.
Incidentally, even if King survives this election and wins his ninth term, he may not be out of the woods, as there is much talk about expelling him from Congress. It would be unusual for the House to do so, absent the commission of a crime, but it is within their powers, should they so choose. In short, don't be investing too much money in Steve King futures. (V)
Today we have polls of four of the closest races: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Missouri. It is a split decision, with the Democrats barely ahead in Arizona and Florida and the Republicans barely ahead in Indiana and Missouri. Please note that the states with a white center on the map above are toss-ups and could go either way, regardless of the color of the border. If we look only at the states where one party is ahead by at least 5 points, we get the lower graph on the page Control of the Senate link to the left of the map. Here it is:
From this graph it is clear that the Republicans are sure of more seats than the Democrats. To take over the Senate, the Democrats would have to win all the close races, and even that might not be enough. (V)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Arizona||Kyrsten Sinema||47%||Martha McSally||44%||Oct 23||Oct 27||Marist|
|Connecticut||Chris Murphy*||56%||Matthew Corey||41%||Oct 22||Oct 28||Quinnipiac U.|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||45%||Rick Scott||43%||Oct 25||Oct 28||Suffolk U.|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||47%||Rick Scott||46%||Oct 23||Oct 26||U. of North Florida|
|Indiana||Joe Donnelly*||46%||Mike Braun||49%||Oct 26||Oct 27||Cygnal|
|Missouri||Claire McCaskill*||46%||Josh Hawley||49%||Oct 26||Oct 27||Cygnal|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||49%||Jim Renacci||43%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Emerson Coll.|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||51%||Jim Renacci||32%||Oct 19||Oct 27||Baldwin Wallace U.|
|Tennessee||Phil Bredesen||46%||Marsha Blackburn||51%||Oct 23||Oct 27||Marist|
|Tennessee||Phil Bredesen||47%||Marsha Blackburn||53%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Vox Populi|
|Texas||Beto O`Rourke||42%||Ted Cruz*||52%||Oct 25||Oct 26||Dixie Strategies|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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Oct28 CNN, Cook Political Report Update House Ratings, Mostly in Democrats' Direction
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