Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Why Does The GOP Keep Nominating Crackpots That They Then Have To Renounce?


Delaware is a pretty blue state. Obama beat McCain 62-37% and Romney, 59-40%. Hillary did less well but still beat Trump 235,603 (53.1%) to 185,127 (41.7%). The last Republican presidential candidate to take the state was George H.W. Bush in 1988. After that it gave it's electoral votes to Bill Clinton (twice), Al Gore, John Kerry, Obama (twice) and Hillary. Both senators, the state's sole member of the House and the governor are all Democrats.

But on Sept 6 Republicans decided to nominate an insane person, Scott Walker, to run against Lisa Blunt Rochester. Walker narrowly won his primary against Lee Murphy 19,572 (53%) to 17,359 (47%) In 2016 Walker ran as a Democrat and was beaten in the primary by Blunt, 233,554 (55.5%) to 172,301 (41.0%) Last Wednesday he had a meltdown on his Facebook page., accusing everyone of being a racist, including his opponent, who is black. Why? Because they support the social safety network.
During the hours-long rant, Walker called incumbent U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester-- his general election opponent and the first black woman Delaware has elected to Congress-- an “Aunt Tom.”

He also labeled U.S. Sen. Tom Carper as a “redneck,” referred to feminism as “an assault against people of color,” accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of “hating Israel” and challenged former Vice President Joe Biden to a debate, calling him a “racist loser.”

Walker on Thursday morning stood by his Facebook posts.

“They are all guilty of disparate impact discrimination,” he told The News Journal. “Their policies, their actions and their words have a disproportion effect on minorities, especially black people.”

Walker said he specifically was referring to welfare programs, which he argued “infantilizes” the poor until they cannot take care of themselves.

When asked if he considered terms such as “Aunt Tom”-- a twist on a slur used to describe a subservient black person-- Walker said “everyone has hard-wired bigotry within them and I’m no different than anyone else.”

“I’m the worst Christian and a pathetic sinner,” he said.

...He also predicted someone would soon try to kill him before stating that he “needs the endorsement of the NAACP.”

C. Linwood Jackson, president of the NAACP's Delaware State Conference, said he was "flabbergasted" by Walker's posts.

"I find those comments to be unfounded and ridiculous," he said. "I have never found the governor or our Congresspeople to be racist. We might not agree all the time but that doesn't make them racist."
The GOP wasn't thrilled either. The state party's executive director, Emily Taylor responded Thursday: "While Scott Walker is a Republican-endorsed candidate, his comments do not reflect how the Republican Party feels." State GOP Chair Mike Harrington said nearly the same thing: "Despite his presence on the ballot, no Republican organization will give any support to his candidacy."

As of the August 17 FEC filing deadline, Blunt had raised $999,572 and Walker, who is unemployed, hadn't raised the $5,000 needed to trigger a report. He runs the campaign on his own and has no staff or volunteers and the campaign seems to consist solely of his old 1991 Toyota that doubles as a billboard. When his wife kicked him out of the house this winter, he also used the Toyota as a bedroom. Lee Murphy spent $9,485 in the GOP primary but there was no report at all from Walker. The 538 forecaster gives Walker a less than 1 in 100 chance to win.

Walker describes himself as an untreated alcoholic and last February was on Facebook that he was "looking for a sober house because I have a drinking problem and I can’t seem to lick it with medication or any other way. I need help with my addiction right now. I have too much at stake, and the people of Delaware would expect me to be in tip-top shape all the time." He never went into rehab and is still drunk while he drives around campaigning.

His platform is ant-obesity and a free-market economy. He's into fat-shaming women and thinks that will help him win their votes. Monday morning Delaware Public Radio reported that the executive committee of the Republican Party had formally voted to renounce him as the party nominee. Walker said he is unfazed by the party's action. He said he works "for the people" and not the Republican Party of Delaware.


Oops! Will Trump's Trade Wars Crash The Economy The First Week In November


Team Trumpanzee could have hardly timed their ill-advised trade war better-- for congressional Democrats. Yesterday, Ben White at Politico reported that Señor T's "trade battles are already triggering economic warnings-- and rising danger for Republicans just ahead of the midterm elections."
As fresh U.S. tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports take effect Monday, surveys show consumers growing increasingly worried about higher prices this fall. Giant retailers such as Walmart are warning of price increases for manufactured goods. And smaller businesses in swing states and districts from Washington state, to Iowa, to Tennessee are complaining bitterly about big hits to their exports.

The economic fallout from Trump’s skirmishes with China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union risk making an already tough cycle for Republicans even more brutal, giving Democrats a chance to peel away voters linked to influential industries-- like Washington state cherry farmers and Tennessee whiskey makers-- who have long supported business-friendly Republicans.

“Where you have real-world effects of the trade war, you see people’s opinions sour dramatically,” said Scott Lincicome, a trade lawyer and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute who is studying the links between public opinion and trade. “You look at places like Washington state where people are dependent on exporting cherries and apples, or Rust Belt states that border Canada, or Tennessee with auto and bourbon makers, and you are going to see close races where this is actually a decisive issue.”

The latest impact will begin to hit Monday as new 10 percent tariffs Trump slapped on over $200 billion in imports from China are scheduled to go into effect. That tariff rate is set to rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1 if the Chinese don’t capitulate to White House demands. Trump has also threatened to bump the total up to more than $500 billion in imports, which would hit nearly every product China exported to the U.S. last year.

Economists expect that to translate into higher prices for consumers across the country and special pain for low- to middle-income voters who make up much of Trump’s base-- and are least able to absorb increased costs for consumer goods such as air conditioners, clothing and furniture. Republicans are counting on getting Trump supporters to the polls in November to hold off projected Democratic gains in the House and potentially the Senate. Forcing consumers to pay higher prices could make that harder.

“If you are kind of in the middle- or lower-income groups, you are buying a lot of what economists call tradable goods and you’ll be hit a lot harder,” said Kyle Handley, assistant professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “This is basically the Trump voter who is going to see the biggest hit to their total spending.”

Evidence is piling up that consumers and businesses are growing increasingly nervous about Trump’s trade policy.

Consumer sentiment measured by the University of Michigan dropped last month to its lowest point in nearly a year, with the decline centered in lower-income households most sensitive to higher prices. The sentiment index ticked up again in preliminary results for September. But nearly a third of those surveyed cited concern over tariffs when assessing the economy.

A survey of chief financial officers unveiled last week by Deloitte found that 42 percent said business conditions would improve next year, the lowest in two years, with executives “overwhelmingly worried” about trade policy and tariffs.

Walmart recently warned it will need to raise prices on a huge swath of products imported from China. Other large consumer-product companies including Procter & Gamble, Nestle and Coca-Cola announced price increases over the summer, partly because of tariffs, and warned of more to come.

...While many U.S. consumers may be able to absorb the impact of the 10 percent levies, economists say that if the Chinese tariffs eventually expand beyond $500 billion and rise to 25 percent, the hit to overall consumer spending and sentiment will be significant.

“If you look at the tariffs that they put on washing machines, you’ve seen an increase in prices and a decline in consumer demand, and we should expect to see the same from these latest tariffs,” said Simona Mocuta, senior economist at State Street Global Advisors. “I get the sense that even President Trump is not that keen on going up to 25 percent. This is almost like a plea to get people to come to the table and talk.”

Democrats are seizing on the trade issue in close House and Senate races across the country, such as in Tennessee for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Bob Corker. Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen, that state's former governor, is locked in a tight race with GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn in what otherwise might be a safe seat for the party. Bredesen has hammered away at Trump’s tariffs, which are hitting the state’s large automotive, hog farming and bourbon industries.

Blackburn, a strong Trump supporter, has been critical of the president’s trade policies but stopped short of demanding that Congress take away Trump’s tariff authority. A newly formed pro-trade effort called Tariffs Hurt the Heartland held a town hall in Nashville last week to highlight what that campaign says is the negative impact of Trump’s policies on Tennessee businesses.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota recently ran an ad with soybean farmers talking about the “hundreds of millions” of dollars in lost sales to China. Democrats are also pressing the trade issue especially hard in competitive Senate races in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and even Nebraska, generally viewed as a safe GOP seat, according to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The same holds true in House races in competitive districts that rely heavily on exports. In Washington state’s 8th District, which crosses the Cascade mountains, Democratic nominee Dr. Kim Schrier is ripping the tariff impact on the state’s apple and cherry farmers in the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Dave Reichert. Democrats have never won the seat.

“It’s just a huge issue here, and we are really feeling this heavily; nearly everything that Washington exports faces a 5 [percent] to 25 percent tariff,” said Katie Rodihan, communications director for Schrier. “Kim’s point is we really need comprehensive trade agreements and we should never be in this situation where we get spontaneous trade policy via tweet.”

The GOP nominee in the district, Dino Rossi, has walked a middle ground typical of pro-trade Republicans across the country, criticizing some specific Trump policies on trade but stopping short of strong rebukes that could alienate the president’s fervent supporters. In a statement this summer, Rossi said he has been “very open about my disagreements” with Trump on trade.

Beyond Washington state, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cited competitive House races in California, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky where the party is making Trump’s trade policies a central issue. A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which promotes GOP House candidates, did not respond to a request for comment on the impact of the trade issue.

...The Chamber’s latest list of states impacted the most include Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, where the state’s GOP Gov. Scott Walker trails Democratic nominee Tony Evers in recent polling. Retaliatory tariffs threaten a range of products exported from Wisconsin including cheese, whey and paper products, according to the Chamber.

“This is going to be like death by a thousand cuts hitting every consumer product once you broaden the tariffs out,” said Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation. “Taxing American consumers as a way of getting the Chinese to the table just doesn’t seem like the right tactic to us. If all of these tariffs on $500 billion-plus from China go into effect, prices will increase on everything that gets imported and that‘s going to be painful and real and unnecessary.”
Progressive Democrat James Thompson, once again being willfully ignored by the DCCC, told us that "the 4th District of Kansas is the hardest hit Congressional district in the United States because agriculture and manufacturing are the two biggest economic drivers here. Our farmers can’t sell their product and the increased cost of steel and alumninum make turning a profit nearly impossible for the makers of commercial planes here in Wichita. The worst hit are the agriculture manufacturers who make farm equipment like combines and tractors. Farmers can’t afford to buy the products because of the tariffs, and the equipment costs too much to make. The farmers here are being devastated. While some continue to maintain a cautious optimism for Trump’s trade war, the majority are sick of taking it on the chin for his misguided policies.  Worst yet is that our current Congressman, Ron Estes, lacks the courage and intestinal fortitude to stand up to Trump. He should be standing on the floor of Congress on a daily basis demanding these horrible trade policies be rescinded.  Instead he simply goes along with whatever he is told to do. Congress must begin reclaiming the power to impose tariffs, which it abdicated over the past 50 years. Tariffs should only be imposed after serious discussion and debate by our Congressional leaders in the House and Senate. We deserve better. We can do better, but only after we ourselves have the political courage to reject and throw off the proverbial yoke placed upon us by President Trumps tyrannical tariffs."

Mike Siegel is running in a very gerrymandered Texas district that meanders from north Houston to the far suburbs west of Houston. The DCCC is ignoring his race but voters there are grad to see a candidate talking sense about Trump's harmful trade wars. "Here in the Texas 10th," Mike told us, "we don't see any benefits from the tariffs, but we are certainly feeling the pain. Our largest exports are negatively impacted-- rice, sorghum, grain. And when you hurt a rice farmer in Colorado County, Texas, you are also hurting an entire ecosystem of interrelated businesses and families. Big picture, the President's action seems entirely arbitrary. At a recent town hall here, Beto O'Rourke said, 'When the United States goes to war, we go with a coalition of allies. Why are we challenging China on our own?' Trump's Twitter diplomacy is unilateral and ineffective, and it is only hurting the people on the ground."

Goal ThermometerA third progressive Democrat being willfully ignored by the DCCC is J.D. Scholten, who's running against Steve King in Iowa. His constituents are having many of the same problems with Trump's trade wars that Thompson's are. “Right now, we are borrowing money from China to give to our farmers to not sell our products to China. How much sense does that make? And when we lose these markets to South America, who is helping out those farmers? It’s the same multi-national companies that are in Iowa. There’s no loyalty. We need to end this trade war and we need to challenge corporate consolidation.”

Please consider contributing to James', Mike's and J.D.'s campaigns-- and to the other progressives the DCCC is boycotting-- by clicking on the Blue America "Abandoned by the DCCC" thermometer above. These are the kind of candidates who are going to make the difference between a Democratic Congress that basically does nothing at all for two years and one that goes all in on a progressive vision with a platform with fighting for.

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Republicans Not Even Campaigning For Independent Voters Anymore-- For Them, It's All About Their Crackpot Base Now


GOP base strategy works with hardcore Republican voters, but not with normal people

This morning when Trump tried bragging about his magnificence, the UN General Assembly burst out in sustained, audible laughter. No, Señor T, you're not in Kansas anymore. (Ironically, even Kansas may not be Kansas anymore.)

Ugly monkey: "In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country."

World Leaders: laughter.

Ugly monkey: "It's so true."

World Leaders: more laughter.

Ugly monkey: "I didn't expect that reaction, but that's okay," smirking as though waiting for someone to feed him a banana-- or hand him a submachine gun.

Republican Party strategists have come to realize that appealing to independent voters this year is a rabbit hole for their candidates and they are now doubling down on getting out their own base and virtually ceding the independents-- as much as a third of the vote in many places-- to the Democrats. Our election coverage here at DWT has centered on independents ability to decide the midterms. GOP strategy is to now run such vile negative advertising as to just discourage independents from voting, not to get them to vote for Republican candidates.

At Axios Monday morning, Caitlin Owens outlined a Republican strategy to save hardcore red districts and basically abandon all swing districts. "With the midterm elections fast approaching and Democrats riding a clear advantage on health care, many Republicans are nevertheless doubling down on largely unpopular ideas like repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicare," she wrote."This strategy may seem counterintuitive on its face. However, it likely reveals that the party has all but abandoned independent voters this year and instead is focused on turning out its base. Republican leaders have recently become more public about the likelihood of trying again on ACA repeal, whereas a few months ago it was largely a private assumption among the party.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in Wisconsin that if the GOP candidate wins the Senate seat there, the effort will be revived, per The Hill. “We made an effort to fully repeal and replace ObamaCare and we'll continue, with Leah Vukmir in the Senate, we'll continue to go back to that," he said.
“We need to win this election and then get more seats next year" before trying again, GOP Whip Steve Scalise told the AP.
Is that a good idea in Wisconsin, a state where independents decide elections? It may be a good strategy for Mississippi but there isn't a single poll-- including partisan Republican polls that no one takes seriously-- that shows Vukmir with a pathway to victory. FiveThirtyEight gives her a 1 in 40 chance to beat progressive Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin (in a state Trump won-- albeit narrowly and with Kremlin help-- in 2016.

As Owens explained, "ACA repeal only resonates well with one group of voters: registered Republicans. 'It’s all about the base, because as far as I can tell, they’ve lost the independents, there’s no one left to woo,' said conservative economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former campaign aide to John McCain. 'The Republicans face a very odd problem…when you ask actually registered voters what they want to do with the future of the ACA, no one wants to repeal and replace it except the Republicans, which the majority do,' said Robert Blendon of Harvard's School of Public Health. 'If you are looking at the aggregate, you can't imagine why you’d even mention it. But if you’re trying to encourage your own voters… then they're trying to say that we would come back and try to do something,' Blendon added."

Worse yet for the GOP's election hopes among normal voters, the Trump Regime is now talking about cuts to Social Security and Medicare again. Owens reminds us that Trumpanzee's top economic advisor, drug addict and crackpot TV personality Larry Kudlow, "recently said that the administration will probably look at entitlement cuts next year." She brought up 3 very vulnerable Republican incumbents-- in districts with huge numbers of independent voters-- who are going along with Kudlow and Trump are likely to lose their seats because of it. John Faso, for example, was keeping his seat in play. It is now starting to trend, ever so slightly, towards Anthony Delgado. Faso is making noises that will make independents (and seniors) see him as a threat to Social Security and Medicare. Fine for the GOP base-- but NY-19 is not some backward rural district in Oklahoma or Alabama. The PVI is supposedly a deceptive R+2 but Obama won it both times he ran and it was only Hillary's lousy campaign and flaws as a candidate that gave Trump his win there (50.8% to 44.0%).

Peter Roskam is another one the need to rein in spending on entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. That's a bad idea in Chicagoland. IL-06 gave Obama a win over McCain, Romney a win over Obama and Hillary a 7 point win over Trump (50.2% to 43.2%). The PVI is also a deceptive R+2. The Democratic candidate, Sean Casten, isn't especially strong but it's a neck-and-neck race that Roskam's to lose by talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Very similar story in Texas' 7th district (Houston), where the Democrats nominated a weak candidate, Lizzie Fletcher, but where Hillary narrowly edged Trump (48.5% to 47.1%). Incumbent John Culberson is a poor campaigner. Fletcher has outraised him, $2,312,615 to $2,007,183 and he will be committing political suicide if he embraces-- as he appears to be doing-- an all base strategy. Fletcher isn't capable of winning this race; Culberson is very capable of losing it.

Again, Owens explained the risk to Republicans like Culberson: Although the bet is that the GOP base is concerned with deficits, "as soon as the other side switches to 'you're going to cut back Medicare and Social Security,' you're on the wrong side," Blendon said. "The highest turnout rates are among people above 60." Like clockwork, the DNC blasted out an email criticizing Kudlow's comments, saying that he "admitted that Republicans will try to cut vital programs relied upon by millions of working families."

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Apart From His Actions In The White House, Trump Is An Illegitimate "President"


If Russian agents hacked into voting machines in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina and Florida to hand Trump the 2016 election-- as I'm certain they did-- the proof won't be released for 75 years-- if ever. Chances are good, most of us won't be around to see it (which is the idea) so instead, we have to focus on how the Kremlin worked with the Trump campaign to influence voters. Early Monday morning Jane Mayer did just that for the New Yorker with a review of a book by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President-- What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know. In her review, How Russia Helped Swing The Election For Trump, Mayer helps to explain why Trump is an illegitimate "president."

The U.S. intelligence community," wrote Mayer, "is prohibited from investigating domestic political affairs. James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, told me, 'We try not to spy on Americans. It’s not in our charter.' He emphasized that, although he and other intelligence officials produced-- and shared with Trump-- a postelection report confirming an extensive cyberattack by Russia, the assessment did not attempt to gauge how this foreign meddling had affected American voters. Speaking for himself, however, he told me that 'it stretches credulity to think the Russians didn’t turn the election.' Ordinarily, Congress would aggressively examine an electoral controversy of this magnitude, but the official investigations in the House and the Senate, led by Republicans, have been too stymied by partisanship to address the ultimate question of whether Trump’s victory was legitimate. Although the Senate hearings are still under way, the Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, a Republican, has already declared, 'What we cannot do, however, is calculate the impact that foreign meddling and social media had on this election.' Even the Clinton campaign has stopped short of attributing its loss to the Russians. Joel Benenson, the campaign’s pollster, told me that 'a global power is fucking with our elections,' and that 'every American should be outraged, whether it changed the outcome or not.' But did the meddling alter the outcome?" That's the question Mayer-- and Kathleen Hall Jamieson-- seek to get to the bottom of.
The book, which is coming out less than two months before the midterm elections, at a moment when polls suggest that some sixty per cent of voters disapprove of Trump, may well reignite the question of Trump’s electoral legitimacy. The President’s supporters will likely characterize the study as an act of partisan warfare. But in person Jamieson, who wears her gray hair in a pixie cut and favors silk scarves and matronly tweeds, looks more likely to suspend a troublemaker than to be one. She is seventy-one, and has spent forty years studying political speeches, ads, and debates. Since 1993, she has directed the Annenberg Public Policy Center, at Penn, and in 2003 she co-founded FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan watchdog group. She is widely respected by political experts in both parties, though her predominantly male peers have occasionally mocked her scholarly intensity, calling her the Drill Sergeant. As Steven Livingston, a professor of political communication at George Washington University, puts it, “She is the epitome of a humorless, no-nonsense social scientist driven by the numbers. She doesn’t bullshit. She calls it straight.”

Her case is based on a growing body of knowledge about the electronic warfare waged by Russian trolls and hackers-- whom she terms “discourse saboteurs”-- and on five decades’ worth of academic studies about what kinds of persuasion can influence voters, and under what circumstances. Democracies around the world, she told me, have begun to realize that subverting an election doesn’t require tampering with voting machines. Extensive studies of past campaigns, Jamieson said, have demonstrated that “you can affect people, who then change their decision, and that alters the outcome.” She continued, “I’m not arguing that Russians pulled the voting levers. I’m arguing that they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”

The effect of such manipulations could be momentous in an election as close as the 2016 race, in which Clinton got nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, and Trump won the Electoral College only because some eighty thousand votes went his way in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania... [I]n 2016, “Russian masterminds” pulled off a technological and political coup. Moreover, she concludes, the American media “inadvertently helped them achieve their goals.”

...Jamieson notice[d] something odd about the three debates between Trump and Clinton. As she told me, “The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton had done pretty well.” According to CNN polls conducted immediately after the debates, she won all three, by a margin of thirteen per cent or greater. But, during the period of the debates, Jamieson and others at the Annenberg Center had overseen three telephone surveys, each sampling about a thousand adults. In an election that turned more than most on judgments of character, Americans who saw or heard the second and third debates, in particular, were more likely than those who hadn’t to agree that Clinton “says one thing in public and something else in private.” Jamieson found this statistic curious, because, by the time of the first debate, on September 26th, Clinton’s reputation for candor had already been tarnished by her failed attempt to hide the fact that she’d developed pneumonia, and by the revelation that, at a recent fund-raising event, she’d described some Trump supporters as “deplorables”-- a slur that contradicted her slogan “Stronger Together.” Other Annenberg Center polling data indicated to Jamieson that concerns about Clinton being two-faced had been “baked in” voters’ minds since before the first debate. Clinton “had already been attacked for a very long time over that,” Jamieson recalls thinking. “Why would the debates have had an additional effect?”

After insuring that the surveys had been properly conducted, Jamieson analyzed whether this change in a voter’s perception of Clinton’s forthrightness predicted a change in his or her candidate preference. To her surprise, she found that it did: as she put it to me, there was a “small but significant drop in reported intention to vote for her.” This statistic, too, struck Jamieson as curious; she knew from years of scholarship that Presidential debates, barring major gaffes, typically “increase the likelihood that you’re casting a vote for, rather than against,” a candidate.

Last year, while Jamieson was trying to determine what could have caused viewers’ perception of Clinton’s character to fall so consequentially, the Washington Post asked her to write an op-ed addressing whether Russian operatives had helped to elect Trump. Jamieson agreed to do so, but, she admitted to me, “I frankly hadn’t thought about it one way or the other.”

Jamieson is scrupulously nonpartisan in her work. Beth Myers, who helped lead Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and worked with Jamieson on a bipartisan project about Presidential debates, told me, “If Kathleen has a point of view, I don’t know what it is. She’s extraordinarily evenhanded. She is fair and fearless.” Anita Dunn, a Democratic adviser to Barack Obama, agrees. She, too, worked with Jamieson on the Presidential-debates project, and she studied with her as an undergraduate. Jamieson, she says, “is constantly pointing out what the data actually shows, as opposed to those of us who just assert stuff.”

Jamieson began her study of the 2016 election with an open mind. But, in the fall of 2017, as she watched the House and the Senate hold hearings on Russia’s social-media manipulations, and reviewed the sampling of dozens of Facebook ads released by the House Intelligence Committee-- all paid for by Russians during the Presidential campaign-- she developed suspicions about the reasons behind Trump’s victory. Before the hearings, Facebook’s chairman and C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, had maintained that the amount of Russian content that had been disseminated on social media was too small to matter. But evidence presented to the Senate committee revealed that material generated by the Kremlin had reached a hundred and twenty-six million American Facebook users, leading Senator Dianne Feinstein to call the cyberattack “cataclysmic.”

House Democrats later released not only the ads but also their “targeting data”-- the demographics and the geographic locations of users receiving them-- which indicated to Jamieson “whom the Russians were going for.” Among other things, she could discern that the Russians had tried “to minimize the vote of African-Americans.” Bogus Kremlin-sponsored ads that had circulated online-- including one depicting a black woman in front of an “african-americans for hillary” sign-- had urged voters to tweet or text rather than vote, or to “avoid the line” and “vote from home.”

Jamieson’s Post article was grounded in years of scholarship on political persuasion. She noted that political messages are especially effective when they are sent by trusted sources, such as members of one’s own community. Russian operatives, it turned out, disguised themselves in precisely this way. As the Time first reported, on June 8, 2016, a Facebook user depicting himself as Melvin Redick, a genial family man from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, posted a link to DCLeaks.com, and wrote that users should check out “the hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US.” The profile photograph of “Redick” showed him in a backward baseball cap, alongside his young daughter-- but Pennsylvania records showed no evidence of Redick’s existence, and the photograph matched an image of an unsuspecting man in Brazil. U.S. intelligence experts later announced, “with high confidence,” that DCLeaks was the creation of the G.R.U., Russia’s military-intelligence agency.

Academic research has also shown that political messages tend not to change the minds of voters who have already chosen a candidate; they are most likely to persuade undecided voters. And in 2016 an uncommonly high percentage of voters liked neither candidate and stayed undecided longer than usual. By some counts, about thirty-seven million Americans-- fifteen per cent of the electorate-- were still undecided in the final weeks before the election.

Jamieson argues that the impact of the Russian cyberwar was likely enhanced by its consistency with messaging from Trump’s campaign, and by its strategic alignment with the campaign’s geographic and demographic objectives. Had the Kremlin tried to push voters in a new direction, its effort might have failed. But, Jamieson concluded, the Russian saboteurs nimbly amplified Trump’s divisive rhetoric on immigrants, minorities, and Muslims, among other signature topics, and targeted constituencies that he needed to reach. She noted that Russian trolls had created social-media posts clearly aimed at winning support for Trump from churchgoers and military families—key Republican voters who seemed likely to lack enthusiasm for a thrice-married nominee who had boasted of groping women, obtained multiple military deferments, mocked Gold Star parents and a former prisoner of war, and described the threat of venereal disease as his personal equivalent of the Vietcong. Russian trolls pretended to have the same religious convictions as targeted users, and often promoted Biblical memes, including one that showed Clinton as Satan, with budding horns, arm-wrestling with Jesus, alongside the message “ ‘Like’ if you want Jesus to win!” One Instagram post, portraying Clinton as uncaring about the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, depicted a young American widow resting her head on a flag-draped coffin. Another post displayed contrasting images of a thin homeless veteran and a heavyset, swarthy man wearing an “undocumented unafraid unapologetic” T-shirt, and asked why “this veteran gets nothing” and “this illegal gets everything.” It concluded, “Like and share if you think this is a disgrace.” On Election Day, according to CNN exit polls, Trump, despite his political baggage, outperformed Clinton by twenty-six points among veterans; he also did better among evangelicals than both of the previous Republican nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain.

In her Post article, Jamieson wrote that it was “hard to know” if Russian propaganda and dirty tricks-- including the steady release of hacked e-mails, starting with Democratic National Committee correspondence that was leaked just before the Party’s convention-- had made a decisive difference in 2016. Nevertheless, she argued, the “wide distribution” of the trolls’ disinformation “increases the likelihood” that it “changed the outcome.”

After the article’s publication, she returned to her sabbatical project on the debates, with a newly keen eye for Russian trolls and hackers. After reviewing the debate transcripts, scrutinizing press coverage, and eliminating other possibilities, Jamieson concluded that there was only one credible explanation for the diminishing impression among debate viewers that Clinton was forthright: just before the second debate, WikiLeaks had released a cache of e-mails, obtained by Russian hackers, that, it said, were taken from the Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. They included excerpts from speeches that Clinton had given to banks, for high fees, and had refused to release during the campaign. The speeches could be used by detractors to show that, despite her liberal rhetoric, she was aligned with Wall Street. The hacked content permeated the discourse of the debates, informing both the moderators’ questions and the candidates’ answers. All this, Jamieson writes, gave legitimacy to the idea that Clinton “said one thing in public and another in private.”

During the second debate, on October 9th, before 66.5 million viewers, one of the moderators, Martha Raddatz, relayed a question submitted by a voter: Did Clinton think that it was acceptable for a politician to be “two-faced”? The question referred to a leaked passage from one of Clinton’s previously unreleased paid speeches; Russian hackers had given the passage to WikiLeaks, which posted it two days before the debate. In the speech, Clinton had cited Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln as an example of how politicians sometimes need to adopt different public and private negotiating stances. The point was scarcely novel, but the debate question-- which took her words out of context, omitted her reference to the movie, and didn’t mention that Russian operatives had obtained the speech illegally-- made Clinton sound like a sneaky hypocrite. When Clinton cited Lincoln” in order to defend the statement, Trump pounced.

“She got caught in a total lie!” Trump said. “Her papers went out to all her friends at the banks-- Goldman Sachs and everybody else. And she said things, WikiLeaks, that just came out. And she lied. Now she’s blaming the lie on the late, great Abraham Lincoln!”

The dynamic recurred in the third debate, on October 19th, which 71.6 million people watched. When Trump accused Clinton of favoring “open borders,” she denied it, but the moderator, Chris Wallace, challenged her by citing a snippet from a speech that she had given, in 2013, to a Brazilian bank: “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” Again, there was no mention of the fact that the speech had been stolen by a hostile foreign power; Wallace said that the quotation had come from WikiLeaks. The clear implication of Wallace’s question was that Clinton had been hiding her true beliefs, and Trump said to him, “Thank you!” His supporters in the audience laughed. Clinton said that the phrase had been taken out of context: she’d been referring not to immigrants but to an open-bordered electric grid with Latin America. She tried to draw attention to Russia’s role in hacking the speech, but Trump mocked her for accusing Putin, and joked, “That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders.” He then warned the audience that, if Clinton were elected, Syrians and other immigrants would “pour into our country.”

The fact-checking organization PolitiFact later concluded that Trump had incorrectly characterized Clinton’s speech, but the damage had been done. Jamieson’s research indicated that viewers who watched the second and third debates subsequently saw Clinton as less forthright, and Trump as more forthright. Among people who did not watch the debates, Clinton’s reputation was not damaged in this way. During the weeks that the debates took place, the moderators and the media became consumed by an anti-Clinton narrative driven by Russian hackers. In Cyberwar, Jamieson writes, “The stolen goods lent credibility” to “those moderator queries.”

As Jamieson reviewed the record further, she concluded that the Russian hackers had also been alarmingly successful in reframing the American political narrative in the crucial period leading up to the second debate. On Friday, October 7th, two days before it took place, three major stories landed in rapid succession. At 12:40 p.m., the Obama Administration released a stunning statement, by the Department of Homeland Security and the director of National Intelligence, accusing the Russian government of interfering in the election through hacking. This seemed certain to dominate the weekend news, but at 4:03 p.m. the Washington Post published a report, by David Fahrenthold, on an Access Hollywood tape that captured Trump, on a hot mike, boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Then, less than half an hour later, WikiLeaks released its first tranche of e-mails that Russian hackers had stolen from Podesta’s account. The tranche contained some two thousand messages, along with excerpts from the paid speeches that Clinton had tried to conceal, including those that would be mentioned in the subsequent debates. (Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, has denied working with the Russian government, but he manifestly despises Clinton, and, in a leaked Twitter direct message, he said that in the 2016 election “it would be much better for GOP to win.”)

If the WikiLeaks release was a Russian-backed effort to rescue Trump’s candidacy by generating a scandal to counterbalance the Access Hollywood tape and the intelligence report on Russian interference, Jamieson writes, it worked splendidly. The intelligence community’s report faded from the headlines; that Sunday morning, none of its authors were invited on any major talk show. Instead, the programs breathlessly discussed the “pussy” tape and the Clinton campaign’s e-mails, which were portrayed as more or less exposing both candidates as liars. Jamieson notes, “Instead of asking how we could know that the Russians were behind the hacking, the October 9 Sunday show moderators asked what effect the disclosures would have on the candidates’ respective campaigns and what the tape and speech segments revealed about the private versus public selves of the contenders.” If not for WikiLeaks, she writes, the media discourse in those crucial days likely would have remained locked on two topics advantageous to Clinton: Russian election subversion and Trump’s treatment of women.

Jamieson also argues that, in most hotly contested elections, the candidates blunt each other’s messages, which results in fairly balanced media coverage. In 2016, she believes, Russia’s involvement upset this equilibrium. She asks readers to imagine how different the 2016 election might have been if Trump’s campaign had also been hacked, disgorging the e-mails of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump, Jr. Among other things, this would have exposed correspondence about the notorious June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, and Trump’s payoffs to a pornographic actress and to a Playboy model. Documents that Trump has kept concealed, such as his tax returns, also might have come to light. Instead, Jamieson writes, throughout the autumn of 2016 a steady stream of content stolen from the Clinton campaign-- which the press generally described as coming from WikiLeaks, rather than from Russia-- “reweighted the news environment in Trump’s favor.”

...Joel Benenson, the Clinton pollster, was stunned when he learned, from the July indictment, that the Russians had stolen his campaign’s internal modelling. “I saw it and said, ‘Holy shit!’ ” he told me. Among the proprietary information that the Russian hackers could have obtained, he said, was campaign data showing that, late in the summer of 2016, in battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, an unusually high proportion of residents whose demographic and voting profiles identified them as likely Democrats were “Hillary defectors”: people so unhappy with Clinton that they were considering voting for a third-party candidate. The Clinton campaign had a plan for winning back these voters. Benenson explained that any Clinton opponent who stole this data would surely have realized that the best way to counter the plan was to bombard those voters with negative information about Clinton. “All they need to do is keep that person where they are,” he said, which is far easier than persuading a voter to switch candidates. Many critics have accused Clinton of taking Michigan and Wisconsin for granted and spending virtually no time there. But Benenson said that, if a covert social-media campaign targeting “Hillary defectors” was indeed launched in battleground states, it might well have changed the outcome of the election.

Benenson said, “We lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin-- three states of our Blue Wall-- by about eighty thousand votes. Six hundred and sixty thousand votes were cast in those three states for third-party candidates. Winning those three states would have got us to two hundred and seventy-eight electoral votes.” In other words, if only twelve per cent of those third-party voters were persuaded by Russian propaganda-- based on hacked Clinton-campaign analytics-- not to vote for Clinton, then Jamieson’s theory could be valid.

Benenson said that, when he first learned about the theft, he “called another consultant on the campaign and said, ‘This is unreal.’ ” The consultant reminded him that, in focus groups with undecided voters in the fall of 2016, “we’d hear these things like ‘I really hate Trump, but Hillary’s going to murder all these people’-- all sorts of crazy stuff.” Benenson admitted that many Americans had long disliked the Clintons, and had for years spread exaggerated rumors of their alleged misdeeds and deceptions. But he wonders if some of those conspiracy-minded voters hadn’t been unknowingly influenced by Russian propagandists who were marshalling the Clinton campaign’s own analytics.

Philip Howard, the director of the Oxford Internet Institute, in England, agrees that the Russian interference could have been decisive, but he is less convinced that the stolen analytics were key. He told me, “It’s plausible, but the Russians wouldn’t have needed the Clinton campaign-- they could just as easily have targeted the network of Bernie Sanders supporters.”

“Did we make mistakes?” Benenson asked, about the Clinton campaign’s performance. “Sure.” But, he said, he believes that Russian interference in the 2016 election was “the biggest threat to democracy we’ve ever had in this country, other than the wars we’ve had to fight.”

...It is now understood that Russia’s influence was far larger than social-media companies originally acknowledged. Facebook initially claimed that Russian disinformation posted during the campaign had likely reached only ten million Facebook users; it subsequently amended the figure to a hundred and twenty-six million. Twitter recently acknowledged that it, too, was deeply infiltrated, hosting more than fifty thousand impostor accounts.

James Clapper told me, “It’s hard to convey to people how massive an assault this was,” and added, “I think the Russians have more to do with making Clinton lose than Trump did.” Yet he remains cautious about saying that this is provable. So does Albright, of the Tow Center. He has accumulated a huge quantity of data documenting Russian meddling, but he believes that it remains “difficult to quantify what the impact was on the outcome.” He told me that Russian interference “provoked outrage, created discontent with social systems such as police and safety, pushed certain urban and disadvantaged communities to feel marginalized, and amplified wedge issues beyond authentic reach through social media, which then magnified media coverage of certain issues.” He went on, “That’s an impact. But to translate that into voting patterns is very difficult.” Michael Hayden, the former director of the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., is also agnostic. He has called the Russian attacks “the most successful covert influence operation in history,” but concludes that, although Russian hackers may have, as he put it, “put their thumb on the American electoral scale,” there’s simply “no telling the impact. . . . It’s not just unknown, it’s unknowable.”

Jamieson quotes Hayden making this argument, but writes that she must respectfully disagree.

Cyberwar ” doesn’t simply document Russia’s hacking and social-media campaigns. It also pinpoints another, less well-known, instance of Russian sabotage, and Jamieson argues that this dirty trick, in combination with the actions of trolls and hackers, may have changed the course of the 2016 campaign. In her telling, James Comey’s decision to issue a series of damaging public pronouncements on Clinton’s handling of classified e-mails can plausibly be attributed to Russian disinformation. As evidence, Jamieson cites Comey’s own story, told in interviews and in his recent memoir, of what happened behind the scene.

Jamieson became curious as she watched Comey, on July 5, 2016, make the first of three public statements during the campaign about e-mails that Clinton had mishandled while serving as Obama’s Secretary of State. At a press conference, Comey announced his intention to recommend that the Justice Department not charge Clinton, but first he denounced her actions as “extremely careless.” Jamieson recalls wondering, “Why are you doing this?” She told me, “It was odd.”

Ordinarily, when the F.B.I. ends an investigation with no charges, it says nothing. In very high-profile cases, it sometimes issues a “declination” statement. But, even though Comey wasn’t the head of the Justice Department-- he was only the F.B.I. director-- he had unilaterally designated himself the spokesman for the entire investigation, and had called a live press conference without asking the permission of his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

As Jamieson worked on her manuscript, she noticed that Comey repeatedly hinted that his decision to preëmpt his boss was prompted, in part, by classified information, which, if leaked, would undermine the over-all integrity of the Clinton probe. In public, he mysteriously declined to be more specific about this intelligence, but claimed that it had compounded concerns already stirred by an impromptu private visit between Lynch and Bill Clinton, on June 27th, at an Arizona airport.

Six months after the election, the Washington Post broke a story that solved the mystery. At some point in 2016, the F.B.I. had received unverified Russian intelligence describing purported e-mails from Lynch to a member of the Clinton team, in which she promised that she’d go easy on Clinton. An unnamed source told the Post that the intelligence had been viewed as “junk.” Nonetheless, Comey has reportedly told aides that he let the disinformation shape his decision to sideline Lynch. Fearing, in part, that conservatives would create a furor if the alleged e-mails became public, he began to feel that Lynch “could not credibly participate in announcing a declination.” A subsequent report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, described Comey’s behavior as “extraordinary and insubordinate,” and found his justifications unpersuasive.

Nick Merrill, a former Clinton-campaign spokesman, describes Comey’s actions as “mind-blowing.” He said of the intelligence impugning Lynch, “It was a Russian forgery. But Comey based major decisions in the Justice Department on Russian disinformation because of the optics of it! The Russians targeted the F.B.I., hoping they’d act on it, and then he went ahead and did so.”

In the fake Russian intelligence, one of the Clinton-campaign officials accused of conspiring with Lynch was Amanda Renteria [an unsuccessful congressional candidate]. She was shocked to learn of the allegations, and told me that, although she is friendly with a woman named Loretta Lynch-- a political figure in California-- she does not know the Loretta Lynch who was the Attorney General. Renteria said, “To me, it says that, in the new world of politics, even if something isn’t real, it can still move things. You aren’t living in the world of reality anymore.”

Comey declined to comment for this article, citing the classified nature of the intelligence in question. As with the other incidents described in Jamieson’s book, it is hard to assess precisely how much of a difference his damaging statements about Clinton made at the voting booth. But it certainly didn’t help her candidacy when, just ten days before the election, Comey-- reprising his self-appointed spokesperson role-- announced that the F.B.I. was reopening the investigation because more Clinton e-mails had been found. Seven days later, he made a third announcement, clearing her again. Adam Schiff, the Democratic representative who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told me that, if you take Comey at his word that the fake intelligence drove his decision to publicly censor Clinton in the first place-- there are skeptics who suspect that Comey’s grandstanding moralism was a bigger factor-- then “it probably was the most measurable” and “the most significant way in which the Russians may have impacted the outcome of the election.”

Polls suggest the likely impact. According to the Web site FiveThirtyEight, at midnight on October 28, 2016, the day Comey announced that he was reopening the investigation, Clinton was ahead of Trump by 5.9 per cent. A week later, her lead had shrunk to 2.9 per cent. Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight, has noted that, during this time, coverage of the Clinton e-mail investigation dominated the news, “drowning out other headlines.” According to researchers at Microsoft, the Times ran as many front-page stories on the e-mails that week as it ran front-page stories about the candidates’ policy proposals in the final few months of the campaign. Silver concluded that all the talk about Clinton’s e-mails may have shifted the race by as much as four points, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida to Trump, and possibly North Carolina and Arizona, too.
"Philip Howard, the Oxford professor," wrote Mayer, "thinks that, if there was any collusion between the St. Petersburg trolls and the Trump campaign, Facebook’s internal data could document it, by revealing coördination on political posts. But, he says, Facebook has so far resisted divulging such data to researchers, claiming that doing so would be a breach of its user agreement. Even if this targeting information were released, though, questions would remain. Jamieson notes that postelection interviews are often unhelpful, since few voters are able to accurately recount what influenced their decision."

For all her findings Jameson vomits out the lame establishment truism that "Trump is the duly elected President of the United States" and refuses to admit-- without the evidence of actual tampering with the machines-- that Trump is an illegitimate, fake "president." Nor does she give us any insight into what kind of threat we're facing from Russian this midterm cycle. Will there be a Putin-Gate II. Trump seems pretty outspoken about a "red wave."

Trumpty Dumpty by Nancy Ohanian

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Charges of attempted rape mean nothing to you if you have RMD (Republican Mental Disorder). In the case of Brett Kavanaugh, it's full steam ahead. Republicans can't get him on the court fast enough. They want the end of Roe v. Wade. The also want the end of Robert Mueller's Russian investigation. Why? Isn't it obvious to any sentient being by now that not just their president but they themselves are up to their necks in it?

When you're just an overgrown fratboy like McConnell, Hatch, Grassley or the rest of them, it's all just guys having some good ol' boy fun, something to be made light of. Nudge nudge. Wink Wink. Hell, Republican voters even happily voted for and still support an admitted serial sexual predator. Trump is their hero! They shall not want! Bring back wire coat hangers! Invest in any company that makes them!

What's next? The pictured Bill Cosby? Nah, he's black. Two of "Them" on the Supreme Court? That would be a bridge way too far for any Republican.

Maybe after Trump, a Ted Bundy or a Jeffrey Dahmer will be more to the liking of republican voters. Too extreme, you say? Well, they keep pushing the envelope. Hmmm, I wonder how they'd feel about a 90-something former Nazi concentration camp guard? Would they run with a campaign motto of Let's Let Bygones Be Bygones? Can't you hear them saying the guard's past actions don't matter? That it's so long ago? I can see Orrin Hatch hogging some camera time just to say what a fine man the guard is and how shameful it is that anyone would bring up his past.

Is it really too far-fetched at this point to imagine a reeking bag of shit like McConnell calling for an amendment to allow a non-natural born citizen concentration camp tormentor to run for president? How about nominating a child-molesting catholic priest? As long as he would protect a fellow white supremacist in the White House from the long arm of the law? Of course Republicans would ignore the fact that they claimed President Obama wasn't born here and therefore should be removed from office. Such is the Republican mind.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

National Polling, Fine... We Need Accurate District Polls In Swing Districts


This morning we took a look at the lay of the land nationally (and in two bellweather Midwestern states, Minnesota and Iowa). Unless they're the kind of worthless polls the NY Times is doing now, I prefer district polling to get a better idea of what's going to happen in November. Polling in battleground districts is predictive-- and CBS News did just that Sunday: House control edges toward Democrats - CBS News poll. Their operation has its drawbacks as well, but not as overwhelmingly as the NY Times' silliness. Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto reported that "Democrats remain in a stronger position than Republicans to win the House of Representatives, with their chances having gradually improved over the summer. We estimate that Democrats would win 224 seats if the elections were held today, which is more than the 218 needed for a majority. As we saw a month ago, CBS is extremely tepid and conservative in their polling, but their results in 61 battleground districts is still worth looking at.

The Democratic estimate has slowly but steadily increased over the past three months. It's two seats higher than one month ago and five seats higher than in June. One reason for the Democratic lead is a pattern we have consistently seen: people who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 are more unified in their support for Democratic congressional candidates than Donald Trump voters are for Republicans. While few voters are crossing over in absolute terms, the difference between parties favors Democrats. Six percent of Trump voters say they are voting Democratic, while only two percent of Clinton voters say they are voting Republican now.

...Likely voters in key districts who say they are not sure about their House vote look genuinely conflicted. Though most identify as independents, they lean conservative in terms of their expressed ideology, and more voted for Mr. Trump than for Clinton. On the other hand, they give Republicans negative marks on several issues. They are more likely to say recent Republican changes to health care and trade policy have been negative than positive, and they are ambivalent about the Republican tax bill, with half saying they have not felt its effects. Six in ten say the Republican Party works for the interests of large corporations over working people. These feelings offer an opening to Democrats to win over voters currently on the fence, most of whom say their vote isn't about which party controls the chamber.
The biggest short-coming of the CBS report is that they don't break down any of their information by district. They just give us the average of these 61 districts:

At this point FiveThirtyEight.com predicts that The Republicans have a 1 in 6 chance of holding onto the majority in the House (18%) and the Democrats have a 5 in 6 chance of gaining control (82%). Let's take a look at some Republican-held districts targeted by Democrats that were looked at as long shots, starting with WA-08, where Dave Reichert is retiring and where the GOP is putting up a very well-known politician, Dino Rossi, and where the Democrats have a first-time candidate, physician Kim Schrier:

It's still rated a toss-up by the numbers. But when voters fill out their ballots, Trump will be foremost in their minds and Schrier is going to take the seat. In Omaha (NE-02), the Republican incumbent, Don Baconis having a rougher time defending his seat from a full-fledged grassroots progressive, Kara Eastman and the race went from a toss-up last month to "leans Dem" now, largely because Eastman is campaigning on issues people are interested in (like Medicare-For-All) and Bacon is a complete Trump rubber-stamp.

With Robert Hurt retiring, Virginia's 5th district is an open seat and the DCCC had exactly zero interest in helping a very outspoken and very progressive Leslie Cockburn beat Republican Denver Riggleman, one of the GOP's most flawed candidates of the cycle. And without DCCC acknowledgement...

Democrats have been fighting to take CA-10 for many years, unsuccessfully. Josh Harder isn't any better-- to put it generously-- than any other DCCC-picked candidate for the district but this is a special year and incumbent Jeff Denham appears to be... a dead man walking:

Now I want to point out a major flaw in the kind of-- by the numbers-- prognostication FiveThirtyEight does. In CA-50, drunken crooked incumbent Duncan Hunter has been indicted on dozens of charges and Ammar Campaigns-Najjar is one of the most compelling candidates the Democrats have running for Congress anywhere. One racist at the DCCC has prevented him from being endorsed and the cockroach DCCC staffer in Orange County has been working against him, despite his victory in the primary and despite endorsements from President Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Fuck the DCCC here. FibeThirtyEight doesn't understand how to grok the race and the most recent poll shows gigantic moment for Ammar and a 46-46% dead heat. That said, this is FiveThirtyEight's boneheaded prediction:

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Can You Envision Arizona With Not One, But TWO Democratic Senators?


McCain and Woods

Unless you live in Arizona, you probably never heard of Grant Woods, who was Attorney General there from 1991 'til 1999. A mainstream conservative, he won his first race with 80% of the vote. Earlier, he had served as McCain's chief of staff when McCain was a congressman in the 1980s. He remained very close with McCain for the decades that followed. Grant is also a member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, made up of the top 500 trial lawyers in the world. In 2016 he publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, writing that "Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified nominees to ever run for president. Donald Trump is the least qualified ever. The stakes are too high to stand on the sideline. I stand with Hillary Clinton for president." Within days of McCain's passing, Chuck Schumer started the process of recruiting Woods, still a Republican, to run for his seat, as a "Democrat."

When McCain died, Gov. Doug Ducey appointed ultra-conservative former Senator Jon Kyl to the seat but he has indicated he isn't interested in running in the 2020 special election to fill the rest of McCain's term. Woods is. Sunday he penned an OpEd for the Arizona Republic, Why John McCain's death may convince me to run for Senate (just not as a Republican).

Woods sees McCain as a hero, whose public life could be summed up as "Duty. Honor. Country." and wrote that "the giant hole left by his death has caused me to re-evaluate my own life."
I was 28 when I went to work for John. I stood by his side for a long time. When I was 34, I looked at running for Arizona attorney general against a three-term incumbent in our own party. I wanted to run on a consumer protection, environmental enforcement and civil rights platform.

I was a former public defender who had never prosecuted. It would be an uphill battle. John McCain didn’t hesitate. He said, “Let’s go win this thing.”

I served two terms, finished with high numbers, but never ran for office again. There are many fascinating things to do in the world, and politics is only one of them. So, I’ve been on the sidelines for 20 years. But is that acceptable anymore, especially in a time of national crisis?

I believe that lasting damage has been done by leaders who regularly degrade our American institutions with their words and their conduct.

Congress was never meant to be a rubber stamp, but is instead a co-equal branch and a check on executive overreach. Our judiciary may be flawed, but I know from experience that it strives to meet its goals of impartiality and fairness. And a free press is a lynchpin for all of our freedoms. Those who urge distrust and disrespect to these institutions are themselves disrespecting and hurting America.

If I believe that our country is in perilous times, what is my responsibility as a citizen to do something about it? I have to do more, that much is clear.

But does that mean I have to run for office again, this time for my mentor John McCain’s seat in the United States Senate? Maybe it does. I am trying to figure that out by reaching out and listening to as many people across the state and nation that I can.

I will have to decide soon.

Why not stay in the Republican Party and try to change it from within? It’s reasonable to consider, but I don’t think it is possible.

Barry Goldwater couldn’t win a Republican primary today. A principled conservative like Jeff Flake decided that he couldn’t either.

The Republican Party has abandoned its tethering philosophy and surrendered its moral authority because it wanted to stay in power. I want no part of it. The party of limited government has sold its soul to enjoy the power of government. History has never been kind to those who made such a treacherous bargain.

I have the option of running as an independent. Frankly, it suits me and would be a lot of fun.

I believe that the right person could win statewide in Arizona because our state and its people have always been a little anti-establishment and contrary. But a U.S. Senate race is very expensive, and it would be foolish to enter such a battle unarmed. So I have to decide if running as an independent is possible or only for the rich.

If I don’t run as an independent, then I will switch to a Democrat. I have many good friends in the Senate who are Democrats, and the prospect of working closely again with them is exciting. We didn’t care about party or the odds against us when we sued Big Tobacco or any of the other fights we undertook together as attorneys general.

We did what we thought was right. Period. It would be exciting to put the old band back together again.

I will not change my views or the things that I have fought for all my life to run for office. I am who I am. Fortunately, my views are in line with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. I can’t check any of the boxes associated with identity politics, and if that is required, then it won’t happen. But I have fought the good fight in hostile territory for all of my life. That should count for something.

For now, we need to support people who will stand up to the autocratic megalomaniacal behavior of the president.

We need to fight against immoral policies like the separation of children from their parents at our Arizona border or the deportation of those brought here as children. We have to preserve the beautiful natural resources of our state and nation. We have to fight for the dignity and values of the working man and woman.

I do believe that America is worth fighting for in 2020, just as it was in 1776. I don’t believe we need to make it great again; it is already great. I don’t believe that its institutions and values are corrupted or outdated.

Actually, it’s quite the contrary.

This country of ours was always an aspirational experiment. We said what few had ever said: that all people are created equal, and every one of them has a God-given right to be free.

But it has been a long struggle to achieve that goal. The civil rights we guaranteed in our declarations and our Constitution were unavailable to so many for much of our history. But we have never stopped fighting to achieve those lofty goals.

We have to realize now that it is our duty to keep the fight alive and to never surrender to those who are ignorant of the perils of history or the glory of what we seek to achieve.

I have always been unashamed to say how much I love Arizona. We have produced great leaders before, and I know we can do it again.

Each of us, though, needs to take a step back at this critical time and ask what is required of us now as Americans. I do not know what this will mean for me in the months ahead. But I know that John McCain never took the easy way out. He was always in the arena. He saw no honor on the sidelines.

In his eulogy to our friend, Henry Kissinger said that “honor is an intangible quality. It has no code. It reflects an inward compulsion, free of self-interest. It fulfills a cause, not a personal ambition. It represents what a society lives for beyond the necessity of the moment.”

Duty. Honor. Country. This meant everything to John McCain. It has to mean more to each of us, especially in times like this. It’s up to us now.
Kyrsten Sinema, a putative Democrat, is probably going to win the other Arizona seat in November. She has the single most anti-progressive voting record in the House and she chairs the right-wing Blue Dog Caucus. Schumer didn't recruit her despite that; he recruited her because of it. Meanwhile Republicans are campaigning against her as if she was so far left that she's basically a communist. On many matters she's to the right of Woods. Over the weekend, AP ran a piece about how Tennessee ex-Governor Phil Bredesen (D) is running for Senate by edging away from the party. "Phil Bredesen is a Democrat," wrote Julie Pace. "But he’d rather you not mention that." Bredesen told her that he needs "to make clear to everybody my independence from all of the national Democratic stuff." Pace: "He says Democrats wouldn’t be able to reliably count on his vote in the Senate, and foresees playing a role like that of Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who has broken with the GOP on several high-profile issues. 'I think you can be influential being in that swing position,' Bredesen said during an interview. Influential? Sure, if he's elected, he'll be another Democrap watering down key legislation to make it meaningless, the way Lieberman used to do. I would imagine Woods will be worse than either Sinema or Bredesen.

How is he on women's Choice? Would he be voting to confirm Kavanaugh? Where does he stand on immigration reform? The military/industrial complex of which his hero was so in love him? I'd like to know his vision of America's foreign policy. I mean, it's nice that he saw the danger of Trump early and endorsed Hillary. But Schumer deciding to endorse him doesn't make him a Democrat, let alone a progressive. I'd love to talk about Medicare-for-All with him, Job Guarantee and free state college. I'd like to sit him down with Stephanie Kelton for a little chit-chat and see if he can understand MMT. And if he decides to run... I'll give it a try.

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