Sunday, August 27, 2017

Trumpanzee Plays Electoral Politics In Alabama And Nevada-- As Democrats Quietly Watch A GOP Civil War Break Out


After the Alabama primary, Señor Trumpanzee made one flaccid attempt to paint his rejection by Alabama Republican voters as a plus. He tweeted that his defeated candidate, inchmbent Luther Strange-- upon whom McConnell and a Trump-directed SuperPAC spent millions of dollars-- "picked up a lot of additional support since my endorsement." The final count in the Republican primary was 164,524 (38.87%) for crackpot Roy Moore and 138,971 (32.83%) for Trump and McConnell-backed establishment incumbent Luther Strange. [Another crackpot, Rep. Mo Brooks took 83,287 votes (19.68%) and a scattering of 7 vanity candidates split another 30-some-odd thousand votes between them.] Moore and Strange will face off in a runoff on September 26, the winner of which will then face Democrat Doug Jones, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, who won his 8-person primary with 109,105 votes (66.12%) on December 12.

Moore is more of a Trump candidate than Strange-- but its likely no one told that to Trump. So he backed the wrong horse. Thursday, Sarah Palin endorsed Moore. "Glad he’s running and am honored to endorse Judge Roy Moore for the US Senate," reads her statement. "Judge Moore has shown he has what it takes to stand up to the out-of-touch political establishment. The Judge has proven he’s not afraid of a fight for what is right, and he’s ready to take on DC’s swamp monsters and help make America great again. We need more bold leaders like Judge Moore who will fight for all of us in the US Senate." Kind of makes Señor Trumpanzee seem like a weenie.

Polling has been consistent since the run-off, showing Moore ahead of Strange. JMC found Moore crushing Strange 51-32% and the more mainstream Decision Desk HQ found nearly identical results last week-- Moore 50.3% to Strange 32.2%.

Trump doesn't want to look like a loser-- especially since Strange is identified as the McConnell candidate-- a big part of why he's losing-- and Trump is in the middle of one of his childish spats with McConnell. Robert Costa reported on Friday evening that Trump wants to disassociate from the Strange campaign. This is going to further infuriate Senate Republicans, many of whom already hate Trump passionately.
Trump did not signal a desire this week to formally withdraw his endorsement of Strange, the Republicans said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. And with the president having proven to be unpredictable, the individuals offered no certainty that he would stay out of the runoff.

But Trump is considering being less engaged than in the first round of voting, when he tweeted his support and recorded a robo-call for the senator, they said-- potentially turning the contest into yet another example of the frayed relationship between Trump and McConnell.

The Republicans added that the calculus being made in Trump’s orbit is logical. With a bevy of challenges on Capitol Hill this fall, the president is unlikely to have much time or political capital to spend on Strange’s campaign. On Friday, Trump and Vice President Pence called Strange to assure him of their support but made no specific plans to campaign on his behalf, according to two people with knowledge of the call.

...With Strange in the Senate, McConnell’s job would be easier than with Moore, a far-right fire-thrower who sent a fundraising email this week with the subject line, “It’s time to take King McConnell’s crown.” A Moore win also would raise the possibility that future Republican Senate candidates would run on an anti-McConnell promise, especially in red-state primary races-- putting his leadership in jeopardy.

For Trump, who has built a brand on winning, a Strange loss in Alabama could tarnish his image as a titan of the Republican base and raise questions about how much sway he holds in down-ballot contests heading into the midterm elections.
Now let's read this report on the Alabama primary run-off in the context of another bizarre report out of the tumultuous, contentious West Wing. Saturday morning Niall Stanage reported that Trump's allies are telling him he needs a high-profile Republican scalp. Chuck Schumer couldn't write this insane scenario any better than the way it's playing out in real time. Trump advisors-- think, for example, certifiably insane Roger Stone (the one who encouraged Trump to pardon Arpaio)-- are telling him that he "needs to instill fear so that lawmakers do not feel at liberty to thwart him."

“Most members of Congress are arrogant, and until a scalp is actually taken they are going to continue to be defiant,” longtime Trump friend Roger Stone told The Hill. “All he needs to do is punish one incumbent and I think you’d see a sea-change.”

Advice like Stone’s feeds the president's instincts to hit back hard against those whom he believes have wronged him: a list that at present appears to include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as well as GOP Sens. John McCain (AZ), Jeff Flake (AZ) and Bob Corker (TN).

Trump’s biggest defeat to date, on his attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act, came at the hands of McCain and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who joined Democrats to sink a Senate bill.

Other Trump loyalists join Stone in arguing that the president should neither forgive nor forget.

“He is 100 percent correct to go after McCain, Flake, Murkowksi,” said Sam Nunberg, who worked as an aide to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

  Nunberg also expressed the hope that Trump would be able to engineer the defeat of Collins in a GOP primary if she sought to become Maine’s governor.

But Nunberg drew a distinction between those senators who have been critical of Trump and the GOP leadership on Capitol Hill.

“I do think it is counterproductive for him to have a strained relationship with Leader McConnell,” Nunberg said, citing both the danger to Trump’s legislative agenda and the widespread support McConnell enjoys among his colleagues.

Steve Bannon, recently ousted as Trump’s chief strategist, does not appear to be in a compromising mood, however. He promised to keep up his own attacks on McConnell in an interview published by The Economist on Friday.

  “I’m going to light him up,” Bannon said.

Trump himself seems in no particular mood to declare a truce.

“The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed! That should NEVER have happened!” the president wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

...The strategic wisdom of those moves is lampooned by moderate Republicans. They note that Trump has achieved nothing of real legislative consequence so far in his presidency, and suggest that his fractious personality costs him goodwill on Capitol Hill.

“He doesn’t make it any easier to support him,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP consultant and pollster who worked for the 2016 GOP primary campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Trump’s willingness to hit back against those who don’t follow his wishes may be an integral part of his personality, however. Longtime Trump-watchers say the same impulse was evident in his years as a real estate developer, reality TV star and fixture of the New York tabloids.

“He drives everything from the point of trying to always appear to be the winner-- and not brooking dissent from anyone,” said Timothy O’Brien, the author of a biography of Trump and the executive editor of Bloomberg View. “He personally is always prioritizing conflict and bravado so he stays center-stage and is perceived as the winner.”

O’Brien asserted that any advisors fueling that tendency and encouraging him to “slap” at McConnell on a regular basis were politically “daft.”

There are even some internal party critics of Trump’s, however, who don’t dismiss his words out of hand.

Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio show on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of Trump, “He’s running against Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and others. The Congress is very unpopular, particularly with the Republican base, so there’s nothing unhinged about it. It’s a political strategy that I’m not so sure is smart, but it’s a very thought-out strategy. There’s nothing crazy about it.”

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, last month found only 30 percent of Republicans approving of McConnell’s job performance, while 46 percent disapproved. For Trump, 81 percent of Republicans approved and only 16 percent disapproved.

In five major polls this month-- from Gallup, CNN, CBS News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University-- overall public approval of Congress never exceeded 20 percent. Even Trump, whose poll ratings are historically low, scores roughly twice as well as that in most surveys.

The Harvard-Harris poll published by The Hill this week found McConnell to be the most unpopular politician in the country with a national profile.

Stone argued that Trump is “far more popular and more influential with Republican primary voters than any members of Congress and any member of the United States Senate, and he has enormous leverage to go into party primaries.”

The strategist lamented Trump’s decision to endorse incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in the special election in that state. Strange is also strongly backed by McConnell.

  ...“Really, the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate needs to get behind President Trump and his agenda,” said Jenny Beth Martin, the president and co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. “I think it is fair for him to shed light on what is really happening on Capitol Hill.

“The voters voted for Donald Trump to be a sledgehammer and a wrecking ball to Washington, D.C.,” she added.
How quickly they seem to have forgotten Nevada Republican Dean Heller. It seemed like only yesterday that a Trump/Pence-controlled PAC was running this ad against Heller in Las Vegas and Nevada:

Palin jumped into this race too-- endorsing a nutcase extremist, Danny Tarkanian, as a primary challenger and guess what-- a new poll from JMC Analytics shows Tarkanian leading Heller 39-31% among likely GOP primary voters. JMC: "This is one primary race where President Trump’s involvement could make a difference. Republicans in Nevada give him an 80-14% approval rating, and a Trump endorsement would by a 64-13% margin make the respondent more likely to support his endorsed candidate. And given Tarkanian’s recent strong endorsement of Trump policies, it appears some of that is already happening: those more likely to be impacted by a Trump endorsement favor Tarkanian 43-30% over Heller (27% undecided), while those less likely to be impacted by a Trump endorsement favor Heller 35-23% (42% undecided). Those who say the endorsement doesn’t matter favor Tarkanian 35-31% (35% undecided)-- these undecideds almost exactly equal the margin by which Tarkanian leads Heller. In summary, Senator Heller faces a substantial primary challenge from Danny Tarkanian in a race that ultimately could determine partisan control of the U.S. Senate."

UPDATE: Bannon Goes Rogue In Alabama

Although Trump is still "officially" on record as backing Luther Strange, Steve Bannon, declared war on McConnell and Strange by publicly backing Roy Moore. Alex Isenstadt reported that "Appearing before a meeting of the secretive Conservative Action Project, Bannon made it clear that he supported Moore, a favorite among evangelicals, but was careful not to cast it as a break with the president. Rather, he said, it was an act of opposition toward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is supporting Strange and has made the race a top political priority." It'll be interesting to see how Trump reacts.

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At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Expect the Democrats to again convert victory into crushing defeat because they follow the corporate money.


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