Clinton 232
image description
Trump 306
image description
Click for Senate
Dem 48
image description
GOP 52
image description
  • Strongly Dem (182)
  • Likely Dem (18)
  • Barely Dem (32)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (91)
  • Likely GOP (45)
  • Strongly GOP (170)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IA MI OH PA WI
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Receives a Hero's Welcome at CPAC
      •  White House Declares War on the Media
      •  Trump Attacks the FBI Again
      •  Trump Administration Building a Bubble
      •  Key Trump Donors Own Part of Breitbart News
      •  ACA Replacement Leaked
      •  Obamacare as Popular as It Has Ever Been
      •  Obama For President

Trump Receives a Hero's Welcome at CPAC

President Donald Trump declared that he was among friends when he addressed the CPAC conference in National Harbor, MD, yesterday morning. He was given a wild reception, despite tremendous opposition from many conservatives during the campaign, most of whom have apparently decided that when their long-standing principles are inconvenient, they can be easily discarded to gain access to power. For example, last year, the flagship publication of the conservative movement, the National Review, published an entire issue with nearly two dozen articles written by leaders of the conservative movement, attacking Trump for not being a conservative at all or suitable for the presidency. Now that Trump is president, all is forgiven.

In his speech to CPAC, Trump said he was a man of action and ticked off the various fronts on which he has already taken action. These include pulling out of the TPP trade deal, reducing regulations, cracking down on undocumented immigrants, and approving major oil pipelines. He also said he was going to push for a huge tax cut, repeal the ACA, and have the biggest buildup of the military in history. And of course, he made it clear he was going to build a wall on the Mexican border. He also lit into the media (see below). (V)

White House Declares War on the Media

President Donald Trump's fight with the media has escalated to an unprecedented level. At Sean Spicer's off-camera news briefing yesterday, a number of news outlets were forbidden from attending, including the New York Times, The Hill, Politico, Buzzfeed, the Daily Mail, the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Daily News. This is really amazing. Trump's fight with the New York Times is well known, but not all the banned outlets are left wing. The Hill has a clear conservative lean, and Politico used to, but with the departure of founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, it has become more centrist. The New York Daily News is a somewhat conservative newspaper owned by billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman. In 2012 it endorsed Mitt Romney, but in 2016 it had the audacity to endorse Hillary Clinton, so its exclusion may have been more for revenge than for Zuckerman's politics. It is crucial not to underestimate revenge as the motive for almost everything Trump does.

The White House Correspondents Association sharply criticized the decision to ban so many news organizations. The Associated Press and Time Magazine were allowed in but refused to attend in solidarity with the banned organizations. The Wall Street Journal had a reporter there, but later said "had we known at the time, we would not have participated and will not participate in such closed briefings in the future." If things continue along these lines, before long only Fox News, Breitbart News, and the Washington Times will be present at briefings.

One thing that Sean Spicer has done is create a number of "Skype seats," to allow reporters from outside Washington to ask questions. While at first glance this seems like a good thing, allowing more organizations to participate, actually it is not. The Washington bureaus of major news outlets know what is going on and often ask pointed questions. Reporters from the East Cupcake News who don't follow national news closely and who are flattered to have been allowed to ask a question are not going to ask critical questions. If Spicer and Trump want a full-blown war with all the national media except Fox News, they are probably going to get it. The consequence of these maneuvers will most likely be to make the media even more hostile to the administration than it already is. Clearly the White House is playing only to its base, and everyone else be damned. Steve Bannon's fingerprints are all over this. (V)

Trump Attacks the FBI Again

Donald Trump went after the FBI again yesterday, after the Bureau refused to dispute a New York Times story reporting that agents had uncovered contact between Russian officials and one or more people working for Trump's campaign. The request came from chief of staff Reince Priebus to the FBI's Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Matthew Miller, a former Justice Dept. spokesman for Barack Obama, commented on Priebus' request, saying: "If the president can order investigations into his opponents or quash investigations into his friends or his staff members, then we quickly become a banana republic."

The FBI has a long-standing policy of not commenting on active investigations (except when they involve Hillary Clinton). There are two reasons for this policy:

  • To preserve the independence of the FBI as a nonpartisan fact-finding organization
  • To avoid letting the target of investigations know what the Bureau is doing and how far along it is

So, it appears that not only is the Trump administration's war on the media escalating, but so is its war on the intelligence agencies. It is likely that the combination will lead to more leaks, not fewer. (V)

Trump Administration Building a Bubble

Last week, National Security Counsel adviser Craig Deare criticized Donald Trump's approach to Latin America. He was fired. The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, etc. have produced coverage critical of Trump, and now find themselves frozen out of press conferences (see above). When the FBI and CIA do or say things that Trump does not like (see above), he openly criticizes them and then limits their access. When Trump wants to commune with "the people," he holds a rally where the crowd is populated by fawning admirers.

In short, as the Post's Ishaan Tharoor points out, Trump and his team are building a bubble around themselves. They are creating a world filled entirely with supporters and yes men who see everything through Trump-colored glasses. For most presidents, the bubble is something they consciously work against, recognizing that being isolated from contrary points of view is ultimately problematic. For Trump & Co., by contrast, it's a feature, and not a bug.

There are all sorts of problems that can come from this kind of reality-distorting existence, but two in particular stand out. First, as a matter of governance, it is not wise to surround oneself with people who never say "no." Mistakes will be made, and if nobody points them out in private, then they become public mistakes. Perhaps even big, embarrassing, headline-dominating mistakes—ill-considered travel bans, for example. The second problem is that it is easy to lose touch, not only with the opposition, but even with one's base. Just months ago, we had an election where a candidate spent months in a blue-state, mostly urban, mostly coastal bubble, and so did not realize until too late that part of her base had jumped ship. If Trump runs again in 2020, and he's already made plans to do so, he will need to know exactly how happy his base is. He will also need some voters that he didn't get in 2016. If he insists on hearing only the good news, he will receive a very unpleasant surprise on Election Day 2020. (Z)

Key Trump Donors Own Part of Breitbart News

One of the great mysteries of the universe is why Donald Trump has moved so far to the right as president. Until a few years ago, he was a pro-choice Democrat and buddy-buddy with the Clintons. Even during the campaign he was a moderate on the average, partly by supporting strong Republican positions (lower taxes for the rich) and strong Democratic positions (no changes to Social Security or Medicare). As president, he hired former Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon as assistant president and everything he has said or done has Bannon's fingerprints all over it. A lot of what Bannon wants is not popular with either the Republicans in Congress or with the country. What is going on here?

Yesterday, USA Today reported that top Republican donors and Trump supporters Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer co-own Breitbart News, along with Breitbart CEO Larry Solov and Andrew Breitbart's widow, Susie. Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager, is a conservative but not politically active. In contrast, Rebekah is extremely engaged in conservative politics, donating large amounts of her father's money (with his blessing) to candidates and causes she favors. In particular, she was a huge donor to one of Trump's PACs. Last fall, Politico ran a story about Rebekah headlined: "The most powerful woman in GOP politics."

Can the dots be connected? Could it be that the Mercers asked/insisted/demanded that Trump hire Bannon and let him do whatever he wanted? Could this be for political reasons (e.g., they like Bannon's politics) or for business reasons (having Bannon help run the country is surely good for Breitbart News)? Inquiring minds want to know. No doubt investigative reporters want to know as well. (V)

ACA Replacement Leaked

With anything as contentious as the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, it is impossible to keep any plans secret for more than five minutes. There are too many people involved who want to sink any particular plan, and those individuals' strategy is invariably to leak the plan. In this case, Politico was the lucky recipient of the leak. The proposed plan would eliminate the hated individual mandate, all income-based subsidies, all of the law's taxes, and its Medicaid expansion. However, as a concession to politics, parts of the new law would not take effect until 2020, presumably after the election. One thing that is crucial in any replacement is what to do about people with preexisting conditions. The plan is to create "high-risk pools" and give states some money to fund them. How much funding they would need to provide coverage comparable to the ACA is greatly disputed. Some independent estimates put it as high as $178 billion per year. Secretary of HHS Tom Price authored a bill when he was in the House that allocated $1 billion for these pools. It is not known how much funding they will get in the new plan. However, if the proposed funding is just a few billion, in effect, the new scheme will provide cheap insurance to healthy people and almost no insurance to sick people. Politically, that is not likely to be a big winner.

No matter how much money goes into the high-risk pools, it has to come from somewhere. The new plan will apparently reclassify employer-provided health-care benefits above a certain level as taxable income. Currently, only extremely generous plans are subject to the ACA's "Cadillac tax," something Republicans have wildly opposed. It would be ironic, to put it mildly, for the main funding mechanism for the new plan to be an expanded version of something the Republicans have hated bitterly for years. But it is possible that Speak Paul Ryan (R-WI) hates the net investment income tax of 3.8% on wealthy individuals even more, since it is de facto, an income tax increase for high-net-worth individuals. (V)

Obamacare as Popular as It Has Ever Been

Whatever one might say about Paul Ryan, he understands well certain political realities. In particular, he has acknowledged that the longer it takes to repeal Obamacare, the harder it will be. First, because we will get closer and closer to midterm elections, at which point GOP members of Congress will become skittish about making big changes for which they might be punished. Second, because the more that people talk and think about the program, and consider the alternatives, the more they will conclude that Obamacare is not so bad after all.

It may be a few months or more until members start worrying seriously about their reelection bids, and we start to see the impact of that consideration. However, the second phenomenon is already coming to pass. In fact, two different polls this week recorded the highest approval rating for Obamacare that they've ever gotten. The latest Health Tracking Poll, which has measured voters' feelings about the law 60 times since 2010, reports that 48% now view the law favorably, with 42% having an unfavorable view. Meanwhile, a Pew research poll has it at 54% approve, 43% disapprove. That's up five points from December (48%-47%), suggesting that the fight over repeal is actually winning new converts to the law.

Are we at the point that repealing the law has become politically impossible? Former speaker John Boehner certainly thinks so, and he may well be right. There is, of course, the problem of all the people who will be unhappy with the law's repeal—those who support the law, those who will lose their insurance, those who will take a financial hit from a GOP replacement. Undoubtedly, some GOP politicians are also imagining the commercials that the Democrats will come up with once if the law is overturned. All it takes is testimonials from a handful of people who were covered by Obamacare, lost their insurance, and then lost their homes, or their good health, or their lives. That would be a powerful advertisement, indeed, not unlike the CDC's "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign. Meanwhile, the benefits of repealing the law would be pretty amorphous. Reducing the deficit? People say that they care about that issue, but they don't vote that way. Reducing bureaucracy? That probably won't happen, but even if it does, how does a political party make that into a commercial? The upshot is that it's getting harder and harder to do the political calculus and make it all add up. And all it takes is a handful of GOP Senators who agree, and that's that. (Z)

Obama For President

In France, many citizens are tired of politics as usual. They grow weary of leaders who make big promises and get nothing done. They are tired of constant sniping between political parties, and an unwillingness to put things aside for the good of the country. And so, as the French presidential elections draw near, some French activists think they have the answer to what ails their nation: Barack Obama.

Thus far, the group has put up a website, launched a petition that has collected tens of thousands of signatures, and plastered Paris with 500 "Obama 2017" posters. At the moment, he's not eligible to run, since he is not a French citizen, though that could be resolved if the French Assembly grants him citizenship. It does not even matter where he was born—France, Hawaii, or Kenya. Of course, he's not looking for another job, and there's no evidence he's even aware of the campaign. Mostly, it's just an illustration of how the grass is greener on the other side—in the U.S., Donald Trump was elected as a rebuke of Obama, in France he would himself be the rebuke. It may also be an early indication that the European pendulum is swinging away from authoritarianism and isolationism and back toward liberal democracy. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb24 Trump-Russia Plot Thickens, Yet Again
Feb24 White House Raises Concerns Trying to Justify Travel Ban
Feb24 Richard Spencer Ejected from CPAC
Feb24 Bannon Partly Right About the Media
Feb24 Elections Are Closer than You Think
Feb24 Taxpayers Are Confused about the ACA Mandate
Feb24 Feds May Get Back in the Business of Busting Pot Smokers
Feb23 Cabinet Secretaries Are Battling Trump Aides over Appointments
Feb23 Pay-for-Play Remains Alive and Well with Trump Administration
Feb23 Trump Overturns Protections for Transgender Students
Feb23 CPAC Opens with an Identity Crisis
Feb23 Trump Continues to Sink in Polls
Feb23 Kellyanne Conway Benched
Feb23 Perez and Ellison Agree Not to Interfere in Primaries
Feb23 Democrats' Hopes to Retake the House Lie in Suburbia
Feb23 Travel Ban Hurting the Tourist Industry
Feb22 Trump Lays Out Plans for Mass Deportations
Feb22 Trump Denounces Anti-Semitism, Sort Of
Feb22 Trump and McMaster Don't See Eye to Eye on Key Issues
Feb22 McMaster Will Require Senate Confirmation
Feb22 Trump's Streak of Falsehoods Has Lasted 33 Days
Feb22 Town Halls Becoming a Real Hornet's Nest
Feb22 Yiannopoulos Resigns from Breitbart News
Feb22 Protest Trump by Withholding Taxes?
Feb21 Trump Picks Lt. Gen. McMaster as the new National Security Adviser
Feb21 New Travel Ban is Coming
Feb21 Milo Yiannopoulos Disinvited from CPAC Conference
Feb21 More on the Election Results
Feb21 Republicans Lose Some Top-Tier Senate Candidates
Feb21 Kansas State Legislature Rolls Back Income Tax Cuts
Feb21 Britons Don't Want Trump
Feb21 Trump Golfs, Tries to Hide It
Feb20 Trump Administration Plans to Speed Deportations
Feb20 Another Day, Another Non-Existent Terrorist Attack
Feb20 Trump Searching for New National Security Advisor
Feb20 Trump about to Discover that Dealing with China Isn't So Easy
Feb20 Could Trump Jail Reporters Who Publish Leaks?
Feb20 Why Should America Trust You?
Feb20 Impeach President Bannon Signs Appear around the Country
Feb19 Trump Continues to Ignore the Grown-Ups in His Cabinet
Feb19 Priebus Is All In on Trump
Feb19 Keep an Eye on Mike Pence
Feb19 Trump Retreats from Governing, Goes Back to Campaigning
Feb19 Trump Travel Costs Skyrocketing
Feb19 Trump's Pick for Navy Secretary Reportedly About to Withdraw
Feb19 Milo Yiannopoulos Will Be Keynote Speaker at CPAC Conference
Feb18 Senate Confirms Pruitt
Feb18 Business and Politics Keep Colliding
Feb18 Ryan's Tax Plan Is Running into Trouble
Feb18 Veteran John McCain is Back at War--with Donald Trump