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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Winners and Losers in 2017
      •  Ten Races to Watch This Year
      •  Trump Slams Pakistan
      •  Top Ten Twitter Hashtags of 2017
      •  Government vs. Government
      •  What's Going on in Iowa?

Winners and Losers in 2017

In 2017, some people and groups came out ahead and some came out behind. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has a nice list of winners and losers. Here it is:

  • Women: Hillary Clinton lost but that is not stopping women from dreaming of moving into the White House in 2021. In fact, three of the top contenders are female Democratic senators: Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Kamala Harris (CA). In addition, a record number of women have filed to run for Congress and state legislative seats in 2018. It would be ironic if the result of Hillary Clinton's attempt to grab the brass ring was to get a woman in the Oval Office—just not her.

  • Democrats' 2018 Hopes: At the start of 2017, Democrats were in shock. They lost an election that all of them thought was in the bag. The shock is beginning to wear off after a string of very strong performances in House and state legislative races, plus big wins in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, followed by the unthinkable: a Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama. All of a sudden things look a lot brighter, with the House definitely in play now.

  • Senate is up for grabs: Not only is the House in play, but so too is the Senate now, albeit less so than the House. The big difference is that a year ago, nobody saw a path to a Democratic Senate majority. Now the path is clear, albeit uphill. First, the Democrats have to hold all their own seats. Three of the seats look tough (Missouri, North Dakota, and Indiana), but the others look much easier now. Then the Democrats need to flip two other seats, with Nevada and Arizona being the obvious candidates. But With Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) retiring and former two-term governor Phil Bredesen in the race, Tennessee is now in play. Finally, illness may help the Democrats. If John McCain retires or dies, that seat will be in play. Lastly, if Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) resigns from the Senate due to a persistent illness, far-out right-wing candidate Chris McDaniel is likely to run for it, and if he wins the primary, that seat could be in play as well.

  • Conservative judicial activists: While Donald Trump has gotten only one significant law passed so far, he did get Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court as well as numerous very conservative judges to the appellate and district courts. Even if Trump achieves nothing else in his presidency, this legacy will last for three or four decades and won't be easily reversed, unless the Democrats eventually get control of the whole show including a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, so they can expand the judiciary.

  • The fight against ISIS: While it has been under the radar all year, the fight against ISIS is going well. The terrorist group has lost all the territory it previously held in Iraq and it is on the ropes in Syria. It hasn't been vanquished entirely, but its plan to establish an actual caliphate with the power to govern is pretty much dead.

  • MSNBC: Rachel Maddow is no fan of Donald Trump, but he has sure been great for her ratings. MSNBC even edged CNN for the first time in the 18 to 49 demographic advertisers kill for. It is still behind Fox News, but is clearly ascendant.

  • The transgender community: In Nov. 2017, an openly transgender candidate, Danica Roem (D), defeated a virulently anti-gay Republican, Robert Marshall, for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Five years ago, no one would have believed such a thing was possible.

  • The wealthy: The tax bill gave them a big Christmas present. There has also been a lot of deregulation, which helps big companies, most of which are run by rich CEOs.
  • The truth: The Washington Post's fact checker has found over 1,000 lies Donald Trump told last year, and surveys show that most of his followers believe them, despite incontrovertible evidence in some cases showing that what he said is demonstrably false. They simply don't care. All presidents have fibbed on occasion (except George Washington after some lumberjack activity), but none have ever out-and-out rejected reality before.

  • The stability of the American political system: Trump not only lies, but has attacked the FBI, the CIA,, the courts, the media, and other democratic institutions. They may survive his presidency, but they may also be severely weakened if 30% of the country now believes them to be corrupt or biased.

  • Michael Flynn: The former NSA was Trump's favorite staffer until he was Trump's least favorite staffer. Could this have something to do with Flynn's jumping ship and spilling the beans to special counsel Robert Mueller? Might be.

  • Trump's GOP critics: Every Republican who has challenged Trump has been viciously attacked and most have become remarkably unpopular. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (AZ) and Bob Corker (TN) were basically forced out of office by Trump. Few other Republicans have the stomach to challenge him, although if Mitt Romney is elected senator from Utah in 2018, that could change.

  • Roy Moore: He did the impossible—lost a Republican Senate seat in Alabama. Well, he still doesn't think he lost, and even after watching Doug Jones be sworn in this week, probably still won't concede, but Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill thinks he lost and that's what matters.

  • Trump's lawyers: They have a miserable job defending a client who insists on putting both feet in his mouth at once, the better to shoot himself in them. Even conceding that, they have done a horrible job. They made laughingstocks of themselves on TV, were caught gossiping within earshot of a reporter, and more.

  • Al Franken: He went from being a dark-horse presidential candidate to a private citizen. That certainly doesn't make him a winner. He clearly doesn't believe that patting women he doesn't know on the behind is a big deal, but the women thought otherwise.

  • Internationalism: Trump would probably like to construct a wall on the southern border and get Mexico to pay for it, construct a wall on the northern border and get Canada to pay for it, construct a wall on the eastern border and get France to pay for it, and construct a wall on the western border and get China to pay for it. Don't count on any of these, but Trump pulled out of TPP and the Paris Accord and wants to cancel NAFTA. He loves thumbing his nose at the rest of the world. It is going to be America first, America second, and America third until there is a new president.

In short, a long list. One winner Blake didn't mention is Donald Trump. He was inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, something virtually nobody thought was possible 2 years ago. Another winner Blake forgot is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who now has an asset in the White House. (V)

Ten Races to Watch This Year

The first week of January is the time for lists, and Politico has joined the fun. Its entry is a list of 10 races to watch this year. Here we go.

  • Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D): Even before Doug Jones won in Alabama, Abrams thought that a combination of black voters and suburban white voters could be the secret sauce for Democrats to win in the South. Now she is even more convinced she could become the first black governor of Georgia. She made it as far as becoming minority leader of the Georgia House, but in a Democratic wave year with a huge black turnout, her dream could come true.

  • Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA): The pro-Trump, anti-immigration representative wants the seat in which Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is sitting. It will be interesting to see what path he tries to follow. In 2016, Trump won the state by running up big margins in the rural center of the state while Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was reelected by holding down the Democratic vote in the big cities.

  • Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D): He's 74 but is going for a last hurrah by running for Bob Corker's Senate seat. The Republicans are going to have a nasty ideological primary and Bredesen did win statewide election twice in Tennessee, so the idea of a Democrat from Tennessee in the Senate is not like tilting at windmills. Still, it won't be easy for him.

  • NY State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D): By now, everyone knows that the tax bill is going to hurt affluent people in states like New York. This race is where the rubber meets the road. Brindisi is a centrist Democrat with an "A" rating from the NRA and he is running to unseat Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY). How will Democrats react to a moderate Democrat running against a Republican in a rural area? Will he be shunned as a gun nut, or will they think he is the right kind of person to flip a seat in a conservative area?

  • Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA): Let's face it. She's sweating bullets right now. In 2017, seven Republican state delegates whose districts overlapped hers were defeated. In a wave year, she could do everything right and still lose. Her only hope is that the Democrats are so confident that they can beat her they are falling all over each other to challenge her, and a brutal primary is certain.

  • Former Kansas state Sen. Paul Davis (D): Nancy Pelosi is never going to win a popularity contest in Kansas and Davis knows it. So he kicked off his campaign for the House by saying he wouldn't vote for her for speaker. He is running for the open seat in KS-02, which has a PVI of R+10. As with Brindisi, the big question is how Democratic activists will react to moderate and even conservative Democrats running in districts where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) couldn't get elected dog catcher. If Democrats hope to take back the House, they will need to win races like this one and with candidates like Davis.

  • Nevada AG Adam Laxalt (R): Grandpa was a Republican senator, so Laxalt has great name recognition. He got elected statewide to the AG position in 2014, and has announced he would like to move into the governor's mansion. The trouble is that even though the Democrats don't have a candidate yet, the state is turning blue and Laxalt will have to swim against the tide. On the other hand, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) did it twice, so with the right person, it is possible.

  • Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R): The firebrand conservative is a favorite of Breitbart executive chairman Steve Bannon. He is planning to run for the Senate against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), but if the other seat opens up due to Thad Cochran's resignation, he might opt for the easier race. Actually, he went after Cochran's seat once before—while Cochran was sitting in it. In 2014, he beat Cochran in the first round of the primary with 49.6% of the vote, but lost by a whisker in the second round. A McDaniel candidacy in either race would give the Democrats a serious chance of pulling an Alabama in Mississippi.

  • Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ): Her attempt to take over Jeff Flake's seat will be a test of how people who were anti-Trump early on fare. The big test will be the Republican primary, in which Steve Bannon—oops, make that Kelli Ward—is the conservative favorite. Her test will be being pro-Trump enough to win the primary but anti-Trump enough to win the general election against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who doesn't have a primary and who is going to be the recipient of a lot of out-of-state money.

  • Former federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill (D): If the Democratic path to taking the House has any formula, it is running female veterans in well-educated suburban districts like that of her opponent, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). In what is certain to be a strong year for women, female veterans are going to have an advantage because it will be hard for Republicans to call a veteran weak on defense without getting a lot of blowback. If Sherrill knocks off Frelinghuysen, she will no doubt be part of a large cohort of similar first-time women winning is swing suburban districts.

It's a long and varied list, but each of them is interesting for different reasons, and all are worth keeping an eye on. (V)

Trump Slams Pakistan

The new year was only five hours old when Donald Trump got out his phone and sent his first attack tweet of 2018. The winning target is...Pakistan, a new bugaboo for the President (like the USPS):

This is a potentially justifiable assessment of America's relationship with the Pakistani government, which has certainly talked out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to combating terrorism. But hurling criticism at a foreign government via social media has yet to prove a productive approach to diplomacy. Further, it's fair to wonder if Trump even believes what he writes here, considering this tweet he sent just 10 weeks ago:

What, exactly, has changed between October 13 and yesterday? Well, one thing is that Team Trump has decided that withholding aid payments, like a $255 Million payment scheduled to be made to Pakistan, is a great way to advance and announce Trump's "America First" approach. So, Monday's tweet is probably not about foreign relations and, as is usually the case with Trump's "foreign policy," is actually meant to fire up the base and to let them know what MAGA action the President is taking this week. (Z)

Top Ten Twitter Hashtags of 2017

Twitter has announced its most tweeted-about accounts of 2017. Donald Trump will be thrilled to learn that he is #1, though less happy to learn that eight of the top 12 are either Barack Obama (#4), or else frequent critics of his (Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA, at #5; Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, at #6; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, at #7; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, at #9; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, at #10; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, at #11, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, at #12).

The social media platform also listed its Top 10 hashtags of the year. Other than #2, #4, and #10, the President is definitely not going to be too happy about this one:

  1. #Resist
  2. #MAGA
  3. #ImpeachTrump
  4. #TrumpTrain
  5. #WomensMarch
  6. #NotMyPresident
  7. #BlackLivesMatter
  8. #NoDAPL
  9. #TakeAKnee
  10. #BoycottNFL

"DAPL" is "Dakota Access Pipeline." In any event, the President has often sent tweets that clearly violate Twitter's terms of service. These lists, however, make clear why he will never, ever get suspended or booted—he is an absolute machine when it comes to driving traffic to (and on) the platform. (Z)

Government vs. Government

Democrats in high-tax states are stewing over the Republicans' tax bill that sticks it to them by limiting the longstanding deduction for state and local taxes. But they are not completely powerless here, and are seriously thinking of fighting back. It is a long tradition that big companies and wealthy individuals exploit loopholes in the federal tax code to their advantage, but state governments rarely, if ever, do this. That may change now. One plan that is getting consideration is for states to set up charities whose mission is to help the poor in ways that the state government normally does. Then the state legislature could pass a law saying that donations to these charities up to the amount of state income tax the donor must pay can be credited to against their state tax liability.

For example, if someone owed $30,000 in state income tax and $10,000 in local property tax, the person could "donate" $30,000 to the official state charity and not have to pay any state income tax. This donation to a charity is fully deductible for federal tax purposes. The person could then use the $10,000 allowable deduction on the federal form to deduct property tax. The net result would be that the person pays the same federal and state tax as before the tax bill was passed. The state would get less money, but the charity would help the poor so the state wouldn't have to spend as much and the poor would get the same amount of help as before.

Republicans would see red if some state passed such a law, but as with all loopholes, it might be technically legal. After all, it is up to states to determine what is deductible or creditable against state taxes. The federal government really doesn't have any say in that. As long as the charity the state set up passed muster as a valid charity, donations to it would probably be deductible for federal tax purposes. Of course, as in so many cases, the Supreme Court would probably have the final word. But a decision that said: "Nope, you are using a loophole to defeat the purpose of a law" could rebound and hit many rich people who use all manner of loopholes to circumvent many laws. (V)

What's Going on in Iowa?

Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in Iowa, winning a 10 point victory with 51% of the vote to her 41%. And since he's taken office, he's delivered the bacon (in a state that loves its pork, ideally corn-fed). The economy there is humming along, unemployment has dropped to 3%, and residents of stand to benefit handsomely from the tax bill.

And yet, The Donald has somehow turned toxic in the Hawkeye State. Experts in Iowa politics say he wouldn't have a chance there if the caucuses were held today. Those experts include Ann Selzer, who is the guru of Iowa polling, and may be the best pollster in American politics. She has Trump's approval rating in Iowa at 35%, lagging his very pedestrian national approval rating by several points. Congressional Republicans are doing even worse, with just 34% of residents saying they plan to back the GOP in November's midterms. The special election results in Iowa in 2017 (all for seats in the Iowa house of representatives), where the Democrats went 2-1 and way outperformed 2016 in all three cases, tell the same tale.

Exactly what has soured Iowans on Trump is something of a mystery. It could be his anti-trade pact maneuvering, which has certainly hurt the state, although that part of his agenda was not a secret when the ballots for president were cast. It could be the efforts to undermine Obamacare, since the insurance exchanges definitely benefited many Iowans. Again, though, Trump's plans on that front were not a secret, and besides that it was really the legislature that killed the exchanges in Iowa. It could be the tax bill, which many Iowans find unfair, though the decline of Trump's approval ratings predates the bill by months. Point is, there's no thesis that satisfactorily explains what is happening. The only thing that is certain is that both Republicans and Democrats are working furiously to figure it out, the latter so they can try to replicate it, and the former so they can try to fix it. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan01 Assessing Donald Trump's First Year
Jan01 Stories to Watch in 2018
Jan01 People to Watch in 2018
Dec31 FBI's Russia Inquiry Likely Started with Papadopoulos
Dec31 Mueller Probe Just Getting Started
Dec31 Congressional Democrats Want to Talk to Priebus
Dec31 Trump Fires Rest of AIDS Council
Dec31 Pence Urged to "Make America Gay Again"
Dec31 Top Five Trump Sycophants
Dec31 Russiagate Is Not Watergate
Dec30 Was 2017 the Craziest Year in Politics Ever?
Dec30 Trump's New Targets: The USPS and Amazon
Dec30 Trump Outlines Immigration Demands
Dec30 Russia Snubs a Senator, Senators Snub Back
Dec30 DHS Is Making States Wait 9 Months Before Helping to Secure Their Voting Systems
Dec30 No, Trump's Approval Rating Has Not Equaled Obama's
Dec30 Lessons from the Saturday Night Massacre
Dec29 Alabama Certifies Doug Jones' Victory in Senate Race
Dec29 Alabama Reveals Roy Moore's Fellow Losers
Dec29 Virginians Thought Another Gore vs. Bush Couldn't Happen in Their State
Dec29 Ducey to Arizona Republicans: Stop Jockeying for McCain's Senate Seat
Dec29 Nearly Half of Republicans Believe that Trump Repealed "Obamacare"
Dec29 Trump Does Not Seem to Understand Global Warming
Dec29 Trump Does Not Understand International Trade
Dec29 Newton's Third Law Also Applies to Politics
Dec29 Trump Hits 46% Approval in Rasmussen Poll
Dec29 Trump Physical Scheduled for January 12
Dec28 Trump's Lawyers Plan to Call Flynn a Liar
Dec28 Moore Claims Fraud in Alabama
Dec28 Blue Staters Rush to Pay Property Taxes
Dec28 McConnell and Ryan Are Not on the Same Page on Entitlement Reform
Dec28 Obama Beats Trump as Most Admired Man of 2017
Dec28 How Some Political Predictions Turned Out
Dec28 No, Trump Has Not Signed More Laws Than Any Other President in His First Year
Dec28 Bannon Cuts Ties with Nehlen
Dec28 China Dogs Trump
Dec27 Congress Actually Passed Nearly 100 Laws in 2017
Dec27 Trump's Next Goal: Infrastructure
Dec27 D.C. Court of Appeals Rejects Challenge to Trump's Voter Fraud Panel
Dec27 Universities Are Preparing for a Violent Year Ahead
Dec27 Royal Wedding Could Become Political
Dec27 Virginia Elections Headed to Court
Dec27 Another Bad Poll for Republicans
Dec26 Democrats Are Going to Run in Almost Every House District in 2018
Dec26 The Top 10 House Races to Watch in 2018
Dec26 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
Dec26 Menendez Isn't Drawing Serious Competition
Dec26 Who Is Kirsten Gillibrand and What Is She Up to?
Dec26 Utah Paper Blasts Hatch
Dec26 A Really, Really Bad Poll for Republicans