Dec. 11

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

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Another Poll Shows Moore Leading Jones

A Gravis Marketing poll released yesterday has alleged child molester Roy Moore (R) ahead of Doug Jones (D) in the Alabama Senate race 49% to 45%. Moore has led in most of the recent polls, but all of them have to be taken with a barrel of salt. Everything depends on turnout. Will college-educated Republicans dutifully choose a Republican over a Democrat, even if they think the Republican is a child molester? Will black voters show up to vote for a white guy who does not excite them, but who did put the perpetrators of the Birmingham Sunday massacre of little black girls behind bars?

Another factor that could play a role is a statement made by Alabama's other senator, Richard Shelby (R) yesterday. Shelby said that the state of Alabama deserves better than Moore. He said that he already voted by absentee ballot and it wasn't for Moore (or Jones). He wrote in the name of a well-regarded Republican, but refused to say which one. Might other Republicans follow his lead? Or might they be influenced by Donald Trump's rally in nearby Pensacola, Fla.? Almost anything is possible. The election is tomorrow.

Both sides are pulling out all stops in a last-minute effort to energize their voters. Moore's campaign is using a recording made by Donald Trump and sending it out all over Alabama as a robocall. Jones is bringing in the cavalry to campaign with him, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. While Jones doesn't generally want outsiders to show up for him, he makes an exception for prominent black politicians, since his only chance of victory is to get black voters to the polls in great numbers.

If Moore wins, then the Senate is going to have to figure out what to do with him. If it can garner a 2/3 majority, it could expel him after he is seated, but the expulsion process would be messy and would dominate the news for quite a while. If he were expelled, Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) would call a new election, but Moore would be free to run again and might win again. It would keep him in the news for months, something he seems to like but the Republican Party would not like so much. (V)

Moore Does Not Like Amendments 11-27

Reporters are going through Roy Moore's past interviews and statements with a fine-toothed comb, and on an almost daily basis they manage to come up with some new bit of outrageousness. The newest discovery is an interview from 2011 in which Moore declared that if the United States got rid of all the Constitutional amendments after the first 10, "it would eliminate many problems."

That's quite an interesting, and broad, statement. Moore did not elaborate a great deal about exactly which amendments he does not like, so let's try to figure it out:

That's nine of the seventeen down, and we haven't really found any amendments Moore could plausibly be talking about. And now on to the other eight:

So, there are two slam dunks. But Moore did not say "a couple" or "a few," he said they should all go. Which must mean there are a few more on the list that he doesn't like. That leaves us with:

Unless we believe that Moore really hates the idea of voting for president and vice president separately (12) or holding the inaugural in January rather than March (20), his remarks would seem to suggest that he prefer that women and/or people of color not vote, and perhaps even that the latter group be returned to slavery. Given his remarks on that very subject earlier this year, this conclusion is not particularly far-fetched. And in 48 hours, he could be the newest senator from Alabama. (Z)

Collins Says Senate Will Have a Tough Decision If Moore Wins

On CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said it was a mistake for the RNC to resume its support of Roy Moore. She is not only concerned about his alleged habit of molesting children, but also his anti-Muslim comments, his anti-LGBT comments, and his disrespect for the law.

She also said, not surprisingly, that if he wins, Senate Republicans have a hot potato in their hands. In particular, she is open to expelling him from the Senate but also wondered if the voters know about his behavior and if they vote for him anyway, should the Senate try to override the will of the voters? She is not the only Republican senator who doesn't know what is going to happen next if Moore wins.

Moving on to another subject, Collins also said yesterday that she hasn't made up her mind on the tax bill and wants to read it before making a decision. If she votes "no." the bill will get only 50 votes, requiring President of the Senate Mike Pence to show up and cast the deciding vote. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) voted "no" on the original bill and shows no signs of changing his mind. Of course, if Collins and one other senator defect—Jeff Flake (R-AZ)?—then the bill is dead. (V)

Senate Republicans Are Attacking the American Bar Association

For more than 50 years, the ABA has quietly vetted the qualifications of potential judicial candidates. Up until this year, that was not controversial and everyone in Congress showed great respect for the organization. All of a sudden, Senate Republicans are declaring war on the ABA. Why? Because there are an exceptionally large number of vacancies on the federal bench since the Republican-dominated Senate refused to confirm most of Barack Obama's nominees. Now, Donald Trump is trying to fill those positions with the most conservative candidates he can find, without much regard to whether they are qualified or not, and the ABA is calling him out on some of the nominees.

Republicans are explaining this by calling the ABA a biased and liberal organization, something it has never been accused of being before. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said: "The ABA's record on judicial nominations has been highly questionable. It has demonstrated over past decades repeatedly partisan interests and ideological interests." And Jeff Flake said: "No a big fan of the ABA." Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said: "The ABA is a liberal advocacy organization." Senate Democrats have defended the organization and said it rates potential judges on their qualifications, not on their politics. It may be worth noting that the membership of the ABA is 88% white, 70% male, 62% above the age of 45, and earns an average income of $133,000 per year. This does not seem to be the profile of a liberal-leaning organization.

The ABA has so far vetted 57 judicial nominees under Trump. It found four of them to be unqualified. However, Republicans are determined to have all of Trump's nominee's be confirmed. (V)

Trump Accusers to Demand Congressional Investigation

Today, the various women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault will hold a joint news conference in New York City. At that event, they will demand that Congress launch an investigation into the charges they have made against the President.

Needless to say, there will not be a Congressional investigation as long as the Republican Party is in charge of both houses of the legislature. Meanwhile, Trump will not be before the electorate for three more years, by which time Monday's event will be long forgotten. So, it's not entirely clear what the underlying purpose of the press conference is. One possibility is that these women have decided to speak up on a regular basis, such that the public is constantly reminded of the charges against Trump. If so, that is very brave, given the scrutiny and abuse to which they will be (unfairly) subjected. Another possibility is that Monday's event is really targeted at Roy Moore, and that the real point is to send a message like, "Either you think that more than 20 women are lying about Trump and Moore, or you accept that maybe these two men both behaved badly." Given the timing of the press conference, one day before the Alabama election, the latter thesis seems pretty likely. (Z)

What is Haley's Long-Term Plan?

There was a time when UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was a rising star within the Republican Party. As a conservative and a South Carolinian, she could reasonably hope to court the GOP establishment and the Southern vote. As a devout Christian (who turned her back on Sikhism), she had a shot at the evangelicals. As a woman, she had an excellent claim on the votes of suburban women. And as a member of an ethnic minority, she might get more than a few crossover votes. It could well have been a winning combo in 2024 or 2028, when Haley would still be only 53 and 57, respectively.

Now, however, it's a little unclear what part of the Republican political spectrum she's trying to stake out. On one hand, she's accepted a role in the Trump administration, and has been a vigorous advocate of his "America First" philosophy. She outspokenly supported the withdrawal from the TPP and the Paris Accord, as well as the move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On the latter point, she appeared on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday and declared, "We have the right to do whatever we want in terms of where we put our embassies. We don't need other countries telling us what's right and wrong."

So, Haley is all-in on Trump, right? Maybe not. Because on the other hand, she also appeared on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, and during that appearance, she broke with the administration on the question of the sexual harassment allegations against the President. "I know that he was elected," Haley said, "but, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them."

Haley has built a very successful political career at a relatively young age, so perhaps she knows something that the rest of us do not. However, a reading of the tea leaves suggests that future Republican candidates for high office are going to be judged primarily by where they stood vis-a-vis Trump. If he crashes and burns, then being closely allied with The Donald will be poisonous (how many friends of Richard Nixon got elected after 1974?). And if he succeeds, then those who spoke against him will be traitors. Whatever happens, there will be people better positioned than Haley to profit; with a Mike Pence or a Jeff Sessions ascendant in the latter case and a Jeff Flake or a Bob Corker or a John Kasich ascendant in the former case. It does not seem possible to have it both ways, as Haley is apparently trying to do. As Dante observed, "The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." (Z)

Poll Says Americans Aren't Buying what the GOP is Selling on the Tax Plan

The GOP is furiously trying to put together a tax bill that can get through both houses of Congress, and that will significantly reduce the tax burden faced by corporations and the wealthy. At the same time, party leaders are trying to communicate the message that the plan is actually designed to benefit the middle and working classes. Donald Trump has taken the lead here, announcing several times that the plan is "very bad" for him as a billionaire businessman. Economists, non-partisan think tanks, the CBO, scholars of various stripes, political analysts, and the like have all expressed skepticism about the Republicans' declarations on the matter. But of course, they are not what matters in the end. What matters is what the voters think. And poll after poll is showing that the voters look at the emperor, and see he has no clothes.

The latest poll comes from USA TODAY/Suffolk University, and the numbers are pretty grim for the GOP. Only 32% support the plan, while 48% oppose it. If we assume that all of those 32% are Republicans, that means that even within the Party, one in six members don't like the plan, along with 100% of independents and 100% of Democrats. That's the worst response that any piece of legislation has gotten in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, 53% of Americans do not expect to pay lower taxes, and the same percentage does not expect the bill to help the economy. Needless to say, if the bill passes—or even if it doesn't—and the public's feelings remain the same, the Democrats will make mention of the subject one or two times during the 2018 campaign. (Z)

Will the Exit Poll Survive?

The exit poll has been a staple of American politics for decades, but it may not last past 2020. The Associated Press has decided to drop out of the National Election Pool, which commissions the exit polls, but it is not clear what comes next. The exit polls have multiple uses. One of them is that it provides the networks that sponsor them with a snapshot of the election at the moment the polls close, but before any votes have been counted. The problem is that in 2004 and 2016, the exit polls were quite wrong, since they suggested wins by John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

The AP and Fox News are considering other options that don't involve pigeonholing voters on the way out of their polling places to get them to answer some questions. One idea is to use geolocation technology on smartphones to verify that people had voted and then send them a questionnaire on the phone. Another is calling people and doing a more traditional poll.

Despite the departure of the AP and Fox News, the consortium still has ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC, and will operate during the 2020 election. After that, who knows? (V)

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