Dem 46
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Ties 2
GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: MO ND
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump, Saudi Arabia Dance
      •  Trump Says He Is in the Dark about Mattis' Future
      •  Richard Neal Wants Trump's Tax Returns
      •  Trump Seems to Be Having a Trickle-Down Effect
      •  Democrats Worried about Latino Turnout
      •  Overall Democratic Enthusiasm is Up, Up, Up
      •  Two More Forecasters Foresee a Democratic House

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Quote of the Day
Saudis May Admit Khashoggi Died During Interrogration

Trump, Saudi Arabia Dance

Donald Trump undoubtedly wishes everyone would just forget about Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi-born journalist and American resident who appears to have been murdered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, who appears to have ordered the killing, probably wishes the same. Unfortunately for both of them, the situation isn't going away.

Late Saturday and early Sunday were marked by an exchange of (pretty empty) threats, with Trump vowing that "severe punishment" would be in the offing if it was proven the Saudis killed Khashoggi, and the Saudi government declaring a "total rejection of any threats," and warning that, "The kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action." By Sunday afternoon and evening, however, things had already begun thawing. Trump, predictably, pointed out (again) that the Saudis deny any involvement, and said he really doesn't want to impose any sanctions on them, because he very much likes the money they are sending to the U.S. for arms. Since sanctions are the only tool he actually uses, that was tantamount to the President announcing that he's not planning to do anything. The Saudi government certainly took it that way, as they were considerably less sharp in their statements later in the day. Saudi King Salman also got Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone, and told him that they really, really want to get to the bottom of this, and that the two nations should establish a "joint working group to probe the case." Because nothing means "progress" like appointing a blue-ribbon panel to investigate.

Trump either does not understand quite how irritated the members of Congress are, or else he doesn't care. However, members across the spectrum—from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—were on the Sunday morning talk shows to express their outrage over the situation, and Trump's lack of action. There's even talk that this may be the straw that breaks the camel's back, and could be the incident that causes Congress to re-discover its backbone, and to re-assert its Constitutional right (and duty) to oversee foreign policy, thus wresting power away from Trump. It's possible, but since we've heard this exact same thing half a dozen times before, and since at least 51 senators always back down when push comes to shove, don't count on it. (Z)

Trump Says He Is in the Dark about Mattis' Future

In the same "60 Minutes" interview that has been getting attention all weekend, primarily because it marked Donald Trump's first public response to the Saudi Arabia fiasco, he was also asked about the future of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The President did not seem to be much better informed than the rest of us, answering:

"Well, I don't know. He hasn't told me that. I think he's sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington.

The Pentagon promptly responded to this with a statement issued under Mattis' name: "Secretary Mattis is laser-focused on doing his job—ensuring the US military remains the most lethal force on the planet."

Donald Trump's answer could mean almost anything. Maybe he's lying. Maybe he's paving the road to ease Mattis out. Maybe he's such a poor manager of his staff that he really doesn't know what the future holds for one of his two or three most important lieutenants. What is considerably more telling is Mattis' response, which did not come from him, and does not contain a single word about how long he intends to remain on the job. Both of those things are pretty consistent with someone who is a short-timer. And given that the obvious time to resign is right after the midterms, it's possible that short time can be measured in weeks. (Z)

Richard Neal Wants Trump's Tax Returns

Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) was interviewed by CNN this week, and he said he would very much like to review Donald Trump's tax returns. Neal said that he certainly hoped the president would comply voluntarily, but suggested that if a "long and grinding court case" is necessary, then so be it.

Why does it matter what Neal thinks? Well, he is currently the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. If the Democrats retake the House, he will almost certainly become chair. And under the terms of the IRS Code, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee has the right to request the president's tax returns. It was not clear before this week that Neal would exercise that privilege, since he's more of a Blue Dog than he is a fire-breathing liberal activist, but obviously he's planning to. And this is not some pre-election posturing for the benefit of voters; Neal is running unopposed this year. So, if all the predictions hold true (see below), Trump's tax returns aren't going to remain secret much longer. (Z)

Trump Seems to Be Having a Trickle-Down Effect

Judging Donald Trump's impact on the economy, or foreign policy, or domestic affairs is difficult enough. Measuring his impact on a more abstract level, on the very fabric of American political life, is a little harder. Nonetheless, his political style is so distinctive, and has broken so many norms, that it was without question that his influence would be significant. And so it has come to pass, as partisans (mostly on his side of the aisle) behave in ways that would have been unthinkable (and, often, career-ending) before 2016.

For example, political candidates (generally Republicans) have been using dog whistles for years (at least back to Richard Nixon) to attract racist voters without alienating moderates. Trump traded in the dog whistle for a dog bullhorn; his racist language and imagery are barely encoded, if they can be considered encoded at all. And this election cycle has witnessed a number of overtly racist ads. Like, for example, this one from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) for his race against "Palestinian, Mexican, millennial Democrat" Ammar Campa-Najjar:



Or this one, in which Rep. John Faso (R-NY) smears his Democratic opponent Antonio Delgado, a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar who also—gasp!—once released a rap album:



In case anyone needed any affirmation that Faso and his voters are out-of-touch white guys who have no idea what they are talking about, the commercial makes note that Delgado often rapped about "dead presidents," implying that he would presumably like to assassinate Donald Trump. In fact, "dead presidents" refers to money.

Of course, Trump hasn't just made unsubtle racism ok. Some American men feel he's given them permission to mistreat women. That appears to include Minnesota state rep. Duane Quam (R), who was debating his opponent Jamie Mahlberg (DFL) last week, and did not want to wait for her to finish her comments. So, he grabbed the microphone from her hand, and used her time for himself. As she looked around in amazement, he finished what he had to say, and then tossed the microphone down in front of her:



Needless to say, the response to Quam's behavior has not been positive.

Finally, and most concerning, it is no secret that Trump is not shy about threatening violence against his political opponents. No president in recent memory has been willing to go there, because they all understood that once people begin actively imagining something, that is one step closer to making that thing a reality. And now, it has become popular among Trump supporters to (jokingly?) offer helicopter rides to Democrats:

Helicopter rides

As the image makes clear, the "joke" is a reference to death flights, most commonly associated with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, in which political enemies were thrown to their deaths from helicopters or airplanes. It's a funny kind of person who finds that funny. (Z)

Democrats Worried about Latino Turnout

For at least a couple of decades, if not longer, Democratic pooh-bahs have been eagerly courting Latino voters. After all, Democrats are the party of immigrants, the working class, and people of color, and Latino voters are often all three. And since Latinos are a rapidly growing segment of the populace, and they just so happen to reside in large numbers in several swing states (or would-be swing states), like Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and Florida, they could become an invaluable constituency. In 2018, with the most anti-Latino president in memory in office, it seemed likely that this would be the year that the Latino vote would truly emerge as a political force.

The problem (from the Democrats' point of view): It doesn't appear to be happening. Survey after survey, from Democratic, Republican, and even Latino pollsters shows that enthusiasm in that community lags far behind virtually every other segment of the populace. There are many theories as to why this might be the case:

  • Maybe the Democratic agenda isn't such a great match for many Latinos, who actually have much in common culturally with the Republican Party (Christianity, emphasis on family values, pro-life, etc.)

  • A lot of Latino voters move around, which makes registration and voting trickier

  • On a related note, various sorts of Voter ID and reduced polling hour efforts on the behalf of the GOP have weighed particularly hard on Latinos

  • Many Latino voters come from countries where voting was a sham, or close to it, and so may not see the point

  • Perhaps Democrats haven't worked hard enough to actually connect with Latino voters, and have simply taken them for granted

It could be some of these, or all, or none. But if the blue team doesn't crack the code very quickly, they will lose some otherwise winnable seats, with Democratic senate candidate Beto O'Rourke likely to be the highest-profile casualty. (Z)

Overall Democratic Enthusiasm is Up, Up, Up

Although the blue team isn't doing too well with Latinos right now, they are doing quite nicely overall. This weekend, the Washington Post released its latest poll, and it was full of the sort of indicators we've been seeing for weeks and months, that suggest the Democrats are going to have an excellent day on November 6.

The biggest revelation in the new poll is that 81% of Democrats are now enthusiastic about voting, compared to 79% of Republicans. That seems pretty close, but it's actually great news for the blue team for two reasons. First, because there are more Democrats than there are Republicans, so equal enthusiasm (much less a slight enthusiasm lead) means they have a significant advantage. Second, because that number is a dramatic improvement over the last midterm election, in 2014. Back then, 75% of Republicans were enthusiastic, which means the GOP is up just 4% this year. However, the 2014 number for the Democrats was just 63%, which means they're up a staggering 18% this year.

There is other good news for the blue team in the poll, largely along the same lines. For example, independents are 13 points more enthusiastic this year (72-59), and look likely to break heavily for Democratic candidates. Further, voters under the age of 40 are up a remarkable 25 points in enthusiasm, from 42% in 2014 to 67% this year. If these folks are all actively engaged with the process, that not only presages a sizable blue wave in November, but also a very solid foundation for 2020. (Z)

Two More Forecasters Foresee a Democratic House

This week is prime-time for prognosticators to make their calls for what is going to happen with Congress on November 6. It's close enough that the data is starting to crystallize into solid patterns, but far enough away that it's still a prediction, and not a statement of the obvious. So, there were two more fairly major "calls" in the last few days.

The first is from CNN's Harry Enten, formerly of FiveThirtyEight, who has developed a mathematical model for predicting each individual race. His model says that the possible range of outcomes for the blue team is 209 to 262 seats (with 218, of course, needed for a majority). The likeliest outcome is a net gain of 46 seats for the Democrats, giving them a majority of 23. For the Senate, he sees a possible range of 36 to 56 seats for the blue team, with a 52-48 GOP majority the most likely outcome. That would be a net loss of one seat for the Democrats.

The second is from The Economist. On one hand, they are a bunch of limeys, and so this isn't necessarily their area of expertise. On the other hand, they don't have a partisan ax to grind. Their statistical model predicts that the Democrats will gain 35 seats in the House, which would give them a majority of 12. They didn't make a specific Senate projection, other than to suggest that the blue team's odds are grim. In short, there is a general consensus among pollsters and analysts that the House will flip and the Senate won't. On the other hand, there was a general consensus among pollsters and analysts that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency with room to spare, so beware of counting Democratic chickens before the Election Day eggs hatch. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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