• Today's Trump Campaign Management Drama
• The Trump-GOP Long Game
• Why Trump Would Hate the Presidency
• It Is Debate or Bust for Johnson
• McCain Is Fighting for His Political Life
• Could the U.S. Adopt a Multiparty System?
• Abedin, Weiner Split
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Elections in the U.S. are usually run by the states and county-level officials, whose knowledge of computer security usually ranges from minimal to none. The FBI has now concluded that foreign hackers, most likely working for the Russian government, have penetrated election systems in at least two states: Arizona and Illinois. They may have had access to voter registration databases and possibly made changes in Illinois. If the Russians want to help a candidate—most likely Donald Trump, who seems to regard Vladimir Putin as his buddy—one way would be to remove the names of some Democratic voters from the database, making it much harder for them to vote. In Arizona, malware may have been introduced into the system.
Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer of cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, said: "This is a big deal." Barger said that some of the IP addresses used in the attacks match those of known Russian hackers, and the tools and techniques also match. Ken Menzel, the general counsel of the Illinois Board of Elections, didn't entirely pooh-pooh Barger's remarks, but said maybe the hackers were merely common criminals trying to steal valuable data. That is the lawyerly way of saying: "Our security is so weak that it doesn't take Russia's best hackers to break in. Even ordinary criminals can do it."
The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security is considering trying to help the states make their systems tougher to hack, but some of the states don't want that. Georgia's top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, scoffed at the proffered aid, saying the federal government is exaggerating the hacking threat, and in any event, Georgia can handle the security on its own. Vermont's Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, agreed with Kemp and said: "I think it's kind of the nose under the tent." Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, another Democrat, said: "I think it's wrong to think that there is some sort of threat that isn't there." Apparently all three of them were smoking the stuff Bill Clinton used to smoke, and, unlike Clinton, inhaling deeply.
These are typical politicians. They have virtually no knowledge of computer security at all. Security experts have long warned that election systems are vulnerable to tampering, and the flaws in voting systems are well documented. Bruce McConnell, a former DHS Deputy Undersecretary of Cybersecurity, rejected these views, and said that having citizens lose confidence in the elections process is a far greater threat to the Republic than the federal government getting involved with the states to secure their systems better. The problem with hacking is that a foreign power could interfere with an election and there is a decent chance it would go undetected. The best way to protect against hacking is to avoid using computers in the voting process altogether, and to make sure the voter registration systems are not connected to the Internet in any way. If protecting elections is going to be turned into some kind of "states' rights" battle, between the states against the feds, little will be done and the election results could be called into doubt after the fact. Maybe Donald Trump wasn't just making it up when he said the elections were rigged; his buddy Vlad told him. (V)
Stephen Bannon was hired as CEO of Donald Trump's campaign on August 17. After revelations of anti-Semitism, spousal abuse, and commission of voter fraud, it was only a matter of time until sexual harassment allegations came to light, right? Well, it took 12 days, but now they're out there. The suit, which was litigated and settled out of court in 1994, claimed that Bannon made lewd remarks about women's physical characteristics, and also about his own abilities in the bedroom.
So, how long can it be before Bannon goes the way of Manafort, if dirt keeps piling up? Especially the sort of dirt that's going to alienate women voters? Well, he has to be at least a little nervous that former campaign manager and current CNN employee Corey Lewandowski appears to be working his way back into Trump's inner circle. Though he has yet to return to Trump Tower, where he had an office until being cashiered, Lewandowski reportedly talks to The Donald on a near-daily basis, and has been given "all access" clearance at any rallies that he attends. Could things eventually come full circle back to campaign manager #1? Well, as The Byrds recording of Pete Seeger's song taught us: "To everything (turn, turn, turn)/There is a season (turn, turn, turn)." (Z)
Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere has written a fascinating analysis of the grand strategy that Donald Trump and the GOP are pursuing in this campaign. He argues that their goal, in short, is not to win the White House, but to poison the well for Hillary Clinton.
This thesis makes a great deal of sense from the GOP's perspective, since "Hillary is corrupt and not a legitimate president" will give them an excuse to continue their obstructionist ways. It also makes a great deal of sense for Trump, who probably realizes he's not going to win, and who very likely doesn't want the presidency anyhow (see below). If he can destroy the foundation of a Clinton presidency before it even begins, he can spend the next four years tweeting about how he would have done better on anything and everything. He avoids the White House, excuses his defeat, and exacts revenge in one tidy package. And because Trump and the GOP leadership can agree on this basic approach, it makes it possible for them to work together despite their significant differences.
Of course, as Dovere observes, Clinton was not born yesterday. She and her campaign staff saw this plan coming from a mile away. From the Obama birth certificate/Muslim stuff, they know that attacking the conspiracy theory doesn't work. So, their focus is on attacking the messenger, and trying to discredit Trump's declarations as the ravings of a madman. Hence the alt-right speech, the Trump/KKK commercials, and the like.
So, which side will see their approach win out? Dovere found experts willing to predict both outcomes (this will hurt the Democrats more in the long term/this will hurt the Republicans more in the long term), but the majority felt the Republican approach (which basically worked on President Obama) was more likely to be successful. Time will tell, but what all the experts agree upon is that delegitimizing a legally elected president is not good for the health of the democracy. (Z)
As Donald Trump rose in the polls, and eventually captured the Republican nomination, an assumption emerged that the White House was really not his cup of tea. This was just a general feeling, though, and rarely explored in detail. Now, Politico's Howard Schweitzer has done the yeoman-like work of describing seven specific reasons Trump would hate being president:
- Hiring and Firing: Trump appears to take a fairly
casual, "gut feel" approach to hiring. That won't fly for government
appointments, which have to be thoroughly vetted, and often approved by various
functionaries. Paul Manafort, for example, wouldn't get past first base, given
his Russian/Ukrainian dealings. Even worse for the guy who made "You're fired!"
his personal catchphrase, it is very hard to get rid of federal employees, most
of whom are protected by union contracts and other civil service rules.
- Congress: Trump likes bold pronouncements and
quick decisions. He's used to snapping his fingers and having people jump.
Congress doesn't jump for anyone, even the Chief Executive. Plus, many of them
already bear grudges against Trump. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for example.
In fact, Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and quite a number of other Republicans would like to make sure Trump is a one-term president.
- Investigations: If Trump takes office, we can
expect Congressional Democrats to use their subpoena power quickly and liberally
to look into Trump's business dealings, his "university," his relationships with
foreign leaders, and many other subjects of interest. It will make the Benghazi
investigation look like child's play.
- Judges: Given his penchant for action, Trump is
likely to make extensive, and perhaps haphazard, use of executive orders to try
to get things done. Federal judges are surely going to take exception to some of these
orders. We already know how much Trump likes to be scrutinized by judges.
Particularly those of Mexican descent.
- Boredom: The president has to do a lot of things
that are not so exciting. Like, appear at ceremonial functions. Make small talk
with foreign leaders, even those from small nations. Work the phones to raise
money or rally support. Trump does not seem to be the type to do these things
for four long years without complaint.
- Criticism: You may have heard that the president
is occasionally subject to a bit of gentle criticism. You may also have heard that
Trump does not handle criticism well.
- Healing: After national tragedies—9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Dallas shootings—the president generally takes the lead in helping Americans to cope with whatever has happened. Both Bushes, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all do empathy fairly well. Trump, probably not so much.
Is it possible that we've got Trump all wrong on one or two of these things? Maybe. But all seven? Not terribly likely. (Z)
Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson has admitted that if he fails to qualify for the first presidential debate, he's toast. He has to get to 15% in five specific major polls before Sept. 26. He is currently around 10%. If he makes it onto the stage, it is a whole new ball game, as he could suddenly be on the radar for a lot of people who have never even heard of him. If he doesn't make the cut, he said he has basically no chance at being elected president.
Realistically, his only chance of making it to the White House is if he wins a state and manages to keep both Clinton and Trump below 270 electoral votes. Then the House gets to pick the president from among the top three electoral vote finishers. Even if he wins only one state—say, Utah and its 6 EVs—the House could still pick him. Another (very unlikely) scenario is that he doesn't win any states, but one faithless elector somewhere votes for him instead of for Trump. Then the House could still pick him (assuming some other person, say Ted Cruz, doesn't get two faithless votes). Under those conditions, though, he would be as illegitimate a president as one can imagine, and he might not want the job.
A more pressing question is, "What happens to his campaign if he doesn't make the debate stage?" He is likely to continue it anyway, since he is giving the Libertarian party massive publicity. If he gets 10% of the vote, that would be a tenfold increase over 2012. (V)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is running for his fifth term in the Senate, but this one is very different from all the others. First, he must win his primary today against a right-wing insurgent, Kelli Ward. He is expected to do that easily, Then comes the hard part for the 80-year-old. He has to face a well-funded opponent, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), with Donald Trump tied around his neck. McCain has repeatedly condemned Trump on many issues, but still supports the man who called him a loser for being captured in Vietnam. Most other people call McCain a military hero for withstanding years of torture and not breaking.
Another problem McCain has is that he is the ultimate insider in a year when a lot of voters hate insiders. To the extent he attaches himself to Trump, some of Trump's outsider image might rub off on him. Maybe. But if he latches onto Trump, the Latinos in Arizona are going to vote against him in large numbers, even if they otherwise like him. And a lot of other people in Arizona love Sheriff Joe Arpaio and want McCain to be buddy-buddy with Trump. There is no easy way out for McCain and this could be his last hurrah. Current polling puts him ahead of Kirkpatrick, but she hasn't lowered the boom on him yet, since the primary wasn't until today. Also, Hillary Clinton is clearly going to target Arizona and put a lot of effort into getting Latinos to register and vote, which helps Kirkpatrick and hurts McCain. Stay tuned. (V)
With so many people disliking the presidential candidates this year, there has been a lot of talk about getting rid of the two-party system. How might that work? Requiring the president to have multiple personality disorder, each personality supporting a different party, might limit the field of candidates too much, but for Congress it might be feasible. For the House it is easy. Nothing in the Constitution says states must have single-member non-overlapping districts. Based on the 2010 census, California is entitled to 53 House members, but how it chooses those members is up to California. The state legislature could pass a law saying that districts are abolished and each party that submits the requisite number of signatures is listed on the ballot. Each party would also submit a sorted list of potential House members to the California Secretary of State. People would vote for a party, not a person. If a party got, say, 7% of the House vote, it would get 7% of the 53 House slots, which would be either 3 or 4, depending on the rounding algorithm chosen, and the top 3 or 4 people on the party's list would head off to D.C.
A step further would be to make House elections national, with no guarantee that each state gets a certain number of members. If a party got 42% of the national vote, it would get the 42% of the 435 House seats. This change would require an amendment to the Constitution. In principle, the Senate could also be made proportional to the national vote instead of two per state, but this too would require an amendment.
How might that play out? The current Republican Party has three wings: business-oriented moderates, Cruz/RedState.com conservatives, and the Trumpeters (mostly angry white men). The Democrats are really two parties: mainstream Democrats and the Sanders/Warren wing. Libertarians are to the left of Democrats on social issues and to the right of the Republicans on economics so they don't overlap the other parties. The Green Party could easily merge with the Sanders/Warren people, giving six parties in a proportional system. To get anything done, the parties would have to work together and form majority coalitions. In a typical parliamentary system, the leader of the largest party in the governing coalition becomes the prime minister.
This scheme might make the people unhappy with the two-party system happier, but would it work? Experience from Spain, which has such a system, is not encouraging. Spain had elections last December, but none of the parties really want to work with any of the others, making the country ungovernable. New elections were held in June with the same results as the ones in December. This week, an attempt is being made to install a prime minister, but he will probably fail and new elections will be needed again, probably with the same results. Belgium, which also has a multiparty system, is notorious for its inability to form coalitions after divided elections. Italy has had 62 governments since World War II. Maybe our two-party system, for all its faults, isn't so crazy. The battles are fought out in two rounds. In the primaries, the factions of each party fight it out and then in the general election, the two winners go at it. Since the House has an odd number of members and the Senate can break the glass and take out the vice president in case of ties, at least each chamber always has a clear majority. (V)
Hillary Clinton's right-hand woman, Huma Abedin, and her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, were one of the most notable power couples in Washington. However, the aptly-named Weiner has proven once again that he not only has trouble with being faithful, he is also unable to keep his infidelities off of social media. And so, Abedin has now formally separated from her spouse.
In theory, this has nothing to do with this year's presidential election, as it is about the private lives of two people who do not aspire to public office. But what are the odds that Donald Trump—who not only loves tales of Democratic dalliances, but hates Weiner—keeps his thoughts to himself? If you guessed zero, you are correct (but you don't win a prize). Within hours of the story breaking, he had already announced that this shows what poor judgment Hillary Clinton has, since she allowed someone feckless like Weiner get close to people who have access to sensitive intelligence. Of course, Trump allowed even more intelligence access to Paul Manafort and Stephen Bannon, who aren't exactly fine fellows themselves, but apparently that is different. (Z)
|Arizona||40%||39%||7%||Aug 25||Aug 27||OH Predictive Insights|
|Michigan||45%||40%||7%||Aug 25||Aug 28||Emerson Coll.|
|Ohio||43%||43%||10%||Aug 25||Aug 27||Emerson Coll.|
|Pennsylvania||46%||43%||7%||Aug 25||Aug 28||Emerson Coll.|
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Ohio||Ted Strickland||25%||Rob Portman*||40%||Aug 25||Aug 27||Emerson Coll.|
|Pennsylvania||Katie McGinty||39%||Pat Toomey*||46%||Aug 25||Aug 28||Emerson Coll.|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug29 College Republicans Have a Real Problem
Aug29 Trump Blasted for Wade Tweet
Aug29 Was He Raised by Wolves?
Aug29 Is There Precedent for a Trump Comeback?
Aug29 Trump Immigration Speech Is Back On
Aug29 Trump Hires Bill Stepien
Aug29 Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Future Is on the Line Tomorrow
Aug29 Helping People Leave the Country Has Become a Cottage Industry
Aug28 Trump Has a Long History of Racial Discrimination
Aug28 Who is the KKK Candidate?
Aug28 The Candidates' Debate Prep Styles Couldn't Be More Different
Aug28 In New Ad, Clinton Attacks Trump for Making His Merchandise Overseas
Aug28 Pence Is Fulfilling His Attack Dog Role Well
Aug28 Republican Strategists Look Beyond Trump
Aug28 How Will Gary Johnson Do on Election Day?
Aug28 Holton's Job Is to Make People Like Hillary Clinton
Aug28 Old Polls Added to the Database
Aug27 Trump Doubles Down on Calling Clinton a Bigot
Aug27 Bannon Registered to Vote in an Empty House
Aug27 Bannon May Have Made Anti-Semitic Remarks
Aug27 Teamsters Back Clinton
Aug27 Trump's Doctor Wrote Health Report in 5 Minutes
Aug27 Clinton Foundation Causing Headaches from All Sides for Hillary
Aug27 Hillary Clinton's First Term Was Peaceful
Aug27 Johnson Is Running Radio Ads in Swing States
Aug27 LePage Seems to Be Unclear What 'Racist' Means
Aug26 Trump's Pitch To Black Voters Is Really to White Voters
Aug26 Clinton's Alt-Right Speech Also Aimed at Wavering Republicans
Aug26 More Republicans Are Registering to Vote than Democrats
Aug26 Clinton Raised $19 Million in Three Days
Aug26 Majority of Republicans Say Trump Should Release His Tax Returns
Aug26 Trump Under Attack for Immigration Flip-Flopping
Aug26 Trump Still Ignoring Data Operation
Aug26 Bannon Once Charged with Domestic Violence
Aug26 Facebook Targets Users Based on Their Political Views
Aug26 Trump Makes Minnesota Ballot
Aug26 McMullin on the Ballot in Six States
Aug25 New Feature: State Polling Averages in One Page
Aug25 Trump Is Pulling a Wright
Aug25 Trump Is Making Red States More Competitive
Aug25 Republican Culture vs. Democratic Culture
Aug25 Trump's Position on Immigration Keeps Evolving
Aug25 Are There Really a Large Number of New Republican Voters?
Aug25 Sanders' New Group Is Fighting with Itself
Aug25 What Is the Deal with the Clinton Foundation?
Aug25 Ninety-nine Senators Incensed About EpiPen Price Jump
Aug25 New Feature: State Pollong Averages in One Page
Aug25 Trump Is Pulling a Wright
Aug25 Trump Is Making Red States More Competitive