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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
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GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IA MI OH PA WI

The Swamp is Draining Right into the White House

Once Donald Trump became the GOP presidential nominee, he railed early and often against Hillary Clinton. He lambasted her as a Washington insider, made snide remarks about her being bought and paid for by the Wall Street firms who hired her to speak to them, and suggested that her Clinton Foundation work meant she was in the thrall of lobbyists. Now that Trump has won the White House, of course, he's begun to fill his administration with exactly the same sort of Washington insiders, Wall Street tycoons, and lobbyists that he denounced just a month ago. The current list:

Position Appointee Type
Attorney General Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Washington insider
Secretary of HHS Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) Washington insider
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Lobbyist
U.N. Ambassador Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) State government
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao Washington insider
Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin Wall Street tycoon
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Wall Street tycoon
Chief of Staff RNC Chair Reince Priebus Washington insider
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn Washington insider
Chief Strategist Steve Bannon Wall Street tycoon

What does this exercise tell us, beyond the fact that much of what Trump said on the campaign trail was hot air? Well, first of all, it tells us that it's hard to staff an administration without drawing on certain unpopular classes of people—i.e., Washington insiders, lobbyists, and Wall Street tycoons. The only pick on Trump's list so far that does not fit into any of these categories is Nikki Haley, and her selection has raised questions around the country (and the world) about her qualifications for the job. Beyond that, as the AP's Julie Pace and Josh Boak point out, this shows us that Trump is falling in line with his political party. The Cabinet (thus far) does not look much like a swamp draining, but it does look like a pretty traditional Republican cabinet. And so, Trump seems to be learning the same lesson as a number of his predecessors: An "outsider" campaign is all good and well, but the political parties exist (and have existed for centuries) for a reason. (Z)

Details About Carrier Deal Begin to Materialize

President-elect Donald Trump's success in persuading Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in the United States is being hailed as one of his first great achievements. By Tuesday night, we knew that the manufacturer had been motivated by "inducements," including some tax breaks and some subsidies. On Wednesday, we learned that the meat of the deal—apparently—was a promise that Carrier's parent company United Technologies would keep all of its government contracts. This matters a lot to them, since they are #7 on the list of the federal government's partners in terms of annual funding.

Trump's approach here might be described as "carrot-driven," by which we mean that he's largely using positive reinforcement to get what he wants. The contrast would be the approach of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is much more of a "stick" kind of fellow. The Bern has also taken a great interest in those Carrier jobs; however, his approach is not to reward staying in America, but to punish moving to Mexico by yanking government contracts, levying high tariffs, and the like. So, which approach is better? Well, the answer largely depends on the politics of whatever economist you ask. However, it is worth noting that one of the main concerns about Trump's approach is that corporations might use false threats of a move to Mexico in order to gain leverage in their negotiations with the government. What we have learned today has done nothing to assuage that concern. (Z)

Pelosi Survives Challenge

As expected, House Democrats chose on Wednesday to keep Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as their leader; the vote was 134 to 63. That Pelosi won handily, and also that her top two lieutenants—Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC)—were also re-elected, suggests that the House Democratic Caucus is basically satisfied with her leadership. That said, the fact so many votes went to a backbencher like Tim Ryan (D-OH), who quite literally sits in the very last row of seats in the House, suggests that a desire for change is fomenting. If 2018 goes as badly for the blue team as 2016 did, heads will likely roll. (Z)

GOP Senators: Not so Fast on Medicare

The framers of the Constitution suspected that the House of Representatives would be more prone to aggressive and possibly even rash action, given the short length of their terms in office and their relatively small constituencies. They expected the Senate to be a wiser and more deliberative body, essentially mirroring the balance between the House of Commons and the House of Lords in parliament. It would seem that things are working out as they planned.

The issue in question is Medicare, which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his House colleagues looked ready to begin dismantling on January 21. Their counterparts in the Senate have hit the brakes hard on that plan. "I think we should leave Medicare for another day," noted Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "I think we got a pretty full agenda," said John Thune (R-SD), while Orrin Hatch (R-UT) agreed "it might be way too much." None of the three would commit to the notion that privatization is a desirable long-term goal, which translates roughly as, "You know, there are a lot of old voters in Tennessee, South Dakota, and Utah." So, Ryan may not get one of his fondest wishes, after all. (Z)

Petraeus Would Need Probation Officer's Permission to Become Secretary of State

There has been much mirth in some corners of the Internet today, as various commenters have noted that if David Petraeus becomes Secretary of State, he would face some interesting conditions given his status as a convicted felon who is on probation. To start, he would have to notify his probation officer of the job offer, and receive permission to relocate from his home state of North Carolina. He would also be subject to warrantless searches at any time. So, he had better not keep a private e-mail server.

While this is something of a funny and ironic story, we should not forget that the president has the power to pardon convicts. One imagines that a Petraeus appointment would be coupled with a pardon, with both probably announced on Twitter an hour or so before sunrise. (Z)

Graham to Trump: Prove Voter Fraud or Shut Up

Throughout campaign season, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was briefly Donald Trump's rival for the GOP nomination, was among the Donald's fiercest critics. That tendency has not abated. On Wednesday, the South Carolina Senator slammed Trump's claim that Hillary Clinton received 3 million fraudulent votes from undocumented immigrants, saying that, "He's gotta realize he's just not a normal person anymore. He's not a billionaire TV star—he's the president of the United States." Graham also demanded that Trump provide proof for his allegations or else stop making them, and said that he's planning a Senate resolution declaring the body's confidence in the election results.

Since Trump's victory, former outspoken critics Paul Ryan, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mitt Romney have shifted to asking "how high?" whenever The Donald says "Jump!" (and if you haven't seen this picture of Romney eating crow, you really should take a look). Meanwhile, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) has apparently invested in a muzzle. That leaves Graham as the last major outspoken critic of Trump in the GOP who actually remains an outspoken critic. Now, let's engage in a bit of crazy speculation. Imagine Trump's first term is a YUGE disaster, such that he doesn't even try to run for re-election (like LBJ in 1968). Graham would be positioned as the ideal "I told you so" Republican candidate, particularly given that Cruz has completely abandoned that mantle. Very speculative at this point, but stranger things have happened. (Z)

What's Next for Conway?

Steve Bannon was one of the first people tapped for the Trump administration, which made it very noticeable when campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was not tapped for anything. She still seemed to be speaking on the President-elect's behalf—at least, when she wasn't criticizing him for talking to Mitt Romney. Now, it is looking likely that her future is in leading Trump's outside political organization (essentially, his private super PAC).

Barack Obama's senior adviser David Plouffe performed much the same service for the President's PAC Organizing for America. The new job would thus make Conway a major player in Washington, and might position her (and the super PAC) to become kingmakers, of a sort, in GOP politics—possibly even surpassing the Kochs in influence. At the same time, it would keep her far away from Steve Bannon, with whom she reportedly has a chilly relationship. So, it seems a win for all involved. (Z)

Are You Ready for Trump Texts?

New York Magazine's Jake Swearingen reported something interesting on Wednesday. The federal government's Warning, Alert, and Response Network allows them to send text messages to all cell phones in the nation in three circumstances:

  1. Alerts issued by the president
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
  3. Amber Alerts

Cell phone owners are allowed to block all messages in categories 2 and 3, but by law they cannot block messages in category 1. Which means that Donald Trump, if he wishes to do so, could send a text message to every cell phone in America at any time he wants. The texts would have to go through FEMA, who would undoubtedly try to discourage abuse of a system meant only for emergencies. However, FEMA's staff serves at the pleasure of the president, who ultimately has final say. Ergo, CNN better refrain from running stories critical of The Donald at 3:00 in the morning, or else we all might be awakened in the middle of the night. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov30 Trump Lashes Out at Flag Burners
Nov30 Three More Additions to Cabinet
Nov30 Trump Saves 1,000 Jobs, But at What Cost?
Nov30 House Democrats Likely to Re-elect Pelosi
Nov30 Trump's Going to Have Legal Problems
Nov30 President Obama: Michelle's Not Running
Nov29 Trump Wins Michigan
Nov29 Trump Picks Tom Price for HHS
Nov29 Petraeus for Secretary of State?
Nov29 Trump Has Changed His Views on Various Issues Since the the Election
Nov29 Trump May Not Be Able to Deport Undocumented Criminals
Nov29 The Difficulties in Draining the Swamp
Nov29 Trump May Have a Problem When a Chinese Bank's Lease Expires
Nov29 AP Issues Guidelines for Reporters about the term Alt-Right
Nov28 Senate Republicans Are Hesitant to Abolish the Filibuster
Nov28 The Media Are Starting to Be Honest; Trump, Not So Much
Nov28 Trump Intends to Take a Hard Line with Cuba
Nov28 Arizona and Georgia Democrats Are Nervous About Direction of the Party
Nov28 Maine Switches to Instant-Runoff Voting
Nov28 Democrats' 2020 Field Is Taking Shape
Nov28 Don't Want to Do Business with Trump? There's an App for That
Nov27 Trump Calls Recount Effort a Scam
Nov27 Trump Calls Castro a Brutal Dictator
Nov27 Trump's Conflicts of Interest Have Already Emerged
Nov27 Flynn Has Some Serious Baggage
Nov27 Falwell, Jr. Declined Cabinet Appointment
Nov27 Kirsten Gillibrand Is Already Exploring a 2020 Run
Nov27 The Reviews Are in on Trump's Ornament
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Nov26 Trump Will Soon Get the Nuke 101 Tutorial
Nov26 The Presidency as a Profit Center
Nov26 Christian Leaders Now Expect Trump to Deliver
Nov26 Democrats May Get a Chance to Rebuild in the Next Two Years
Nov26 Four Sites to Break Out of the Liberal Bubble
Nov26 New Mexico Business Tells Trump Supporters to Get Lost
Nov25 Russian Propaganda Machine Was Indeed Behind Fake News
Nov25 Kris Kobach Is Favored to Head Dept. of Homeland Security
Nov25 Trump Has Attended Only Two Intelligence Briefings
Nov25 Stein Raises Enough Money for a Recount in Wisconsin
Nov25 Trump's Cabinet Likely to Be the Wealthiest Ever
Nov25 Trump Supporters Furious About Romney
Nov25 Get an Early Start on Your Christmas Shopping
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Nov25 North Carolina Gubernatorial Race Gets Increasingly Bizarre
Nov24 Trump Picks Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education
Nov24 Ross, Carson May Soon Join Cabinet
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Nov24 Clinton's Lead in the Popular Vote Passes the Two-Million Vote Mark
Nov24 Jill Stein Wants a Recount in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania
Nov24 Trump Delivers Thanksgiving Message