Clinton 2811
Sanders 1879
 Needed   2383
Trump 1542
Cruz 559
Rubio 165
Kasich 161
Needed 1237

Trump Wants an Unconventional Convention

Traditionally at national political conventions, politicians give speeches about how great their nominee is. The conventions have a lot of balloons but little drama. Many voters find them boring. Donald Trump is planning a different kind of convention this year, with speeches by politicians kept to a minimum. Instead, the convention will feature sports stars and celebrities. His wife and at least four of his children will also speak.

In part, Trump has been handed a batch of lemons and is trying to make lemonade. A large number of top-shelf Republicans are not even going to show up in Cleveland, let alone speak, including a couple of ex-presidents and nearly all of Trump's primary opponents. When no major politicians are even willing to come, Trump has to look for alternative acts.

Nevertheless, it has been well established that conventions are one of the most important events in an election year and give the voters their first real impression of what each candidate will do during the general election campaign. If the convention features almost entirely sports stars and celebrities, even more people than already do are going to come away with the perception that Trump has no real ideas about governing. This may not bother the faithful, but could damage him with the blue-collar Democrats and independents he desperately needs. If he doesn't get a post-convention bounce, his already poor general-election standing could get worse. Also, he has the misfortune that the Democrats meet only a week after the Republican convention, so the bounce—if any—may be short lived. (V)

Trump's Swing State Problems

As we move into general election season, and as everyone remembers that the presidency is determined by the Electoral College and not a national preference poll, we're starting to get more attention being paid at the state level, particularly the swing states. And it's abundantly clear that Donald Trump has a variety of different issues that are hurting him in different places. Here's a look at eight of his problem states:

  • Ohio: Trump's issue here is that the GOP establishment, from Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) on down, does not like him. Consequently, they are withholding their support—political, logistical, and financial. As a result, Trump is doing well with his white, working class base, but other Republican constituencies (fiscal conservatives, middle-class moderates, suburban women, etc.) are not falling in line.

  • Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico: The obvious problem here, of course, is that Trump has alienated Latino voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Less obvious, but perhaps just as important, is his campaign's total lack of infrastructure and investment in the Southwest. For example, in Colorado, the Clinton campaign and her allied super PAC Priorities USA have already purchased $16 million in commercial time. The Trump campaign has purchased $0. In Nevada, Clinton has dozens of staffers who have been there for over a year, advocating for the campaign, and registering Democratic voters by the bushel. Trump has one staffer, who is headquartered in Las Vegas, but is responsible for the entire Southwest region. Consequently, the Democrats now have more registered voters in Nevada than the Republicans, by about 70,000. That number is expected to top 100,000 by Election Day, which matters a lot in a state with only 1.5 million voters.

  • Utah: Utah is one of the reddest states in the union, and yet it may turn blue for the first time since 1964. How is that possible? The answer, needless to say, lies with the state's Mormon population. Among the core values of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are humility, modesty, chastity and civility. Trump goes 0-for-4 there. At the same time, the Mormons are an oft-persecuted religious minority group, and so Trump's efforts to scapegoat Muslims and immigrants do not play well. The LDS Church has even gone so far as to issue a statement blasting The Donald's plan to bar Muslim immigration to the U.S., a virtually unprecedented step in terms of its directness. It is also not helping that favored son Mitt Romney is one of the loudest Trump critics.

  • Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia: These states have a lot of white conservatives, a medium-sized population of moderate white Democrats, a liberal white Democratic rump, and a lot of black voters (in fact, they are 1-2-3 in terms of percentage of the population that is black). For a Republican to lose one (or more) of these states, a fair number of white conservatives would have to stay home, while at the same time the other groups would have to give overwhelming support to the Democratic candidate. That appears to be possible in 2016; in particular, Trump's support among black voters is a staggeringly bad 1%. By way of comparison, Mitt Romney won 6% of the black vote in 2012, John McCain won 4% in 2008, and George W. Bush won 11% in 2004. Louisiana hasn't gone Democratic since 1996, Georgia not since 1992, and Mississippi not since 1976, so Trump could still prevail in all three in the end. Nonetheless, he will likely have to spend some time and resources in states where that should really not be necessary, and the odds are pretty high that he loses at least one of them.

There are no two ways about it: Donald Trump needs all (or nearly all) of these states to take the White House. If there were a single thing that was bringing him down, that would be fixable. But to address all of these different problems? That is a tall order, indeed. (Z)

Trump's Son-in-law Is His De Facto Campaign Manager

Donald Trump famously doesn't trust anyone except his family, and that is proving true again during his campaign. Up until now, his most trusted adviser was his daughter Ivanka, someone with no political experience at all. Now there is a new kid on the block who is practically his campaign manager, although without any title. And sure enough, it is family again: Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner. He is an unlikely choice, to put it mildly. Kushner is an orthodox Jew and grandson of Holocaust survivors who now has to deal with Trump's tweeting anti-Semitic images originally posted to a white supremacist website.

Kushner is from a prominent New Jersey family that was deeply involved in Democratic politics. Kushner's father, Charles Kushner, liked Democrats so much that he made donations to them—some of them illegal. He also engaged in tax evasion and other illegal and immoral activities. These caught the attention of the United States Attorney for New Jersey, a certain Chris Christie, who put Charles behind bars 10 years ago. Christie once remarked that the elder Kushner's activities were "vile and heinous." Now the younger Kushner finds himself working with Christie, another behind-the-scenes top-level adviser to the Trump campaign.

Jared Kushner is involved in every aspect of Trump's campaign. He helps hire personnel, oversees fundraising, helps write Trump's speeches, and is involved in selecting Trump's running mate. It is hard to imagine that he will advocate for the man who put his father in prison as the #2, but Trump himself makes the final call here, and could overrule his son-in-law.

Although both Trump and Kushner are the sons of wealthy, domineering real estate tycoons, they are as different as people can be. Kushner is a quiet, polite, Harvard graduate whose friends are all socially liberal Democrats horrified by his father-in-law's campaign. After Harvard, he got an MBA and a law degree from NYU, another school full of liberals. Kushner is an active real estate investor and is also publisher of the New York Observer, a newspaper focusing on the city's culture, real estate, media, and entertainment industries. (V)

The Top Ten Senate Challengers

Senate incumbents running for reelection almost always have an advantage over their challengers, since they are better known and can usually raise more money. Nevertheless, in an anti-incumbent year, it is worth taking a look at some of the top challengers. Roll Call has compiled its list of the top ten challengers running for the Senate, as follows:

  • Maggie Hassan (D-NH). As a twice-elected governor of New Hampshire, she is universally known in the state. Nevertheless, she is a Washington outsider, which could help her in her battle to unseat Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

  • Joe Heck (R-NV). In Heck's three congressional wins, he has shown that he can get Latinos and Asian Americans to vote for him. However, this time he is running against a Latina, former state attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, which will make it tougher to get Latinos to vote for him. Still, he is a battle-tested lawmaker, doctor, and brigadier general.

  • Jason Kander (D-MO). As the youngest elected statewide official in the country, at 34, Kander may attract the youth vote in his run against Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is 66. Kander has also proven to be a tireless campaigner and an excellent fundraiser, bringing in more cash than Blunt in the first quarter of this year. This race was supposed to be an easy hold for the Republicans, but Kander may change the odds.

  • Russ Feingold (D-WI). This race is a repeat of the 2010 contest, when now-Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) unseated Feingold. Only this time, Johnson has to face a presidential electorate in blue Wisconsin. Johnson is wealthy and self-funding, but Feingold is a top-flight fundraiser and the polls put him ahead.

  • Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Any Democrat is automatically the favorite in Illinois in a presidential election year, and Duckworth is no exception in her contest with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). She is also greatly outraising him. He had a major stroke in 2012, but she lost both legs when the army helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down, so the sympathy vote is sort of canceled out.

  • Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). Nevada is rapidly becoming a blue state and the political machine of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is still potent there. Also, the electorate has many Latinos and Cortez Masto is vying to become the first Latina senator from any state, which could help her in her race against Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) for the seat Reid is vacating.

  • Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ). Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is 79 years old and has been in the Senate for almost 30 years, more than enough time to make a lot of enemies in Arizona. Arizona is a fairly red state, which gives him the edge, but Kirkpatrick is running a strong campaign and will get a lot of help from the DSCC. If she pulls off an upset, it would be only a small surprise.

  • Ted Strickland (D-OH). As a former governor, Strickland is very well known in Ohio, probably as much as his opponent, first-term Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Ohio is a key swing state and most likely whoever prevails in the presidential race will have enough coattails to pull in his or her party's Senate candidate.

  • Jim Gray (D-KY). The Democratic mayor of Lexington is in an uphill race with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), but he is the type of Democrat who has a fighting chance in red Kentucky. He is a wealthy businessman who worked in his family's construction company. Nevertheless, Paul has the edge here.

  • Patrick Murphy (D-FL). Florida is the ultimate swing state and the winning presidential candidate is likely to have substantial coattails. Murphy hasn't won his primary yet, but is expected to do so against firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). The Republican candidate will probably be Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), but his less-than-stellar presidential campaign and well-known dislike of being in the Senate will probably hurt him. On the other hand, there have been a series of damaging articles about Murphy of late. It could go either way.

If the presidential election is close, the quality of the Senate candidates may matter a lot, but if it is a blowout, the presidential candidate may pull in lots of downticket candidates. (V)

Tech Industry Likes Clinton and Dislikes Trump

Many top players in the tech industry applauded Hillary Clinton's tech agenda, released last week. She is in favor of net neutrality, which the industry wants (and the telephone and cable companies do not want) and she wants to bring broadband Internet to every home in America by 2020, among other items. TechNet and the Information Technology Industry Council, which include companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, HP, Yahoo, and dozens of others, are now calling on Donald Trump to announce his tech agenda. Early signs are not good for him. He opposed Apple's refusal to help the FBI break into the San Bernadino shooter's iPhone and also got into a spat with Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos. On the few tech issues where Trump has taken a position, such as trade and encryption, he sides against the tech industry. While most of the tech industry is located in blue states like California and Washington, these deep-pocketed companies and their executives could toss quite a chunk of change in Hillary Clinton's direction if they don't like what Trump has to say about issues they care about. (V)

Not Many Ex-felons Are Registering To Vote in Virginia

When Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) restored voting rights to 200,000 ex-felons in April, Virginia Republicans were very nervous. It turns out their fears were unfounded. As of the end of June, only 8,170 ex-felons have registered to vote. The state Democratic Party doesn't seem to be doing much to get more of them registered, but several private groups, such as the New Virginia Majority and Revive My Vote are working on it. One thing that is hindering them, however, is the absence of a comprehensive list of felons whose right to vote has been restored. McAuliffe's office has the list but refuses to release it because it may contain errors. (V)

Kaine May Not Be in the Right Place on Abortion

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) checks a lot of the boxes that Hillary Clinton is looking to check in a VP candidate. The duo work well together, he's battle-tested, he comes from a swing state, he will appeal to Republicans, and he doesn't jeopardize Democratic chances of holding the Senate (since his replacement would be picked by Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe, and would probably be Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe). However, like any potential #2, he also has some weaknesses, and the biggest of those—the one that took him out of the running to be Barack Obama's running mate eight years ago—may be his stand on abortion.

Since he began his Senate term in 2012, Kaine has been as pro-choice as they come, voting with the National Abortion Rights Action League 100% of the time. However, there was a time that he was running for (and then serving) as governor of a Southern state. He's also a Catholic who personally finds abortion distasteful. Between these two things, his pre-Senate record on abortion rights was considerably more hazy, and as recently as 2007 NARAL called him a "mixed-choice" governor and give his state an "F" for its record on reproductive choice. Given Donald Trump's views on abortion (whatever they may be today), the Democrats will be hitting him hard on that issue. And it may well be that Hillary Clinton cannot afford to have a Veep whose record on that same issue is checkered. (Z)

Sanders Still Being Protected by the Secret Service

Nearly everyone, including the candidate himself, recognizes that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will not be the Democratic nominee. He's even returned to his day job, and is no longer on the campaign trail. Despite that, Sanders has not released his Secret Service detail, leaving taxpayers with a bill that totals something like $40,000 a day.

The most charitable explanation is that Sanders thinks that giving up his protection will serve as a de facto concession, and will end any leverage he has over Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The less charitable explanation, and the one that is being whispered in the halls of the Congress and in the offices of the Secret Service, is that he's had a taste of power and his ego's gotten inflated. If true, it would mean that his failure to concede is not about the issues, and is all about Bernie. This a very bad look for him, and even if it's not correct, he should promptly relieve the Secret Service—who are already stretched thin because it is a presidential year—of their obligations to him. The more excuses he gives Clinton to dismiss him, the more likely she is to do so. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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