• Gary Johnson Has a Rick Perry Moment
• Trump Makes a Proposal on Education
• Clinton Holds a Formal Press Conference
• Twelve Governors Will Be Chosen in November
• Trump Made Nine Controversial Statements in 24 Minutes
• Trump's "Teleprompter Gap"
• Intelligence Official Challenges Trump
• Pence Agrees with Trump on Putin/Obama
• Anti-Trump Super PAC files DOJ Bribery Complaint
• Divorce Rate May Spike after the Election
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
It has been known for some time that Colin Powell used a private email server when he was Secretary of State. Now it has come out that Powell also advised Hillary Clinton to avoid the State Department's email server, and gave her detailed instructions how to do it. He also told her not to get caught. While Powell's advice doesn't excuse Clinton—she didn't have to follow it, after all—for anyone taking a new job unlike anything she had done in the past, it makes sense to talk to someone who had the job and not just discard his advice with, "What does he know?" As more hearings on her email server are forthcoming, Powell's advice will surely be brought up during them. (V)
During a presidential debate in 2011, Rick Perry said he would abolish three government departments. When the moderator asked him which ones would go, he could name only two of them. That was the end of Rick Perry. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson may have had his Rick Perry moment yesterday, when he was asked what he would do about Aleppo and he said: "What is Aleppo?" That was the wrong answer. The flub is all over the media and is likely to hurt his chances of making the 15% cutoff for the first debate. Having Johnson (and Jill Stein) in the audience rather than on stage is just fine with Donald Trump, who said yesterday that he wants to debate just Clinton.
No one was expecting him to know what to do about Aleppo. Even Hillary Clinton, who probably understands the ins and outs of the situation better than anyone else on the planet, doesn't know what to do. Very briefly summarized, there is a civil war in Syria. On one side is a brutal dictator who uses poison gas against his own people. He is supported by Russia and Iran, adversaries, if not enemies, of the U.S.. The U.S. clearly can't help this side. The other side is a ragtag bunch of irregulars, many of whom belong to ISIS or possibly Al Qaeda. The U.S. clearly can't help that side either, and trying to do so would risk a war with Russia. The epicenter of the battle is Aleppo, Syria's largest city and the source of thousands of refugees trying to escape the fighting. If Johnson had simply thrown up his hands and said, "I don't know!," no one would have faulted him, since it is a lose-lose situation. But not knowing about the Battle of Aleppo, which has been going on for years, makes him look ignorant about world affairs. (V)
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is clearly having an effect on Donald Trump. Yesterday he made a serious policy proposal. He proposed a $20 billion federal program to expand charter and private schools for low-income children, to get them out of failing public schools. This is a legitimate (if controversial) proposal that conservatives have supported for a long time. However, he picked an odd place to make the announcement: the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, an Ohio charter school. One problem is that the latest state report on the school shows that in math and reading, it is failing. Democrats, as well as teachers' unions, are wildly against the idea, saying it would let charter and private schools cherry pick the best students to enroll, leaving the public schools with only the unmanageable and failing students.
As well, not all conservatives like the idea. In particular, the libertarian Cato Institute doesn't like the federal government meddling in education at all. While charter and private schools are fine with the Institute, the initiative should come from the states, not from Washington, in their view. (V)
Hillary Clinton has been pilloried in the press for not holding a news conference for nearly nine months. On Monday and Tuesday, she talked to reporters in her new plane, which has a press section. Yesterday, she went whole hog and held an official, formal press conference. A Chris Cillizza puts it, "And, nothing happened. The world didn't stop spinning. Toilets still flushed the same way." Reporters asked questions and she answered them. It wasn't painful at all. At press conferences, most of the questions are about public policy issues, something Clinton knows a tremendous amount about. If a reporter were to ask her about Aleppo, he or she would get a very detailed answer about the situation, explaining all the options and why all of them are bad. She would definitely not say: "What is Aleppo?" It is clearly to her advantage to hold more press conferences in the future.
The Hill has five takeaways from her press conference:
- Clinton is coming out of hiding
- She is trying to change the way the media cover her
- Surprise! The media didn't ask about her emails
- Clinton wants the race to be about Trump's fitness for the presidency
- She is not playing the woman card for all it is worth quite yet
In short, summer is over and she is turning a new page, including more contact with the media, more attacking Trump, and an attempt to change her image. (V)
Most governors are elected during the midterm elections (when many Democrats don't bother to vote), but a dozen states have gubernatorial elections this year. In all the excitement over the White House, Senate, and (maybe) the House, no one seems to be paying attention to them, but governors matter, even in national politics. They can approve or veto gerrymanders, voter ID laws, changes to early voting, and much more. They also appoint replacement senators, in many cases, which matters a lot when the upper chamber is 50-50 or 51-49. Larry Sabato has a good rundown of all the races for governor in 2016. Let's start with Sabato's map:
To start with: Washington, Oregon, and Delaware are safe holds for the Democrats. Utah and North Dakota are safe holds for the Republicans. Despite its preference for Republicans for president, Montana often prefers Democrats for governor, and Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is favored to be reelected. The other six states are basically tossups, with North Carolina being a special case. Here is a quick summary.
- Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is term-limited and cannot run for reelection. The Democrats nominated
the state's attorney general, Chris Koster. Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens is the Republican nominee. Missouri is
a reddish state, but Koster may be conservative enough to win, just as Nixon was. In particular, the NRA
has endorsed Koster. Greitens has never held public office and the Democrats are going to hit him hard on that.
- Indiana. Gov. Mike Pence (R) could have run for reelection and won, but he seems to have other fish to fry.
The Indiana Republican Party picked Lt. Gov Eric Holcomb (R) as the nominee, not an unreasonable choice.
However, he was not elected to that position. He took it over when the then-lieutenant governor, Sue Ellspermann
resigned earlier this year. The Democrats nominated the Speaker of the Indiana House, John Gregg, who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012.
Coattails could play a role here. The state is almost certainly going to vote for Pence and that other guy on
the top of the ticket. But it looks like it will also go strongly for former Democratic senator Evan Bayh, as well. The governorship, then, could
go either way.
- West Virginia. This state used to be as reliably Democratic as they come. Given how poor it is, it should
still be, except the Democrats' dislike for coal is a huge problem. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D)
is term limited. The Democrats nominated the richest person in the state, billionaire businessman Jim Justice, who made
his fortune in coal mining, so the Republicans are going to have a hard time saying he is anti-coal.
Justice won a lot of brownie points earlier this summer when the state suffered from disastrous flooding. He opened
the Greenbrier resort, which he owns, to the flood victims. The press in the state was wildly enthusiastic
about this gesture and it gave him massive positive publicity. The Republicans nominated state senate president
Bill Cole, who has run a lackluster campaign and who can't pour tens of millions of dollars into the race,
as Justice can. Cole has to pray that Trump's coattails are enough to carry the day.
- Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) decided not to run for a fourth two-year term. Vermont was one
of the most Republican states in the country for over a hundred years, but it is now very blue. The Democratic
candidate is former transportation secretary Sue Minter. Her opponent is Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R), who is
better known in the state. A big factor here is what Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) does. If he goes all out for
Minter, she could win, but it is not clear yet that he will do that, because he has other things on his
agenda for the fall.
- New Hampshire. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is running for the Senate, leaving an open seat behind her. We don't
know who the candidates will be yet, because the primary is next week. Colin Van Ostern (D) and Chris Sununu (R)
are favored to win their respective primaries, but are not sure things. Democrats are expecting a big turnout
due to the hot presidential and Senate races, and that could help the Democratic nominee.
- North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has a bathroom problem. A big one. He signed HB2, which forces transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. While this law is very popular with people in rural areas, it is very unpopular with people in the fast-growing cities, and is especially unpopular with large companies, which have threatened not to expand in the state's important Research Triangle Park area. So the "bathroom bill" has become an economic issue, with Democrats saying that McCrory cost the state jobs. The Democratic candidate is the state's attorney general, Roy Cooper, who is currently leading in the polls. Throw in a very competitive presidential race and a very competitive Senate race, and you have a quite a show here. It is likely that upwards of $100 million will be spent in the state on these races. Sabato thinks that Cooper has the edge here, but it could be close.
So, the bottom line is: a lot of nail-biters. (V)
NBC's Chuck Todd and colleagues have pointed out the false equivalence so many in the media make between Hillary Clinton's flaws and Donald Trump's. In particular, while Clinton's email server is still big news, Trump made nine statements in 24 minutes that would have basically disqualified anyone else from the presidency. Their list:
- He said he knows more about ISIS than the U.S. generals
- He suggested he'd fire the generals if he wins
- He praised Vladimir Putin
- He said Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama
- He said his reading of the body language of the intelligence officials he has met showed they didn't like Obama
- He said his trip to Mexico was a success because the Mexican official who arranged it has resigned
- He said that sexual assault in the military is due to allowing men and women to serve together
- He repeated his claim that America should have seized Iraq's and Libya's oil
- He said the oil could be taken by leaving a certain group behind, without explaining what he meant
It used to be that one bad word (think: "macaca" in 2006) could sink a candidate. Not any more, at least not for Donald Trump. Imagine what would happen to any other politician who said Putin was a stronger leader than Obama. No other candidate, not even a Republican, could get away with that. It would be considered treason. Although, Mike Pence is going to see for himself (more below). (V)
NBC News' Benjy Sarlin notes that Wednesday's events gave us an interesting opportunity to compare two different versions of Donald Trump. In the morning, he gave a speech on national security and military preparedness. There, we saw the more disciplined version of Trump, Trump 2.0, where his verbiage and his proposals were carefully curated in the way we would expect from a professional politician. In the evening, Trump appeared at the NBC News forum for a discussion focused on national security and military preparedness. There, we saw Trump 1.0—undisciplined, speaking off the cuff, saying the sorts of things that send his spokespeople scrambling to explain what he really meant.
Sarlin describes the distinction between the two Trumps, quite aptly, as the "teleprompter gap." When Kellyanne Conway, et al., can put words into The Donald's mouth—can program him, effectively speaking—they are able to create a fairly presidential presentation. But when they are unable to exert that sort of control, then Trump is right back at square one. And the big problem, looming on the horizon, is the debates. Barring the unexpected, the three matchups—and particularly the first one—are the last chance the candidates will have to move the needle in a meaningful way. Under the best of circumstances, the debates can only be semi-scripted. And if the candidate is uninterested in preparation, even that is not possible. Which means that as Conway, et al. pour their efforts into making the best Trump 2.0 they can, they surely must dread the Trump 1.0 disaster that all signs point to on September 26. (Z)
As noted above, Donald Trump raised quite a few eyebrows with his verbiage on Wednesday night. Among the assertions that has triggered some of the loudest and most immediate blowback is his declaration that, during their briefing, intelligence officials communicated their disagreement with Barack Obama through their body language. David Priess, a U.S. intelligence official who used to give those briefings to George W. Bush, was exasperated by this and called it "wildly unlikely."
The issue here is not that Trump besmirched the reputation of President Obama, it is that his suggestion implies a gross breach of ethics on the part of intelligence officials. They are supposed to provide information only, and not to give recommendations about what to do with that information. As Priess puts it, giving advice is "the third rail of intelligence—you don't touch it." So, while Trump likely did not realize it, his insult of Obama was in fact a slap in the face of the U.S intelligence establishment. At the same time, notes Priess, he may have inadvertently revealed that he does not understand the difference between information and advice.
There were concerns that giving Trump access to sensitive information could be problematic, given his tendency to shoot from the hip. Thus far, he does not appear to have compromised national security. However, can anyone be surprised that he was unable to keep the briefings on the down-low, and that he somehow found a way to put them front and center? Priess suggests he is, "seeking to politicize intel briefings he's received in a way that no other candidate has ever done." Hard to disagree with that conclusion. (Z)
Donald Trump has had kind things to say about Russian leader Vladimir Putin, on many occasions. He even appeared on Russian TV on Wednesday to share his views (though his campaign claimed The Donald didn't know the interview, which was done with Larry King, was going to be broadcast in Russia). In any case, Trump's running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), has now jumped on board the Putin train. During an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, he opined:
I think it's inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country, and that's going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes President of the United States of America.
Undoubtedly, saying that Putin is better than Obama throws the base some nice, red meat (or some nice, red borscht). However, Pence will likely live to regret this day. First of all, saying anything positive about Putin puts him at odds with most of the Republican establishment. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), for example, has regularly lambasted Trump's pro-Putin rhetoric; on Thursday, he described the Russian leader as, "an aggressor that does not share our interests." Given that Ryan and Pence are likely to be facing off for the GOP nomination in 2020, the Speaker can be expected to bring up Pence's words early and often.
And even if we just limit ourselves to 2016 impact, Pence still stepped in it. He's likely to be asked, quite regularly, about whether or not he is pro-Russia. Outside of the base (who are already in the bag for Trump/Pence), that is not a good look. Further, on October 4, he will be debating Tim Kaine. Imagine that the moderator, Elaine Quijano, asks something like this: "Gov. Pence, you've said that Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than Barack Obama. Can you list three specific ways in which you feel this is the case?" This is a virtually unanswerable question, first because Pence likely knows little in terms of the specifics of Putin's governance, second because he runs the very grave risk of endorsing various sorts of anti-democratic strongarm tactics. He had better hope that Quijano is as kind to him as Matt Lauer was to Trump. (Z)
With the story breaking that Donald Trump paid an apparent bribe to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to drop the fraud case against Trump University, surely this was just a matter of time. And now, the other shoe has officially dropped. The super PAC Democratic Coalition Against Trump (DCAT), has filed a formal complaint with the Dept. of Justice, asking them to look into the matter.
Justice is required, by statute, to look into the complaint and to produce an official response. It is 59 days until the election; presumably they cannot work that quickly. So, while a finding of some sort of malfeasance is possible (perhaps even probable), DCAT isn't going to get that by November 8. But what they have done is assured that the story will linger, on and on, serving as something of a counterweight to the e-mail server. On that level, the filing was a pretty shrewd political maneuver. It is possible that the report comes out before Jan. 20, and whether he wins or loses the election, it could be embarassing to Trump. (Z)
Back when America was great (the 1950s), wives were expected to vote the way their husbands told them to vote. It doesn't work like that any more, and with Donald Trump strong among men and Hillary Clinton strong among women, pillow talk may get more heated than it has been in a long time. In a recent focus group, women report that their husbands are pressuring them to vote for Trump, and they don't like that one bit. This has led to a "Vote Trump, get dumped" campaign, and a rerun of the Greek play Lysistrata in some bedrooms. Slate's Dear Prudence (Mallory Ortberg) recently had to deal with a woman's question about what to do about her Trump-loving husband. The reply was that maybe her husband's love for an irresponsible xenophobic fascist might reveal some fundamental differences between her and her spouse. (V)
Florida and North Carolina are still battlegrounds. Ohio is, too, although the 4-point lead Trump has there could just be a statistical fluctuation, since most other polls put Clinton ahead in the Buckeye State.
Note that the map today has Trump ahead in the key swing states of Florida and Ohio as well as Iowa, Georgia, and Arizona, and he still loses the electoral college. Even if he turned Nevada and North Carolina red, he would still come up short with only 265 EVs. (V)
|U. of New Hampshire
Suffolk has Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) ahead of Deborah Ross by 4 points, a lead that is similar to what Suffolk has for Trump in the presidential race. Other polls disagree with this. It could be a fluke or maybe a house effect for Suffolk. (V)
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep08 Trump's Spending Reveals His Priorities
Sep08 Trump Raised $90 Million in August
Sep08 North Carolina Reduces Early Voting
Sep08 Trump Speech on Military Readiness Fails to Impress
Sep08 Everyone Loses at Commander-in-Chief Forum
Sep08 Bad News for E-mail Scandalmongerers
Sep08 Be Careful about Trusting the August Polls
Sep08 Trump Held Fundraiser for Bondi after She Dropped Trump University Case
Sep08 Cornyn Refuses to Endorse Cruz in Senate Primary
Sep08 Evan McMullin Picks a Running Mate--by Accident
Sep07 Kasich Refuses to Help Trump in Ohio
Sep07 Has Trump Hit His Ceiling?
Sep07 Clinton Is Now Holding Press Conferences
Sep07 The Trump Campaign Is a Black Box
Sep07 The Road to the White House Runs Past Disney World
Sep07 Dallas Morning News Rejects Trump
Sep07 Koch Brothers Are Preparing for the Long Haul
Sep07 McCarthy Wants to Impeach Clinton
Sep07 Chaffetz To Hold More E-mail Hearings
Sep07 Today in Irony: Gingrich Has Coughing Spell While Blasting Clinton's Coughing Spell
Sep06 How Trump Might Do on His Campaign Promises
Sep06 Trump Denies Having Spoken to Bondi
Sep06 Trump Evolves on Amnesty, Again
Sep06 Banks Want No Part of Trump Wall Plan
Sep06 Trump: Voters Don't Care About My Taxes
Sep06 Trump Commits to Debating
Sep06 Clinton Blames Coughing Fit on Allergy to Trump
Sep06 Hillary Clinton's New Plane Takes Off
Sep06 Clinton Will Not Go to Mexico
Sep05 Trump Made Millions from Saudis
Sep05 A Tale of Two Scandals
Sep05 Even Trump's Advisers Are Unclear on His Deportation Plans
Sep05 About that Tightening Presidential Race...
Sep05 Who Supports Gary Johnson?
Sep05 Major Virginia Newspaper Endorses Johnson
Sep05 What's Trump Doing in Michigan?
Sep05 Kellyanne Conway: We Don't Need Pennsylvania
Sep05 Pence to Release Tax Returns This Week
Sep05 FiveThirtyEight: An Assessment
Sep05 What Happened to Rudy Giuliani?
Sep04 Clinton Has Huge Lead over Trump Among Latinos
Sep04 Clinton Foundation Gets Best Possible Rating from Watchdog Group
Sep04 Trump Speaks at a Black Church
Sep04 Is Clinton Repeating LBJ's Mistake?
Sep04 40 Down, 10 to Go
Sep04 Clinton Backs Regulation of Drug Prices
Sep04 Johnson and Stein Getting on the Ballot in More States
Sep04 Trump Visit a Disaster for Mexican President
Sep04 Don't Forget to Register