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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Blinks on Wall Funding
      •  GOP Growing Anxious About 2018
      •  Trump Wants Corporate Taxes Down to 15%
      •  Trump Hits Canadian Lumber with Tariff
      •  Trump Blasts Polls as "Fake News"
      •  Maddow Beating Fox News

Trump Blinks on Wall Funding

In four days, the government will no longer be funded. Congressional Democrats and Republicans had been making progress on that problem until the Trump administration gave Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a surprise: The President wanted a funding bill with money for the Mexican wall. There was no chance that the Democrats would allow such a bill to pass the Senate, so GOP leaders were left with a pair of unpleasant options: defy the President, or allow a shutdown at a time when their party controls the entire government.

Trump seemed to be sticking to his guns as late as Monday afternoon, when he tweeted:

But then, just an hour later, he backed down, telling conservative media outlets that he was no longer insistent on wall funding, and that he was ok with pushing that discussion off until September. So, it appears the government will be funded after all. Meanwhile, one wonders how serious Trump is about actually resuming this discussion later in the year, when Democrats still aren't going to budge, and Republicans are going to be even more nervous about the looming midterm elections (see below). (Z)

GOP Growing Anxious About 2018

Even though November 6, 2018, is still 18 months away, the next election cycle is getting underway. And while the Republicans have a couple of aces in the hole—pro-GOP gerrymanders for many House seats, and the fact that most of the Senate seats up for re-election are in red states—they are growing increasingly nervous that Donald Trump is going to prove an anchor around Republican necks.

This is not mere paranoia; there are already some bad signs for the GOP. The elections in KS-04, GA-06, and MT-01 either were far closer than they should have been, or are projected to be so. Further, low-interest Democratic voters (those who make it to the polls once a year or less often) outvoted low-interest Republicans by nine points in Kansas and Georgia. Beyond that, while the GOP's overall fundraising has been solid, the megadonors—Sheldon Adelson, the Kochs, the Deasons—are currently keeping their wallets closed, and may do so through next year. Finally, the party is having difficulty recruiting quality candidates for open seats, because the top-shelf types don't want to gamble their political futures on Trump's potentially toxic approval ratings.

As we are fond of saying, a week in politics is a lifetime. Which means that there's roughly nine cats' worth of lifetimes until the election, so there's time for GOP fortunes to improve. But it really starts with the guy at the top; merely claiming success is not going to get it done, he's going to actually have to pile up some substantive accomplishments if he wants to change the calculus. (Z)

Trump Wants Corporate Taxes Down to 15%

And speaking of substantive accomplishments, here's an example of how not to achieve them. On Monday, the Trump administration leaked their plan to ask Congress on Wednesday to reduce corporate tax rates to 15%. This fulfills a campaign promise, so Trump can check that off the list. It would also blow a giant hole in the budget, or require the imposition of a new, very regressive consumption tax, or both. Even Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a noted fan of tax cuts, said that 15% would be hard to achieve.

The suspicion here remains that Trump doesn't actually want to succeed. If he proposes a cut to 15%, and Congress kills it, he can say that he tried but Paul Ryan & Co. just wouldn't work with him. If Trump somehow does get his tax cut, particularly if it is paired with a consumption tax, it will be interesting to see how he convinces his base that the change helps working-class types like them, and not corporate tycoons like him. It's not impossible, of course, Ronald Reagan pulled off a similar feat with his trickle-down economics. (Z)

Trump Hits Canadian Lumber with Tariff

Donald Trump has been threatening to use his power to levy tariffs, which he can do in circumstances where a foreign company enjoys an "unfair" competitive advantage. Now, he finally found a target: Canadian timber companies. Five companies will pay a 24% tariff, the others will pay 20%. The White House did not explain exactly what prompted the move, nor why some companies were being singled out.

The concern that this raises, naturally, is that Canada will respond in kind, and a trade war will be underway. This is an especially significant concern now, given that Trump is very unpopular in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could gain some major brownie points by standing up to him. Trump does have an argument here, albeit a somewhat tenuous one. Canadian timber companies are indeed subsidized, though the subsidies are rather nominal. Further, they come from the provincial governments, and not the NAFTA-negotiating Canadian federal government. This being the case, Trump's maneuver is roughly equivalent to Canada taxing American oil because they don't like Texas law. Still, this is not the first time a U.S. president has hit them with a tariff; George W. Bush hit them with a 30% rate in 2002. Monday's maneuver was likely just a shot across the bow in advance of the first discussions over NAFTA. There's a good chance that Canada will let it be, so as to avoid making those discussions any more tense than they need to be. (Z)

Trump Blasts Polls as "Fake News"

This week's polls have continued the run of bad news for President Trump. Outside of Rasmussen, with its Republican house effect, every other pollster has his approval rating in the high 30s or low 40s—not good for the first 100 days, aka "the honeymoon." Monday, Trump lashed out, using Twitter to bash the polls as "fake news:"

He presumably does not recognize the internal contradiction: It really can't be the case that the positive parts of the polls are accurate, while the negative parts are fake.

In any event, on the subject of Donald Trump and "fake news," Politico Magazine's Ben Schreckinger and Hadas Gold have a very interesting item. They note that, when speaking for public consumption, Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and White House Senior Adviser Steve Bannon are full of venom and bile when it comes to any story in the media that is non-right-wing. Behind the scenes, however, things are apparently completely different. Trump pals around with the press, Bannon sends complimentary notes, and even Spicer likes to work the press room and shake a few hands. Schreckinger and Gold propose that what is happening in front of the cameras is a form of what anthropologists call "ritualized" or "endemic" warfare. As Wikipedia explains, "Ritual fighting permits the display of courage, masculinity and the expression of emotion while resulting in relatively few wounds and even fewer deaths." In other words, Trump's bellyaching about the media is just posturing for the benefit of his base, and does not reflect any actual belief. It's as good a theory as any and, if nothing else, a reminder that the scholars are going to be studying this administration for a long, long time. (Z)

Maddow Beating Fox News

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow may not like Donald Trump politically, but on a professional level, he's good for business. In the all-important 25-to-54 demographic, which determines advertising rates, Maddow's program beat Fox News in March, and is on pace to do the same in April. How is this happening? MSNBC president Phil Griffin has an explanation:

There's a reason Rachel is beating Fox and CNN. She's a talented storyteller who's helping her audience cut through all the confusion coming out of Washington. She's connecting dots in ways no one else is.

Please. Undoubtedly, Maddow is talented, and of course Griffin has to peddle his merchandise as best he can, but this is no explanation. Maddow's success is likely fueled, at least in part, by changes at Fox. Their viewers are aging, with more and more outside the key demo, and that's before Bill O'Reilly got canned. Even more important, without a doubt, is that rabble-rousing sells. When a Democrat is in the White House, the ratings of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin all go through the roof. And when a Republican is in the White House, particularly one as polarizing as Trump, we should—and do—see the ratings of Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, and Stephanie Miller spike. So, the Murdochs should be bracing themselves for a rough 4-8 years, while Maddow should feel free to put a down payment on that new summer home. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr24 White House Tax Proposal Coming Wednesday
Apr24 North Korea, U.S. Continue War of Words
Apr24 What Trump Is Actually Good At
Apr24 Sessions Says Reversing Erroneous Tax Credits Could Pay for Wall
Apr24 Ben Carson Disappoints at HUD
Apr24 Trump Says He Won't Fire Spicer
Apr24 France: It's Le Pen and Macron
Apr23 Scientists March
Apr23 Retail Decline Presages Trouble for Trump
Apr23 Why Did Trump Win? Racism
Apr23 Surgeon General Asked to Resign
Apr23 Trump Will Hold 100th Day Rally
Apr23 Democrats' Eyes Turn to Montana
Apr23 Trumps' Marriage in Trouble?
Apr22 Russians Tried to Infiltrate Trump Campaign
Apr22 Trump Shifts Gears on North Korea
Apr22 Trump Slams "100 Days"
Apr22 Chaffetz Wants Answers
Apr22 Schiff Is on the Rise
Apr22 Conservative Media Think They Can Dictate Staffing; White House Apparently Agrees
Apr22 French Head to the Polls Tomorrow
Apr21 Russians Tried to Infiltrate Trump Campaign
Apr21 Trump Shifts Gears on North Korea
Apr21 Trump Slams "100 Days"
Apr21 Chaffetz Wants Answers
Apr21 Schiff Is on the Rise
Apr21 Conservative Media Think They Can Dictate Staffing; White House Apparently Agrees
Apr21 French Head to the Polls Tomorrow
Apr20 Russian Smoke Getting Closer to Being a Smoking Gun
Apr20 Trump Administration Deports First DREAMer
Apr20 Vinson Plot Thickens
Apr20 Bye, Bye Jason!
Apr20 Bye, Bye Bill!
Apr20 Ricketts Withdraws Name from Consideration
Apr20 New England Patriots Visit White House
Apr19 Ossoff Comes Up Short
Apr19 Warships Headed to North Korea Are in...Australia
Apr19 China Hands Out Trump Trademarks Like Candy
Apr19 Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Trump
Apr19 O'Reilly May Be Done at Fox
Apr19 Trump Signs "Buy American, Hire American" Executive Order
Apr19 Scientists to March on Washington
Apr19 UK Will Hold Elections
Apr18 Everyone's Watching GA-06 Today
Apr18 Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
Apr18 Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
Apr18 New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
Apr18 Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
Apr18 Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
Apr18 How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?