Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Democrats Go 0-for-2 in Georgia, South Carolina

In the end, the races in GA-06 and SC-05 were much ado about nothing. In the former, Karen Handel (R) won the right to succeed HHS Secretary Tom Price with 51.9% of the vote to 48.1% for Jon Ossoff (D). Ironically, for all the money that Democrats across the country sent to Ossoff, the race in South Carolina was actually closer, with Ralph Norman (R) claiming 51.1% of the vote to 47.9% for Archie Parnell (D).

What lessons can be taken from these results? In the end, probably not too many. Consider, for example, the much higher-profile Georgia race. Hillary Clinton lost GA-06 by less than 2% of the vote, while Ossoff lost by 3.8%—roughly twice as much. Looked at in that way, Tuesday's result is very good news for the GOP, since it suggests they are currently on the upswing (or, at very least, aren't being negatively affected by Donald Trump). On the other hand, when Tom Price ran for the seat just seven months ago, he won by 23 points. So, Ossoff outperformed the last Democrat to run for the seat (Rodney Stooksbury) by 19 points. Looked at through that lens, it's good news for the Democrats, and suggests Donald Trump is dragging Republicans down. On the third hand, the last time that Georgians went to the polls to elect a member of Congress in a non-presidential election, 211,000 people showed up to vote. On Tuesday, 259,000 people showed up, not an earth-shaking difference (by way of comparison, 326,000 showed up in November). This suggests that national politics aren't having much of an impact at all, and that Tuesday's election was nothing special. That's three different ways to interpret the data, and only one of them can be right. But which one? And on top of all this, add in the fact that historically, off-year elections like these have had little predictive value when it comes to midterms.

So, we should probably resist the temptation to draw broad conclusions from what happened on Tuesday. However, partisans on both sides are likely to draw broad conclusions, nonetheless. Republicans are likely to decide that all is well, and that they will be fine remaining on board the S.S. Trump, at least for now. Democrats are likely to be deeply disappointed, and some will argue that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was right, and that the party needs to start nominating left-wingers rather than centrists. The odds are pretty good that both of these "lessons" are wrong, and that embracing them would be counterproductive for the respective parties.

Now, if lessons simply must be had, then let's try to identify some more correct ones. For the GOP, they would be wise to recognize that there are some worrying signs—although they have won all of the special elections thus far, each was closer than it should have been, especially since Democratic turnout tends to be down in non-presidential years. For the Democrats, as Chris Weigant observes, the time has come to commission a postmortem like the one the GOP conducted in 2012. Instead of being guided by the best guesses of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or DNC Chair Tom Perez, the Party should harness some of the scientific and technological expertise available to it, and should figure out why they keep suffering so many "close, but no cigar" losses. At very least, this would help affirm to party loyalists that someone has their hand on the wheel. Because, at the moment, the Democratic ship appears to be awfully rudderless. (Z)

Trump, Jr. Responds to Election Results

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, they say. And in an apparent effort to prove that, Donald Trump, Jr., used his Twitter account on Tuesday to share his views on the result in Georgia:

This was far from the only tweet of this sort that Don, Jr. issued forth with on Tuesday, particularly as he sparred with individual users on the social media platform.

Among his many duties, the President of the United States is America's head of state. That means that he and his family are supposed to be role models for the American people, and shining examples of the best of American culture. It is inconceivable that any past presidential children—the Obamas, the Bush daughters, Chelsea Clinton, Amy Carter, the Nixon daughters, the Johnson daughters, etc.—would have made such a downright snotty statement while their fathers were in office. It would seem, however, that this is one of the (many) aspects of the job that the Trumps just don't take seriously. (Z)

2018 Will Be Tougher for Democrats than 2006 Was

Nat Cohn looked at the four special elections so far this year and compared the Democrats' situation in 2018 with what they faced in the 2006 midterms and noted some major differences. In 2006, George W. Bush was in the sixth year of an unpopular presidency, in no small part due to the Iraq war. In the 2006 midterms, the Democrats translated anti-Bush feeling into a pickup of 31 House seats, which would be more than enough to capture the House in 2018 (only 24 are needed).

However, the lay of the land was quite different then. In particular, there were far more Republicans in Democratic-leaning House districts then than now. But as party-line voting has become the norm, there are now fewer districts with a Democratic lean and a Republican representative (and vice versa). Currently only 11 Republicans are in seats that the Democrats have won in recent presidential elections. As recently as 2010, there were 73 Republican targets. Now we are close to a situation in which a district with a Republican lean votes for Republicans up and down the line and a district with a Democratic lean won't vote for a Republican even for dog catcher. In short, even if 2018 is a wave year for the Democrats, they will face an uphill climb because they have to convince many people who always vote Republican to jump ship. As Jon Ossoff demonstrated yesterday, even in a well-educated district with a weak opponent and a nearly infinite supply of money, getting Republicans to vote for even a centrist Democrat is not easy. (V)

Well-Educated Districts Are Mostly Democratic

Despite losing in GA-06, Jon Ossoff did nearly 20 points better than Tom Price did in November. This is consistent with the fact that well-educated districts tend to vote Democratic for the most part. Nate Cohn has compiled a list of all the districts in the country in which more than half the voters have a college degree. Here is his list:

District Location College Home of Last House result
NY-12 Manhattan and Queens 69% Empire State Bldg, Times Square, Trump Tower D+66
CA-33 Santa Monica and Malibu 58% "Beverly Hills 90210," UCLA D+33
CA-18 Silicon Valley: Palo Alto 57% Stanford University, Google D+42
VA-08 Northern Virginia 57% The Pentagon D+41
NY-10 Manhattan and Brooklyn 57% Wall Street, WTC, Upper West Side D+56
GA-06 Northern suburbs of Atlanta 56% The most expensive House race in history R+4
WA-07 Seattle 56% Amazon, Starbucks, Space Needle D (no R in GE)
CA-12 San Francisco 55% "San Francisco liberals", Nancy Pelosi D+81
MA-05 Boston suburbs 52% Harvard, Elizabeth Warren's house D+97
CA-52 San Diego and its suburbs 52% UCSD, Romney's house with car elevator D+13
CA-17 Silicon Valley: Cupertino 52% Apple, Yahoo, Intel D (no R in GE)
VA-10 Northern Virginia 51% CIA, Trump National Golf Club (D.C.) R+6
MD-08 Washington D.C. suburbs 51% Nat. Institutes of Health, Lockheed Martin D+26
VA-11 Northern Virginia 50% Freddie Mac, Northrop, Raytheon, Booz Allen D+88
IL-05 Chicago and its suburbs 50% Second City, Wrigley Field D+40

From the data above, it is fairly clear that Democrats do well in districts with many college-educated voters. When they win, they win big. When they lose, it isn't by so much. So it is clear that in 2018, they will target the two Republican districts above as well as those in which at least 40% of the voters are college graduates. (V)

"Discussion Draft" of Health Care Bill Will Be Released Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Senate Republicans will release a draft of the health care bill they have been working on in secret. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to hold a vote on the final bill next week. McConnell didn't say when the final bill—the one the Senate will actually vote on—will be made available. In any event, the Congressional Budget Office will score the draft bill, not the final one, so when the Senate does vote, the senators won't know how many people will lose insurance and how much money the bill will save or cost the government compared to the current situation.

One reason Thursday's bill is only a draft is that Republicans still don't agree on what they want in the bill. Some of them want a bill that allows states to opt out of rules requiring insurance companies to insure sick people. Others want companies to be able to offer cheap policies that don't cover very much and/or have high deductibles ("junk insurance"). Still others oppose these changes. Defunding Planned Parenthood is another hot potato. If the bill does that, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) might end up voting against it.

Another complication is what Elizabeth MacDonough thinks of the bill. That matters a lot. She is the Senate parliamentarian and will rule on whether the bill can be passed under the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 50 votes plus that of Mike Pence, President of the Senate. Items that don't affect the federal budget aren't allowed in reconciliation bills. For example, a change of the rules allowing states to opt out of requirements that sick people get coverage might not pass muster since that doesn't affect the federal budget. Also, a change allowing states to permit junk insurance doesn't affect the federal budget. If MacDonough says these items may not be in the bill, many Republicans will be hopping mad. In principle, McConnell can fire MacDonough and replace her with someone who will do his bidding, but the political uproar would be enormous. (V)

CBO Chief Keith Hall Is under Attack

Keith Hall, the economist who runs the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, is under increasing attack by Republicans who don't like the numbers he keeps producing, such as "23 million," the number of people who will lose health insurance in the House's AHCA bill is passed. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney recently accused him of having a liberal bias. That would be news to Tom Price, who called Hall in 2015 to inquire about his interest in the job. The position is filled by Congress, which was then controlled by the Republicans. Previously, Hall was a member of George W. Bush's Council of Economic advisers. Later, Bush tapped him to run the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A number of Republicans want to eliminate or weaken the office, which Congress created in 1974 to give it nonpartisan advice. They may or may not be able to kill the office, but today Hall will have to testify before Congress on his office's budget. If he doesn't agree to be more friendly to them, they could slash the budget, forcing him to lay off economists, statisticians, and analysts. (V)

Sessions Hires a Lawyer

The trend of everyone in the administration hiring their own lawyer is barreling along nicely. The most recent person to get a lawyer is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He has now hired Chuck Cooper, a top lawyer who was recently considered for the still-vacant position of solicitor general. Cooper has argued cases before the Supreme Court.

Others who have hired their own lawyers include Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, First son-in-law Jared Kushner, and various others. It is not normal that in the first 6 months of an administration, many of the top players have personal lawyers to defend them from potential future charges of an unknown nature. (V)

Judge Curiel Rules that Trump University Objector Won't Have to Post Bond

A class-action suit against Trump University was settled when Donald Trump agreed to pay $25 million to the students who felt they were defrauded. However, one plaintiff, Sherri Simpson, wants to opt out and to sue Trump herself. Trump's lawyers asked Indiana-born U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who Trump has deemed to be biased because he is of Mexican descent, to make her post a bond of $146,888 to cover costs of communicating with the members of the class-action suit. Curiel rejected their motion on the grounds there is no statute requiring a plaintiff to cover a defendant's costs. Final briefs are due July 26. If Simpson wins, she will be able to opt out and sue Trump directly. About a dozen law professors have filed amicus briefs supporting her. If she wins, Trump will have to defend himself in court, something he thought he could avoid by agreeing to pay the students $25 million. (V)

White House Says "Secret Recordings" Question Will Be Resolved this Week

In his first on-camera briefing in a week, White House Press Secretary (for now) Sean Spicer was asked about the recordings that Donald Trump may or may not have of his meetings with former FBI Director James Comey. Spicer said that he expects an announcement on the matter "this week."

On its surface, that's pretty definitive, but don't hold your breath. Spicer isn't always in the loop on what the President is thinking. In fact, it might be argued that he isn't usually in the loop. Further, a resolution to this question was promised last week. And the week before that. And yet, no answer has been given. At this point, the likeliest reason for the delay is that Trump is waiting to make the announcement on a day when he hopes it will drown out some larger, more damaging story. (Z)

Heller Has a Challenger

The Republican Senate Seat most likely to flip in 2018 of that of Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). He is the only Republican senator up in a state that Hillary Clinton won. Up until now, he didn't have a Democratic opponent. Now, according to multiple sources, he has one: Rep. Jacky Rosen. She is expected to make a formal announcement in a few weeks. Rosen is not exactly a House veteran, having been first elected to public office in Nov. 2016 as the representative of NV-03. She beat Danny Tarkanian for the seat vacated by Joe Heck when he ran (unsuccessfully) for the Senate in 2016.

The recruitment of Rosen, a 59-year-old Jewish software developer from Henderson, a suburb just south of Las Vegas, has the fingerprints of Harry Reid all over it. Reid knows that she is a fresh face and has no track record for opponents to attack. Her being from the Las Vegas area, the state's biggest city by a factor of three, was surely also a factor. It is possible that other Democrats may join the race as well, but knowing that she has the backing of Reid's machine may make them think twice about running. A recent poll showed a generic Democrat beating Heller 46% to 39%. If Heller isn't worried yet, he will be soon. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun20 Supreme Court Will Take a Gerrymandering Case
Jun20 Today Georgians in GA-06 Can Send a Message
Jun20 South Carolina Votes Today, Too
Jun20 Trump Demands Frequent Personal Meetings with Certain Officials
Jun20 Spicer Is "Kind of Useless"
Jun20 When Trump Doesn't Tweet
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Jun20 Republicans Are Considering Canceling Their Vacation
Jun20 Why Incumbent Democratic Senators Don't Have Many Challengers Yet
Jun20 Forget Trump vs. Mueller, the Big Battle Is Baquet vs. Baron
Jun20 GOP's Voter Data Left Exposed
Jun19 Trump Lawyer Says the President Is Not Under Investigation
Jun19 King Says Russia Investigation Only 20% Completed
Jun19 Senate Healthcare Plan Leaks
Jun19 'Mean' Comment Likely to Haunt Republicans
Jun19 GA-06 Race Is Too Close to Call
Jun19 What Does Sanders Want?
Jun19 Scalise's Condition Improves after Shooting
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Jun19 Another Attack in London
Jun18 Line of Succession at Justice Dept. May Become Crucial
Jun18 Trump Says He Has the Legal Authority to Fire Mueller
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Jun18 Trump's Interests and Those of His Staff Are Diverging
Jun18 It's Getting Harder and Harder for Trump to Hire People
Jun18 White House Is Trying to Water Down the New Sanctions on Russia
Jun18 Early Voting in the GA-06 Special Election Is Soaring
Jun18 Rural Americans Resent Minorities, non-Christians, and Big City Dwellers
Jun18 Coulter Slams Trump
Jun18 Democratic Presidential Candidates Need to Work on Name Recognition
Jun17 Trump Attacks Rosenstein
Jun17 Trump Releases 2016 Financial Disclosure Forms
Jun17 Trump Reverses Obama's Cuba Policy
Jun17 Are Democrats Looking for Voters in the Wrong Place?
Jun17 Murkowski Is Committed to Funding Planned Parenthood
Jun17 Trump Hires Another Lawyer
Jun17 Trump's Lawyer Hires a Lawyer
Jun17 Brownback Being Vetted for Position in Trump Administration
Jun17 Newt Gingrich, Flip-Flopper
Jun17 Ossoff Gets More Donations from San Francisco Bay Area than from Georgia
Jun16 Trump Lashes Out at Report Mueller is Looking into Obstruction of Justice
Jun16 Mueller Following the Money
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Jun16 Trump Punts on Commander-in-Chief Responsibilities
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Jun16 AHCA's Margin of Error is Dropping