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

McConnell Fears He Is Going to Lose the Alabama Senate Seat

Mike Allen, who is generally well plugged-in when it comes to D.C. scuttlebutt, is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expects that all the efforts to stop Roy Moore's Senate candidacy will fail and that Democrats will soon welcome Doug Jones to their caucus with open arms. In case you missed it, Moore's dating habits about 40 years ago have caused a bit of a stir.

McConnell probably has been running polls on the race himself, but just in case he hasn't, he surely noticed the public poll from JMC Analytics released yesterday that showed Jones at 46% and Moore at 42%. A poll taken Friday put each at 46%. If we average the two, we get Jones ahead by 2 points. The margin of error is 4 points, so what should have been a Republican landslide is now a statistical tie.

One factor that could be playing a role here is that the election is simply to fill out the rest of Jeff Sessions' term. In other words, the winner of the special election in December (or whenever) will have to run again in 2020. There may be Republicans in Alabama who are thinking: "I dislike Democrats but in 2020 we can replace Jones" and would be willing to let the blue team have the seat for 3 years to avoid the embarrassment of Moore representing the state in the Senate, even for a short period.

One thing that the poll found is a bit surprising: 37% of Alabama evangelicals are more likely to vote for Moore since he has been accused of being a child molester, while only 28% said the allegations made them less likely to vote for him. Among non-evangelicals, only 16% said they were more likely to vote for Moore on account of the allegations, but 54% said it made them less likely. It makes one wonder what part of the Bible says that child molestation is a good thing. One could imagine them saying: "It was 40 years ago so it doesn't matter." But only 34% of evangelicals said it doesn't matter.

Another factor in the race is the endorsement of Jones by the liberal blog Daily Kos and its efforts to raise money for him. The site has a proven track record at raising money for its chosen candidates. It raised $1.6 million for Jon Ossoff, who ran for an open House seat in Georgia earlier this year. For a critical Senate seat, it might be able to beat that record. Normally the Republicans could find a megadonor who could write a check for that without batting an eye, but Moore is so toxic that won't be so easy. (V)

Could Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) Cancel the Alabama Senate Election?

One way for the Republicans to avoid having Roy Moore defeated in the upcoming special election in Alabama is to cancel the election altogether and let appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) finish Jeff Sessions' term. This has already been proposed:

However, election law specialist Prof. Rick Hasen thinks the courts wouldn't allow the governor or legislature to cancel the election. His reasoning comes directly from the Seventeenth Amendment, whose second clause reads:

When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

Hasen's argument is that governors may make temporary appointments until the people fill the seat via a special election. Canceling the election would negate the stated purpose of the appointment to be temporary. In desperation, the Republicans could try to go down that road and cancel the election, but it seems like a longshot. (V)

Advertisers Hit Hannity Where it Hurts

As Roy Moore struggles to keep his head above water, and to fight off the sex scandal in which he has become enmeshed, one of his aces in the hole is Fox News, which often functions as the GOP's propaganda wing. That is particularly true of Sean Hannity, who never met an accusation against a Republican politician that he did not regard as an insidious liberal plot. Consequently, he has been among Moore's most vocal defenders, lionizing the would-be senator while smearing his accusers.

Normally, Hannity can get away with just about anything (for example, Seth Rich conspiracy theories) and his advertisers don't bat an eye. After all, they know what they are signing up for when they buy time on "Hannity." However, for some of them, defending someone who appears to be a sexual predator and a pedophile is a bridge too far. Consequently, at least half a dozen sponsors, among them ETrade and Keurig, have said they will no longer advertise on the program.

The Fox Channel and its individual personalities are willing to tolerate an awful lot of criticism and negative attention. However, the one thing they cannot abide is a loss of advertiser dollars. Recall that it was all the ad cancellations that ultimately brought down Bill O'Reilly, and not the sexual harassment settlements per se. Hannity is probably not in danger of losing his job, but he and his colleagues likely have no choice but to stop defending Moore (or at least tone it down). And if that is the case, it will be bad news for the would-be senator, since he badly needs that publicity, essentially the only positive coverage he's getting right now. (Z)

Trump Should Resign, Says Kellyanne Conway

OK, she didn't put it quite that way. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was dispatched to the Sunday morning news programs, as she often is, to peddle the administration's line on the news of the day, in this case Roy Moore. And, as she often does, she presented her views without thinking them through. Consequently, she tried to make the case that Moore might not be guilty, declaring that, "I don't know the accusers and I don't know Judge Moore. But I also want to make sure that we as a nation are not prosecuting people through the press." At the same time, Conway tried to hedge her bets, and to make clear that she did not want to be accused of defending a sexual predator. So, she also added, "If there's anyone currently in public office who's behaved that way to any girl or any woman, maybe they should step aside."

Conway's apparent goal was to make lemonade out of lemons here, and to deflect some of the attention away from Moore and toward the Democrats. To that end, she followed the latter remark by immediately referencing two prominent Democrats, namely Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Clinton. Of course, neither of those two individuals is exactly relevant to her point, since Menendez is a current officeholder but is not accused of sexual predation, while Clinton is accused of sexual predation but is not a current officeholder. However, there is someone whom Conway knows very well and who checks both boxes, inasmuch as he is definitely in office right now, and has openly admitted to "grabbing women by the pu**y," which is unquestionably sexual predation. Presumably, Conway headed right back to the White House after her talk show appearances to advise the President that, in her view, he needs to resign immediately. Otherwise, someone might just accuse her of being inconsistent, or even hypocritical. (Z)

Evangelicals, Southerners: Trump Gets It

There are a great many mysteries about the dynamics of presidential politics in the year 2017 that will puzzle scholars for generations, since they puzzle scholars right now. One of the biggest is why evangelicals are embracing Donald Trump—a non-churchgoing divorcee who seems to regard the Ten Commandments as a dare—more warmly than candidates who are actually religious (Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, etc.) or even those who are actually evangelicals (Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, etc.).

The Washington Post talked to a number of evangelical leaders who are in Trump's orbit, in an effort to understand, and their consistent response was that The Donald "gets it." What that seems to mean, more than anything else, is that he gives the evangelicals access, listens to what they have to say, and then allows that to influence his policy. In other words, Vladimir Putin could also say that Trump "gets it," and he'd be describing exactly the same phenomenon. Now, for the evangelicals, there is some cognitive dissonance in throwing their lot in with someone who isn't actually religious, so they are working hard to convince themselves that Trump truly is one of them. For example, televangelist and Trump confidant Paula White insists that the President, "clearly understands salvation and clearly calls himself a believer and a Christian." Notice, however, that even she could not say that he actually is a Christian, merely that he calls himself one.

Meanwhile, not all evangelicals are Southerners, and not all Southerners are evangelicals, but there is certainly a great deal of overlap between the two populations. So, it is fair to say that the WaPo story and a new poll from Winthrop University are connected. The poll revealed that 46% of Southerners feel "under attack," 30% feel the need to protect white heritage, 40% don't like seeing statues torn down, and more than half regard race/racism as the most important issue currently facing the United States. There will never again be a president who caters so fully to these concerns, given that Trump has gone well beyond the usual GOP dog whistles and instead utilized dog bullhorns. So, for Southern folks who feel that they, their culture, their heritage, etc. are under siege, they are never going to have a better horse to ride than this one. Similarly, it is the case that evangelicals are unlikely to have a president who grants them more influence—even one who is, like Mike Pence, an actual evangelical. These things help to explain why a certain percentage of Trump's base will never, ever abandon him, no matter what mistakes he makes, or what scandals he becomes enmeshed in. (Z)

Senate Tax Bill Is in Trouble--in the House

Yesterday House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said that the Senate tax bill, which eliminates all deductions for state and local taxes, is doomed in the House. Brady's announcement only makes explicit what many observers already knew: House Republicans from New York (9), New Jersey (5), California (14), and Illinois (7) are going to have a lot of trouble getting to yes because those deductions are very important to their constituents. The problem doesn't exist in the Senate because none of those states have Republican senators.

When asked whether some people would see higher taxes as a result of his bill, Brady fudged it. He said: "Every income bracket sees a tax relief." It may well be true that the total tax paid by people making, say, $50,000 to $75,000 goes down, but many individual taxpayers may end up paying more. And the effect is not uniform geographically. Taxpayers in California (and their representatives) are not going to be impressed by the fact that taxpayers in Texas are getting a break that is larger than what they are going to have to pay. If both bills pass their respective chambers, a lot will depend on which members are appointed to the conference committee that will have to hash out the differences between the bills. (V)

It Is Congress' Fault that Tax Reform Is So Hard

The Republicans are struggling to pass some kind of tax reform bill and there is a very good reason why it is so hard: tax expenditures. Consider one example. In 1977, unemployment was high and Congress decided to do something to create jobs. What it did was provide a $2,100 tax credit to employers for each veteran or food-stamp recipient they hired. As a consequence, a new chunk of text was added to the internal revenue code. In effect, Congress was paying certain companies some money if they performed certain activities. This added to the complexity of the tax code.

What Congress could have done, but didn't, was to explicitly pass a bill called the "Veterans and Food-stamp Recipients Employment Act of 1977" and appropriate money to pay for it. But that would have been much more visible, and some budget-minded constituents might have noticed the program and objected to it. By hiding it in the tax code, they made sure that almost nobody even saw it except the companies that were potentially interested in hiring the targeted people. The tax code is littered with thousands of spending programs that aren't called spending programs but functionally are the same thing, except without any difficult appropriation votes every year that people might see.

The problem is that every line in the tax code has some group that cares a lot about it and will fight to the death to keep it. The total amount of money being spent on tax expenditures now is about $1.2 trillion a year. In order to make the tax bill more-or-less revenue neutral (give or take about a trillion dollars over 10 years) and still enact big cuts for corporations and wealthy donors, a lot of the tax expenditures have to be repealed, and that is a painful process. If Congress had not taken the cowardly way out with the expenditures and made each one an explicit program with an annual funding, it would be much easier to tinker with the funding. This would be far more transparent and would make reforming the tax code easier since none of these things would be part of the tax code. But that is not going to happen any time soon, because then the spending would become visible to everyone and attract too much attention. (V)

Rundown of House Retirements

An exceptionally large number of House members have announced their retirements already and there is still plenty of time for more announcements before the 2018 midterm campaigns start up in force. At least 23 Republicans will either be getting out of politics or trying to get elected to a different office. For Democrats, the count is currently 10. The elections last week are likely to nudge more Republicans, especially those in swing districts, toward the door as they see the handwriting on the wall. Below is a list of retirements already announced, sorted by Charlie Cook's Partisan Voting Index. The list does not include Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Tim Murphy (R-PA), or Pat Tiberi (R-OH), whose resignations from Congress before the end of their terms will trigger special elections.

Representative Party District PVI Reason for leaving
Marsha Blackburn Republican TN-06 R+24 Running for governor
Evan Jenkins Republican WV-03 R+23 Running for senator
Raul Labrador Republican ID-01 R+21 Running for governor
Diane Black Republican TN-07 R+20 Running for governor
Luke Messer Republican IN-06 R+18 Running for senator
Todd Rokita Republican IN-04 R+17 Running for senator
Jeb Hensarling Republican TX-05 R+16 Retiring from public office
Kristi Noem Republican SD-AL R+14 Running for governor
Sam Johnson Republican TX-03 R+13 Retiring from public office
Bob Goodlatte Republican VA-06 R+13 Retiring from public office
John Duncan Jr. Republican TN-02 R+11 Retiring from public office
Ted Poe Republican TX-02 R+11 Retiring from public office
Lynn Jenkins Republican KS-02 R+10 Retiring from public office
Lou Barletta Republican PA-11 R+10 Running for senator
Lamar Smith Republican TX-21 R+10 Retiring from public office
James Renacci Republican OH-16 R+8 Running for governor
Steve Pearce Republican NM-02 R+6 Running for governor
Dave Trott Republican MI-11 R+4 Retiring from public office
Charlie Dent Republican PA-15 R+4 Retiring from public office
Martha McSally Republican AZ-02 R+1 Running for senator
Frank LoBiondo Republican NJ-02 R+1 Retiring from public office
Dave Reichert Republican WA-09 Even Retiring from public office
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Republican FL-27 D+5 Retiring from public office
Tim Walz Democratic MN-01 R+5 Running for governor
Carol Shea-Porter Democratic NH-01 R+2 Retiring from public office
Jacky Rosen Democratic NV-03 R+2 Running for senator
Kyrsten Sinema Democratic AZ-09 D+4 Running for senator
John Delaney Democratic MD-06 D+6 Running for president
Michelle Lujan-Grisham Democratic NM-01 D+7 Running for governor
Niki Tsongas Democratic MA-03 D+9 Retiring from public office
Jared Polis Democratic CO-02 D+9 Running for governor
Colleen Hanabusa Democratic HI-01 D+17 Running for governor
Beto O'Rourke Democratic TX-16 D+17 Running for senator

The first thing to note here is that many of the Republican seats are extremely safe, so the retiring Republican will almost certainly be replaced by another Republican. If we consider a district between R+5 and D+5 to be a swing district, then six Republican and four Democratic seats are in play. However, in the midterms, the president's party has lost seats in 18 of the past 20 midterms and this year in the House special elections and state legislative elections Democrats have greatly overperformed 2016. Under these conditions, probably none of the open Democratic seats are in danger and possibly as many as eight open Republican seats are in play. And again, more retirements are likely. (V)

Biden Clearly Planning 2020 Run

Joe Biden has written a new book, "Promise Me, Dad," about how he dealt with the death of his son Beau. The actual subject of the book, however, is somewhat irrelevant. It could be "Biden's Zesty Lo-Cal Chicken Recipes," or "Serving as Vice President for Dummies," or "Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen," and it would give him an opportunity to tour the country, shaking hands and meeting people, with a curiously high number of stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

In short, cranking out a book two years before a presidential election cycle gets underway is an obvious attempt to lay the groundwork for a presidential run, as Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) can also attest. This being the case, reporters have repeatedly asked the former Veep about his plans. Under the circumstances, even a full Sherman might not be believable, and people would still suspect that Biden was planning a run. However, Uncle Joe is most certainly not giving a full Sherman, and when asked whether or not he's thinking about a 2020 run, said, "No, not yet. And I say that 'not yet' because I'm a great respecter of fate." Translation: "Yes I am, unless my health fails, or it becomes clear I cannot win." Unless one of those two things comes to pass, consider Biden's hat to be in the ring.

However, one factor that is going to play a big role in his race is the fact that he will celebrate his 75th birthday next Monday. Well, maybe he won't celebrate it. Maybe he'll hide in bed all day. This simple fact means that he will be 78 years old on inauguration day in 2021 and 82 at the end of his first term. Biden is one of the few people who can unite the progressive, the centrist, and the geriatric wings of the Democratic Party, but his age is certainly going to be a big factor in the race, especially against much younger candidates like Democratic senators Cory Booker (NJ) (51 in 2021), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) (54 in 2021), and Kamala Harris (CA) (56 in 2021). (Z & V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov12 Trump: I Believe Putin
Nov12 Moore Remains on the Hot Seat
Nov12 Let the Departures Resume
Nov12 GOP No Longer the Party of Environmentalism
Nov12 "America First" Means "America Alone"
Nov12 New Twitter Limit May Be Bad News for Trump
Nov12 How to Fix the Electoral College
Nov11 Republicans End Joint Fundraising with Moore
Nov11 Moore Fundraises Off Controversy
Nov11 Excuses for Moore Are Pretty Flimsy
Nov11 New Poll Shows Moore and Jones Tied
Nov11 Could Jones Win This Thing?
Nov11 Ryan and McConnell Misspoke on Middle Class Taxes
Nov11 If the Tax Bill Fails, Republican Donors Will Flee
Nov11 Senate Judiciary Committee Approves a Judge the ABA Says Is Not Qualified
Nov10 Senate Releases Its Tax Bill
Nov10 Roy Moore Is Accused of Sexually Assaulting a 14-Year-Old Girl When He Was 32
Nov10 Miller Meets Mueller
Nov10 Wilbur Ross Feels the Heat, Again
Nov10 Jury Deliberation in Menendez Case to Start All Over Next Week
Nov10 Republicans Hold Virginia House of Delegates...For Now
Nov10 Goodlatte to Bid Good Night
Nov09 Takeaways from the Election
Nov09 What Happened in Virginia?
Nov09 Cohn: Democrats Shouldn't Be Counting Their Chickens Quite Yet
Nov09 Election Day Brought Numerous Firsts to Many States
Nov09 Trump Kowtows to Xi
Nov09 The Tax Bill Has Winners and Losers
Nov09 Tax Bill Hits Rough Waters
Nov09 Why Trump Will Never Lose His Supporters
Nov08 Virginians Give Red Team, and Their White Nationalist Supporters, the Blues
Nov08 Mostly Good News for Democrats Elsewhere
Nov08 Seven Problems Trump Will Face on His Asia Trip
Nov08 Martha McSally Will Run for Jeff Flake's Seat
Nov08 Frank LoBiondo Is Retiring from the House
Nov08 Twitter Doubles Down
Nov07 Today Is Election Day
Nov07 Retirements Will Shape the New House
Nov07 GOP Shrugs Off Texas Shooting
Nov07 Was the Tax Bill Written Specifically Tailored to Donald Trump's Needs?
Nov07 Dean: Kushner Is Going Down
Nov07 Trump Undermined Bon Jovi NFL Bid
Nov07 Paul Clips Grass, Neighbor Kicks Ass
Nov06 26 Dead in Yet Another Mass Killing
Nov06 Brazile Keeps Firing at Clinton Campaign
Nov06 Democrats Pin Hopes on Black Voters in Virginia
Nov06 Democrats Look to Build a "Blue Wall" Along the Pacific
Nov06 Flynns Could Be Mueller's Next Targets
Nov06 Papadopoulos Repeatedly Represented Trump Campaign
Nov06 "Paradise Papers" Released