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

Alabama's Biggest Newspapers Endorse Jones

The three biggest newspapers in Alabama all ran the same headline at the top of page one yesterday: STAND FOR DECENCY, REJECT ROY MOORE. Here are the papers:

Stand for decency, reject Roy Moore

The editorial, which ran in all three papers, said that the Alabama Senate election is a referendum on whether the people of Alabama will accept the kind of behavior Moore has exhibited. In recommending that readers reject Moore, the papers said condoning that kind of behavior is not worth one Senate seat. The editorial was about as clear as an editorial can be. Here is a typical paragraph from it:

How can we look our neighbors, our parishioners, our colleagues, our partners, or our children in the eyes and tell them they are worth less than ensuring one political party keeps a Senate seat? How can we expect young Alabamians to have faith in their government or their church, when its leaders equivocate on matters as clear cut as sexual abuse?

The paper also attacked Moore for his notion that only white Christians matter and his disrespect for the law. Three options were offered to Republicans: stay home, write in another name, or vote for Jones. The editorial writers said the only moral choice is voting for Jones, since Moore must be stopped. It duly noted that Jones is pro choice, but said that other than that, he is the kind of candidate who will work for what the people of Alabama want. Whether newspaper endorsements matter any more is a matter of much debate, but in any event, Moore is not being cut any slack by the three biggest ones in Alabama. (V)

Moore Is Already Affecting the 2018 Races

The Roy Moore scandal is metastasizing beyond Alabama, just as Republicans were afraid it would. Republicans in other states are being asked if they support Moore. If they say "no," they are going to antagonize hard-core conservative Trump voters, whom they desperately need. If they say "yes," they are going to antagonize well-educated suburban voters, who they desperately need. If they say "well, it depends" or "beats me," that means they have already forgotten that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie went down that road and got walloped in a swing state.

Specifically, Democrats around the country are asking Republicans a simple yes/no question: "Should child molester Roy Moore drop out?" Local newspapers are also pressing candidates around the country to answer the question. Some candidates are trying to hedge, but the Democrats figure that if a candidate refuses to answer, many voters will take that to mean the candidate doesn't think molesting children is such a big deal. This is not somewhere most candidates want to be. (V)

Franken Won't Resign

There has been pressure from many on the left for Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) to step down in the wake of the allegations made against him by radio host Leeann Tweeden. In part, this is because they are honestly upset about his alleged behavior. In part, it is because they don't want him to be used as a cudgel by the Roy Moores of the world, in the form of, "Why should I drop out of the Senate race if Al Franken doesn't resign? Seems like a double standard!" Never mind that Moore's behavior was orders of magnitude worse than Franken's, not to mention that Moore wouldn't drop out even if Franken did resign.

In any case, Franken's aides made clear on Sunday that he will not be bowing to calls for his resignation. "He is spending time with his family in Washington, DC, and will be through the Thanksgiving holiday. And he's doing a lot of reflecting," they explained, while making clear that the reflection was about being a better person, and not about possibly being an ex-senator. In theory, then, Franken will remain available as a weapon in tit-for-tat comparisons of Republican and Democratic sexual harassment. That said, any Republican who tries that runs the risk of reminding voters of the even worse behavior of the party's currently-sitting president, so we might not hear all that much about Franken after all, particularly once the Alabama Senate election is over, and Roy Moore stops using the Minnesota senator to excuse his own nefarious deeds. (Z)

Seven Senators Are on the Fence on the Tax Bill

While most Republican senators are gung-ho for the tax-cut bill, seven members of the caucus aren't all the way to "yes" yet. The leadership will need to convince at least five of them to vote for the bill or it will go down in flames. Here are the uncertain seven:

  • Susan Collins (ME): She doesn't want to kill the ACA. She really doesn't, as in "No, I don't want to kill the ACA." She even voted against bills to do it when Barack Obama was president and there was no chance that he would sign a repeal bill. The Senate may have to remove the "repeal" provision to get her vote (see below).

  • Bob Corker (TN): Ever since announcing that he won't run for reelection in 2018, he has been a free man. He is a deficit hawk and has said he won't vote for a bill that adds one penny to the deficit. The current bill does not add one penny to the deficit. It adds 150,000,000,000,000 pennies to it. Corker didn't specify what he would do in this case; maybe he'll try to vote "no" 150,000,000,000,000 times.

  • Jeff Flake (AZ): Like Corker, he is a free man and also a deficit hawk. Also like Corker, Flake has had big fights with Trump, so appeals from the President to "do this for me" will have zero effect. Flake will make his decision solely on whether he likes the bill or not.

  • Ron Johnson (WI): This may be the toughest vote of all to get since Johnson is already on record as a definite "no" vote. His problem is that the bill gives tax advantages to corporations over small (unincorporated) businesses. As a small businessman, that choice grates on him. Lowering the rate for small businesses would cost a lot of money, so that really is not an option. Most likely, his vote is lost.

  • John McCain (AZ): McCain isn't up for reelection next year, but it probably doesn't matter since he has an aggressive form of brain cancer and may not make it to Election Day 2018. McCain has a problem with bills that are concocted in secret and then rammed through Congress. He voted against the repeal of the ACA and killed it. This bill has the same problem. Republicans didn't use regular order because they knew if they held hearings, it would come out very quickly that the bill increases taxes for many middle-class voters in order to pay for a tax cut for corporations and the very wealthy. That would be fatal, so they needed to hide that fact and, if need be, to flat out lie about it. If McCain wants his tombstone to read: "He was a maverick until the very end," this is his big chance.

  • Lisa Murkowski (AK): Like Susan Collins, she has problems with the de facto repeal of the ACA. She wants a separate bill (Alexander-Murray) to pass first to stabilize the ACA. That is the opposite of what Trump wants. If her vote is critical in the end, she might get what she wants.

  • Rand Paul (KY): Technically, he is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), but in practice he is Sen. Rand Paul (R-No). It has been said that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is as stubborn as five mules on a bad day. In a poker game, Paul would see that and raise you three mules. Nevertheless, there doesn't appear to be any specific item in the bill that is a dealbreaker for him. So maybe, just once, he'll do as instructed.

Can the leadership get five of the seven to "yes"? It won't be easy, but it is possible. However, if it passes the Senate, it has to go to conference. What comes back won't be the Senate bill, and the problems could start all over. (V)

White House: Tax Bill Trumps Repealing Obamacare

Well, the White House didn't exactly say that (after all, buildings can't talk), but Budget Director Mick Mulvaney made it clear yesterday that if the provision of the Senate's tax bill that sets the fine to $0 for people without insurance has to go to save the bill, so be it. Cutting taxes for corporations is the top priority and if the price for getting it is that millions of people get to keep their insurance, Mulvaney is willing to pay it. (English translation: If we need the votes of Sens. Collins and Murkowski, make the deal.) Put in other words, Republicans are willing to break 7 years worth of promises to their voters to keep their big donors happy. In any event, the House bill didn't have this provision, so even if it stays in the Senate bill, it might not emerge in the conference bill. (V)

Republicans Desperately Want the Tax Bill to Pass; Democrats, Too

Democrats all over the country are campaigning against the Republicans' tax bills, but secretly they will be quite happy if it passes. The reasoning is straightforward: An emerging Democratic target is the affluent, well-educated suburban voter. If the tax bill raises taxes for that kind of voter, the voter may just switch parties and become a Democrat. Suburban voters already largely agree with the Democrats on cultural issues and the environment. The one thing keeping them in the (R) column has been economics. But it they see the Republicans are favoring the very wealthy at their expense, that could be the last straw.

Republican pollsters John and Jim McLaughlin have confirmed that eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes is a problem. Their surveys show that 45% of the voters don't want the deductions axed while only 36% do, and public opinion is moving in the wrong direction for the Republicans. Only 13 House Republicans voted against the tax bill, but they may have to vote again. If the Senate passes its own bill, a conference committee will be tasked with writing a compromise bill and sending it back to both chambers for a vote. As more people become aware of what is in the two bills, House members may have second thoughts when voting again. And those Republicans from high-tax states who vote for any bill that eliminates the deductions are going to be the Democrats' top targets in 2018. (V)

Trump Fires Back at Ball

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." If old Ben were still alive today, he might well amend that to three things—"death, taxes, and that Donald Trump will not let any slight pass if he hears about it." Yesterday, we noted that a war of words had commenced between the President and LaVar Ball, the notoriously outspoken father of amateur shoplifter and UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball. Trump thinks that he deserves all of the credit for springing Ball the younger from the hoosegow, while Ball the senior disagrees strenuously. On Sunday, after becoming aware of LaVar's feelings on the matter, Trump tweeted this:

Apparently, that did not get it out of The Donald's system, because six hours later he followed with this very similar tweet:

Wedged in between those was a tweet slamming Jeff Flake(y); a pun almost as clever as Al Franken(stein). Perhaps John McCain(and Abel) is up next. Or Bob Cork(it), or Mitch McCon(job), or Lindsey Graham(cracker). The possibilities are endless.

In any event, it's neither surprising nor particularly newsworthy when the President gets into Twitter feuds, since they happen on an almost-daily basis. The question that's actually of interest is whether or not this behavior is actually hurting him. And while there's no question that a fair segment of his base loves every minute of it, Democratic pollster and political consultant Jim Messina says that his data indicate that Trump is indeed hurting himself with the Obama-Trump voters. These folks represent only 3%-5% of the population, but given that they are concentrated in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, they have an outsized influence. According to focus groups that the Messina Group has conducted, a large segment of the Obama-Trump voters have seen no improvement in their circumstances since Trump became president. They are increasingly interpreting his behavior as a sign that he really cares only about two things: rich people like himself, and carrying on his Twitter vendettas. Messina argues that if Democrats hammer on that characterization in 2018 and in 2020, Trump and his party will be doomed. (Z)

How to Keep Trump Happy? Lie to Him

Quite a few things that were true of Donald Trump the private citizen are also true of Donald Trump the President. Among them:

  • He's thin-skinned
  • He's temperamental
  • He hates criticism, which—in his mind—includes poor television ratings and poor approval ratings

These tendencies, when taken together, create something of a problem for his staff. They don't want to get yelled at (or fired), but it is also the case that Trump's approval ratings are cratering across the board. So, how can this problem be solved? Easy: Lie to the President.

OK, what they are doing is not exactly lying, at least not all of the time. It's more like selective truth-telling (which, of course, is a specialty of Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, and at least a dozen other White House insiders). What Team Trump does is try to show him three kinds of polls: (1) Internal polls, where they can cook the numbers a bit; (2) Narrowly-focused polls, like those that measure how Trump's base feels about him; and (3) Whatever positive polls come out of the major polling firms; most commonly the President is clued in on Rasmussen's results, since their well-known Republican house effect tends to produce the most Donald-friendly numbers.

The strategy doesn't always work—sometimes Trump finds his own polling news on TV, or on the Internet, and then is in a bad mood for hours. This is part of the reason that aides are terrified of what will happen during all the down time that Trump has while he celebrates Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago. Still, keeping the President calm some of the time is better than keeping him calm none of the time. (Z)

NRCC Lottery Offers a Weekend at Trump's Hotel in D.C. as the Prize

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which collects money for Republican House candidates, sent out an email to potential donors yesterday. It said that anyone donating $10 or more will be entered in a lottery. The prize is an all-expense-paid weekend trip to D.C. around Christmas, with the lucky winner and a guest staying naturally at the Trump hotel in the nation's capital.

The hotel has beeen a source of controversy ever since Trump took office. For one thing, the building is owned by the government, so in negotiations between the landlord and the tenant, Trump represents both sides. In addition, the lease says that the leaseholder may not be an elected official. While Trump lost the popular vote, he was elected, so it would seem that Trump is in violation of the lease. However, the General Service Administration (which Trump controls, of course) has ruled that Trump is in compliance with the lease. Finally, the Constitution's emoluments clause states that the president may not take gifts from foreign governments. Several foreign governments that have wanted to curry favor with Trump have held big ($100,000 and up) bashes at the hotel. Are these gifts in the sense of the emoluments clause? So far the courts have not weighed in on any of this. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov19 Trump Jr. Linked to Yet Another Friend of Putin
Nov19 What is Donald Trump's Foreign Policy?
Nov19 USA No Longer Number One
Nov19 Trump's Ability to Launch Nukes May Be Limited
Nov19 Donald Trump to Pay Donald Trump's Legal Bills
Nov19 Alabama Pastors Slam Moore
Nov19 It's Ball Vs. Trump
Nov18 Murkowski Wants to Stabilize Health-Care Market Before Voting on Tax Bill
Nov18 Russiagate Plot Thickens Even More
Nov18 Trump Building in Panama Under Scrutiny
Nov18 Jones' Strategy in the Alabama Senate Race
Nov18 Moore's Polling Is Trending Downward
Nov18 Would a 51-49 Senate Be Different from a 52-48 Senate?
Nov18 Cook Political Report Predicts a Democratic Wave in 2018
Nov18 Female Staffers Rush to Franken's Rescue
Nov18 Aides Give Up on Trump Tweeting
Nov17 House Passes the Tax Bill
Nov17 More Trouble for Kushner
Nov17 Six Possible Outcomes for the Alabama Senate Race, Ranked
Nov17 Not Everyone Is Fleeing from Roy Moore
Nov17 Republicans Are Getting Nervous about 2018
Nov17 Menendez Escapes--For Now
Nov17 Franken Groped and Kissed a Woman Without Her Consent
Nov16 Health-Care Industry Gets Involved in the Tax Bill
Nov16 First Republican Senator Opposes the Tax Bill
Nov16 Former Defense Secretaries Oppose the Tax Bill
Nov16 Moore Saga Continues to Develop Rapidly
Nov16 Could the Republicans Try a Constitutional Hail Mary?
Nov16 NRSC Poll Shows Jones Up by 12 Points
Nov16 Bannon Sees the Republican Party as a Headless Chicken
Nov16 Lots of Blowback on Potential Uranium Investigation
Nov16 Kaine Wants to Abolish Superdelegates
Nov16 Trump Wades into UCLA Basketball Controversy
Nov16 Russian Trolls Stoked Voter Fear before the Election
Nov15 Senate Tax Bill Will Repeal ACA Mandate
Nov15 Sessions Has Trouble Remembering Things
Nov15 Five Ways the Alabama Senate Race Could End
Nov15 How Will Trump Handle Moore?
Nov15 Republican National Committee Drops Moore
Nov15 Hannity Is Feeling the Heat
Nov15 Alabama Democrats to National Democrats: Stay Out of This
Nov15 Moore Leads Jones in New Polls
Nov15 How American Politics Went Batshit Crazy
Nov15 Judicial Candidate May Be in Trouble
Nov15 The U.S. Stands Alone on the Paris Accord
Nov14 Fifth Woman Gives Explosive Testimony against Moore
Nov14 Mall Banned Moore in the 1980s
Nov14 McConnell Calls on Moore to Drop Out
Nov14 Cory Gardner Calls for Moore to Be Expelled from the Senate if He Runs and Wins
Nov14 Trump Jr. Had Contact With Wikileaks