Dem 49
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GOP 51
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Really Hates Amazon
      •  Do As I Say, Not As I Do
      •  How Big a Win Do Democrats Need to Take the House?
      •  The Interview that Should Have Republicans Worried
      •  Buttigieg for President?
      •  Gun Rights Advocates Are Becoming Unhinged
      •  Eric Trump Is Highly Questionable

Trump Really Hates Amazon

Saturday morning is when Donald Trump gets on Twitter and vents. And so it was this week, when he took another couple of shots at his target du jour, Amazon. First, this tweet from Thursday:

That was followed by this, on Saturday morning:

As the first tweet suggests, this is hardly the first time Trump has attacked Amazon. In fact, he's sent nasty tweets about the company a dozen times in the last three years. That is just about as many times as he has suggested using the site to purchase his book, Time to Get Tough:

A review of financial disclosure forms also reveals that the Trump campaign ordered over $150,000 in supplies from Amazon. It would seem that the President is a big believer in the old saying that (foolish) consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

In any case, anyone who has been paying attention will not be surprised to learn that virtually none of Trump's assertions are true. Amazon does pay taxes, particularly sales taxes, and has for years. The post office does not take a loss of $1.50 per package; what Trump is apparently misunderstanding (or willfully misrepresenting) is that the retail giant pays an average of $1.46 less on its packages than if it were paying full price. However, that is a reflection of the efficiencies that come from bulk shipping, and is a "privilege" available to anyone who ships bulk, not just Amazon. The Post Office has made clear that while it is indeed losing money, the problem is delivering envelopes (and also its massive retirement obligations, which it is required to prefund). If it didn't have to deliver letters to rural states, like West Virginia, South Dakota, and Wyoming (in other words, Trump territory), it could cut its losses considerably. The Post Office actually makes money on packages, including the ones sent by Amazon. And finally, while Amazon and the Washington Post do have an owner in common, namely Jeff Bezos, it is not the case that the Post is owned by the retailer, or that they are working together.

With that said, there is little question that Trump attacks Amazon (and not, say, Wal-Mart (which also ships a lot of packages), because of the Post connection. Presidential confidantes say that every attack on Amazon is precipitated by a story in the newspaper that makes Trump unhappy. However, there's probably also a fair bit of resentment of Bezos himself baked into Trump's anger. Depending on whom you believe, Trump is worth between $1 billion and $10 billion. Bezos is worth $120 billion, and for a man who is obsessed with numbers and ratings, that means Bezos is winning—bigly. Not helping things is that Bezos is self-made, and that he is embraced by the same cultural elites who shun Trump. In short: Insecurity, thy name is Trump. (Z)

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Speaking of inconsistency, Donald Trump has issued two proclamations regarding the month of April. Or, at least, two proclamations were issued in his name; one has to wonder if he's actually read them. The first one declares April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. "Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability," the proclamation announces. Clearly Trump knows of what he speaks; it's remarkable that the man behind pu**ygate, and who is facing at least one lawsuit for sexual assault, could sign that document with a straight face.

Meanwhile, because one theme per month is apparently not quite enough, Trump also issued a proclamation making April 'Second Chance Month' for people with criminal records. That one says:

Affording those who have been held accountable for their crimes an opportunity to become contributing members of society is a critical element of criminal justice that can reduce our crime rates and prison populations, decrease burdens to the American taxpayer, and make America safer.

Apparently, he meant "Affording those white people who have been held..." because Trump kicked off "Second Chance Month" with this tweet in amongst his Saturday morning output:

Brown actually pardoned about fifty people, and among them were five whose citizenship status is complicated (though it is not correct to say they are all undocumented aliens). In any event, anyone who is surprised that "forgiveness" is only available for citizens, ideally white ones, hasn't been paying attention. Trump is a Know Nothing in just about every sense imaginable. (Z)

How Big a Win Do Democrats Need to Take the House?

There are 435 congressional races, and it is impractical to poll them all. Even if there were enough capable pollsters to go around (there aren't), there are just too many anomalous elements to each individual district to make accurate projections. Consequently, national polls are used as a proxy—everyone operates under the general assumption that if Democrats, for example, are polling 6 points ahead of Republicans (as they are right now), then they should have a fair chance at any seat with a PVI of R+6 or less. Not so fast, says a new report from NYU's Brennan Center.

The report is focused on the impact of gerrymandering, and it argues that the very successful GOP gerrymanders of the last decade will make it markedly harder for the Democrats to retake the House. Here's the main chart laying out their numbers:

Gerrymander chart

In a non-gerrymandered world, the Brennan analysis concludes, the Democrats' current +6 would net them 27 seats, which is more than the 24 needed to retake the House. However, thanks to the gerrymanders, they believe that something like +10.5 nationally is the actual magic number (even with the newly-drawn Penn. maps factored in). The blue team has been at that level in recent weeks, so it's not impossible, but it's not currently what they are polling. It's also worth noting that different experts have looked at the same numbers, and have come to different conclusions. Alan I. Abramowitz, of the University of Virginia, believes that the Democrats actually need to triumph by 5 points nationally. Dave Wasserman, of the Cook Political Report, thinks it's more like 7 points. Nate Silver's best guess is around 6 points.

What is clear is that using national polls as a means of predicting 435 Congressional races, which was always a clumsy method, has gotten even more so. It is difficult to account for actual gerrymanders, and it is also difficult to account for de facto gerrymanders, as Democrats and Republicans increasingly segregate themselves. Generally speaking, both levels of gerrymander work against the blue team; another anti-Trump vote in Seattle or San Francisco or Boston doesn't matter a whole lot, nor does another anti-Trump vote in OH-11 (D+32), or FL-20 (D+31), or WI-04 (D+25).

On the other hand, there are some things that should leave the Democrats hopeful, because while models struggle to account for gerrymandering, they also struggle to account for some factors that work in the blue team's favor. First of all, if there is a realignment underway—say, white college-educated voters leaving the GOP for the Democrats—that is not something that analyses based on past elections can accurately account for. Second, the folks who run the DCCC aren't stupid, and they know which districts to focus their money and their get-out-the-vote efforts (for example, the 25 districts won by Hillary Clinton and represented by a Republican). Third, as Tip O'Neill famously observed, "All politics is local." That may not be 100% true in an election that is clearly going to be a referendum on Donald Trump, but it is still true enough. One cannot help noticing that the major special elections of the last six months were all affected substantially by factors peculiar to that election: Roy Moore's alleged child molestation in Alabama, the charge that Democrat Jon Ossoff was a carpetbagger in GA-06, the awkwardness and lack of charisma of Republican Rick Saccone in PA-18, which particularly contrasted with the smoothness of his Democratic opponent Conor Lamb. Assuming the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates that the two parties come up with do play a significant role in November, that likely favors the blue team, since they are generally attracting more and stronger candidates than the GOP is this cycle.

What it all adds up to is this: Guessing what is going to happen in November is fraught with difficulties that no one can account for. While we can say with confidence that a blue wave appears to be building, anything beyond that will basically remain a mystery until the votes are counted on November 6. (Z)

The Interview that Should Have Republicans Worried

Continuing on the same theme, this week Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) sat for a frank interview with Slate's Jim Newell. In it, Costello explained his decision to retire after just two terms despite being a young man (41) with solid approval ratings. The short version: "15 months of chaos."

Costello confirmed that for folks like him, who represent purplish districts (his PA-06 is D+2), Donald Trump creates constant problems:

Charlottesville. Firing of Comey. Then there's been a couple of tweets. The Mika Brzezinski tweet was something. Didn't he say Kirsten Gillibrand would do anything for money? Things like that were little bumps in the road. It was stormy before there was Stormy.

Costello also wished that he had been able to spend more time talking about health care policy (his wheelhouse), "rather than talking about Stormy Daniels or whatever Trump said or tweeted."

The dilemma, as the Congressman makes clear, is that there is no way to keep the various factions happy. The anti-Trump Democrats are, in his view, a lost cause for any Republican. Any criticism of the president aggravates the pro-Trump folks, any failure to stand up to his bad behavior aggravates the anti-Trump Republicans and Independents. It's a "zero-sum calculation" Costello said, "there's no threading the needle." In fact, "the more people think you're trying to thread the needle, the more they're actually going to be critical."

Assuming Costello has the right of it, then it's easy enough for Republicans in staunchly pro-Trump districts: Hug the Donald close. And it's also easy enough for the handful of Republicans elected on the strength of anti-Trump Republican votes: Keep your distance. But a great many GOP members need both kinds of votes, and that may not be doable. In fact, the circumstances that Costello describes are ripe for creating bitter primary fights; think the tea party vs. the establishment in 2014. No wonder he threw in the towel. (Z)

Buttigieg for President?

Pete Buttigieg is doing everything necessary to run for president as a Democrat in 2020. He's formed a PAC and an exploratory committee, he's raising money, and he's building a network of important donors and key reporters.

"Who?" you might ask? Well, Buttigieg is the charismatic mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He's a Harvard grad, a Rhodes Scholar, and he has approval ratings through the roof. He's also a veteran of Afghanistan, a millennial (36), and he's gay. The latter fact has made him a particular target of the far-right Westboro Baptist Church, which has picketed his speeches accompanied by signs that smear "sodomite poster boy @PeteButtigieg (running for prez in 2020)."

Buttigieg's certainly an interesting candidate, and one who has won the admiration of a fair segment of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party (particularly Howard Dean). He also checks some boxes that the party hopes to check in 2020: gets young voters excited, good on TV, war veteran, Midwesterner. On the other hand, even he realizes that while the field is wide open in 2020, it may not be so wide open that a fellow from a town whose population is only about 100,000 can make the jump to the White House.

At this point, the Mayor is undoubtedly a longshot. However, it's likely that there will be at least one progressive Midwesterner in the field, and given the fall of Al Franken and the blandness of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), that spot could fall to Buttigieg, particularly if Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) decides not to make a run. As we are fond of noting, at this point in the process in 1990, nobody outside of Arkansas had ever heard of Bill Clinton, and at this point in 1974, nobody outside of Georgia had heard of Jimmy Carter. (Z)

Gun Rights Advocates Are Becoming Unhinged

When the Civil Rights Movement began in the mid-1950s, a fairly sizable percentage of the American public was either uninterested, or was mildly opposed. However, the violent, frothing-at-the-mouth response of white Southerners served to win a lot of sympathy for the black activists, and to transform the anti-civil rights faction into a decided minority.

As anti-gun protesters, with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School taking a leading role, have gotten a surprising amount of traction in the last few months, their opponents have done everything possible to repeat the PR mistakes that white Southerners made back in the 1960s. For example, Fox News host Laura Ingraham decided to take a cheap shot or two at protest leader David Hogg, and his alleged difficulties being admitted to college:

This did not go over well, with the result that many advertisers dropped Ingraham's show. She apologized, nobody (including Hogg) bought it, and she has now taken a one-week "vacation." Recall that Bill O'Reilly also took a "vacation" that turned into "don't come back" while he was away.

As another example, consider Ted Nugent. He was appearing on a conservative talk show, and opined:

All you have to do now is not only feel sorry for the liars, but you have to go against them and pray to God that the lies can be crushed and the liars can be silenced so that real measures can be put into place to actually save children's lives. These poor children, I'm afraid to say this and it hurts me to say this, but the evidence is irrefutable, they have no soul.

That's right. If you disagree with the musical genius who gave us "Cat Scratch Fever," it is irrefutable proof that you have no soul.

Continuing with our tour of C-list celebrities, there's also Frank Stallone. Before deleting the offending tweet and taking his Twitter account private, the brother of Sylvester declared:

This David Hogg pu**y is getting a little big for his britches. I'm sure someone from his age group is dying to sucker punch this rich little bi**h. Watch him run home like the coward he is. He's the worst rep for today's youth headline grabbing punk.

That's right, a grown man (67) is threatening a 17-year-old, and from the comfort of his keyboard.

These three folks are all, on some level, has-beens (or, in Stallone's case, never-wases). However, they all still have enough fame that when they say outrageous stuff, it makes headlines. And based on the reaction, they are not doing their cause any favors. In the 1950s and 1960s, as the opponents of the Civil Rights Movement became more outrageous, and more like cartoon villains, support for the Movement became less and less controversial, and it was embraced more and more closely by politicians. By all evidences, a similar pattern is playing out now, with the very great likelihood that gun control is going to be a major issue in November. (Z)

Eric Trump Is Highly Questionable

Eric Trump was an answer on "Jeopardy!" this week, and he tweeted his amusement and delight at that development:

As he category was "Relationships," the correct question was, "What are brothers-in-law?"

Apparently, Trump did not foresee what was going to happen, however, because Twitter users immediately began supplying alternate responses. Among them:

  • "What is co-conspirator?"
  • "What are the traitor tots?"
  • "I will take Federal Penitentiary Inmates for $400"
  • Are you sure you want to remind people of how much Jeopardy your brother-in-law is in?
  • "What is witness for the prosecution?"
  • "I will take the crime family of New York for $1200"
  • "Who are dumb and dumber?"
  • "Who are cell-mates?"
  • "I'll take Grifters for $1000, Alex."
  • "What is an embarrassment?"

What do we learn from this? Perhaps that the stereotype that conservatives have no sense of humor is true—Trump really should have seen these coming from a mile away. Or perhaps this is merely evidence that young Mr. Trump is not terribly bright, as "Saturday Night Live" portrays him. What we definitely learn, however, is that a lot of people really, really dislike the Trump family. Not a terribly new insight, but good enough to include this as an amusing weekend digestif. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr02 Trump Really Hates Amazon
Apr02 Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Apr02 How Big a Win Do Democrats Need to Take the House?
Apr02 The Interview that Should Have Republicans Worried
Apr02 Buttigieg for President?
Apr02 Gun Rights Advocates Are Becoming Unhinged
Apr02 Eric Trump Is Highly Questionable
Mar31 Senate Democrats Have to Choose Between Defense and Offense
Mar31 Pruitt's Head Could Roll Next
Mar31 Jackson's Confirmation No Sure Thing
Mar31 Today in Muckraking...
Mar31 McDougal Payment Becoming a Problem for Trump
Mar31 Trump's Businesses May Be Exposed
Mar31 Poll: Young People Don't Like Trump
Mar31 McCabe Raises Almost $500,000 in One Day
Mar30 Sessions Will Not Appoint a Special Counsel to Investigate the Justice Department
Mar30 2016 Exit Polls Were Off
Mar30 Polling Numbers Looking Up for Trump; Everything Else, Not So Much
Mar30 Trump Toying with Having no Chief of Staff or Communications Director
Mar30 Trump Implies Wall Construction Has Begun
Mar30 Daniels' Lawyer Won't Be Able To Depose Trump Right Now
Mar30 Atlanta Will Bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention
Mar30 Gov. Scott Walker Will Call Special Elections After All
Mar29 Another One Bites the Dust
Mar29 Mueller Plays Another Card from His Hand
Mar29 Trump's Allies Are Starting a Campaign against Mueller
Mar29 Judge Allows Emoluments Case to Go Forward
Mar29 Appeals Court Orders Wisconsin to Hold Elections for Vacant State Legislature Seats
Mar29 Stormy Daniels' Lawyer Wants to Depose Trump
Mar29 Former Disney Star to Work in the White House
Mar29 Joe Arpaio, One-Trick Pony
Mar28 Trump Wants the Pentagon to Pay for His Wall
Mar28 Two More Top Conservative Lawyers Say No to Trump
Mar28 Can a President Be Indicted?
Mar28 Trump Strikes His First Trade Deal
Mar28 Republicans Are Taking Nothing for Granted in AZ-08 Special Election
Mar28 Rick Scott Getting Close to Announcing; Already Has Baggage
Mar28 What Goes Up Apparently Must Go Down
Mar27 Takeaways from Stormy Daniels Interview
Mar27 Trump Ignores Daniels
Mar27 Daniels Expands Her Lawsuit to Include Cohen
Mar27 What Is Gates Telling Mueller about Trump?
Mar27 Does Team Trump Really Threaten to Rough People Up?
Mar27 No Trade War? Wall Street Is Thrilled
Mar27 Trump's Approval Is Climbing
Mar27 Citizenship Question To Be Included on 2020 Census
Mar27 Is Sean Hannity an Idiot?
Mar26 Stormy Rains on Trump's Parade
Mar26 Trump's New Lawyers Quit
Mar26 More White House Personnel Changes Are Likely