Dem 49
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GOP 51
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Elections Were Held, People Voted

Folks in Florida, Arizona, and Oklahoma went to the polls yesterday. Here are the big stories of the night:

  • Florida Governor: The coattails of both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Donald Trump have gotten a lot of scrutiny, as both men have a mixed record with their endorsements. In the Florida gubernatorial primaries, however, they both scored big victories. Triumphing on the Republican side was Rep. Ron DeSantis, who was essentially handpicked by Trump (with an assist from Fox News). And on the Democratic side, it was progressive Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who would be the first black governor of the Sunshine State if he is elected. This race is going to get lots of national attention and piles upon piles of money, and given that neither candidate is a centrist in what is a very purple state, who knows how it ends? Especially given the problems with...

  • Florida Polls: Polling is not easy in the age of cell phones (and Trump), and we got a big reminder of that on Tuesday, when Florida pollsters ended up with an omelet's worth of egg on their faces. On the GOP side, the polls gave DeSantis an average margin of about 7 points, and none had him winning by more than 12. He won by 20, 56% to 36%. On the Democratic side, it was even worse. There, polls consistently predicted a comfortable victory for Rep. Gwen Graham, giving her an average margin of 7 points. Further, they saw Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine as her nearest contender, and most had businessman Jeff Greene in third place. In other words, the winner was a candidate whom the polls said was mired in third or fourth place with 10% of the vote. In fact, Gillum took 34% of the vote, enough to win by 3 points over Graham. So the pollsters missed by 10-20 points on one side of the contest, and 20-25 on the other. Clearly, enthusiasm was way up among activists on both sides of the political spectrum, but beyond that, it will be interesting to see if we learn what went so wrong.

  • Florida Senate: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) did not draw a challenger, so of course he advanced. And Gov. Rick Scott's (R) only competition was Roque De La Fuente, who is running for the Senate in every state that does not have a residence requirement, so of course Scott won. The only interesting thing is this: The state does not tally votes for uncontested candidates, but we know from other races that about 1.5 million Democrats showed up to vote on Tuesday. And Scott got just shy of 1.5 million votes. So, it's another indication that this one is going to be a photo finish in November. Normally, a de facto tie in the primaries means the Democrat has the advantage, since Democratic turnout generally increases more than Republican turnout once we reach the general election. Given the success of Andrew Gillum, however, that might not hold in this case.

  • Republicans Do Well in Arizona: Up and down the ballot, the GOP got the candidates it wanted in Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey's renomination was a foregone conclusion, but in the closely-watched and hotly-contested Senate primary, the establishment breathed a sign of relief when Rep. Martha McSally easily dispatched right-wing firebrands Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio. Even if the Ward/Arpaio vote had gone entirely to one of the two, it wouldn't have mattered, because McSally took 52% of the vote. Presumably, that's the end of the line for the political ambitions of the outspoken doctor and the controversial former sheriff, but since they seem to rise from the dead more often than a zombie, you never know. McSally will move on to face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), who won her race (as expected) by 80 points. That will be a race of enormous interest, since it's a must-win to keep the Democrats' longshot hopes of taking control of the Senate alive. McSally and Sinema are both leaving House seats that will be competitive and, rounding out the night's good news for the Republicans, the Party got very competitive candidates for both races (Lea Marquez Peterson and Steve Ferrara, respectively).

  • Democrats Do Well in Oklahoma: Although Oklahoma may be the reddest state in the union, Democrats have done very well there this year in special elections for the state legislature. And given the unpopularity of Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who has an atrocious 19% approval rating, the blue team is now setting their sights higher. They already knew their candidate would be former state AG Drew Edmondson, who easily claimed the nod in the state's primary. In Tuesday's runoff, however, GOP voters were asked to choose between outsider Trump-loving right-wing businessman Kevin Stitt and former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett, a fairly centrist Republican who ran that city for 14 years and who has crossover appeal. The nomination, of course, went to Stitt, 55% to 45%. Polls suggest that Cornett would have been a heavy favorite, but that against Stitt, Edmondson has a slight edge. And beyond keeping their gubernatorial hopes alive, the Democrats also got strong candidates in the four House races that were contested on Tuesday.

Tuesday night was interesting, then, though Election Day will be even more interesting in those three states. Next up are Massachusetts on Sept. 4 and Delaware on Sept. 6. In those two places the Democrats will renominate a group of nationally-famous incumbents, while the GOP will mostly nominate a bunch of anonymous cannon fodder. (Z)

Trump Warns of "Violence" if Democrats Win Midterms

On Tuesday, Donald Trump spoke to a group of evangelical Christian pastors. Apparently, he thought his comments were off the record, though at this point he really should have learned that nothing is off the record in his White House. In any case, someone recorded the event, and so we know that Trump's remarks included this:

This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it's a referendum on your religion, it's a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It's a referendum on so much. It's not a question of like or dislike, it's a question that they will overturn everything that we've done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence. When you look at Antifa -- these are violent people. You have tremendous power. You were saying, in this room, you have people who preach to almost 200 million people. Depending on which Sunday we're talking about.

This is, of course, nonsense. Beyond the fact that Antifa is a beloved bogeyman for Trump, like MS-13, this is not how riots work. In particular, people do not generally riot when they win an election.

And that leads us to what's really going on here. First, despite his braggadocio and his confident talk on Twitter, Trump is clearly scared witless of what's going to happen in the midterms (and what's going to happen after, particularly if the Democrats get subpoena power). These are the words of someone who is desperate. Second, whether it is conscious or subconscious, Trump clearly likes the idea of his supporters responding to defeats with violence. In particular, it certainly seems like he's thinking about how they might respond if he's impeached or if he's defeated in 2020. And he's getting more and more open about putting the suggestion in people's minds. After all, if you believe that the other side is inherently violent, then it means your side is justified in using violence preemptively. This is, actually, a pretty similar argument to the one that the Trump-like Andrew Jackson used to justify his Indian policy. (Z)

Appeals Court Rules that North Carolina's Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on Tuesday that North Carolina's congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Republicans. The North Carolina legislature is almost certain to ask the Supreme Court to overrule the Fourth Circuit. A complication here is the timing. Currently there are only eight justices and if the case comes up before Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed and the Court splits 4 to 4, the Fourth Circuit's ruling will stand.

The North Carolina map has a long history. In 2016, a federal court struck the map down, calling it an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The legislature responded by creating a new map that was identical to the old map, but claiming it was merely a partisan gerrymander, not a racial one. Since then, the Supreme Court has made a somewhat ambiguous ruling on partisan gerrymanders, and based on that ruling (Gill v. Whitford), the Fourth Circuit tore up the North Carolina map.

The ruling suggested some remedies, such as having a special master draw the map, possibly before the midterms. What happens next depends on what the Supreme Court does, and how fast it does it. (V)

More Details Emerge Regarding North Korea

Last week, the Trump administration said that they were canceling the planned trip of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (his fourth) because the hermit kingdom had not made any progress toward denuclearization. It turns out that story was, essentially, a face-saving maneuver. The truth, which came out Tuesday, is that Pompeo received a sharply-worded letter from the North Koreans shortly before he was about to leave, rebuking the U.S. (in particular) for its unwillingness to sign a treaty formally ending the Korean War (which, technically, has been ongoing since 1951). It was clear that nothing was going to be accomplished at this time, so Trump and Pompeo pushed the eject button.

With this news, a thorny diplomatic situation just got thornier. If the North Koreans are puffing up their chests and posturing, and the Trump administration is doing the same, there is little room for diplomacy. Especially since the goals of the two nations, particularly as regards nuclear arms, are essentially antithetical to each other. Consequently, the odds of an armed confrontation just got much higher, particularly given that NSA John Bolton has the ear of Trump right now, and he's wanted to launch a preemptive strike against the Kim regime for years. Since, of course, his encouragement to do the same against the Saddam Hussein regime worked out so well. (Z)

Trump Has a New Conspiracy Theory

There are two things that, above all else, are likely to cause Donald Trump to get out his iPhone and fire up Twitter:

  1. He needs to distract attention from a mistake made by him or his administration
  2. He sees a news story (or, as often as not, a "news" story) that strongly affirms his worldview. This includes, but is not limited to, stories about the evils of Clinton/Obama, favorable poll results, anything anti-Mueller, positive news about the economy, and anything that feeds into Trump's belief that he (or Republicans in general) are the targets of a vast conspiracy.

Condition 1 was met this week due to the mishandling of John McCain's death. And condition 2 was fulfilled when Fox News' Lou Dobbs reported on Monday about a "study" published by PJ Media that says that 96% of Google searches for Trump news deliver results from liberal news outlets. With both conditions met, what happened next was as inevitable as the sunrise:

The 5:00 a.m. timestamp suggests that Dobbs' program, which actually airs pretty late at night, was Trump's first viewing of the day (he's known to DVR programs when he's asleep).

Needless to say, it's not true. We put "study" in quotes, because to generate that result, it was necessary to do two things: (1) Develop a dubious study design, and then (2) Fake the results when the study design didn't produce the desired output. It's very easy, of course, for anyone to go to Google and search "Trump" or "Trump news" and see for themselves that plenty of results from Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, Breitbart, etc. show up. Beyond that, there's the logic that Google wants to sell its product(s) to people of all stripes, and its search results are controlled by a complex 200-part mathematical algorithm. So, there are not good answers to the questions of "how?" and "why?" the search engine would do what PJ Media/Dobbs/Trump claim.

Maybe Trump senses that this conspiracy theory doesn't have quite the legs that pizzagate or Obama's birth certificate had, because he's already on to a new one, posted at the very late hour (especially for him) of 1:42 a.m. on Wednesday morning:

Who knows which Fox News program this one came from, but the odds are that someone will figure it out sometime today. (Z)

Ellison Could Cost Democrats Four House Seats

Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) is running for Minnesota attorney general but he is under a cloud. Days before the primary, the son of Ellison's former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, posted a note on social media saying that he had found a video on his mother's computer that showed Ellison dragging his ex-girlfriend off the bed by her feet while yelling profanities at her. The mother has since confirmed that her son's account is accurate, but she won't release the video.

Minnesota Republicans are having a field day with this, and it could affect four close House races in the state, and—potentially—control of the House. The GOP is running ads in two open districts and two swing districts with an incumbent Republican running observing that the Democrats are sticking by Ellison, even though he has been credibly accused of abuse by a woman.

The incident immediately triggers memories of former senator Al Franken, who was hounded out of the Senate for far less (he had a tendency to pat women on the rear). Many Democrats feel that Franken was railroaded and don't want the same thing to happen to Ellison, even though the case against him is stronger. Whether the voters will believe the Republican attack ads is another matter, of course. The danger here is that the old rule of "innocent until proven guilty" is about to be replaced by "innocent until accused by one person, even without evidence." Of course, if Monahan were to release the video and Ellison did what he is accused of, that would be the end of him. In any event, this incident could have major ramifications for control of the House.

As if the situation was not complicated enough, Ellison is black, a Muslim, and a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders. If the party establishment were to drop Ellison like a hot potato, one can only imagine the reaction from the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party. So for the Democrats, this is a lose-lose situation unless Ellison voluntarily drops out. So far he has denied all the allegations and said he has no intention of doing so. (V)

Poll: Americans Believe Michael Cohen but Don't Want Trump Impeached

A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll shows that 64% of Americans believe that Michael Cohen was telling the truth when he said Donald Trump ordered him to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford). Among Democrats, 93% believe Cohen, but among Republicans only 38% believe Cohen. The groups that most strongly believe Cohen are black women (77%), Millennials (70%), white suburban women (66%), "Never Hillary" voters (63%), and rural voters (56%)

The poll asked if Congress should impeach Donald Trump. Here only 44% agreed with the idea, with 79% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans finding this a good idea. If nothing else, it shows what a grip Trump has on the Republican Party. Among subgroups, impeachment is favored by black women (73%), and millennials (56%). Other groups are less enthusiastic, including white suburban women (42%), "Never Hillary" independents (35%), and rural voters (36%). In short, the Democrats need to go slow on impeachment. The country is not ready for it. Of course, if special counsel Robert Mueller writes a report that causes the public to conclude Trump committed major felonies, that could change quickly as independents might decide enough is enough. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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