Dem 47
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GOP 53
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Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ NV
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PW logo Poll Shows Trump Losing Core Voters
No Votes Scheduled to End Shutdown
Shutdown May Hinge on Definition of Wall
Trump Says ‘Everybody’ Wants to Be Defense Secretary
Trump Reveals Covert U.S. Navy Seal Deployment
Trump Approval Hits New Low

Trump Promises to Keep the Government Shut Down Until He Gets His Wall

Donald Trump's idea of a merry Christmas was to insist again yesterday that he will not give in and allow the government to reopen until Congress funds his pet wall. He also said that many of the 800,000 workers furloughed or required to work without pay have encouraged him to stick to his guns and not give in. However, this claim contradicts the statements of federal workers' union leaders. For example, Tony Reardon, who represents 150,000 members at 33 federal agencies and departments said: "This shutdown is a travesty. Congress and the White House have not done their fundamental jobs of keeping the government open." He also related the story of one member whose wife died recently and the member didn't have the money to buy her a headstone due to the fact that he is now going without his pay. That doesn't sound like unqualified support for Trump.

The chance that the Democrats will fold a week before they take over the House is infinitesimal, although they would happily sign onto a bill to fund the government for a few weeks. Trump probably won't go for that because he understands that on or about January 3rd, the House will pass a budget bill without any funding for the wall and the Senate will most likely approve it, forcing him to visibly veto the bill, thus taking complete ownership of the shutdown. (V)

Why Immigration Is the Spark that Keeps Shutting Down the Government

The current shutdown is the third one this year over immigration. Why has immigration replaced abortion, gay rights, health care, and taxes as the #1 hot button issue? It certainly hasn't always been like this. Ronald Reagan happily signed a law granting amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. George H.W. Bush used his executive powers to prevent dreamers from being deported. Business-oriented Republicans loved immigrants (because they tend to depress wages). What changed?

For one thing, the parties have changed. The Republicans have always been an almost-all-white party (especially if we do not include the black voters in the south whose votes were being suppressed from 1890-1950 or so) but the Democrats are now a party in which non-Hispanic whites are only 67% of the voters. Also, two-thirds of Hispanic whites are Democrats. Asian-Americans are also overwhelmingly Democrats. This means that the Democrats now have a huge bloc of voters with ties to recent immigrants, while the Republicans don't. This makes immigration a much more important issue to the blue team than it used to be. At the same time, Republicans now have a huge bloc of voters who feel like the modern world and/or the modern economy has left them behind. For those folks, immigrants are a convenient scapegoat for what's gone wrong. This, of course, is nothing new—ask Irish immigrants circa 1850, or Chinese immigrants circa 1880, or Jewish immigrants circa 1900 about being blamed for things that aren't their fault.

As a result of these changes, the parties have undergone an ideological shift. Most Democrats (including whites) now believe that immigrants make America stronger. A sizable number of Republicans now see immigrants as a net negative: a source of crime, and overpopulation, and "un-American" values. Here are the data from Pew Research Center:

Pew immigration chart

Given the ideological differences between the parties and the enormous gap in attitudes towards immigrants, it shouldn't be surprising that immigration has become a major flashpoint. (V)

Another Migrant Child Dies in U.S. Custody

For the second time in as many weeks, a Guatemalan child in the custody of the U.S. border patrol has died under questionable circumstances. This time, it was an 8-year-old boy named Felipe Alonzo-Gomez. The youngster complained of cold-like symptoms and was given treatment, but his health took a dramatic turn for the worse and he died very suddenly.

Customs and Border Patrol say they are reviewing their procedures in hopes that they can prevent this from happening a third time. Of course, that raises the question of why it was allowed to happen a second time. And this necessarily serves to give the fight over the border, and the wall, a human face (actually two of them now) in a way that most certainly does not work to Donald Trump's advantage. And it's not just Democrats who are calling for answers; many Republicans are none-too-happy either, and even the U.N. is making noise. So, it's another mess for an administration that already has more messes than it can handle. (Z)

Times Looks Into Spurious Claims that Got Trump out of Serving in Vietnam

Donald Trump has been more than willing to cry foul over holes in the military records of others. Most obviously, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), whom Trump has mocked many, many times for misrepresenting his service during the Vietnam War (Blumenthal served in the National Guard and remained in the U.S., despite claiming to have done service abroad). The President's willingness to go down this path is more than a little hypocritical, since he too avoided Vietnam service under circumstances that are, at best, questionable.

Specifically, it is not a secret that Trump was diagnosed with bone spurs in his feet, which (after three other deferments) got him formally classified 4-F. While potentially a legitimate excuse, he managed to overcome his alleged disability well enough to play varsity baseball in high school. Further, the President has never been able to provide much detail about the doctor who wrote the note confirming his foot problems, saying only that it was a long time ago, and that he just can't remember.

The New York Times looked a bit more closely at what happened, and they appear to have filled in quite a few of the blanks. It appears that a Queens podiatrist named Dr. Larry Braunstein wrote the documents that got Trump out of serving in the war. He's deceased, and cannot comment one way or another, but his daughters recall him mentioning the matter more than once. Why would he do so? Well, it turns out that Braunstein's office was in a building owned by...Fred Trump. There is abundant evidence that Braunstein got favorable treatment in terms of getting repairs made when needed, and in terms of keeping the rent low. Given that the Trumps tended to be pretty shark-ish about such things, the treatment that Braunstein got was rather out of character, and certainly appears to be a quid pro quo in exchange for keeping young Donald out of the service.

In the end, not much is likely to come of this, of course. Beyond the fact that Donald Trump rarely suffers consequences for any of his past bad behavior, the case that the Times put together is circumstantial. It is also the case that lots of young men pulled strings in this way, and that lots of doctors wrote less-than-truthful exemption letters (albeit with more noble motivations, generally, than "it will keep my rent low"). That said, most other string-pulling politicians (George W. Bush, for example) at least had the decency to avoid throwing stones at others' glass houses (although Bush did allow others to throw stones on his behalf—e.g. swiftboating). (Z)

Trump vs. the Supreme Court

Generally speaking, Donald Trump is not such a fan of the court system. Yes, he certainly likes the courts when they rule in his favor (see, for example, Reed O'Connor's anti-Obamacare ruling last week). However, the President hates, hates, hates it when a judge (or ten) issues a ruling that is adverse to him and his policies. And as the latter scenario tends to happen much more frequently than the former, Trump is angry with the court system much more often than he is happy with it.

In 2019, this matter is likely to be on his mind (and his Twitter feed) far more than it ever has been before. Quite a few policy issues have now had time to make their way through the appeals process. And although Chief Justice John Roberts has tried to take an "avoid controversial decisions" approach in Brett Kavanaugh's first few months in office, that's about to end, as SCOTUS is going to have to weigh in on numerous tricky issues in the near future. Among them:

  • Limiting Asylum: Trump's desire to limit opportunities for political asylum is already on hold, but that is just so there is time to figure everything out. A final decision on the policy itself is coming soon.

  • Transgender soldiers: In theory, the question of whether or not transgender troops can be banned from military service is still in the lower courts' hands, but Solicitor General Noel Francisco wants SCOTUS to step in and render a final decision now. He may get his quick ruling, but he may not get the final result he wants.

  • DACA: The lower courts have stopped the administration from ending DACA; it's up to the Supreme Court to make a final decision.

  • Census Question: Team Trump would like to put a question on the census asking people whether or not they are citizens. While the administration does have the legal authority to do this, they cannot do so if their intent is discriminatory. It certainly appears to be so, a conclusion strengthened by the fact that many folks (particularly Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the census) have lied about their efforts related to the would-be question. SCOTUS is going to have to straighten it out, and soon, as efforts for 2020 are already gearing up.

  • Tax Returns: At approximately 12:01 p.m. on January 3, the Democrats are going to demand Donald Trump's tax returns. At approximately 12:02 p.m., he's almost certainly going to say "no." Then, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide if a law that says "Congress may see the president's tax returns" means that Congress may see the president's tax returns.

In short, get ready for some controversy to come out of the Court, and that's before we consider the possibility of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's having to step down, or Brett Kavanaugh ending up in hot water once Democrats get investigatory powers. For all of these reasons, the Supreme Court thus figures to be one of the biggest stories of 2019. (Z)

The Invisible Primary Is in Full Swing

It is well known that every morning 100 senators look in the bathroom mirror and see a future president. But getting to the Oval Office requires a big campaign staff and the fight is already on for the best staffers, consultants, pollsters, etc. And it's not a minute too soon. After all the Iowa caucuses are only 13 months away. That's practically tomorrow.

Traditionally, the most valuable staffers are people on the ground in the four early states. That may also be true in the coming cycle, but with a footnote that the early California primary could change that. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), who has been campaigning in Iowa since Methuselah was in short pants, has already done the full Grassley (i.e., visited all 99 counties) and will have 21 staffers in the Hawkeye State by January. Since practically nobody has ever heard of him, Iowa is a make-or-break state for him in the way it is not for, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who could come in second or third and still be viable.

Getting boots on the ground is especially important in Iowa due to the caucus system. In New Hampshire, you come, you vote, you go home. But in Iowa, caucusgoers are committed to spending an entire evening defending their candidate in front of their friends and neighbors, and that requires a lot more commitment than just casting a secret ballot, so a strong ground game is very important. Candidates need to establish an actual relationship with the caucusgoers, not just an abstract preference. And that requires a big staff on the ground.

The invisible primary (i.e., the coming 6 months) separates the sheep from the goats (well, some of them at least). Proto-candidates who fail to line up enough staff and donors give up and drop out. There are probably 30 Democratic wannabees now, but by July that could be reduced to a dozen. (V)

Nasty Senate Primary in Arizona Is Also Already Underway

Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) lost an election last month, but got appointed to the Senate anyway. Democrats have taken notice because:

  • Appointed senators have a so-so track record of winning elections
  • McSally just lost an election
  • The electorate in 2020, when McSally must run again by virtue of being appointed, will be more Democratic than it was in 2018

This is not to say she is toast, but she is going to have to fight hard to keep her seat. Three Democrats and a Republican smell blood in the water and are already gearing up to take her on. First comes former astronaut and Navy veteran Mark Kelly, who is married to former representative Gabrielle Giffords. The Democrats wanted him as their candidate in 2018, but he wasn't interested then. He is now. He recently met with the DSCC chair, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), to discuss his campaign. He has a wide network of contacts as a result of being a NASA astronaut.

Next comes Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). He is a young Latino and a Marine Corps veteran. If Kelly weren't in the mix, he would be the Democrats' dream candidate. He is leaning towards a run and will announce in January. He hasn't talked to Cortez Masto yet.

The third Democrat is Rep.-elect Greg Stanton (D-AZ), the former mayor of Phoenix who won the seat of Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Normally, representatives who haven't yet been sworn in don't start on their Senate campaigns quite so early, but since he was mayor of the state's largest city, he is at least a plausible candidate based on that.

Finally we come to Grant Woods, a former Republican who was Arizona's AG. It is hard to see why Democrats would prefer someone who was, until recently, a Republican, when they have three high-quality Democrats in the race. But he is currently doing all the things candidates do. Of course, if two or three of the Democrats formally announce their candidacies soon, he may conclude his chances are pretty close to zero and give up.

If all the Democrats run, it will be a nasty primary, and it is a late primary as well (August 2020), giving the winner little time to get over a bitter fight and start going after McSally. Being from neighboring Nevada, Cortez Masto has a pretty good feel for Arizona politics and she might intervene by blessing one of the candidates early on and trying to discourage the other ones and get them to drop out (for example, by telling Democratic donors to give only to her preferred pick). For her, the logical choices are Kelly and Gallego. In theory, Gallego, a young Latino (39) makes more sense than an older white man (54), but Kelly's space background and marriage to a congresswoman who was the victim of an assassination attempt make him compelling as well. In any event, this will be one of top Senate races in 2020 and it is already well underway. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec25 Markets Tank and Trump Blames Powell
Dec25 Mnuchin May Get the Blame Next
Dec25 Trump Is Home Alone on Christmas Eve
Dec25 Trump May Have Ruined a Kid's Christmas
Dec25 McCaskill: GOP Senators Believe Trump is Nuts
Dec25 Interesting Facts about the 2018 Election
Dec25 Democrats Toyed Around with Dirty Tricks in Alabama Senate Election
Dec24 Mulvaney: Shutdown Could Stretch into 2019
Dec24 Trump Fires Mattis
Dec24 Syria Withdrawal Is Official
Dec24 What Will 2019 Bring?
Dec24 Americans Don't Want Trump to Pardon His Associates
Dec24 Nonvoters Didn't Vote Because They Don't Like Politics
Dec24 Connie Schultz Will Leave the Carrot Cake in the Fridge
Dec24 Monday Q&A
Dec23 Shutdown Enters Second Day
Dec23 Economy Having a Bad Month
Dec23 Trump Is Thinking about Firing the Fed Chair
Dec23 Syria Withdrawal Began with a Phone Call
Dec23 A Mueller Mystery
Dec23 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Sherrod Brown
Dec22 Government Shuts Down
Dec22 Sanders: All of America Wants the Wall
Dec22 Supreme Court Hands Trump a Defeat
Dec22 Ruth Ginsburg Had Surgery for Lung Cancer
Dec22 Russia Actively Tried to Compromise the Midterms
Dec22 Gallup To Cut Back on Political Polling
Dec22 Bettors Think Trump Will Be Impeached
Dec21 Mattis: I'm Out
Dec21 Trump Changes Course, Won't Sign Short-term Funding Bill
Dec21 Meadows to Federal Employees Who May Not Get Paid: You Signed Up for This
Dec21 Trump Administration Will Lift Sanctions against Deripaska's Companies
Dec21 Ethics Officials Told Whitaker to Recuse Himself, but He Refused
Dec21 Perez Axes the Kiddie Table in 2020
Dec21 Should the Democrats Use Ranked-Choice Voting in 2020 Primaries?
Dec20 Trump Wants to Pull Out of Syria Immediately
Dec20 Shutdown Averted--For Now
Dec20 Michigan Power-Grab Partially Fails
Dec20 Cummings Is Already Sending Out Letters Requesting Information
Dec20 Trump Signed a Letter of Intent on Moscow Project during the Campaign
Dec20 Paul Ryan Bids Farewell
Dec20 No Sanctions for Kavanaugh
Dec20 Kasich Doesn't Think He Could Beat Trump in a Primary
Dec20 South Carolina GOP May Skip 2020 Primary
Dec20 Thursday Q&A
Dec19 Trump's Wall Collapses
Dec19 Washington Decides to Do Something Different, Passes Bipartisan Crime Bill
Dec19 Trump Foundation to Dissolve
Dec19 Flynn Sentencing Postponed
Dec19 Trump Launches Reelection Machine