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)
      •  Mueller Files More Charges Against Manafort and Gates
      •  McMaster, Kelly Could Be on Their Way Out
      •  Thanks, Hillary
      •  Missouri Governor Indicted
      •  Eighteen Republican Governor's Mansions Could Be in Play in 2018
      •  Trump's Approval Rating is Trending Downward Again
      •  Utah Senate Election Could Be a Real Nail Biter

Mueller Files More Charges Against Manafort and Gates

Last October, special counsel Robert Mueller hit former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Manafort's right-hand man Rick Gates with 12 charges of conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements. That's quite a lot, or so it seemed. Now, it's just a drop in the bucket, as Mueller filed an additional 32 charges on Thursday, covering just about every financial crime in the book, from tax evasion to bank fraud.

This is what is known as "turning the screws." Not one of the charges has anything to do with Russiagate or the election; they all serve only to confront the two men with the possibility of a long time in the hoosegow if they don't play ball. It is clear that, for whatever reason, Manafort has not agreed to flip on Donald Trump just yet. Meanwhile, a Gates plea deal was reported to be signed, sealed, and delivered, but now that is murky (as is the name of exactly what lawyer is representing him at this point; reports are he has fired Tom Green, adding another attorney's corpse to the pile). Undoubtedly, Mueller's timing was related—in part—to Gates' wavering. Given the breadth of the charges, and the amount of information that the special counsel has, they will definitely be playing with fire if they decide to take their chances in court. But maybe Gates is is cooperating. after all. Only he and Mueller really know at this point. (Z)

McMaster, Kelly Could Be on Their Way Out

At this point, it seems hardly newsworthy when reports leak from the White House that Donald Trump is angry with one of his subordinates, and is thinking about firing them. After all, the heads of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, AG Jeff Sessions, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt were all supposed to roll at one point or another, and yet remain firmly attached to their owners' shoulders. With that said, NSA Herbert McMaster has spent months on thin ice, and the scuttlebutt is that he's a dead man walking.

There are two things that make these reports particularly plausible. The first is that Trump and McMaster sparred pretty openly this week, with McMaster acknowledging Russian interference in the election, and Trump taking to Twitter to publicly "clarify" things for him. The second is that a lot of thinking has clearly gone into McMaster's exit. The Dept. of Defense has reportedly been asked to find a new job for him, one requiring four-star rank (he's currently three stars), so that his departure would be a "promotion," and wouldn't be as much of a black eye for the administration. Such talk has grown loud enough that the DoD felt compelled to deny the story. This means very little, since they would deny it even if it were true. However, their denial may be evidence of another problem: McMaster's association with Trump has made him a political figure, and the military is supposed to be apolitical, such that many folks in the command structure don't want him back, and would prefer he retire.

Meanwhile, the McMaster rumors have reignited talk that Chief of Staff John Kelly might be on his way out, too, and that Trump might clean house of two generals for the price of one. If so, that would be seven stars in one fell swoop. At this point, however it seems fair to say that the Kelly-Trump relationship is always going to be fraught with tension, given their respective jobs and personalities, and that any rumor that the Chief of Staff is on his way out should be taken with a giant grain of salt until he gets the patented Anthony Scaramucci "escorted from the White House premises" treatment. (Z)

Thanks, Hillary

On Thursday, a 2016 presidential candidate spoke to the press, and was utterly dismissive of the notion that the Russians tried to help his campaign, as was his campaign manager. He also blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing enough to combat Russian interference in the election, apparently forgetting that her term as Secretary of State ended four years earlier. This presidential candidate, of course, was...Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Sanders is trying to thread a very fine needle here, since he simultaneously denounced Trump for benefiting from Russian assistance, and blasted the president for not doing enough to insure the integrity of the 2018 and 2020 elections. In other words, the Senator apparently wants to have it both ways. This would seem to suggest one of two things. Either: (1) Sanders is something of a hypocrite, and perhaps not quite the righteous, upstanding "speak truth to power" rebel he portrayed himself to be, or (2) That any acknowledgment of Russian involvement is seen by candidates as absolutely fatal to a presidential campaign, not unlike admitting to sexual harassment. Or maybe it is both of these things. We report, you decide. (Z)

Missouri Governor Indicted

Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) is not such a nice fellow. He cheated on his wife, and while doing so, took explicit nude photos of his mistress. It would seem that the pair took the whole "show me state" bit literally. Then, Greitens tried to use those nude photos to blackmail the mistress so that she did not go public with the affair. Now he's been indicted for his trouble, charged with a first-degree felony invasion of privacy.

Thus far, Greitens has done everything he can to turtle up, and to try to ignore the scandal until it goes away. This is going to make that much harder. Not helping things is that he's something of a mini-Ted Cruz, who made his bones by attacking his fellow politicians, including virtually the entire Missouri Republican establishment. So, few of them will be vigorously defending him. If he insists on holding on, it certainly won't help the GOP going into the midterms, where Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will be delighted to have any help she can get in her re-election bid, a contest that could be key to control of the Senate. And if Greitens runs for re-election in 2020, it would certainly put the Missouri governor's mansion in play, particularly since four of his five immediate predecessors were Democrats. (Z)

Eighteen Republican Governor's Mansions Could Be in Play in 2018

Thirty-six states are holding gubernatorial elections this year, with a majority of them in states where Republicans currently occupy the governor's mansion. If a blue wave materializes—and special elections held in 2017 and 2018 suggest that it very well might—Democrats have a shot at flipping as many as 18 of them. FiveThirtyEight has a nice rundown of the states where Democratic gubernatorial candidates have at least an outside shot of winning.

Below is a table showing the states where Democrats have a (long)shot. The last three columns are the predictions from three political prognosticators: Charlie Cook, Larry Sabato, and Nathan Gonzales. These predictions basically assume a normal election year, though, not a wave year that sweeps away everything in its path.

State Incumbent Charlie Cook Larry Sabato Nathan Gonzales
Arizona Doug Ducey (R) Likely Republican Likely Republican Likely Republican
Florida (Open) Toss-up Toss-up Toss-up
Georgia (Open) Solid Republican Likely Republican Likely Republican
Illinois Bruce Rauner (R) Toss-up Toss-up Tilt Democratic
Iowa Kim Reynolds (R) Likely Republican Likely Republican Lean Republican
Kansas Jeff Colyer (R) Likely Republican Lean Republican Likely Republican
Maine (Open) Toss-up Toss-up Lean D
Maryland Larry Hogan (R) Likely Republican Lean Republican Lean Republican
Massachusetts Charlie Baker (R) Likely Republican Likely Republican Solid Republican
Michigan (Open) Toss-up Toss-up Toss-up
Nevada (Open) Toss-up Toss-up Toss-up
New Hampshire Chris Sununu (R) Lean Republican Lean Republican Lean Republican
New Mexico (Open) Lean Democratic Lean Democratic Lean Democratic
Ohio (Open) Lean Republican Lean Republican Tilt Republican
Oklahoma (Open) Solid Republican Likely Republican Likely Republican
Tennessee (Open) Likely Republican Likely Republican Likely Republican
Vermont Phil Scott (R) Likely Republican Likely Republican Solid Republican
Wisconsin Scott Walker (R) Lean Republican Lean Republican Likely Republican

Now let's take a closer look at the individual races:

  • Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) is going for a second term. His approval rating is slightly above water (42%/36%) and he isn't involved in any scandals. Two Democrats are fighting for the nomination: state senator Steve Farley and Arizona State University professor David Garcia. Both of them are close to broke and Ducey has $2.7 million in the bank. Advantage Ducey.

  • Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is term limited and will probably run for the Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R) has $16 million in the bank but Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has Donald Trump's endorsement. It could be a nasty primary. On the Democratic side, there are three main contenders: former representative Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. It could be a real battle as well. Florida elections are often close so it is too early to give either side the edge now.

  • Georgia: Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) is term limited, so we have an open seat in the Peach State. The Democrats will nominate a woman named Stacey, we just don't know which one. There is Stacey Evans, a white moderate, and Stacey Abrams, a black progressive. Democrats have been expecting Georgia to go purple for years, but 2018 may not be the year. On the Republican side, it is a real mess, with four serious candidates, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R-GA), Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, businessman Clay Tippins, and former state senator Hunter Hill. A July runoff is likely.

  • Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) wants to buy another term. He is a billionaire who has already contributed $50 million of his own money to his campaign. How can the Democrats compete with this? Well, one way would be to nominate someone who is even richer than Rauner, namely J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune. He has already cut himself a check for $56 million—so take that, Rauner. For Democrats who don't want a billionaire as a candidate, they have a choice in the primary. They can vote for Bobby Kennedy's son, Chris Kennedy. He is a mere millionaire. Then there is state senator Daniel Biss. With Rauner's popularity at 31% and Illinois being a very blue state, the Governor has a big problem no matter whom the Democrats end up with.

  • Iowa: Terry Branstad, who was the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, took off to China to become ambassador. He has no special knowledge of foreign policy or China, but he knows Chinese people love twice-cooked pork, and Iowa has a lot of pigs. His lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, became governor when he left and will probably be the GOP nominee. The Democrats are running a seven-way free-for-all. If no candidate gets 35% in the primary, instead of a runoff, a state convention will pick the nominee. Trump is not especially popular in Iowa, and could drag the whole GOP ticket down.

  • Kansas: Former governor Sam Brownback was so unpopular that he quit in January, his conservative revolution in shambles. Donald Trump felt sorry for him, so he named him the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, whatever that is. Most likely he will go around telling other countries that they shouldn't allow abortion. It is unlikely any of them will listen to him, however. His #2, Jeff Colyer is going for a full term, but will first have to knock off Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (of voter "fraud" commission fame) and a couple of others. It will be messy. On the Democratic side, multiple candidates are available, but they may all be swamped by independent candidate Greg Orman, who narrowly lost a Senate bid in 2014.

  • Maine: Gov. Paul LePage is term limited, but given his disapproval of 53%, that is just as well. Both parties have tons of candidates. What is unusual is Maine's new system of instant-runoff voting, in which voters mark their first, second, third, ..., tenth, ... and twentieth choices. OK, there aren't that many, but there are a lot. Maine is a fairly blue state and with LePage out of the way, it could revert to form and elect a Democrat.

  • Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) is popular and has $9 million in the bank. Three or four Democrats are running, including former NAACP president Ben Jealous, an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders. Although Maryland is a blue state, Hogan did win in 2014 and could pull it off again.

  • Massachusetts: In principle, Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) is a Republican, but he spends most of his time bashing Donald Trump. He is the most popular governor in the country and has $11 million in the bank. The Democrats will certainly field a candidate, but it is probably hopeless for them, especially since the Bay State has a long history of electing Republican governors, including one who will soon be representing Utah in the Senate.

  • Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) is term limited and the Democrats smell blood in the water. After all, just about everything else has been found in the water in that state. The state's lieutenant governor (Brian Calley) and attorney general (Bill Schuette) are both interested in a promotion, with Schuette currently leading. On the Democratic side, former state senator Gretchen Whitmer is the leading candidate, and she is even leading Schuette in the polls, but the party pooh-bahs seem to think that being governor is a man's job, so they are trying to recruit one.

  • Nevada: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) is term limited or he would have been a shoo-in for a third term. Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) wants the job. He is the illegitimate son of former New Mexico senator Pete Domenici and the product of an affair Domenici had with Michelle Laxalt, daughter of former Nevada governor and senator Paul Laxalt. Laxalt is a hard-right candidate and strongly opposes abortion. Of course, in his case it's personal, since his parents didn't want him. Harry Reid's machine is still a potent force in Nevada and it wants Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. But Sisolak is being challenged from the left by another commissioner, Chris Giunchigliani. Having a name no one can pronounce and that doesn't fit on a bumper sticker isn't a plus, but Emily's list likes her and she has $1 million in the bank. The general election is expected to be close.

  • New Hampshire: Granite State governors are elected to 2-year terms and Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) like his job and wants another two years. His popularity is 61%, so he might well get it. The leading Democrat is Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, but polls show that Sununu would beat him badly.

  • New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM) is term limited. Most likely, after the primary dust has settled, two representatives will battle it out to succeed her. These are Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM). The state is moderately blue, so it will be an uphill climb for Pearce.

  • Ohio: Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is term limited. Besides, he wants to be president, not governor. Initially, each party had a long list of candidates, but it has been whittled down to basically one on each side. The Republicans are running Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Democrats are running the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray. Trump won the state big time, and if his supporters show up in large numbers, DeWine could win it.

  • Oklahoma: Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) is term limited, which is good for her since it allows her to bow out gracefully instead of being crushed in an attempt to win a third term. She has screwed up the state's finances so badly that a fifth of the schools operate on a four-day school week for lack of money to pay the teachers full time. After such a bad performance, the Democrats are back in the picture, as evidenced by their huge comeback in recent special elections. There are at least four Republicans running for governor, including a couple of rich businessmen. The Democrats in the running are former state senator Connnie Johnson and former state attorney general Drew Edmondson; Edmondson is their likely nominee.

  • Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN) is term limited. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) is the leading candidate for the GOP nomination, although it is not a sure thing. The Democrats' strongest candidate is former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, although state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh is also running. Tennessee is a fairly red state, but former governor Phil Bredesen (D) is also on the ticket (running for the Senate), which could help Democratic turnout.

  • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) is running for a second 2-year term and he will probably get it. Vermont and New Hampshire are the only states that have so little faith in their governors that they have to face the voters every 2 years. The Democrats might run Christine Hallquist, the country's first openly transgender major-party gubernatorial candidate, but it doesn't matter who the Democrats run since that person will almost certainly lose.

  • Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) has a checkered history. He won by 6 points in 2010, survived a bitter recall election in 2012, and won by 6 points again in 2014. Wisconsin doesn't have a term limit, so he is running again. He ran for president in 2016 and was the first candidate to drop out, which drove his approval into the ground. It is back up a bit now, but still under water. Many Democrats are trying to get the nod to oppose him, and it is impossible at this point to know who will come out on top.

In short, the Republican waves of 2010 and 2014 have left a lot of states with a term-limited Republican governor, and if there is a blue wave in November, Democrats could make huge gains across the country. Such gains would have a major effect on national politics after the 2020 census, when Democratic governors could veto gerrymandered congressional maps in all the states with Republican majorities in the state legislatures. Thus, if Democrats can elect governors in lots of big states this year, their chances of winning the House and keeping it blue from 2022 to 2030 will increase dramatically. (V)

Trump's Approval Rating is Trending Downward Again

For about a month, Donald Trump's approval rating improved consistently across all polls, getting into the mid-40s in most of them. That's right on the border of "respectable" territory. However, it is trending downward again, as the latest release from Quinnipiac reveals. They have him with 37% approving, and 58% disapproving, which means he's underwater by 21 points. If that were not enough unhappy news for the President, a majority of respondents said they still want to see his tax returns (67%), that he does not respect women (66%), and that he is not fit to be president (57%). Perhaps worst of all, 76% say that they believe the Russians interfered in the 2016 election, which means that Trump's spin is not taking hold very well.

What caused his surge? Was it the State of the Union? The tax bill? The economy? Who knows? And similarly, his recent downturn could be due to the stock market instability, or Portergate, or the Florida school shootings, or all of the above, or none of the above. What seems much clearer is that opinions on Trump are baked in for the great majority of the populace; about 55% will never approve of him no matter what, and about 35% will always approve of him no matter what. Which means that the fluctuations are driven largely by about 10% of the population that is open to shifting back and forth. (Z)

Utah Senate Election Could Be a Real Nail Biter

The first poll of Utah taken since Willard "Mitt" Romney officially declared for the Senate was released Thursday, and it reveals that 60% of Utahns plan to vote for him, compared to 14% for his closest rival, Democrat Jenny Wilson. That gives the former GOP presidential candidate a razor-thin 46-point lead. 14% of voters are undecided, 3% support libertarian Craig Bowden, and a handful of other potential candidates are polling at 2% or less. Even if every non-Romney voter were to line up behind his Democratic opponent, he would still have a 20-point lead.

At this point, the only interesting thing about this race is imagining what it would take for Romney to blow it. A "rapes are part of God's plan" slipup or a racial slur probably wouldn't be enough to do it. Maybe if he launches into an impromptu "Hitler wasn't ALL bad" lecture, or he kneels for the national anthem, or he insults the parentage of Brigham Young. Actually, if he's smart, he'll take a nice, long six-month vacation and won't do much campaigning at all. He clearly doesn't need to rally the voters or drive up his name recognition, and if there is a mistake that could actually cost him a 46-point lead, it would have to happen during a fundraising event, or a debate, or a press conference. We already know that when Romney goes off script—binders full of women, the 47%, Etch-a-Sketches, etc.—he does have a tendency to insert his foot into his mouth. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb22 New Charges Filed Against Manafort and Gates
Feb22 Democrat Wins a Special Election in a Deep Red Kentucky State House District
Feb22 Rubio Impresses, Underwhelms
Feb22 Meanwhile, Trump Just Underwhelms
Feb22 Kelly Is Trying to Demote Kushner
Feb22 Only a Quarter of Voters Are Getting a Bigger Paycheck
Feb22 How Did Melania's Parents Get Residency?
Feb22 Democrats Lead by 15 Points in Generic House Poll
Feb22 Democrats Ask for $300 Million to Fight Russian Interference in the 2018 Elections
Feb21 Mueller Issues Another Indictment
Feb21 Gun Issue Isn't Going Away
Feb21 DACA Issue Isn't Going Away, Either
Feb21 Pennsylvania Republicans Sue to Overturn New Map
Feb21 New Jersey Is Preparing to Fight the New Tax Law
Feb21 Was Payoff to Karen McDougal Illegal?
Feb21 Did Bots Take Down Al Franken?
Feb20 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Adopts a New Congressional District Map
Feb20 Conservatives Are Urging Trump to Pardon Everyone
Feb20 Clapper: More Shoes Will Drop
Feb20 Mueller May Be Looking at Kushner's Finances
Feb20 Trump Endorses Romney
Feb20 Tax Law Is Gaining Popularity
Feb20 Another House Republican Is Retiring
Feb20 It's Even Odds that Trump Will Be Impeached
Feb20 Scholars Weigh In: Lincoln Is Top-Ranked President, Trump Is Just Rank
Feb20 Trump Golfs While Florida Victims Are Buried
Feb19 Trump Continues Lashing Out
Feb19 He Who Lives By the Twitter...
Feb19 Trump Slams Winfrey
Feb19 Kasich, Biden: Don't Forget Us
Feb19 Washington Post Interviewed a Russian Troll
Feb19 Did Mueller Forget Something?
Feb19 Five States Vote without a Paper Trail
Feb19 Stephen Fincher Drops Out of Tennessee Senate Race
Feb19 Left-Wing Candidate Leading in the Race for the Presidency
Feb18 Trump Spends Saturday Pointing Fingers
Feb18 More Trouble for Manafort
Feb18 Kushner's Lack of Clearance May Soon Become a Problem
Feb18 Trump May Rue Declassification of Memo
Feb18 Nothing but the Best for Trump Cabinet
Feb18 McConnell Acknowledges Coming Wave
Feb18 GOP Megadonor: No More Money Until You Do Something about Guns
Feb17 Mueller Indicts 13 Russians
Feb17 The Passing of the Buck Has Begun
Feb17 Another Alleged Trump Mistress Comes Forward
Feb17 Romney Formally Announces Senate Bid
Feb17 Idaho Has Its Answer to Obamacare: Ignore It
Feb16 Immigration Bills All Fail in the Senate
Feb16 Trump and Ryan Realize that Gun Owners Can Vote but Dead Children Can't
Feb16 Gates Will Soon Flip