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)
      •  Bannon Expresses Regret
      •  White House is in Full Damage Control Mode
      •  Trump's Day Is Getting Shorter
      •  Where Trump Gets His Information From, if it Wasn't Already Clear
      •  Trump Is Planning a Trade Crackdown
      •  Colorado's Governor's Race is a Microcosm of the Country
      •  Ten Governors' Races to Watch
      •  More Republicans Are Leaving Congress

Bannon Expresses Regret

In a desperate effort to save his job, his career, and his movement, still-executive chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon expressed regret about all the things he said about the Trump family that were quoted in Michael Wolff's new book. In the book, he is quoted as saying Junior's meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 was treasonous. Yesterday, he said Junior was a good man. Nevertheless, in effect he confirmed that he was quoted correctly on much, if not all, the material. If Wolff had made it all up, Bannon wouldn't have said, in essence: "I'm sorry I said it." He would have said: "It's all lies."

Bannon clearly realizes now that if most of his former supporters have to choose between Trump and him, they will almost all choose Trump. That also goes for Breitbart management. In particular, Trump and others in his orbit are pushing Breitbart CEO Larry Solov and Andrew Breitbart's widow Susie Breitbart to dump Bannon. His only chance to survive is to suck up to Trump and hope for the best. (V)

White House is in Full Damage Control Mode

It was all hands on deck on Sunday, as the White House tried to downplay Michael Wolff's book and discredit it as a pack of lies. The highlight, if we can call it that, was Stephen Miller's appearance on Jake Tapper's CNN show. It was 12 minutes of bloviating and pre-scripted talking points from Miller before Tapper cut him off, saying he had wasted enough of the viewers' time.

In those 12 minutes, Miller's verbiage was wildly over-the-top, calling Wolff the "garbage author of a garbage book" who produced "a pure work of fiction," referring to the whole situation as "tragic" and "grotesque," and describing the media's reaction as "salacious" and "hysterical." In amongst the slams on the media and on Wolff, Miller also parroted some of the claims the President has made on Twitter, calling Trump a "political genius," and declaring that Steve Bannon had zero impact on White House policymaking. This, of course, is a flat-out lie—the Muslim travel bans were Bannon's work, for example. Miller also managed to contradict himself multiple times, such as when he insisted that he had no knowledge of the notorious meeting at Trump Tower, and then promptly said that everything Wolff wrote about that meeting is a lie. It does not seem to have occurred to Miller that if he knows nothing about the meeting, then he cannot judge the veracity of Wolff's reporting.

It is remarkable that Team Trump cannot grasp that they are just making the damage to themselves worse. If Wolff's book had claimed, for example, that Trump is actually a Martian double agent, sent as an advance scout in anticipation of their conquering of Earth, the administration would not care. But the fact that they have allowed their whole week to be consumed by this, and that they have threatened legal action, and gone to DEFCON 1 on Twitter and on television, make it obvious that Wolff got dangerously close to the truth. And not only is the administration helping to sustain the author's claims, they are also serving as his very best salesmen. (Z)

Trump's Day Is Getting Shorter

Although the days are getting longer now that the winter solstice is in the rearview mirror, Donald Trump's days are getting shorter. This is according to Axios, which has obtained a copy of his schedule. He now gets to work at 11 a.m., even though his commute consists of walking downstairs in the White House. Before that he watches TV, tweets, and makes phone calls in the residence. In contrast, George W. Bush was an early bird who popped into the Oval Office by 6:45 a.m. Barack Obama worked out before work, but still showed up between 9 and 10 a.m.

Trump doesn't make up for a late start by burning the midnight oil, either. By 6 p.m., he has gone home (meaning upstairs). So maybe he works really hard from 11 to 6? Not really. He might have a meeting or two, and he might make a couple of calls, but he watches a lot of TV in the office or in the adjacent dining room. In response to the Axios piece, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, in part: "The President is one of the hardest workers I've seen." (V)

Where Trump Gets His Information From, if it Wasn't Already Clear

At 7:37 p.m. EST last Tuesday, Fox News did a story about Kim Jong-Un and his nuclear button. At 7:49 p.m. EST last Tuesday, Donald Trump sent out a tweet declaring that his button is "much bigger." This is, of course, not a coincidence. For three months, Politico's Matthew Gertz has been following Trump's Twitter feed while comparing it to Fox News, and he says there is no question that an enormous percentage of Trump's Twitter output is prompted by what he sees on the network, particularly on "Fox and Friends."

The article goes through more than a dozen examples, with screen captures and time and date stamps, from the nuclear button to attacks on Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to NFL players kneeling to Trump's bragging about airline safety. From this, Gertz reaches two rather damning conclusions:

  1. There is no strategy to Trump's Twitter feed; he is not trying to distract the media. He is being distracted. He darts with quark-like speed from topic to topic in his tweets because that's how cable news works.

  2. A man with unparalleled access to the world's most powerful information-gathering machine, with an intelligence budget estimated at $73 billion last year, prefers to rely on conservative cable news hosts to understand current events.

What does the President think about all of this? Perhaps "Fox and Friends" will cover the story tomorrow, so we can find out. (Z)

Trump Is Planning a Trade Crackdown

One of the main issues Donald Trump campaigned on was cracking down on other countries that he says unfairly compete with the U.S. During the few hours he does work, his next big project is going to tackle that. Very likely, tariffs are in the offing. Particularly important is whether Trump imposes tariffs on China. If he does, companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, and Microsoft may quickly notice new tariffs on their exports to China. A full-blown trade war is a real possibility, with potentially disastrous effects on the economy.

What Trump still has not realized, apparently, is that governing has a lot of moving parts that are all connected. If he imposes tariffs on China, he can forget about any cooperation when he asks Xi Jinping to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear program. When he discovers that no other country can exert pressure on North Korea, he will have to decide whether containing the hermit kingdom is more or less important than trade. (V)

Colorado's Governor's Race is a Microcosm of the Country

Colorado is a deep purple state: Both parties do well there. One senator is a Democrat and the other is a Republican. Three of the representatives are Democrats and four are Republicans. It is very evenly balanced. So naturally, politicians from both parties are keenly interested in succeeding the term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO). The race, especially the primaries, will speak volumes about what kinds of candidates are acceptable to each party.

The leading Democrat, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who is 42, is a progressive gay multimillionaire. But another young Democrat, Mike Johnston (43), with Kennedyesque good looks, is running on a platform of work and jobs, which might appeal to blue-collar workers. A candidate actually named Kennedy, deputy mayor of Denver Cary Kennedy, is also under 50 (by one year). For older, more conservative Democrats, Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne (D-CO) is available. She likes the sky, having climbed 58 mountains in Colorado, but does not believe in pie-in-the-sky politics like free pre-school and free college. In other words, Colorado Democrats have plenty of options.

So do Colorado Republicans. They can choose their favorite dynasty, between Romneys (Doug Robinson) and Bushes (Walker Stapleton). Business-oriented Republicans can choose Victor Mitchell (52). People who want a female governor might like AG Cynthia Coffman (56). Colorado has always had a libertarian right-wing fringe, and they, too, have a candidate in former congressman Tom Tancredo (72). In short, there is something for every taste in the Centennial State. (V)

Ten Governors' Races to Watch

Colorado isn't the only place with an interesting gubernatorial race this year. Politico is in list mode these days, what with a new year and a new election cycle getting underway, and they have a good one laying out the 10 races to watch in 2018:

  • Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) is running for reelection, but he's very unpopular (30% approval), and is a top target of the Democratic Governors Association. The Governor has used his vast wealth to great effect in past campaigns, but that advantage will be nullified if the current frontrunner for the Democrats, billionaire J.B. Pritzker, gets the nod.

  • New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is term-limited, which has set the stage for a free-for-all in a state that's trending blue. The election could well pit two members of the House of Representatives against each other, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and Steve Pearce (R). At the moment, this is looking like a real pickup opportunity for the Democrats, though things could change once the actual nominees are known.

  • Maine: Gov. Paul LePage (R) is also term-limited, and walks away from the governor's mansion with an approval rating in the low 30s. The Republican brand is thus damaged in the state, and the Party took another blow when Sen. Susan Collins (R) decided to remain in the Senate. That means it will be a second-tier candidate carrying the GOP's banner. Under these circumstances, the Democrats quite like their chances, such that nearly a dozen of them are gunning for their party's nomination.

  • Connecticut: Unpopular governor Dannel Malloy (D) is retiring, largely because he knows he is unlikely to win reelection. Thus, we have the reverse of the situation in Maine: The blue team is struggling to find a good candidate, while nearly a dozen Republicans are chomping at the bit for the GOP nomination. Currently, polls have "generic Republican" leading "generic Democrat" by seven points, so this blue state could very well select a red governor, even in a blue wave year.

  • Nevada: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is term-limited, but leaves office very well liked. That means his endorsement could be very helpful, though it may not be forthcoming if current frontrunner Attorney General Adam Laxalt gets the nod, since the two men don't particularly like each other. The Democrats, meanwhile, have a deep bench, a very organized state party (thanks, Harry Reid!), demographic trends, and the national climate on their side. This one is one of the hardest to call right now.

  • Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R) is term-limited, and given the size of the Sunshine State and its purplish hue, there is much jockeying on both sides of the aisle to replace him. This election is going to be watched very carefully across the country; if a Democrat can claim the Florida governor's mansion for the first time in two decades, it may give a clue as to the disposition of those 29 electoral votes in 2020.

  • Alaska: Gov. Bill Walker (I) is running for reelection, and the Republicans like their chances of unseating him in this generally red state. Three members of the GOP have thrown their hats into the ring so far. Meanwhile, the Democrats do not yet have a candidate. If they do not find one, it will improve Walker's chances greatly, since he will become the de facto choice for Democratic voters in the state.

  • Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is yet another chief executive who is term-limited. He's also unpopular, and is likely to be an anchor around the GOP nominee's neck. It is currently a three-way race on that side of the aisle, with the Trump-endorsed Attorney General Bill Schuette holding the lead. This could make evident a (worrisome) pattern for Republicans: The President's support is enough to propel someone to the GOP nomination (when the votes of party faithful are essential), but is not helpful (or is actively harmful) in the general election. The Democrats, meanwhile, have a Clinton-Sanders sort of race unfolding, with Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer (Clinton) leading the field over Abdul El-Sayed (Sanders). Blood is going to be spilled on both sides.

  • Ohio: Gov. John Kasich (R) is...wait for it...term-limited. State Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) and Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) have reached a truce, and will run as a governor-lieutenant governor ticket, and as Kasich clones. That should be effective, since Kasich is popular. Rep. Jim Renacci (R) will challenge them as a pro-Trump outsider populist. That probably won't be effective. The Democratic side of the contest is still in flux after the late entry of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, who has the support of many prominent members of the blue team, most obviously Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). This one looks like it is the Republicans' to lose.

  • Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is running for reelection. He's kept his approval rating up, mostly by keeping his distance from Donald Trump. He currently holds a slight lead in polls over "generic Democrat." His problem, beyond the fact that Maryland is very blue, is that there are many good candidates on the Democratic side, and they will benefit from much enthusiasm and much money that the state's voters appear ready to invest in the race. Once "generic Democrat" becomes "specific Democrat," Hogan could find himself an underdog.

At present, Republicans hold 33 governorships, with 16 for Democrats, and the one Independent in Alaska. In total, 36 governor's mansions will be up for grabs in 2018; of those 36, 26 are held by Republicans, 9 by Democrats, and then again the one Independent in Alaska. The overall map is very nearly the opposite of the Senate map. Only one Democrat will be contesting a state that Donald Trump won (Tom Wolf, PA), while there are eight states that Hillary Clinton won that currently have GOP governors (New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, Maine, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont). So, the blue team is surely going to even the gap a bit. And if it's a wave year, it's not impossible that the Democrats could walk away from the midterms holding a majority of the governors' mansions. That will be helpful to the Party, perhaps, when it comes time to redistrict after the 2020 census. (Z)

More Republicans Are Leaving Congress

As the 2018 campaign season looms on the horizon, the number of people leaving Congress continues to grow. Last week, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS) joined the list. In total so far, there have been 22 representatives (16 R, 6 D) to announce their retirement from politics, and another 19 (11 R, 8 D) who will leave the House to run for another office. In addition, some are leaving right now either due to a scandal or to take an administration job, but since there will be special elections to fill these in 2018, they won't be open seats in 2018, so we won't include them here. The departure of 14 Democrats is par for the course at this point in the cycle. On the other hand, the exit of 27 Republicans is unusually substantial. This ties the record for the largest number of retirements from either party in the last six House elections (27 Republicans retired in 2008.)

What's going on here? There appear to be three major factors in play. The first, and most obvious, is the political environment. A lot of members who have thrown in the towel are from swing districts, and recognize that they could be facing a bruising primary, followed by a bruising general election campaign. Not a pleasant prospect for someone who could easily get washed away in a Democratic wave. Further, their future marketability as a political commentator, or as a lobbyist, is greater if their career did not end in defeat. In other words, for many it is time to get out while the gettin's good.

Beyond that, there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. And that room happens to be the Oval Office. A fair number of representatives don't want to spend months dealing with Donald Trump's comments and controversies, and are also wary of surprise damage that could be done via Twitter at literally any moment. One of the retirees, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) spoke to The Hill and was blunt: "You clearly alienate a lot of Hispanic voters with [Trump's] comments on Mexicans and Latinos, and of course you have the Charlottesville situation. Politics and getting elected is an exercise in inclusion and not exclusion." The Congressman also observed that, "[T]he litmus test has changed. The issue is loyalty to the man, to the president. And for some, you know, loyalty is not enough, you have to be angry and aggrieved."

The two factors above apply to Republican departures. The third, on the other hand, affects both parties. Politico Magazine talked to two dozen members of Congress who have decided to leave, and asked them why. Their answers returned, again and again, to how unpleasant the job has become due to hyperpartisanship, and to the need to pander to the base on a daily basis via social media. Among the more instructive quotes:

  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): "The Congress I came to was a very bipartisan, get-along place. People knew each other and tried to work together."

  • Ted Poe (R-TX): "Bipartisan legislation doesn't make the news because we're not fussing and feuding and fighting."

  • Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL): "The rhetoric trickles down. It's almost as though some of my Republican colleagues are auditioning for Fox News."

  • Sam Johnson (R-TX): "What I will miss least is the current polarization and common refusal to listen to or respect others' ideas. It is possible to find common ground."

  • Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ): "You win an election. At 8:05, the attacks start again."

  • Bob Goodlatte (R-VA): "One of the problems with the Internet is it creates a sense on the part of some people that it's all just a referendum."

  • Gene Green (D-TX): "If I was going to stay here, I wouldn't want to stay here being defeated every day on the floor of the House."

The bad news for whoever it is that replaces these folks is that everyone agrees that things are going to get even worse before they get better.

Here is the complete list of representatives leaving the House in 2019. It is sorted on PVI.

Representative Party District PVI Reason for leaving
Marsha Blackburn Republican TN-06 R+24 Running for governor
Joe Barton Republican TX-06 R+24 Got caught sending out dirty pictures
Evan Jenkins Republican WV-03 R+23 Running for senator
Raul Labrador Republican ID-01 R+21 Running for governor
Diane Black Republican TN-07 R+20 Running for governor
Bill Shuster Republican PA-09 R+19 Retiring from public office
Luke Messer Republican IN-06 R+18 Running for senator
Todd Rokita Republican IN-04 R+17 Running for senator
Jeb Hensarling Republican TX-05 R+16 Retiring from public office
Kristi Noem Republican SD-AL R+14 Running for governor
Bob Goodlatte Republican VA-06 R+13 Retiring from public office
Gregg Harper Republican MS-03 R+13 Retiring from public office
Blake Farenthold Republican TX-27 R+13 Sex scandal
Sam Johnson Republican TX-03 R+13 Retiring from public office
John Duncan Jr. Republican TN-02 R+11 Retiring from public office
Ted Poe Republican TX-02 R+11 Retiring from public office
Lynn Jenkins Republican KS-02 R+10 Retiring from public office
Lou Barletta Republican PA-11 R+10 Running for senator
Lamar Smith Republican TX-21 R+10 Retiring from public office
James Renacci Republican OH-16 R+8 Running for governor
Steve Pearce Republican NM-02 R+6 Running for governor
Tim Walz Democratic MN-01 R+5 Running for governor
Dave Trott Republican MI-11 R+4 Retiring from public office
Charlie Dent Republican PA-15 R+4 Retiring from public office
Carol Shea-Porter Democratic NH-01 R+2 Retiring from public office
Jacky Rosen Democratic NV-03 R+2 Running for senator
Martha McSally Republican AZ-02 R+1 Running for senator
Frank LoBiondo Republican NJ-02 R+1 Retiring from public office
Dave Reichert Republican WA-09 Even Retiring from public office
Ruben Kihuen Democratic NV-04 D+3 Sex scandal
Sander Levin Democratic MI-09 D+4 Has a position at the University of Michigan
Kyrsten Sinema Democratic AZ-09 D+4 Running for senator
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Republican FL-27 D+5 Retiring from public office
John Delaney Democratic MD-06 D+6 Running for president
Michelle Lujan-Grisham Democratic NM-01 D+7 Running for governor
Niki Tsongas Democratic MA-03 D+9 Retiring from public office
Jared Polis Democratic CO-02 D+9 Running for governor
Colleen Hanabusa Democratic HI-01 D+17 Running for governor
Beto O'Rourke Democratic TX-16 D+17 Running for senator
Gene Green Democratic TX-29 D+19 Retiring from public office
Luis Gutiérrez Democratic IL-04 D+33 Retiring from public office

Note that representatives who have already left and for whom a special election will be called in 2018 are not listed. Only the seats that will be open in Nov. 2018 are listed. (Z & V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan07 Trump Pitches Saturday Morning Twitter Tantrum
Jan07 It's War Between Trump and Bannon
Jan07 Revelations in Wolff Book Have Been an "Open Secret"
Jan07 About That Trump Economy...
Jan07 About Those Tax Bonuses...
Jan07 What's Next for Al Franken?
Jan06 Grassley Wants to Shoot the Messenger
Jan06 FBI Opens New Investigation into the Clinton Foundation
Jan06 Wolff Admits He Flattered His Way into the White House
Jan06 How do Jared and Ivanka Feel about Wolff's Book?
Jan06 Tillerson Says He Has Never Questioned Trump's Mental Fitness
Jan06 Pence Aides Jump Ship
Jan06 Trump Declares War on California
Jan06 Trump Wants $33B for Border Security, Including $18B for Wall
Jan06 Vermont to Sessions: Get Baked
Jan06 Mandel Drops Out of the Senate Race in Ohio
Jan05 Category 3 Storm Worsens to a Category 5 Storm
Jan05 The End of Bannon?
Jan05 Trump Ordered Sessions Not to Recuse Himself
Jan05 Here's What Happens When You Have an Old, White Base, Part I: Marijuana
Jan05 Here's What Happens When You Have an Old, White Base, Part II: Offshore Drilling
Jan05 Here's What Happens When You Have an Old, White Base, Part III: Voter Suppression
Jan05 Yancey Wins Random Drawing, Simonds Refuses to Concede
Jan04 Bannon Tosses a Molotov Cocktail into the Oval Office
Jan04 Ivanka and Jared Agree: She's the Future President
Jan04 Trump Shuts Down Voter Fraud Commission
Jan04 Manafort Sues Mueller
Jan04 Democrats May Not Cave in Upcoming Budget Battle
Jan04 A Dozen Obama Administration Officials Are Running for Congress
Jan04 Roy Moore's Campaign Manager is Also Running for Congress
Jan04 Colbert is Gunning for Trump's Media Awards
Jan03 Hatch Will Retire in 2019
Jan03 Franken Resigns from the Senate
Jan03 Trump Brags About the Size of His...Button
Jan03 Warren Is Quietly Preparing for a 2020 Run
Jan03 House Intelligence Committee Likely to Produce Two Competing Reports on Russia
Jan03 Trump Takes Credit for Air Safety System Run by Obama Appointee
Jan03 Republicans Are Likely Giving Up on Ros-Lehtinen's Seat
Jan03 Trump Avoids California
Jan02 Winners and Losers in 2017
Jan02 Ten Races to Watch This Year
Jan02 Trump Slams Pakistan
Jan02 Top Ten Twitter Hashtags of 2017
Jan02 Government vs. Government
Jan02 What's Going on in Iowa?
Jan01 Assessing Donald Trump's First Year
Jan01 Stories to Watch in 2018
Jan01 People to Watch in 2018
Dec31 FBI's Russia Inquiry Likely Started with Papadopoulos
Dec31 Mueller Probe Just Getting Started