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

Takeaways from Tuesday's Primaries

Various lists of takeaways from Tuesday's elections were published yesterday. Here are a few of them.

New York Times
  • Money matters in California as well-funded candidates generally beat underfunded candidates
  • Trump voters are like elephants: They never forget insults to their man
  • Democratic voters have limits on how much corruption they can stand (see: Menendez, Bob)
  • Three of Barack Obama's people won their primaries (Tom Malinowski, Deb Haaland, and Andy Kim)
  • The year of the woman hit a snag: in three gubernatorial races (Alabama, California, Iowa) Democrats picked a white man
  • A big night for female candidates in CA-39, SD governor, Iowa and New Mexico House races
  • Jon Tester got a tough opponent in Montana Senate race
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) doesn't seem to have coattails
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) was punished for opposing Trump for grabbing pu**y
  • The DCCC got all of its candidates in New Jersey House races
  • In a special election, Democrats flipped a Missouri state House seat long held by Republians
CBS News
  • The California races are not over and Anthony Villaraigosa is furious that 100,000 voters couldn't vote
  • Martha Roby was punished for not being a loyal Trump supporter and will face a former Democrat in a runoff
  • It was a mixed bag for women; some won and some lost
  • That Missouri special election for a state House seat could be a warning sign for the Missouri Senate race
  • Democrats weren't locked out in California
  • Trump got John Cox on the California gubernatorial ballot even though he will be crushed in November
  • Gavin Newsom, a clear progressive, will be the next governor of California
  • People in New Jersey can handle only so much corruption and many voted against Bob Menendez to show it
  • Democratic women did well in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Iowa
  • Bernie's revolution is sputtering
  • Republicans had better bow down to Trump or else
The Hill
  • Democrats got (almost) everything they wanted in California
  • Republicans avoided disaster by getting a Republican on ballot for governor of California
  • The unpopular California gas tax could hurt the Democrats in November
  • Liberals didn't do so well in California with Kevin de Léon being crushed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Women had a good night in New Jersey, New Mexico, Missouri, and California
  • There was a big protest vote against Bob Menendez
  • Republicans escaped California's "jungle"
  • Democrats had another solid night
  • Bernie Sanders is struggling
  • Elephants never forget
  • Senate Democrats have a new headache (Menendez)
NBC News
  • It appears Dems escaped getting locked out of those important California house races
  • California Republicans avoided a shutout at the top of the ticket, too
  • Some California GOP incumbents look strong; others look really, really weak
  • It was another good night for Democratic women
  • It was a good night for members of congress running statewide
  • GOP congresswoman faces runoff after saying she wouldn't vote for Trump in 2016
  • Bob Menendez had a lackluster performance in New Jersey
  • Iowa Democrats have their gubernatorial nominee
  • And Republicans have their Senate nominee in Montana

There you have it. What is interesting is the various takes on whether this is the year of the woman. In some races, women did very well, but in others not so well. In many cases, the details mattered. Dianne Feinstein crushed her male opponent, but four-term senators whose party dominates their state generally do pretty well, no matter what their gender. Similarly, Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican who holds statewide office, did very well in her gubernatorial bid in very red South Dakota. In short, it's pretty hard to draw any real conclusions about whether women are going to triumph in unprecedented numbers in November.

It would be nice to give a list from one of the right-leaning sites, just to see if they saw it differently from the centrist and/or left-leaning sites, but the only big outlet on the right that appears to have done a "takeaways" piece is Fox News. And theirs is not a formal list, it's more of a screed. The headline of the piece, written by Peter Roff, is "California breaks Democrats' hearts: 'Big, blue shutout' fails and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries." The main emphasis is that Democrats were hoping for (and possibly expecting) a so-called "big, blue shutout," and they didn't get it, so there—Ha, ha, ha! The only problem with Roff's argument is that no Democrat was thinking in this way—as was clear from this and every other political site, the Democrats' focus was on the possibility of getting shut out of some key House districts, not shutting out the GOP across most/all of the state. Indeed, if one searches Google for the phrase "big, blue shutout," a grand total of two articles show up, over and over—Roff's, and this one, which is also from Fox News. It's just another reminder that with that outlet, one must always keep a bucket or two of salt within arm's reach. (V & Z)

Democrats Probably Avoided Disaster in California

There are stories all over about how the Democrats avoided being shut out of key House races in California. Take them with a grain of salt. There are thousands of absentee ballots and provisional ballots that haven't been counted yet, so results could change. Nonetheless, it is certainly looking like there will be a Democrat and a Republican on the ballot in all of the districts that are reasonably competitive, though we're not going to know for sure for a few days. Below are the five districts where the candidate in third place has a small chance of overtaking #2 and making it onto the general election ballot.

District PVI First place Votes Second Place Votes Third Place Votes
CA-08 R+9 Paul Cook* (R) 29,403 Tim Donnelly (R) 16,024 Marjorie Doyle (D) 15,264
CA-10 Even Jeff Denham* (R) 24,640 Josh Harder (D) 10,244 Ted Howze (R) 9,394
CA-25 Even Steve Knight* (R) 41,310 Katie Hill (D) 15,833 Brian Caforio (D) 14,305
CA-48 R+4 Dana Rohrabacher* (R) 31,886 Harley Rouda (D) 18,182 Hans Keir (D) 18,109
CA-49 R+1 Diane Harkey (R) 28,191 Mike Levin (D) 18,958 Sara Jacobs (D) 17,099

As you can see, there's one district (CA-08) where the Democrats might squeeze someone into the race, and one (CA-10) where they could lose their candidate if the cards fall wrong. Scott Baugh (R), who is in fourth place in CA-49 with 17,601 votes, could also spoil a race for the blue team, but he'd have to leapfrog two people. All of these districts are held by Republicans, with incumbents marked by an asterisk. If the Democrats can flip them all, a tall order, but far from impossible, it gets them almost a quarter of the way to the 23 they need to take over the House. (V)

The November Election Will Be about Racism and Authoritarianism

The midterms will be brutal and largely about the culture wars. Donald Trump expects to play a big role and talk constantly about how Democrats coddle gang members and how spoiled black millionaire football players hate America. It will all be an effort to get Trump's base to make it to the polls. He will not reach out to Democrats at all.

Of course, making the midterms a referendum on racism and authoritarianism cuts both ways. Trump isn't subtle. He's not going to tweet dog whistles about Willie Horton. Part of the strategy to go all-out culture war is that the Republicans don't have anything else. Polling and primaries have shown that the tax-cut isn't getting much traction, and people are seeing higher gas prices wipe out whatever tax cut they may have gotten. Of course, other issues can pop up. If the discharge petition in the House to force floor votes on one or more immigration bills succeeds (and it is now only three votes short), then immigration may become a hot-button issue. And special counsel Robert Mueller could shake things up by bringing out an initial report or more indictments, which could lead to Trump's pardoning some of the indictees.

As Ron Brownstein points out, Republicans are going to bet the farm on turning out older, rural, white, working class voters and praying that young urban Democrats skip the election, as is their wont. In the past five midterms only about a quarter of eligible voters under 30 bothered to show up at the polls. To a large extent, if Republicans hang onto Congress, it will not be because the voters love them. It will be because young Democrats aren't paying attention and don't vote. A recent Pew poll should that only one-third of adults under 30 were paying attention to political news; twice as large a percentage of adults over 50 are highly engaged. Why is this? Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson has run focus groups and has said that many older voters see the Millennials as a hostile force trying to take their country away from them. If the Millennials actually voted, maybe they could pull it off, but if nearly all of them stay home on Election Day, the older voters won't have much to worry about. (V)

In California, the November Election Will Be about Immigration and Gas Taxes

As Tip O'Neill famously observed, "All politics is local." And so, while the GOP is planning to make racism and authoritarianism national themes, it's likely to work well only in places where they can trot out Donald Trump, so he can be...well, racist and/or authoritarian. In California, however, Republicans know that the President isn't going to be much help, because he's pretty toxic, even among many Republicans. So, they are planning to run a variant of the national playbook, and to focus on immigration and gas taxes.

As to immigration, that is of course a very visible phenomenon in the state, which is home to more immigrants—both documented and not—than any other. In generations past, it was a big winner for Republican politicians. Pete Wilson, for example, was a mayor (San Diego), U.S. Senator, and governor, and his entire political program was scapegoating immigrants. Meanwhile, the Democratic legislature just passed a 12-cents-a-gallon tax, so as to pay for improvements to the state's crumbling infrastructure. California Republicans plan to lambaste that kind of socialism, apparently on the theory that the state's 394,608 miles of roads should fix themselves. In the past, vehicle license fee increases have driven voters into a tizzy (no pun intended), so the hope is that gas taxes will do the same.

Despite the past precedents, however, it's not too likely that these issues will prove to be winners for the California GOP. The Democrats have a hammerlock on the state, and the state is also very different from what it was when Pete Wilson was a star (he last held office in 1991). Still, the Republicans have to run on something, and this is probably about as promising as anything they might come up with. (Z)

Ryan Distances Himself from Trump

Lame duck Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ever so slightly put some daylight between himself and Donald Trump on Wednesday when he said that Trump should not pardon himself. Note that he said "should not," and not "cannot." Still, it is a small step in opposition to Trump. When asked specifically if Trump had the power to pardon himself, the Speaker said: "I don't know the technical answer to that question, but obviously he shouldn't. No one is above the law." He also dismissed Trump's contention that the FBI planted a spy in his campaign. Since Ryan is ending his political career in January, he can afford to take positions that might anger Trump voters, something incumbents running for reelection are very wary about doing. (V)

Manchin Hugs Trump Close

Literally. Every time Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sees Donald Trump, he goes in for a hug (which the Donald doesn't actually care for). What Trump does like, however, is a bit of kissing up, and Manchin has also been willing to do that. He's flattered the President, dined with him, chatted with him, and supported most of his nominees. Manchin has also announced that he "regrets" supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, and that he just might endorse Trump in 2020.

The Senator obviously knows a little something about winning statewide elections in red, red West Virginia, since he's done it five times. However, those were in normal political environments, and that's not what we've got right now. Clearly, Manchin is scared. So, since he's barely a Democrat anyhow, he's decided to pull a full MAGA (well, maybe a 3/4 MAGA; he disagrees with Trump on immigration). It's possible that, when and if he gets reelected, the Senator will distance himself from Trump a bit, on the theory that by 2024, the Donald will be forgotten (or that it will be time for a 77-year-old Senator to retire). However, it's more probable that this is the new normal for Manchin, and it's well within the realm of possibility that after the election he switches parties. The upshot is that even if the Democrats somehow capture a 51-49 majority in the midterms, that majority is not likely to mean much, especially since they don't have the vice-presidential tiebreaker. (Z)

The Public Doesn't Like Giuliani

Donald Trump has many lawyers for many purposes. His actual personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, sues people Trump doesn't like. Michael Cohen was his magician: He made problems (like porn stars) disappear. Emmet Flood is his chief negotiator with Robert Mueller. Jay Sekulow is a calm TV lawyer who focuses on addressing evangelical voters. Rudy Giuliani is his bomb-throwing lawyer who specializes in confirming things that Trump has vigorously denied. Maybe Trump needs to reconsider Giuliani's role, though. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that Giuliani has a 29% approval rating and a 44% disapproval rating. It is generally better for the president's most visible lawyer to be widely respected and believed, but that is not the case with Giuliani.

Yesterday, Giuliani made another outrageous statement that probably only people who are illiterate and never watch television and don't own a radio will buy: Melania Trump does not believe Trump had an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford). At this point there is a huge amount of evidence supporting Daniels' story, including Trump reimbursing Cohen for paying her $130,000 in hush money. Although Giuliani is now on record saying that Melania believes her husband, Melania herself hasn't said a word in public about the matter. (V)

Trump Doesn't Know History, Does Know How to Insult Canadians

History, when taught poorly, can be among the driest of subjects. Donald Trump has a very poor attention span. Take those two things together, and you end up with a president who thinks he knows about the past, but really doesn't. That was on full display Wednesday, as the President—in the midst of a terse phone call with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau— was asked how he could possibly justify tariffs as a national security issue. Trump replied, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" Presumably, the point of the "joke" was that Canada is kind of a threat to the United States. What Trump does not seem to know is that the White House was burned 204 years ago, and that the culprit was actually the British Army. Undoubtedly, Trudeau was rolling his eyes on the other end of the phone.

Anyhow, since the War of 1812, things have gotten a little better between the U.S., the British, and the Canadians. It's not entirely clear that Trump realizes that, either, because he was back at it again Wednesday afternoon:

What the Donald says here is partly correct, in the sense that yesterday was the 74th anniversary of D-Day and 70,000 Americans did participate in the invasion (even if "jumped out of airplanes, and stormed into hell" sounds like the tagline for a B-movie). However, the President's tweet gives the strong impression that the U.S. did it alone, and overlooks the 70,000 additional soldiers...from Canada and Great Britain.

So, to review in anticipation of tomorrow's exam: The Canadians were not part of burning the White House, but were a part of the invasion of Normandy. That concludes today's lesson. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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