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)
      •  Trump Blows His Top on Immigration
      •  Seven States Vote Tomorrow
      •  Republicans Have Three Worries for the Midterms
      •  Iowa Could Be the Testing Ground Even This Year
      •  Could the Magnitsky Act Be Used--against Trump?
      •  More Trouble for Pruitt
      •  Portrait of Dorian Trump
      •  Texas Senate Race May Be Tightening Up

Trump Blows His Top on Immigration

Given the blowback that followed the separation of families at the border, coupled with video and photo evidence, Donald Trump was forced to beat a hasty retreat. So, he issued a (somewhat vague) executive order that ostensibly brought an end to further separations, and declared that adults and their children should be detained together when practicable. It would appear that Trump has now had time to lick his wounds, however, because he went back on the offensive on Sunday:

It is both deeply concerning, and entirely characteristic, that Trump had decided that immigrants—aka "these people," which is code for "brown-skinned immigrants"—should not be entitled to due process. The courts, not to mention virtually every other officeholder in the federal government, may feel a little differently. One obvious problem, even if one wants to believe that non-Americans are not entitled to legal rights in this country, is that not everyone who is detained at the border is, in fact, an undocumented immigrant. And if the U.S. government were to summarily dump a foreign-looking American citizen somewhere, and that person was injured or killed, the government would be liable. Not only is this certain to happen if due process is done away with, it is certain to happen many, many times. So, even for a xenophobe, this plan should be a non-starter.

With that said, Trump's executive order is likely not much better, as far as solutions go. Former Trump adviser Steve Bossert talked to The Hill and expressed confidence that the order won't survive even the most cursory of court challenges. His specific prediction, in fact, is that it won't last for three weeks. The issue is that the courts already ruled, in 2015, that detaining children and parents together is not legal—it's effectively just a way of circumventing the rule against imprisoning children. Since Trump's order does exactly that, it presumably won't take a federal judge long to strike down the order.

That would seem to leave us right back where this all started: Congress. On Sunday, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said that the President is still 100% behind Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) immigration bill. It is interesting that McCaul has perfect clarity on this matter, since nobody else seems to. In any case, Paul Ryan's bill currently can't pass the House, as it's too punitive for the Democrats (and for some moderate Republicans), and at the same time it's not punitive enough for the Freedom Caucus. And then there's the Senate, where the Democrats can filibuster anything that does not suit their fancy.

Add it all up, and it is hard to see how this whole mess gets any less messy in the near future. Which means that immigration is unquestionably shaping up as the definitive issue in the midterms. Both parties think it is a winner for them, but only one of them can be right. (Z)

Seven States Vote Tomorrow

Five states have primary elections tomorrow and two others have runoffs. Here is a brief rundown of the action, starting with the primaries:

  • Colorado: In the Democrats' battle to take back the House, one of their highest-priority targets is Republican Mike Coffman (CO-06), whose D+2 district was won by Hillary Clinton by 9 points. And speaking of Clinton, the race is all about Bernie vs. Hillary, part 193. The candidate supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is Levi Tillemann. His pitch is about gun control. He thinks arming teachers with guns is a terrible idea, but that they should be armed with cans of pepper spray. That is enough to stop anyone, he says. To make his point, he sprayed himself and reported that it was incredibly painful and he was blinded for a while afterwards. He certainly gets the prize for the most innovative ad. However, the DCCC has other ideas about CO-06. It is backing Jason Crow, a veteran who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tillemann has naturally complained that the establishment is against him, which it is. But that is partly because Crow has raised five times as much money as Tillemann and when you are taking on a five-term congressman, the ability to raise money counts for a lot.

    Also of note in Colorado is the race to succeed term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). Four Democrats and four Republicans would like his job. Probably the most prominent is Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who gave up a safe (D+9) seat in Congress. As a young, gay Jew worth $400 million, he is not your standard politician. His main opponent is former state treasurer Cary Kennedy. On the Republican side, current state treasurer Walker Stapleton is polling ahead of former state legislator Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson, a wealthy banker, and Greg Lopez, the mayor of Parker, CO. Stapleton is George W. Bush's second cousin while Robinson is Mitt Romney's nephew. Colorado is one of three states that mail ballots to voters.

  • Maryland: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) is on the ballot, and he has little to fear from Chelsea Manning—a transgender woman who was notoriously convicted of leaking more than 700,000 classified documents—or from any of the other six challengers. In fact, Cardin also has nothing to worry about from the 11 Republicans vying for their party's nomination either.

    More interesting is the gubernatorial contest. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is one of the few Republicans who have distanced themselves from Donald Trump, because in a state as blue as Maryland, that is a political necessity. Surprisingly, despite this, he is unopposed. The Democrats realize that although Hogan is popular, if there is a blue wave, it could drown Hogan, so the Democrats have a hotly contested primary. Former NAACP executive director Ben Jealous and Prince George County Executive Rushern Baker, both of whom are black, are locked in a tight battle. Jealous has the support of Bernie Sanders, and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), but Baker has the support of the Maryland Democratic Party, so it is Bernie vs. Hillary, part 194.

    There is also a battle in MD-06, the seat being vacated by John Delaney (D), who is running for president. Eight Democrats and four Republicans would like to sit in Delaney's seat. The district is D+6, so it will probably be one of the Democrats. The one with the most money is David Trone, who has spent $10 million of his own money on the race. At least that is cheaper than the $13 million he spent on a failed campaign in 2016. But he clearly really, really, wants to be in Congress, even though it does nothing these days. However, while money is important, it isn't everything. The state and national Democrats are backing Aruna Miller, an immigrant from India who currently serves in the Maryland House of Delegates.

  • New York: New York is home to a number of vulnerable Republican members of congress, including Lee Zeldin, John Faso, Elise Stefanik, and John Katko. In a blue wave, all four of them could be flushed down the Hudson River and out to sea. But the House race that has attracted the most attention is the lone New York City seat held by a Republican. That's NY-11, and the incumbent is Dan Donovan, whose district covers all of Staten Island and a piece of southern Brooklyn. Donovan's opponent is Michael Grimm, who used to hold that seat—before he was charged with 20 counts of fraud, tax evasion, perjury, and more. He ultimately made a deal in which he was sent to prison for 8 months on the tax evasion charge, although he admitted to wire fraud and perjury. Donald Trump has endorsed Donovan, although he botched the endorsement (he thanked Donovan for voting for the tax cut bill even though Donovan voted against three versions of it). New York Republicans on Staten Island who don't like Trump thus have the choice of voting for someone Trump has endorsed or for a convicted criminal. If a convicted crook can beat a Trump endorsee, what message will that send to other Republicans? We will know on Wednesday. Or maybe we won't. Unlike states with a "sore loser law," New York has rather the opposite. Candidates for office can run on the ticket of multiple parties, and if someone loses the Republican nomination, he could still run on the Conservative Party ticket. If the loser of the NY-11 race decides to run on the Conservative Party ticket, that would also certainly mean the Democrats would pick up the last Republican seat in New York City because the district is R+3, which would not be enough of a lean if both Grimm and Donovan are on the ballot.

  • Oklahoma: The big prize here is in the Republican primary for governor. Term-limited Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) is probably lucky she can't run again because she is very unpopular and would likely lose the primary. The top Republicans are State Auditor Gary Jones, former state representative Dan Fisher, and former state AG Gary Richardson. The most likely Democratic candidate is former Oklahoma AG Drew Edmondson, the last Democrat to win any statewide race in the Sooner State. Edmondson is a long shot in a state Trump won by 36 points, but Fallin's predecessor, Brad Henry (D), served two terms and Republicans haven't had two consecutive Republicans in the governor's mansion since the 1960s.

    Oklahoma is also holding a special election on Tuesday to fill the seat of former representative Jim Bridenstine (R), who became director of NASA. The district is R+17, so the Republican nomination is worth a lot. The Club for Growth is backing Iraq veteran Andy Coleman. His opponent is Kevin Hern, a McDonald's franchise-holder and millionaire.

    Oklahoma also has a ballot initiative that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. If State Question 788 passes in such a red state, AG Jeff Sessions' battle against the evil weed is hopeless.

  • Utah: The big race here is the Republican senatorial primary to fill the seat of the retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Mitt Romney is certain to win; the interesting question is what kind of campaign he will run. He was a vocal anti-Trump voice during the 2016 campaign, but will he continue to oppose Trump or will he pipe down? Romney is 71, which is a bit old to run for a seat in a body where you need 20 years' seniority to get any real power. Many people have suspected that he is in this to try to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump. It will be interesting to see how he campaigns.

  • Mississippi: Now we come to the runoffs. Democrats David Baria, a state legislator, and Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist, are in a runoff to see which one will lose to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) in November. Baria is better known, but Sherman has put lots of his own money into the race.

  • South Carolina: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has held so many hearings on Benghazi that he feels his life's work is accomplished, so he is not running for reelection in SC-04, an R+15 district. Republicans William Timmons and Lee Bright, who were practically tied in the June primary, are vying for his seat. A fair amount of outside money is pouring into the race. Whoever wins the primary will cruise to election in November.

    Also of note in South Carolina is the gubernatorial runoff between Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) and Greenville businessman John Warren. McMaster got the job because he was lieutenant governor when then-governor Nikki Haley resigned to become ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster is a lackluster campaigner, but Trump has endorsed him, so this will be yet another test (to some extent) of Trump's coattails.

All in all, tomorrow has lots of races and possibly some surprises. (V)

Republicans Have Three Worries for the Midterms

Axios is reporting that the Republican leadership is worried about three things that could hurt them in November:

  • Health insurance premiums: Changes the Republicans made to the ACA could have the result that insurance premiums for next year will spike and the announcement will come just before the midterms. The Democrats are making health care their #1 issue, and a big spike in premiums will add to their case that Republicans have messed up a law that was working well until now.

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller's report: If Mueller comes out with a blockbuster report before the midterms and it accuses Donald Trump of one or more crimes, it could suppress Republican turnout. Trump, of course, will say it is fake, but if Mueller makes any such claims, they will surely be backed by hundreds of pages of documentation. Trump's true believers probably won't be moved, but affluent suburban Republicans might say: "Enough is enough."

  • The continuing resolution: The government will run out of money in September, and Trump has threatened to shut down the government if he doesn't get all the things he wants from Congress. Shutting down the government close to an election is generally not a good strategy, but with Trump, anything is possible.

Interestingly enough, one item not on the list of worries is that Trump starts a trade war that takes down the stock market and the economy. If the Dow Jones index were to drop say, 5,000 points, that would get a lot of attention, none of it good for the GOP. (V)

Iowa Could Be the Testing Ground Even This Year

The Iowa caucuses are famous for winnowing the field of presidential candidates. If the front runner stumbles there, it is often the beginning of the end. Also, if an unknown candidate wins, it can instantly turn a nobody into a somebody. This year, Iowa could also play a key role: The canary in the coal mine. Donald Trump's incipient trade war hits few states as hard as it hits Iowa. It could cost Iowa farmers hundreds of millions of dollars and wreak havoc with the state's agricultural economy. Iowa exports $2 billion worth of soybeans to China and if China slaps a large permanent tariff on them, it could drive soybean prices way down and bankrupt many Iowa farmers.

So far, Iowa Republicans are sticking with Trump. At a recent state Republican convention, the GOP state chairman, Jeff Kaufmann, asked the 1,100 delegates who was still behind Trump. Nearly all of them whooped and hollered their approval for the President. However, when candidates for state office made their pitches before the convention, none brought up the subject of tariffs.

Iowans think they have a secret weapon in the fight: Former governor Terry Brandstad, who is now ambassador to China. He knows Iowa as well as any person in the world, having governed it for 23 years, and he will surely do anything he can to avoid a trade war that could hurt Iowa. Still, Branstad can plead with Trump all he wants, but in the end The Donald calls the shots, not The Terry.

A lot of observers are going to be looking very, very closely at the results of Iowa's House races. Rep Steve King (R-IA) is about as safe as anyone in Congress, but the other three districts are all swing districts that Trump won. Here are the data.

District Incumbent Party PVI 2016 House D % 2016 House R % Clinton % Trump %
IA-01 Rod Blum Republican D+1 46.1% 53.7% 44.6% 48.1%
IA-02 Dave Loebsack Democratic D+1 53.7% 46.2% 44.4% 48.5%
IA-03 David Young Republican R+1 39.7% 53.4% 44.5% 48.0%
IA-04 Steve King Republican R+11 38.6% 61.2% 33.2% 60.3%

If the three swing districts turn bright blue, it will probably mean the canary is lying dead in the soybean field, with all the implications that has for 2020. (V)

Could the Magnitsky Act Be Used--against Trump?

The U.S. has a law named after Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Russian prison after exposing corruption in the Russian government, that allows the government to sanction foreign government officials implicated in human rights abuses anywhere in the world. Canada also has such a law, and it is also named for Magnitsky. Scott Gilmore, a former Canadian diplomat, has suggested using the Act to sanction Donald Trump, who has significant assets in Canada (buildings in Toronto and Vancouver) that could be frozen. Needless to say, Canada would not do this alone, but if a number of countries in which Trump has assets were all to do this, it would probably get Trump's attention. It seems pretty unlikely at this point, but if Robert Mueller were to write a report describing Trump as corrupt, the odds might go up a little bit. (V)

More Trouble for Pruitt

There is much attention centered on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt these days, and it's not the good kind. Given his many and varied offenses against the law, against ethics, and against the environment, people are looking under every stone for dirt, and in every closet for skeletons. His employees, meanwhile, have no hesitation in bringing their concerns to the attention of the authorities.

Pruitt's latest difficulties fall into the latter category. The Administrator's profligate spending, and his bending of various rules, alarmed some of his underlings. That includes folks whose job it is to warn their boss when he is at risk of breaking the rules. Pruitt, however, did not care to be warned, and so he allegedly retaliated against his underlings. Some of them were demoted, others reassigned, and at least two were terminated.

At the moment, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating, and they do not comment on ongoing investigations, of course. However, Washington insiders observe that it is somewhat unlikely that bureaucrats with decades of service under their belts suddenly became incompetent or unruly. That observation, coupled with all of the other allegations against the Administrator, certainly suggest that the complainants are telling the truth. Time will tell, but if Pruitt somehow escapes all of the various predicaments he's in, he should immediately take a(nother) trip to Israel and try his hand at parting the Red Sea. (Z)

Portrait of Dorian Trump

The current issue of GQ has a very interesting profile of Donald Trump Jr. Though none of the Trump family agreed to be interviewed, author Julia Ioffe managed to sit down with a sizable number of insiders, from former nannies to executives with the Trump Organization to Anthony "The Mooch" Scaramucci.

The piece explores many aspects of Don Jr.'s biography, but is primarily interested in how a fellow who was notoriously uninterested in politics as recently as three years ago has suddenly become not only a vocal Republican, but also an icon to white supremacists. Ioffe's answer, in brief, is that Trump Jr. has some significant daddy issues, dating back to his parents' ugly divorce and his father's limited presence in his life growing up. Junior chose the university his dad wanted, the profession his dad wanted, even the wife his dad wanted, in search of approval. His newly-developed, outspoken political persona, then, is a performance for the benefit of an audience of one. A performance that has nonetheless stoked the interest of a lot of people on the far right.

It's an interesting piece, and whether Ioffe has the right of it or not, one thing is clear: Trump Jr. has emerged as an important surrogate for his father, possibly the most important surrogate. Not only does Junior have greater freedom of movement than his father, making it possible to travel more widely and to make more frequent appearances, but he's also an avid outdoorsman and Second Amendment zealot. That means there are elements of his father's base that he connects with in a way that Senior cannot. Junior is also far enough removed from Washington that he can avoid being sucked into whatever the controversy of the day is, assuming he doesn't dive in on Twitter. GOP pooh-bahs see him playing a big role in the midterms, and also as a viable candidate for political office in his own right sometime in the near future. Time will tell, though, if Junior has managed to cure his very bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth. (Z)

Texas Senate Race May Be Tightening Up

A few polls, early this year, had the Texas Senate race between Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) very close. In fact, one or two of them put it in "toss up" territory. Then, during and after the primaries, the tide seemed to turn in the Senator's direction, and he pulled several leads in or near double digits. Now, however, the momentum appears to have shifted back in the Democrat's direction.

The latest poll, a joint effort from the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune gives Cruz a five point lead, 41% to 36%, with 5% favoring minor candidates, and 17% saying they currently have no opinion. That is a very poor number for a sitting senator. Cruz should be particularly nervous about that 17%, since those folks undoubtedly know all about him, and yet are not committed. That's another way of saying, "I may well be available to be won over by Beto O'Rourke." As a sitting senator in a still-red state, Cruz is certainly still the favorite, but there is plenty of time and plenty of potential for this one to get very interesting. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun24 Trump Rallies in Nevada
Jun24 Today's Position on Immigration Reform: Democratic Votes Are Needed
Jun24 North Korea Is a Threat Again
Jun24 Chinese Are Confused about What Trump Wants
Jun24 This Week's Swamp News: Zinke Is in Trouble
Jun24 Huckabee Sanders Steps in it on Twitter
Jun24 So Does Huckabee
Jun23 Trump Tells Congress Not to Bother Passing an Immigration Law
Jun23 Trump Endorses Roby
Jun23 Manafort's Judge Refuses to Throw Out the Money Laundering Charge
Jun23 Mueller Wants to Bar Manafort from Claiming Political Persecution
Jun23 Dow Bounces Back, Despite Trump's Best Efforts
Jun23 U.N.: Poverty Is Getting Worse in America
Jun23 George Will: Don't Vote for Republicans
Jun23 Steve Schmidt Jumps Ship, Too
Jun23 Republican Pollster Says Democrats Will Take the House in November
Jun22 House Fails to Pass an Immigration Bill
Jun22 Trump Is on the Cover of Time Magazine Again
Jun22 Melania Trump Doesn't Care--Do U?
Jun22 Judge Allows Prosecutors to Use Evidence Seized from Manafort's Storage Unit
Jun22 Dow Jones Is Taking a Beating
Jun22 Giuliani Steps in the Swamp
Jun22 NFL Players to Trump: Here's How to Use Your Pardon Power
Jun22 Krauthammer Dies
Jun21 Trump Sort of Backs Down on Family, Separation
Jun21 Selected Companies Are Making Millions off the Child Separation Policy
Jun21 Immigration Bills Are Expected to Fail Today
Jun21 Michael Bloomberg Will Spent $80 Million to Flip the House
Jun21 China Knows How to Fight a Trade War
Jun21 Trade War Casualties are Already Mounting
Jun21 Clawback Fails in the Senate
Jun20 Trump Visits Capitol Hill
Jun20 Separating Families Could Be Trump's Katrina
Jun20 U.S. Quits U.N. Human Rights Council
Jun20 Whoever Wins Immigration Debate, Nielsen Has Already Lost
Jun20 John Kelly Doesn't Care Any More
Jun20 Cohen Is Apparently Willing to Sing Like a Canary
Jun20 Russians Bought Trump Properties for over $100 Million in Cash
Jun20 Donald Trump Could Be Done in by a Club Sandwich
Jun20 Gillibrand: Trump Is Doing the Devil's Work
Jun19 Trump Doubles Down on Separating Families at the Border
Jun19 Let the Trade Wars Begin
Jun19 Supreme Court Dodges the Gerrymandering Issue
Jun19 North Carolina Moves Forward, Kansas Backward, on Voter ID Laws
Jun19 Trump Signs "Space Force" Directive
Jun19 Claw Back Looks Unlikely
Jun19 It Takes a Village--to Elect Rick Scott
Jun18 Strzok Is Willing to Testify before Congress
Jun18 Roger Stone Met with a Russian Offering Dirt on Clinton
Jun18 All Hell Will Break Loose When Mueller Issues His Report